Jesus makes it clear that works are not preeminent. Better said, works have little value apart from relationship. What truly matters is intimate relationship. Works make a difference only as they proceed from the relationship. Works keeps our eyes off of ourselves and on others. Faith without works is dead. Jesus loves us so much that relationship is first and foremost in His mind. Many people believe that they can spend eternity in heaven simply by their good works. Jesus says here, "Depart from Me because we were never יָדַ֖ע (yadah)." He is using the same word that is used in II Peter.
In Hebrew, the words translated knowledge and knew are the same word יָדַ֖ע yadah. He is saying, "Depart from me because we have never been intimate. We have no relationship. You did not touch me, handle me, and get to know me. You have not become a partaker in the Divine nature. You have not allowed me to assume the responsibility for your life. You are unchanged. Even though you had good works, you missed the point. Works have no lasting value apart from me. You had the works, but you did not have the relationship." It is amazing that for those involved in a vibrant, on-fire, active relationship with Jesus Christ, works are not a problem.
This same idea is found in John 14 as Jesus is telling his disciples that his time has come to leave them. In John 14, we read:
“Let not your hearts be troubled: you believe in God, believe also in me. In my father’s house are many mansions: If it were not so I would have told you. I go to prepare a place for you. And if I go and prepare a place for you, I will come again and receive you unto myself: that where I am, there ye may be also.”
This passage of Scripture is often used for funerals. Yet, when understood from a cultural standpoint, it can clearly be seen that this is a Scripture that deals with relationship. Jesus was actually making reference to the Jewish wedding ceremony. We know this because of his use of the term, which has been translated “mansions.” In Greek, the word mansions is (μονή) mone, meaning a dwelling place or an abode. In Hebrew, the word for mansions is (רב׳ם) rabeem. In the singular case it is called (רבות) raboth.
Let us examine the raboth in terms of Jewish culture. As this discussion takes place, allow your mind to meditate on New Testament Scriptures that are explained by this discussion. Again, the raboth is connected with the Jewish wedding ceremony.
When a young man of Israel selected the woman he wished to marry, he could not simply ask her to marry him. Instead, he had to go to her father, ask his permission to marry his daughter and begin a bartering process to set a price for her. The price might be 50 camels or 25 camels and 25 sheep. It could also involve money. Once a price was agreed upon and the father gave his permission to marry, the young man would come back on another day to finalize the deal, this time bringing a glass and wine back to the girl. Once the price was fully settled by establishing that the boy could pay what he promised, a cup of wine was poured. This is called the third cup or the cup of redemption. It is also called the cup of engagement. The girl and the young man would each drink one half of the glass of wine. It was this cup of redemption, or this cup of engagement, that Jesus drank. Do you remember His statement in the garden? "Father, if it be possible, let this cup pass from me. Nevertheless not as I will, but as thou wilt." Jesus did indeed drink of that cup, and every time we take communion, we are drinking the other half of the cup of engagement. We are His bride.
At that time, the girl became betrothed to the man. From this point on she must wear a veil over her face to symbolize that she was betrothed and she was “bought with a price.” She no longer belonged just to herself, but to the one she would marry. She entered into this agreement with the promise that she was a virgin of Israel. It was her job to make preparations for her wedding. She must select the bridesmaids and have them ready. No firm date was set for the marriage.
The engaged man had obligations to perform as well. One was the building of the raboth. In order to be a blessing to his father and to repay him for all that he had done for him thoughout his life, before he married he would build the raboth. The raboth was a small room built on the back of the father’s house. It would be used as a place to consummate the marriage, and then the new couple would go on to their own home. This raboth had to be built to the specifications of the father. The son could not get married until the father released him. Again, the raboth had to be built to the father's specifications.
If you were to ask the son when he was getting married, he could not answer you. He would reply, “Only my father knows.” Once the father approved the raboth, the son would be released to get married.
Part of the celebration was the element of surprise. The boy might come for the bride in the early morning or late at night, so she had to be ready at all times. In case he came at night, the bridesmaids had to have lamps that were full of oil and wicks that were trimmed. If a bridesmaid was not ready, she would be left behind. Again, surprise was part of the celebration.
When the groom’s party went to get the bride, in order not to take her completely by surprise, they would send the best man out about a quarter of a mile ahead of them. He would begin to shout, “Behold the bridegroom comes! Behold the bridegroom comes!” All of the girl’s wedding party had to get everything gathered up quickly. Once the man and woman were married, they would go back to the raboth to consummate the wedding.
The time will come when the veil is removed and all will be revealed. It will be known if she is truly a virgin of Israel. The time will come when we are in the raboth with Jesus. Everything will be known. Nothing will be hidden. The only thing that will matter at that time will be the depth of our relationship with the Lord. This will be the foundation upon which all things will be judged and seen. Our works will not compensate for lack of relationship. You see, it is more a question of heart than works.
This is how deeply the Lord wants to have a relationship with you. As much as you want to be in relationship with Him, it is nothing in comparison with how much He wants to be in relationship with you. We must understand this because without the full assurance that the Lord loves us to this degree, we will always be chasing Him. Continue