(The following is an edited extract from the message that was preached on February 17, 2019, on the wedding day of Yoshi and Denise.)
Text: Ephesians 5:31-32
“For this reason a man will leave his father and mother and be united to his wife, and the two will become one flesh.” This is a profound mystery – but I am talking about Christ and the church.
Today we celebrate the wedding of Yoshi and Denise. It’s a wonderful day in the life of our church. And on such days as this, it’s always good to sit back for a moment and just think … why?
What is all this about? How is it that Yoshi came to be here, in a suit, on this day, the 17th of February 2019, and Denise with him, promising to remain together for the rest of their lives?
To answer that question, we need to go back in time. We need to go all the way back in time, right to the very beginning of the world. Right back to when there was nothing – there was no Denise, there was no Yoshi, there was no Canada and no Japan, there was no earth, no moon, no stars … nothing.
There was only God.
In the very first sentence in the bible, Genesis 1:1, we read: “In the beginning God …” There was God, and nothing else. And what did God do?
“In the beginning God created the heavens and the earth.”
“Well”, you say, “That’s all very interesting. But what has that got to do with marriage?” OK. Here’s the thing … God only created one man. He was alone.
Now, everything in the earth was good. It was very different to the earth today. There was no sickness, no disease, no earthquakes, nothing horrible or painful. Everything was good. It was very good. Apart from one thing. There was one thing in the entire creation that was not good. Do you know what that was?
The man was alone. And God noticed that.
“The Lord God said, “It is not good for the man to be alone.” (Genesis 2:18).
So God created woman. God called the man “Adam”, and he called the woman “Eve”. He created them together so that they could live their lives together.
“For this reason a man will leave his father and mother and be united to his wife, and they will become one flesh.” (Genesis 2:24)
And that is how marriage was invented. This is how God decided to order society. This is God’s plan. Marriage is good.
But I’m guessing that there are some realists who are not satisfied with that answer. Many would say, “Are you telling me that marriage is good? Rubbish! I know lots of people who have terrible marriages. My parents had a terrible marriage. It’s much better not to get married.”
There are a lot of people who think that. We probably all know people who are unhappy in their marriage. And the social science researchers tell us that more and more people are choosing not to get married.
So, why is it that so many marriages are not “good”? God created marriage as a good thing, but so often it’s not. Why is that?
Well, we need to go back to our story. We haven’t finished with Adam and Eve yet. You see, Adam and Eve were living in the Garden of Eden. And in this garden, there was all sorts of plants and trees that were full of good fruit.
And God told them they could eat from any plant and any tree they wanted to. Anything was OK, except for this one tree. Just this one tree, God said … don’t eat from it.
So, what did they do? That’s right. They ate from it.
Adam and Eve didn’t want God telling them what to do, they didn’t want to follow and obey God, they wanted to decide for themselves what was right. And so they ate from the tree. Because of that, they broke this loving relationship they had with God. And sin and pain and hurt and all these terrible things entered into our world. And our relationship with God was broken, and this huge wall of sin separated us from God.
And that is where we find ourselves right now. We live in a world where people are selfish, people are greedy, people don’t love or look after each other. And we live in a world where many marriages are unhappy.
So that’s the bad news.
But the story doesn’t end here. Sure, the world may be full of evil, and many marriages may be disasters, but God’s voice speaks to us through these pages, and he gives us the answer to all these problems.
So … what is it? What is the right way of viewing marriage? The bible gives us the image of the cross. A man, dying in pain.
This is what Paul writes in the letter to the Ephesians, chapter 5.
“For this reason a man will leave his father and mother and be united to his wife, and the two will become one flesh.” This is a profound mystery, but I am talking about Christ and the church. (Eph. 5:31-32)
So, the relationship between Christ and the Church is a picture of the relationship between husband and wife. We get a little more detail a few verses earlier, in verse 25:
“Husbands, love your wives, just as Christ loved the church and gave himself up for her …”
Christ gave himself for the church. Christ died for the church.
Remember we said that this huge wall of sin separated us from God? Well, Christ came and died for our sins. His death made a bridge, so that we can come to God once again.
It happened because of the cross.
This image of the cross – it’s so painful and so wonderful. That is what marriage is like. That is the key to understanding marriage.
There are only two things that you need to know about marriage. If you know these two things, then you can understand what marriage is really about. Marriage is so painful … and marriage is so wonderful.
Just like the cross. So painful and so wonderful.
When Jesus hung on the cross, it was painful. Of course, it was physically painful. Nails were driven into his hands and feet. But that wasn’t the worst pain. The worst pain was that he was separated from God. God the Father turned his back. For the first time ever, he turned away from his only son. Jesus was alone on the cross.
So why did he do it? Well, he endured something so painful, for something so wonderful. It says in Hebrews:
“… for the joy that was set before him, he endured the cross.”
He could see that the cross was the way to save all his people, to bring his people together, to be with him for eternity.
Marriage is like that. It can be so painful. It’s painful because you are going to hurt the person you’re married to. You’re going to disappoint them, you’re going to say and do nasty things to them. You can’t help it. You’re not perfect. And neither is the person you’re marrying.
It’s painful because you need to give up your own desires, your own wants. You have to think of your husband or wife before you think of yourself.
Marriage is really painful.
But it’s also so wonderful. It’s wonderful because your husband or your wife is going to forgive you. They’re going to accept you. They’re going to keep on loving you and supporting you.
No one else will do that. If you keep treating your best friend badly, he’ll leave you. If you keep acting badly in front of your boss, he’ll fire you. Even your own brother or sister will walk away from you if you’re bad enough.
But not the person you marry. Your spouse will stay with you, love you, forgive you, and help you to change. Because your spouse has made a promise. Your spouse has stood in front of the Lord and made a vow to God .. I’m going to love this person always.
That’s what a Christian marriage looks like. There is no human relationship more wonderful than that. And that’s why people get married.