Anybody remember, a little over a year ago, the media went nuts over a documentary called “The Lost Tomb of Jesus”? Here there was claimed to be solid proof not only that Jesus died and stayed dead, but that he was married to a woman named Mary or “Mariamne”.
Anybody remember, about five years ago, a guy wrote a book called The Da Vinci Code? Although the author insisted it was a work of fiction, he also claimed that all his supporting facts, documents and historical data were accurate. The secular world was giddy with the notion that Jesus was not who Christians have thought him to be, and once again, that he was married to a woman named Mary.
In retrospect, it’s easy to see that neither of these “breakthroughs” ever really broke through. The lasting impact on Christology (even popular Christology) was negligible. It simply emboldened those who held alternative beliefs about Jesus, and frightened those who toed the traditional line. But that’s it.
Why do people want Jesus to be married? Obviously those of us who believe the biblical account don’t want this, but I have to admit that, at times, I have wished that Jesus could relate to my married experiences… my challenges and failures and successes. (Why does that make it sound like I’ve been married more than once? )
But those who have less of themselves invested in the biblical, historical Jesus may want him to be married for two reasons: 1) so they can thumb their nose at Catholics or Evangelicals, and 2) so they don’t have to deal with the existence of such a lofty person. Their lives might be more comfortable if they could bring the zenith of humanity down a notch, and imagine him as a sexual being who satisfied his urges. He may have done it properly, through marriage, but if his bride was indeed a prostitute (as the cultural detractors are claiming,) then we can all feel a little better about ourselves.
And we traditionalists bristle at the thought. Jesus is God, after all. God can’t get married! Well, he could, if he wanted to, I mean, he IS God, so I guess he can do whatever he wants. But can you imagine? God picking out a human woman for a wife? What would their children be? Some sort of demi-gods out of Greek mythology, like Hercules? And if God shows no favoritism, how could he possibly choose one woman to marry, and reject all the others?
I’m glad you asked.
Let me answer the last one first. Although Jesus did not chose an individual woman for a wife, God is actually not opposed to singling people out for his honor. Mary the mother of Jesus was the only woman out of billions to be chosen to give birth to the Son of God. John the Beloved was the only man out of billions to be Jesus’ best friend. And we can see how their names reflected their chosenness. Jesus declined to choose an individual for a wife, but not because he was opposed to singling people out… it was for other reasons.
Because think about it… if the Son of God was going to have a wife, what would she be like? This is a little different from choosing a mother or a best friend. This is choosing a partner to become unified with. One flesh, in other words. And no human being is big enough to be THE unified partner of Christ. No matter whom he chose, it would be a record-scratching anti-climax.
And he most certainly can’t chose multiple women. The Bible may not condemn polygamy as often, and as loudly, as we’d like, but it’s pretty obvious that Jesus cannot be a polygamist.
The only bride for Jesus that would declare his divinity, that would manifest his purposes for coming to earth and fulfill the eternal symbolism that God intended for marriage, would be the Church. The Body of Christ.
And what a name to carry… the Body of Christ. We may still look forward to the wedding feast of the Lamb at the end of this age, but nevertheless Christ has already given himself to us. We are betrothed, and declared to be one flesh. “Those who stay united with me, and I with them, are the ones who bear much fruit.” [John 15:5] That is why we are the Body of Christ. We are the bride… the body that Jesus chose, and now we share it with him, just as he gave his body for us.
As encouraging as all that is, we eventually come down off this epiphany, and remember the blood on our hands. We recall our fallenness, and despair at the lopsidedness of this arrangement. We are a filthy bride, wearing red and black and a muddy shade of brown.
And suddenly the reality occurs to us… Jesus really did marry a prostitute. Just like Hosea married Gomer, and loved her and bought her and called her out of herself.
So we can see that even larger than Jesus’ sense of marriage, is Jesus’ sense of grace. It is far wider than we can imagine, great enough to swallow up all our inadequacies and rebellion.
Then one of the elders asked me, “These in white robes–who are they, and where did they come from?” I answered, “Sir, you know.” And he said, “These are they who have come out of the great tribulation; they have washed their robes and made them white in the blood of the Lamb. Therefore, “they are before the throne of God and serve him day and night in his temple; and he who sits on the throne will spread his tent [or marital chuppa] over them. Never again will they hunger; never again will they thirst. The sun will not beat upon them, nor any scorching heat. For the Lamb at the center of the throne will be their shepherd; he will lead them to springs of living water. And God will wipe away every tear from their eyes. [Revelation 7:13-17]