(Delivered Saturday, September 28, 2013, following the wedding of Jeremy and Esther Carter.)
I’ve given a lot of thought over the past few months to what I ought to say today, and while I’m still not exactly sure what I ought to say, I’ve come up with a few things that I am going to say, so they’ll have to do. I hope that the Lord will use them to bless and encourage you despite the limitations imposed by my mind and tongue.
It has been diffficult for me to write this, in part, because of how honored I feel to be called your friend, and today, your best man. There are a thousand memories I could share, both joyous and somber, that would illustrate why I feel this way, but it will have to suffice for now to say that a man could not ask for a better friend, nor, as I trust Esther will testify today, tomorrow and half a century from now, could a woman ask for a better husband.
God gave man a wonderful gift when when He gave him marriage. After each of the six days of His Creation, God looked upon what He had made and declared that it was good. He took the man He had made to be His image-bearer and put him in the garden, to work it and to gaurd it. Adam set about his first task, the naming of the animals. As he went about his work, he doubtless realized that each of the other animals had a companion of its own kind, but there could be found no helper fit for him. Adam was alone. God looked upon Adam’s state and for the very first time said, “it is not good.” This was the first problem there ever was. So, God put it right. He put Adam into a deep sleep. In fact, smarter men than me will tell you that the Hebrew there suggests not just sleep, but something more like a coma, or an unconcious state very near death. And Adam’s side was opened and out of him God took a rib, and from that rib He fashioned a woman. It is interesting that, so far as we’re told, Eve is the only creature that is made from another creature, and not “brought forth from the earth” like the animals and like Adam himself. God fashioned man out of the dust of the earth, and woman out of man, which, in fact, is what the Hebrew word for woman means, “of man.” This speaks to the greater union of a husband and wife than that between two animals; Adam was truly incomplete before he wed Eve. God brought Adam out of His death-like state, and he awoke to a new creation, a more glorious world. We can imagine his joy as he exclaimed, “This at last is bone of my bones, and flesh of my flesh”. That is what we have gathered at this feast to celebrate with you, and it is indeed worthy of celebration. Though this day seems to have come upon us so quickly, I know that as you look back over your lives thus far, you are both ready to say, “at last, here is a companion fit for me”.
But we must remember the rest of the story. The story of marriage, like all the best stories, including the story of the whole world, has three central characters: a brave knight, a beautiful princess, and a dragon. Only, in the first marriage, the knight wasn’t so brave. He was charged by God to protect the garden, yet in walked the dragon. He stood by while the dragon tricked the princess and led her astray. Now, the woman forsook her honor too of course, believing the dragon rather than the word of God as relayed to her by her husband, taking the forbidden fruit because it looked desirable. But the man’s sin was greater; he failed to take his proper place, first between the garden and the dragon, then between his wife and the dragon, and then ate of the fruit himself when he had been given the command not to by God Himself. The unity of God’s Creation was distrupted. There was enmity between the woman and the dragon, competiotion between the husband and wife, and God’s children fell out of fellowship with their Father. This is the final problem, and as the first problem was put right at the first wedding, so shall the final problem be put right at the final wedding.
Now, Jesus tells us that you two will no longer be married in the Resurrection. From our earthly perspective, this seems like a let-down (or at least like a rotten thing to bring up at a wedding reception). After all, isn’t marriage glorious? Why should this glorious thing be undone in Glory? Marriage is glorious, but like all the glorious things given to us by God on this side of eternity, they are but shadows of those things which are ultimately and forever glorious. This is just what we’re told in the Bible; the union between husband and wife points forward and heavenward to the union between Christ and His bride, the Church, a union that we have in part presently, and will have fully when we dwell with Him in the paradise of His Father’s house. That will be marriage in its truest and most glorious form, and your present marriage is so glorious precisely because it points toward that most glorious marriage.
At the first wedding, we can see the story of all history in miniature, but where the first Adam failed, the second Adam succeeds. Before God made woman for man, or made man himself, or anything at all, He planned to make a bride for His Son. The bride was decieved by the dragon and went astray. The Son, full of love and courage, climbed to the top of a mountain to face the dragon. His side, too, was opened, and out of His wound flowed blood and water, the brideprice for His Church. Just as Eve was fashioned from Adam’s rib, so Jesus’ bride was made out of His own body, as we testify when we partake of Him in the blood of communion and are joined to Him in the water of baptism. But unlike the first Adam, the second Adam truly died, and was not merely awoken, but resurrected, crushing the dragon’s skull beneath His heel. Now He prepares the bride for the wedding day, calling her to Himself, washing her clean with blood and water, “that he might sanctify her, having clensed her by the washing of water with the word, so that he might present the church to himself in splendor, without spot or wrinkle or any such thing, that she might be holy and without blemish.” (Eph. 5:26-27)
This feast we are enjoying now anticipates the wedding feast we will enjoy after we awake in the new, glorified world. Your marriage aniticipates the marriage without end. Enjoy it accordingly. Love one another even as Christ loves you. Jeremy, God has called on you to gaurd Esther against the dragon; you must be willing to give yourself up for her even as God’s Son gave Himself up for us. Esther, God has called on you to help Jeremy; you must be willing to submit to him even as the body of Christ submits to its head, which is Christ Himself. Remember that when you fail to love and respect one another, you hate your own flesh, which is the flesh of Christ. Your marriage is to be a bright beacon of Christ’s love in a gloomy world. In all your living, before God, before one another, and before the world, tell the best and truest story there ever was: the story of the valiant and compassionate Knight who came down from His Father’s house to slay the dragon who had taken His true love and bound her in captivity, sacrificing Himself and buying her freedom with his blood, so that he might bring her home with Him to heaven to be his wife, happily and for all eternity.
It is with all my love that I say, May the Lord bless you abundantly, today, tomorrow and forever more.