Jonathan and Annike

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In the name of the God of all grace, welcome. Jonathan, grace and peace to you.  Annike, may grace and peace be multiplied to you, in such a way as enables you to return it to Jonathan again, pressed down, shaken, and running over.

As Christians, we are engaged by the Holy Spirit in the renewal of all humanity in Jesus Christ and, through Him, we are laboring for the renewal of absolutely all things. Jesus says, in the book of Revelation, that He makes all things new (Rev. 21:5; cf. 2 Cor. 5:17). Whatever it means to make all things new, it does not mean that we are to carry on just as before. It does not mean that we are to make our peace with the current corruptions.

In order to participate in process properly, one of the things we need to do is imitate the example of Jesus, and go back to how things were in the Garden before our primeval rebellion put everything out of joint. We know from Scripture that the work of the second Adam, Jesus Christ, will far surpass the work of the first Adam (Rom. 5:15-17), but when Jesus us takes us far above the blessing of the first creation, we can be sure that it cannot mean that He will actually take us below the level of that first, unfallen creation. The re-creation of all things is greater than the creation, not less than the first creation.

This means that the first step is that of going back to the book of beginnings, the book of Genesis. We see in its pages the beginning of the world, of work, of rest, and of course, of marriage. If we want to know what we are here for, we have to pay attention to what God says about it when we were first given our responsibilities. In Genesis 2:15, it says this: “And the LORD God took the man, and put him into the garden of Eden to dress it and to keep it” (Gen. 2:15). My interest here is found in the words rendered as “dress” and “keep.” These words are teleological, that is, they tell us what the point of mankind was. Here is another translation. “The Lord God took the man and put him in the garden of Eden to work it and keep it” (Gen. 2:15, ESV).

The Hebrew words are, respectively, avad and shamar. In its agricultural context, the first word means to cultivate, or till, or tend, or nourish. The second word means to guard or to protect, carrying the idea of a priestly guardianship. When God created Adam out of the ground, He placed him in the midst of a glorious Garden. When God made Eve, He took her out of the Adam-ground, and transformed her into a Garden (Song 4:12,15). God had made Adam out of the dust of the ground (Gen. 2:7), and made woman out of the dust of the man (Gen. 3:19).

So God made Adam out of dust, and placed him in a Garden. God made Eve out of that glorified dust, and naturally made her into a glorified Garden. And so it was that God made the woman into the Garden of gardens, the crown of all creation.

Such treasures need to be given a custodian and guardian. Adam was given the responsibility to cultivate both gardens, and he was given this responsibility to guard and protect both gardens. When the serpent came into the first physical garden, Adam’s apparent appeasement didn’t work. Appeasement with evil and sin never does work. We are told the tree of the knowledge of good and evil was in the very center of the garden (Gen. 2:9), and there the serpent was, right by it (Gen. 3:6). So when the serpent was not chased from the center of the physical garden, the very next thing he did was to turn his malevolence to the crown jewel of the Garden, our Mother Eve. If he could pollute the first by his presence, then why would he not be able to pollute the second by his words?

Now Jonathan, you are called to pay close attention to all these words. Our father Adam did not heed them, and this is how we all came to grief through him. But Christ has now come, and He summons us to return to the scene of that original crime, learn from our great sin, and to start over. Each of us is called back there, and each husband here is being told to learn what it is to cultivate and protect. This is the sum of what your vows mean. This is the very center of what you are being called to do, and it is entirely consistent with the imitation of Christ that Paul charges husbands to follow in Ephesian 5.

When you cultivate a Garden, you are that Garden’s servant. As you guard the gates of that Garden, you are exercising authority as a priestly lord. But the Bible knows nothing of the boss-man lord, the conceited man who must always have it his own way. Rather, the Scriptures paint for us the picture of a bleeding lord, a sacrificing lord, a lord who rises early because of the needs of the Garden. In short, Scripture gives us a servant lord. Jesus models this for us perfectly. He spoke with a biblical authority to just the same extent that He bled with biblical authority. What the first Adam did not do for his Garden, what Jesus gloriously did for His, you are now accepting as your imitative responsibility. Because it is all the grace of God, you may do so gladly.

Annike, your vows contain the word obey, and Jonathan’s vows do not. This difference should be understood in the light of what we have just considered. The only authority that Jonathan can have over time will come from an imitation of Jesus, who taught us that authority rises when we descend in sacrifice for others. Authority ascends when self descends. That is the first thing.

The second is this. Adam, taken from the ground, did not obey the voice of the one who took him from that ground. Eve, taken from the ground of her husband, did not heed the word of the one who took her from that ground, as communicated to her through her husband. Both our parents needed to understand that if someone creates you from dust, that Person is to be obeyed.

You are not promising to obey in such a way as would indicate that your husband doesn’t have to obey. You are both Christians, and you have both been baptized into a life of obedience by grace. But obedience means that you each are to go to your appointed station, in order to live faithfully there.

Jonathan, you are called to tend and guard the garden of your vocation, and above all, to tend and guard the Garden of all your gardens, your wife Annike. Annike, you are called to be that Garden for him, a place of refreshment and help. You are called to be his glory and crown, and to be, by the grace of God, the kind of Garden he would gladly die to preserve. For all of us, who are but dust, this is a glorious responsibility.

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



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