In the beginning, God took unformed matter and began a process of division. Heaven, earth; Day, night; Light, darkness; Land, sea, …and finally Man and woman.
The goal of the gospel, which is to say, the goal of all history, is the reunion of things separated.
That reunion is anticipated in Genesis, on display here today and fulfilled in the words of Revelation 21.
And so, in the very first chapter of Genesis, we are told that a man would leave his family and be joined to his wife – and the two shall become one flesh.
This reunion foreshadows what Jesus would accomplish in His life, death and resurrection.
The glory of which is pictured in the Holy City, Jerusalem, the people of God, coming down from heaven to be wedded to her husband.
And so we read,
Behold, the dwelling place of God is with man. He will dwell with them, and they will be his people, and God himself will be with them as their God.
What you and I are witnessing here today is a reflection of that union between God and man.
The reason that God places such importance on marriage between a man a woman is that it is a compelling illustration of what it means to draw near to God through Jesus Christ our Lord.
Marriage, therefore, does not exist for its own ends. Marriage exists to display the superior glory and value of what Jesus Christ was willing to do in order to draw near to us.
From Genesis to Revelation, the story of the gospel is the story that shapes this world.
It is the ultimate story of sacrifice and love. It is the event from which all other events gain there meaning. It is the story of the man, Jesus Christ who came into the world in order to kill the dragon and get the girl.
And you and I are witnessing that drama played out in the marriage of Matthew and Sarah today.
Their marriage is to be a bright star that draws our attention to what Christ has done.
C.S. Lewis once said,
“What is it that a man in love wants when he courts a girl he likes? The answer: He wants more of the relationship with her than he already has. He wants the deepest, richest, most satisfying mode of togetherness that is possible for him to have.”
In marriage, Matthew and Sarah are hoping for more of what they have already. More love, more happiness, the deepest, richest and most satisfying mode of togetherness possible between two people.
But just as it cost Jesus to draw near to His bride so it will cost Matthew and Sarah.
And, just as Jesus laid down His life for the joy set before Him, it is hoped that Matthew and Sarah will both embrace the call to surrender something today in order to gain more of the joy set before them.
So then what is being surrendered?
Today, just as in the gospel Jesus dies to all other brides in order to win this one bride, so Matthew is surrendering to God, and dying to all other women, in order to win his bride.
And, just as in the gospel, the bride forsakes all other gods in order to be joined to the Son of God, so Sarah is surrendering to God and forsaking all other men in order to be joined to this one man.
Today, both Matthew and Sarah have come to an altar – and the only reason I can think of for coming to an altar is to lay something down.
But, again, just like the gospel, this surrender would not be complete without a resurrection.
Today, Sarah is surrendering her life as a single woman, in order to form a new family, a new creation.
Likewise, Matthew is dying to the desires of a single man in order to walk out as a husband who lives and rejoices in sacrificial love.
It is the greatest of all possible worlds. You come to the altar, you surrender something dear to the heart. But you do it that you might gain even more than you surrendered.
But this loss is something that not only touches Matthew and Sarah. It also touches their families.
And so I want to speak to the parents here today.
What is it that you have been doing these past 20 years? I want to suggest that, in a manner of speaking, you have been multiplying loaves and fishes.
You have been breaking bread and filling little hands. And now those little hands are grown.
Your simple act of breaking and sharing bread is now being broken and shared again to form a new family.
And who knows how many more little hands these hands will go on to feed, love, cherish and serve in the formation of a multitude of families to come.
This, by God’s grace, is the fruit of your labour. The surrender is as real for you as it is for Matthew and Sarah. But, so too I pray, is the joy.
Today, for your joy, and theirs, two families have come together in order to form a new family.
How then shall they live? As they walk out this door, what will it be that shapes their lives together?
In Ephesians 5:25 we read,
Husbands, love your wives, as Christ loved the church and gave himself up for her…
We read that and perhaps think that it means that we are to give ourselves endlessly and sacrificially to our wives. But even the very best of yourself Matthew will never be enough.
Instead… Matthew and Sarah,
Your marriage and all of its joy and love will be sustained tomorrow and always by the same sacrificial love of Jesus that we see pictured here today in the act of marriage.
How did Jesus love the Church, His People, His Bride? Not by Giving Himself to her in endless sacrifice but, as the verse says, for her. Who then did He give Himself to?
He gave Himself up to God. And therein lies the source of your hope in marriage.
Marriage, it turns out, is a three-way street.
Matthew, if you love your wife, the best thing you can do for her is to give yourself to God. You give yourself to the God who spoke saying, “Let the marriage bed be holy and undefiled”.
And in giving yourself to God in this way, Sarah will be blessed with a faithful husband.
Sarah, if you love your husband, the best thing you can do for him is to give yourself to God. You give yourself to the God who said, “Adorn and Clothe your heart with the imperishable beauty of a gentle and quiet spirit, which in God’s sight is very precious.”
And in giving yourself to God and in this way, Matthew will be blessed with a contented home and a very contented family.
And, most important of all, when you both tumble and fall…
Again, you are to give yourself to God, who, through Jesus Christ has graciously covered all your sin and all your frailty, and so you will also learn to cover one another with this Grace.
In this way, you will not only be acknowledging Jesus Christ as the centre as well as the central meaning behind your marriage today, but every day hereafter. Amen.
Read the 8 Part Series on Marriage Preparation that Matthew and Sarah underwent before their big day.