Hervey Bay Presbyterian Church

the Christ and his Church-Bride

Introduction

The late 50’s and early 60’s took the world by surprise.  The momentous moral shift we experience now started to trickle when movie and music stars openly divorced and remarried, making long-term marriage look odd.

The Pill arrived as a method for family planning, but soon introduced the Free Love era of the mid to late 60’s.

The Roe vs. Wade decision for abortion in America opened the floodgates to the legal killing of the unborn.  It is shocking to know that Norma McCorvey, who got the pseudo-mane of Jane Roe, was not raped, never appeared in court, said she sought an abortion because she was unemployable and greatly depressed.  The two lawyers, Linda Coffee and Sarah Weddington, who were merely looking for a plaintiff with whom they could challenge the Texas state law prohibiting abortion, represented her.  It is consoling to know that Norma McCorvey is now a Christian and works in clinics helping unmarried mothers.

In the footsteps of Roe vs. Wade followed the “No Fault” divorce laws, which was followed by the “De Facto Relationship” revision of the Family Law Act in 1975 here in Australia.

The development in reproductive science, which was intended to be beneficial for childless parents, soon became a form of genetic engineering.  Human embryos were implanted in surrogate mothers, but the next step introduced us to the sale of human sperm and egg cells.  The upshot of this development is that a child can be born into the world without being raised by its biological parents, or any one person, or two people of the same gender actings as legal parents.  Who must not be surprised that the demand for legal same-sex marriages are now knocking at our door.

According to WHO, every year in the world there are an estimated 40-50 million abortions, or approximately 125,000 abortions per day.  In the USA, there are over 3,000 abortions per day. Twenty-two percent of all pregnancies in the USA (excluding miscarriages) end in abortion.  A further alarming statistic is that one-third of American children – a total of 15 million – are being raised without a father. Nearly 5 million more children live without a mother.

Hand on our hearts

What God intended for marriage eroded into a political mud slinging fight.

But, before we get too angry with political and social activists demanding same-sex marriages, let us as church people, put our hands on our hearts and do some soul searching.  To what extent have we allowed the world to dictate to us moral standards?  To what extent have we lived out God’s original plan for marriage?  Were we caught by the slow-moving moral ebb away from God’s standard for marriage and family? Is it possible that we sometimes get angry at social activists, while we ourselves have not abided by the standards of God’s Word?  Social scientist have pointed out time and time again that the absence of the fathers in families is greatly contributing to sons being gender confused, socially disoriented, and in some cases contributes to substance abuse.

God’s perfect design

God’s design is so much different.  Our reading from Genesis 1:26-28 makes it plain that God designed marriage by giving Adam and Eve to one another.  He gave them the possibility to be fruitful.  In a sense, Adam and Eve became under-creators of God:  He made them with his own hand, and He gave them the gift of passing on life into another generation – and all of this was designed for God to be honoured through generations.

In way, one can say that God’s first and foremost design for world-evangelisation was through the family.

Rebellion

We know sin broke everything in part.  Instead of families growing, Adam and Eve’s family was hit by the first murder which took place on earth.  After the fall childbearing became burdensome and painful.  Child-rearing itself calls for wisdom.  It is also a painful reality that childbearing is not the privilege of every woman after sin came into the world.

In some sense, even good Christian parents cannot escape the problem of this sin-stained relationship, because every little baby born into this world does not enter it as innocent:  it carries rebellion in its heart, and left to itself it will swing the fist to God at one stage.  And how painful it is for parents to see their children (and even grandchildren) go through fazes of open rebellion, not only against their parents, but also against God!

The Christ – the Groom

Let’s go to our reading from John today.

John states that the water-into-wine sign happened on the “third day”, which is the third day after Jesus declared that Nathaniel would “see the angels of God descending on the Son of Man.” (1:51).  Let’s try to get the sequence:

  • Day One:  The delegation of the Jews visited John and ask him who he was (1:19).
  • Day Two: On the next day the Baptiser announced Jesus Christ as the Lamb of God (1:29).
  • Day Three:  Two of John’s disciples spent the day with Jesus (1:35). Andrew finds Peter and led him to Jesus (1:41)
  • Day Four: Jesus decided to leave for Galilee (1:43), calls Philip to follow him, and Andrew and Peter (with the unnamed disciple – most probably John) accompanied Jesus; Nathaniel came to Christ (1:48-49)
  • Day Seven (inclusive – “On the third day”):  The wedding at Cana.

Keep in mind that John started his Gospel with creation – Day One of all things.  Symbolically then – a week into the new creation – Jesus “revealed his glory, and the disciples put their faint in Him.”

Two major theological themes seem to build into this paragraph:

  • Marriage, and
  • The new use for the ceremonial vessels which held the water for ceremonial washing

Christ, the Rescuer

Jesus was invited to the wedding.  Here at the wedding in Cana He would perform his first miracle.  We learn from Matthew 19:4-6 that Jesus was in full agreement with his Father’s plan and design for marriage.  He refers to “in the beginning” when the Creator made male and female, and ends with, “what God has joined together, let man not separate.”

As far as Christ was concerned nothing had changed.  What then changed?  Sin entered into this world!  Sinful man rebel against everything God made good and will go to the point that he will label “good” as “bad” and “bad” as “good”.

What Christ pointed out to the Pharisees was that their hardness of heart shattered God’s design for marriage so that Moses permitted them to divorce.

And now our Lord is a guest at a wedding.  But in our paragraph the groom and the bride disappeared in the background as Christ steps in to rescue a disaster for the groom.  A commentator writes:

“A wedding celebration could last as long as a week, and the financial responsibility lay with the groom. To run out of supplies would be a dreadful embarrassment in a ‘shame’ culture; there is some evidence it could also lay the groom open to a lawsuit from aggrieved relatives of the bride.”

Christ rescued the groom from shame by providing an abundance of wine.  For us our Lord was on the foreground, for the groom, the bride and the guests He acted behind the scenes.

Ceremonial laws fulfilled

He rescued the situation by changing the ceremonial laws of the days with something completely new.  Of all guests would be required to be ceremonially clean before they could sit down at the banquet.  Every time they went in and out they would need to be washed; this washing had nothing to do with hygiene, but had all to do with being acceptable as part of God’s people according to the Law of Moses.

Our Lord used those water jars and effectively introduced Himself as the One who had the authority to introduce a new way to be acceptable before God as his church bride.  Yes, He was the Christ, the bridegroom, who would give his blood as the sacrifice to make us acceptable before the throne of God.  After the cross and resurrection no ceremonial jars were necessary.  Our Lord is the fulfilment of the Law.  And as such did He become the Groom of his church-bride.  He rescued marriage by coming into the world and to start all over again.

Not only does He call and enable marriages to reflect the relationship between Him and his church, but his sacrifice on the cross also makes possible childrearing to the glory of his name.

More than that, He calls his church – as He called his disciples who saw Him in Cana that day and put their faith in Him – to, as it were, “parent” children in faith into the family of God through evangelism and mission.  That’s our calling.  To his disciples He said they will be fishers of men, and after He fulfilled every requirement of the Law, by doing away with the ceremonial laws forever in his body, He sent them out into all the world to disciple the nations.

Conclusion

Let’s take with us this morning three major points:

  • Christ bought his church-bride with his precious blood to be spiritual parents to the lost who will hear the Gospel of reconciliation in mission and evangelism.
  • The new life in Christ means that new marriages and new families are possible.  Take your marriage relationship and family relationships to the cross of Christ.  Ask Him to renew it to the design God intended with it from the beginning.
  • Let everyone who live with guilt about broken down relationships come to Christ.  Let him or her who suffer with gender issues come to Christ.  There is hope and forgiveness.

May our Lord give us as his church-bride something of the wideness of his grace and mercy to pray with, struggle with, and rejoice with those who find his mercy and forgiveness.

Sermon preached by Rev D. Rudi Schwartz on Sunday 9 October 2016

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