Your marriage is a part of God’s grand story. God wants you to have a wonderful marriage because your marriage is a picture of the Gospel.
“Therefore a man shall leave his father and mother and hold fast to his wife, and the two shall become one flesh.” This mystery is profound, and I am saying that it refers to Christ and the church. (Ephesians 5:31-32)
Easter is about the resurrection of Jesus Christ. And we have gathered here at this park to celebrate that Jesus rose from the dead on Easter morning. But I think we often treat Easter as a holiday about an empty tomb but then we go home and we eat some ham — and I may be wrong — but I sense that a great number of us are not experiencing the greatness of the resurrection in our lives in practical ways. You see, I think Easter is about so more than an empty tomb 2000 years ago. It’s about more than archeological proof that Jesus is who said he was. It’s even about more than our salvation. I believe that the resurrection has bearing on your life, your relationships, and your marriage – in very practical and specific ways today. So this morning, I want to explore how the Resurrection impacts your marriage.
Now, I know what you are thinking. “What does Easter have to do with marriage?” Well, I’ll tell you. You see — Easter, or the resurrection, is the climax of one grand story. We may call that story the story of God. It begins in the very beginning of the Bible, in Genesis chapter 1, and it ends — well — somewhere at the end of the Bible in the book of Revelation — somewhere. Honestly I’m not sure I feel comfortable saying that it ends because I don’t know if it really ends. If we take the Bible as a whole and read it from cover to cover we will see – very clearly – that it is is one grand story about God. Incidentally, the name of our church, MISSIODEI, literally translates “the mission of God” and that name is taken from this very concept that the whole Bible, as one complete unit, is one story about a God who is on a mission to save people who are far from him. And so this morning Easter and resurrection is the climax of that story.
What does that have to do with marriage? Well this story opens with a wedding and closes with a wedding. First, the story opens with a beautiful wedding in a garden. A perfect garden – in fact. God brings a woman to the first man and unites them in marriage. We see this wedding in Genesis and it is where God invents or creates marriage. He says, “Therefore a man shall leave his father and his mother and hold fast to his wife, and they shall become one flesh.” (Gen. 2:24) That becomes the definition of marriage. And our story ends with a wedding and a great wedding feast celebrating the union of Jesus and his Bride the Church in Revelation 19.
So, this story opens with a wedding — it ends with the wedding — and even in the middle, through out the whole story, there is all this talk about a weddings and marriage and adultery. For instance, God frequently likens himself as a husband who loves and cares for his people. And he talks about his people as people who are frequently breaking their wedding vows by committing adultery against him. And then Jesus shows up and speaks very very specifically about the future wedding in heaven. He tells story after story with himself as a groom eager and coming for his Bride.
So — It could be said that the whole story is really about a wedding. It’s about marriage. It’s kind of a fairy tale. About a prince who comes for his bride and gallantly saves her from the wicked dragon. Now, it’s not a chick flick. I need to be 100% percent clear about that. This story is not some mammby-pamby story about traveling pants or a ya ya sisterhood. Guys it is about love. It is about a wedding, but there’s plenty of blood and violence and action to make it an epic guy story too. For instance, if you take just that last wedding at the end of the grand story, it says something like:
“Blessed are those who are invited to the marriage supper of the Lamb. Then I saw heaven opened, and Jesus riding a white horse ready to make war. His eyes are like a flame of fire, He is clothed in a robe dipped in blood, and the armies of heaven, arrayed in fine linen, white and pure, were following him on white horses.”
So, it’s not a mamby-pamby love story. But it is about a wedding. It is about marriage. So I want to spend the next few minutes talking about marriage. If Easter is the climax of this wedding story then it has bearing on your marriage today. I could say that this message is about resurrecting your marriage because your marriage is actually a part of this grand story. I’ll prove that a little later. If you marriage is a part of the whole story then it is important to God that you have a magnificent marriage.
This morning I hope that you hear something from God’s Word – just a-little different than what you might normally hear for an Easter message. I want you to hear more than just “Hallelujah He is risen! (which is amazing news by the way). But, I want you to hear something more. I believe the Resurrection of Jesus is such an explosive event that the shock waves should impact your life and your marriage today. God wants to resurrect your marriage because it’s a part of this amazing epic grand story.
So let me ask a question:
How many of you are married? Raise your hand if you are married. Who here is a newly wed. Who is the newest youngest couple here today? Who is married the longest? I want to give you each this book….
It’s A Mystery
For the next six weeks at MISSIODEI, we will be going through a series on marriage. Much of what I’ll be saying comes from this book which is essentially about Ephesians 5. Now, Ephesians 5 is like the ultimate marriage manual. In fact, when I do weddings I always use Ephesians 5 because it’s just so powerful. And I believe all of that power can be boiled down to the last few verses. Let me read that for you.
“Therefore a man shall leave his father and mother
and hold fast to his wife, and the two shall become one flesh.”
This mystery is profound, and I am saying that it refers to Christ and the church.
Paul quotes God from the first wedding where God invented and defined marriage. The two shall become one. And then he adds, “THIS MYSTERY IS PROFOUND!”. And most of us here this morning might add, “Amen Brother! Preach it!” Marriage means that a man and a woman will become one and that, my friends, is a huge mystery! How does a man and a woman become one?
Here is what I know about men and women — wait for it — they’re different! They’re so different that the differences between a man and a woman easily becomes the butt of so many jokes. Men are from Mars and women are from Venus. We are completely different.
For instance, consider the difference of men and women when it comes to money.
MEN: A man will pay $10 for a $5 item that he needs. He’s like, “Just get and let’s get out of here!”
WOMEN: A woman will pay $5 dollars for a $10 item that she doesn’t need. She’s like, “ —” well I don’t know what she’s like.
Or — what about the issue of arguing.
WOMEN: A woman always has to have the last word in an argument.
MEN: Anything a man adds after that is the beginning of a new argument.
Or — what about the issue of cats.
WOMEN: Women love cats. That’s common knowledge.
MEN: Men say they love cats but when women aren’t looking men kick cats….
OK — that last one was a little too stereo typical. I know that not all women love cats. The point is that men and women are different. I don’t need to prove that to you. So when Paul says, “The 2 will become 1 and that is a huge mystery”, you and I will certainly agree. Plus marriage is not easy. I mean, men and women are so different and then you throw those 2 uniquely different people into such a close relationship that there are supposed to have oneness – well it just gets messy. I have a friend who said:
Marriage is like a 3 ring circus. The engagement ring, the wedding ring, and then the suffering.
We may laugh about that because its true, that is the process of making the two into one can be pretty painful, but it is also sad because so many people buckle under that suffering and quit. And the recent statistics on divorce are alarming. I am certain I don’t even need to mention them because you have either experienced divorce yourself or you have a ton of friends who are divorced, going through a divorce or want one.
Jenna McCarthy in a TED Talk said:
“Every year, in America alone, 2 million and 77,000 couples make a legal and spiritual decision to spend the rest of their lives together and never have sex with anyone else. And they will vow that nothing (not poverty, not life threatening illnesses, not complete and utter misery) will ever put the tiniest damper on their eternal love and devotion. But, we know that half of them will end in divorce.”
Over half end in divorce. That means, for instance, here we are in a suburb, outside in this cute little park, surrounded by thousands of beautiful homes, and inside those homes our couples, who are more than likely really struggling to make it work. And if half of those homes, statistically, will end in divorce. If that is true, and if it is also true that marriage is a significant part of the grand story about God, then I believe that Easter and the Resurrection of Jesus needs to have an impact on those marriages. Jesus wants to resurrect marriages.
It’s A Secret
Now, there is another way we can understand the word mystery. Remember Paul said, “The two will become one and that is a huge mystery.” But, Paul is not actually making a joke about the difficulties we all experience in marriage. Paul is not much of a comedian. So he is not actually saying, “The two become one and – Whoa! That a mystery man.” What he is actually saying is that it is a profound secret. The word mystery could be translated secret. Marriage is a secret.
Wait a minute? It’s a secret? What kind of secret? A secret about what? You could say that marriage is a key to unlocking the mystery, or secret, of the Gospel. In fact, I didn’t actually finish that verse in Ephesians 5. Paul goes on to say, “The two will become one and this is a profound mystery. But I am not talking about marriage I am talking about the Gospel.” In fact, in several other passages in the Bible the word mystery is used in the place of the word Gospel. So in Greek, the word mystery = gospel.
So I don’t know if your pickin’ up what I’m throw’n down so let me slice it thin for you. Paul is saying that marriage, that is that two will become one, is gospel-like. It’s gospely. It’s a Gospel message. Marriage is a real life picture of the Gospel.
So, we have spent some time defining marriage (two becoming one) now, in order for us to really understand this secret, we need to define the Gospel. You’ll remember that I told you this grand story is all about a God who is on a mission to save people who are far from him. He accomplishes this mission by sending his own Son to die on the cross as an atonement for our sins so that we can be made holy and pure and thus be reunited in a intimate relationship with God. To put it simply. “God loves the world so much that he gave his only Son so that whoever believes in him will not perish with-out God but have eternal life with God.” That is the Gospel. That is exactly what we celebrate on Easter. That Jesus died on Good Friday as a payment for our sins and then on Easter Sunday he resurrected from the dead, destroying our sin and conquering death so that we all can have eternal life.
So, now we have a clear and simple definition of marriage, and a clear and simple definition of the Gospel, but I’m still confused about how marriage is a picture of the Gospel. Well — here is how this plays out. Marriage is painful and wonderful all at once. We talked just a little about the painful part of marriage but it is also very wonderful. The Gospel is also painful and wonderful all at once. And I really could unpack a lot of this but I want to keep it really simple this morning.
The Gospel is painful because it cost Jesus’s his life – yes, but it is also painful because even though Jesus died for my sin — well, I still like to sin. And it is a constant and painful battle that even though as Christians we have died to ourselves and resurrected with Christ – we still do not like to be changed and we often fight it. I know I do everyday. In the same way, marriage is about sacrifice. When you get married to another person, when you go through the process of two becoming one, someone is gonna have to change. In fact, if you have been married even for a short period of time, you know that marriage changes you. But, once again, this is a constant and painful battle and we often fight it. We don’t want to be changed. I want someone who loves for me. I don’t want to have to changed.
But can I just tell you that I am so glad that I am not the same person that I was at the age of 27. I have friends right now who I can’t wait for them to get married because they need to be changed — and marriage has a way of maturing you — quickly. So marriage is wonderful and it changes us, it purifies us, it matures us — but it’s also very painful. It’s just like the Gospel it is a wonderful gift. It changes us and purifies us but process of purification is always painful.
Timothy Keller says in his book The Meaning of Marriage,
“On the one hand, the experience of marriage will unveil the beauty and depths of the gospel to you. It will drive you further into reliance on it. On the other hand, a greater understanding of the gospel will help you experience deeper and deeper union with each other as the years go on. Marriage is a major vehicle for the gospel’s remaking of your heart from the inside out.”
Well what does that mean? It means this — you need marriage to help you understand the Gospel and you need the Gospel to help you understand marriage. That is what marriage was designed for. Incidentally, this is why the early Church would refer to marriage as a sacrament. It is a sacred institution that makes you holy and purifies you. Marriage is important to God because it is a real life picture of the Gospel. It is wonderful and painful all at the same time. And we need it.
So, in conclusion, God wants to resurrect your marriage. He wants you to have healthy magnificent marriage that is very gospel-like. How is he going to do that. How are you going to make your marriage work? The answer to that question lies in the secret of the Gospel and the power of the Resurrection.
Now there is still much to be said about how we tap into that power and how we use the Gospel as a secret to a successful marriage. And I’ll admit that I have to leave us hanging just a bit because I can not go into all of that this morning. Obviously one cannot unpack the mysteries and the secrets of the Gospel and marriage in less than 30 minutes. If so – I would’ve entitled this sermon How to Resurrect Your Marriage in 30 Minutes – or The 30 Minute Marriage Resuscitator. We all know that would be a joke.
So, if this message were part of a series, and it is, I’d tell you that this was just the introduction. We are going to spend the next 6 weeks unpacking this secret. And we are going to cover a ton. For instance, next week I’m going to try to prove from this text that you married the wrong person. That’s right – you married the wrong person. I think that I can prove that we always marry the wrong person, because the person your married to isn’t the same person you married.
And then we’ll talk about how to fight for and in your marriage. We all fight. Fighting as part of relationships and I’m not going to say, “Don’t fight!”, but instead, “Here is how to fight fair — here is how to fight for your marriage.” We’ll talk about the mysteries of oneness between the man and the woman and how it an intentional part of God’s design. We will talk about how to keep mystery in your marriage. Now there is something you often see in the cover of magazines. “How to keep mystery in your marriage!” I would invite you to come back and learn more about the secret of marriage and the mystery of the Gospel.