Andrew and Denali

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What is it that makes a Christian wedding? It would be easy to answer such a question in a superficial way by simply appealing to forms and customs—as when a Christian minister presides or prays over the ceremony, or if it were to occur in a Christian church. Or perhaps we could say that it is a Christian wedding when the couple are themselves dedicated Christians. This is certainly an important part of it. But in the final analysis, the word Christian belongs to Jesus. He is the one who makes anything Christian, to the extent that it genuinely is. He has complete authority over that word—He bought and paid for it with His own blood.

So then, if this is true, then Jesus makes a Christian wedding. But how might He do that? There are various signs and hints that He does in fact delight to do that—many have noted that His first great messianic sign was given at the wedding in Cana, for example, when He turned water into wine. Ever since then Jesus has been doing great things at covenant weddings.

What has He been doing? Marriage is a creation ordinance, which means that non-Christians can be genuinely married. Of course. But we learn in the New Testament that marriage is also designed as a type of the gospel, a type of our redemption. This is a declaration that can only be made or enacted in true evangelical faith. By faith alone is it possible to see the water of old creation marriage transformed into the wine of new creation marriage.

How so? The answer here is always the good news, always gospel. The central way that Jesus creates the possibility of Christian weddings is through His substitutionary death on the cross. Christian husbands are told to love their wives as Christ loved the Church, and as He gave Himself up for her. The vows that Andrew and Denali will take in just a moment are built on that foundation. Andrew is being called to imitate Christ, and Denali is being called to imitate Andrew as he imitates Christ. But all Christians are to live in imitation of Christ—particularly in marriage.

Notice how easy it is for us to slip off the point. The apostle doesn’t tell husbands to be “nice” to their wives because God is “nice” to us. He tells husbands to die because Jesus died. He doesn’t tell wives to be “sweet” to their husbands because sentimental poets and hymn-writers in the church have composed some “sweet” devotions. Rather, he says that wives are to honor their husbands as the Church does Christ and, as we should all know, this kind of honor involves taking up your cross in order to follow.

So Jesus did not die “over there” so that we could nod our heads in assent, and somehow by that nod be mysteriously saved. No, the death of Jesus was an inclusive marvel—He died in such a way that all who look to Him in faith become partakers in that death. His death includes us. His death encompasses us. His death mysteriously draws us in. This is why the apostle Paul says that he had been crucified with Christ (Gal. 2:20). This is why it is said that we have been baptized into His death (Rom. 6:3). This is why we can say husbands and wives are gloriously summoned to a life of gospel enactment.

Ultimately, there are only two religions in the world, only two offered ways of salvation, and only one of the two actually delivers the salvation it promises. The first can be summed up with the phrase “my life for yours,” and this is the way of Jesus. The other is summed up with “what’s in it for me?” and instead of bringing us to an enlightened self-interest, it leads only to a grasping death.

So the cross of Jesus is not one isolated chapter in the book that God has written for us. It not even the most important chapter in that book, considered by itself. No, the cross of Jesus is the table of contents for the whole book, for the whole story. It is all there. When we behold the crucified God, to use Luther’s pungent phrase, we come to know Him. And when we come to know Him, we are introduced to all that He gives us. Through His death, we come to know His death, and His burial, and His resurrection to everlasting and eternal life. His death is the point of entry. Jesus did not die so that we might live. He died so that we might die, and He lives so that we might live.

This may sound very lofty, and there is a sense in which it most certainly is, but there is another sense in which this gospel call is as earthy as it gets. Jesus was not crucified on a golden altar, in between two golden candlesticks. No, He was crucified on a rocky crag, at a place called the Skull, and His only candlesticks were the two thieves.

Andrew, your initial thought should be that this is overwhelming. There are two things for you to consider as you take your vows. The first is that it is overwhelming, and so God equips you to do this by His grace. He commands these things, but He gives what He commands. He tells us to love, and He gives us love. He tells us to not be anxious, and He gives us peace, and so on. That is the first thing. The Christian’s life is a life built on grace, and it is no different for the Christian husband’s life. The second thing is that the Bible calls this stark message of crucifixion and death by quite a striking name—it is called good news, gospel. Jesus went to the cross for the sake of others, for the sake of joy in others. He did not do it out of masochism. You are called to give yourself away for the sake of Denali, and for any children the Lord may give you through her, but not with a grim and sour face. You are to be a martyr, a witness to joy, which is quite a different thing than having a martyr complex. This is a life of resurrection laughter.

Denali, the Scriptures are clear that Christian wives proclaim the gospel, just as their husbands do. This is done in a different way than what men are called to, but in a way entirely harmonious with it. A woman who fears the Lord is to be praised. A woman by her reverent and chaste behavior is a woman who adorns the gospel in a way that is compelling to others. A woman who is her husband’s crown and glory is so because of the potency of the gospel of grace. You have become Andrew’s crown (Prov. 12:4). You are now Andrew’s glory (1 Cor. 11:7). He looks good now in ways he could not look good before. This being the case, we have to consider this day as Andrew’s coronation. But Scripture never praises crowns and glory apart from the grace of God in Christ. So you are called to be the splendor and brightness of how the gospel is lived out in your home. This should be as daunting for you as Andrew’s summons was for him. But it all the grace of God—from faith, to faith, to the glory of God.

In the name of the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit, amen.



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