Lent 4 Midweek 2023 (Mt 27, 11–31; 6th Commandment)

Image: The Icon of “Christ the Bridegroom of the Church”

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᛭ INI ᛭

Tying the 6th Commandment to the Passion of Jesus is the most tenuous of all the Commandments. It is true that all sins against the Decalogue, the Ten Commandments, are paid for by Jesus. There are no stories of adultery surrounding Jesus’ death, although the woman who anoints Jesus in Matthew 26 may come close.

Tonight’s the most fitting spot, though, since there’s a connection with religious leaders, but it’s abstract. Before Pilate, they commit spiritual adultery, also known as idolatry. It’s idolatry not only to reject Jesus for Barabbas but to confess “We have no king but Caesar” (Jn 18), instead of the LORD. Instead of being friends of the Bridegroom (Jn 4), they want control of the Bride.

Like I said, that’s a bit abstract. The clearer connection comes from our other reading. (The only 2nd reading of the midweeks!) Paul reveals to us who Jesus is when it comes to He does—not only what He does at Calvary, but also before Pilate and the entire Roman guard at the Praetorium. Paul tells us that


(I. Marriage is God’s Gift for husbands and wives.)

Now, before I can get to that, I’ve got to address marriage itself from the Scriptures. Marriage is God’s Gift. He created and blessed it “in Paradise, before humanity’s fall into sin.” He joined Adam and Eve together. He blessed a man with a wife, and woman with a husband, because “it is not good for man to be alone.” (Gen 2) (Not good for woman to be alone either.) A wife created especially for the man; a husband as the only man in the world for the woman. Life-long companionship.

That marriage was created in the Garden of Eden tells us that there are many 1st Article Gifts, gifts of creation, gifts of the body that go along with it. This includes, at a foundational level, having children. “It is not good for man to be alone.” (Gen 2) “The two will become one.” (Gen 2) The two-made-one become even more. (Barring, of course, sin wreaking havoc on our bodies.) Marriage was not created to deliver 3rd Article Gifts, spiritual gifts. Marriage does not work forgiveness of sins, but is sustained by it. Marriage does not rescue from death, but lasts until death. Marriage does not give eternal salvation, but exists even for those who do not believe.

Marriage is an objective reality. It’s an institution, an “estate.” God puts husband and wife—one man, one woman—into this estate. In the Garden, God gave marriage in a particular way, to particular people, and He continues to do so. “What God joins together”—man and woman—“let no one put asunder.” (Mt 19)

(II. The devil and world attack this.)

That is what God tells us in the Bible. As Christians, we are bound by the objective Word of God and not by worldly subjective redefining. Yet that’s what we’re confronted with in the world, and we are all affected by sin when it comes to our ideas about marriage, and, even for those of us who are married, our marriages are negatively affected by sin.

The attack on the institution of marriage isn’t just subjective personal preferences. It’s a concerted effort by the devil to undo God’s created order. The world, in open rebellion against God, takes up the charge, too. The attacks are seen most clearly on the 1st Article Gifts of marriage, the gifts of the body.

Physical intimacy has been divorced from marriage for quite some time. What was once only for marriage is no longer. Having children’s been estranged from intimacy for awhile, too. Couples living as roommates serves as test drive for marriage, drives couples not to complete “union of heart, mind, and body,” but a collaboration of “separate but equal” individuals. (“His and hers” vs “ours.”) The world also preaches a message of “you don’t need a man,” “you don’t need a woman.” Yet, God said, “It is not good for man to be alone.” The union of same-sex couples and the redefining of gender is only the next logical step. “In the beginning God made them male and female” and “joined them”—the man and woman—“together.” (Mt 19)

Even in our own homes, “husbands and wives love and honor each other.” Really? “In what you do”? How you treat your spouse? “In what you say”? What do you say about your spouse to others? What do you say to your spouse in private or in public? Is it love? Is it mercy? Is it forgiveness? Belittling or power dynamics have no place.

The devil attacks marriage, and the spirits in league with him, who are “at work in the world,” who work in the “sons of disobedience” (Eph 2) do this, too, not only as rejection of all that God does. It’s not just a rejection of the giftedness of being a man or woman, the giftedness of marriage. At its foundation, it’s actually an attack on the truth, the truth that


(III. Marriage truly is a picture of Christ and the Church.)

Marriage was created in Eden to be a picture of Christ and the Church, but not just any picture. It’s a picture of Christ saving His Church. That’s what Paul says. “This mystery is profound, and I am saying that it refers to Christ and the Church.” Marriage created in the beginning was all about Christ saving the Church, which means even our being created male and female—1st Article Gift!—is a reflection and shadow of Christ saving His bride the Church.

The devil attacked marriage in the Old Testament in an attempt to destroy the promise of the Savior, “the Seed of the Woman” who would come to “strike the serpent on the head.” (Gen 3) He still attacks today trying to undo anything that can point to Christ saving His bride the church. What’s the big deal about two men or two women? Well, Christ—the true husband and second Adam (man)—saves His bride, the Church. Christ saves the Church, not another Christ. The Church is saved by Christ, not another Church.

That’s Christ in our text tonight. Here He is true husband, true King for His bride the church. This takes place chiefly at Calvary—there condemned as “King of the Jews,” there laying down His life for His bride the church. (Eph 5) But even tonight He is mocked as King of the Jews. He is adorned as a Bridegroom for his bride. He is arrayed in royal purple for her, given the scepter of service, arrayed in beautiful headdress (crown of thorns) for her. (No tuxedo matches what our Lord wore for His bride.) (Is 61:10)

She is more important than His own power, His own name, His very life! She is “without spot or wrinkle or any such thing!” She is holy, He unholy for her. He becomes her sin, her shame; she His righteousness, His holiness. So also Christian husbands are head of household not as some power play, not as being “in charge.” (Such mindset is antithetical to marriage. No bosses in a house.) Being a husband is the way of service, the way of death. The head serves at the expense of all things him. He the source of any mercy, forgiveness, and service that comes from her. He sets the tone of the household! As Christ does the church.

“We are members of His body.” (Eph 5) As individuals we’re clothed with Christ’s death and resurrection, of course, by Holy Baptism (“the washing of water with the word”). Baptism does “work forgiveness of sins, rescues from death and the devil, and gives eternal salvation to all who believe this.” We’re united in the Body of Christ, the Church, through His body given us to eat and His blood to drink for the forgiveness of sins. Thus forgiven, thus baptized, thus “nourished” (Eph 5) husbands and wives “love and honor each other” with Jesus’ forgiveness, mercy, and love. As far as Christian couples are concerned, we know only He will keep our marriage going for life.



We see Him doing that in the Praetorium: suffering all as Husband-King for His bride. Most husband, most King when giving up His life for her, shedding His blood for her, being mocked and ridiculed for her, clothed in purple for her, crowned with thorns for her. Because of Him she is saved, she is holy, she is forgiven. He washes her in Baptism and nourishes her with His Supper. She before Him—how mysterious is the way of the Man with His bride! (Prov 30:19)

Everything about marriage, the creation of wife for man, of husband for woman hinges on that. God created marriage the way He did and still does true marriage all as a picture of Christ saving His bride the church. Christ for His Bride; the Church by her Husband. Even all husbands and wives! “Husband and wife love and honor,” that is, forgiving one another. Even as Jesus, the true Husband-King does for His body, His bride, the Church. Even for you and me, for we are members of His body through Baptism and the Supper of His body and blood.

᛭ INI ᛭

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