“[Jesus] is not just nice, he is brilliant. He is the smartest man who ever lived. He is now supervising the entire course of world history (Rev. 1:5) while simultaneously preparing the rest of the universe for our future role in it (John 14:2). He always has the best information on everything and certainly also on the things that matter most in human life.” Dallas Willard, The Divine ConspiracyDallas Willard, The Divine Conspiracy: Rediscovering Our Hidden Life in God (New York: HarperCollins, 1998) p. 95.
What Jesus Said About Marriage
Jesus had the reputation of being a wise teacher, so people asked Him questions all the time, including ones about marriage. When asked about divorce and remarriage, for example, He pointed back to the foundation of marriage. Jesus quotes the book of Genesis and describes God’s design for human sexuality at creation.
Here’s what Jesus said, and below we’ll draw out some of the important points He is making about marriage and sexuality:
He answered, “Have you not read that he who created them from the beginning made them male and female, and said, ‘Therefore a man shall leave his father and his mother and hold fast to his wife, and the two shall become one flesh’? So they are no longer two but one flesh. What therefore God has joined together, let not man separate.” Matthew 19:4-6 (ESV)
Male and Female
Jesus first reminded His followers that in the beginning, God made humanity in His own image, male and female. Men and women are different, yet complementary; specifically designed by God to complete each other. Both are intrinsically valuable. The male body and the female body show us we are physically complementary, but being a man or a woman isn’t only about biology; a husband and wife fit together body, soul and spirit.
Jesus also pointed His followers to God’s plan for marriage. Marriage uniquely brings together a man and a woman so the two may become one. God established marriage to be a life-long, faithful relationship between a husband and a wife — full of joy, love and intimacy. Marriage is a relationship where two people, joined to each other and to God: listen and talk to each other; pray and worship together; share work and ministry in the world; and create and raise a family together.
Sex is a good thing, as it was created by God. Sexual desire moves us toward intimacy with another, and marriage is the one place God established for sexual love to occur. Such intimacy is powerful, uniting two people physically, emotionally and spiritually. God’s desire was for a married couple to enjoy each other without fear, hiding or shame.
The marriage relationship was also intended to be fruitful. After all, one of the more obvious results of a sexual relationship is children. A husband and wife typically bring new life into the world. As Jewish people who understood Scripture, Jesus’ listeners would have heard the first part of his statement was from Genesis 1, “He who created them from the beginning made them male and female.” They would have known the context and would have naturally gone on to think about the following verses, “And God blessed them. And God said to them, “Be fruitful and multiply and fill the earth and subdue it. …”
The Jews believed that God designed marriage to join a husband and wife both to each other – and to be mother and father to any children their union creates. They knew that “children are a heritage from the Lord,” (Psalm 127:3) and that mom and dad are the two best people to provide for and educate their own children. Because marriage creates, nurtures and equips the next generation, it rests at the foundation of society — before government, religion, schools or other man-made institutions.
Reflecting His Image
Being created in God’s image means men and women reflect different aspects of God’s character: Justice and Mercy; Strength and Beauty; Initiation and Response. These complementary masculine and feminine qualities show us something about who God is.
A Spiritual Picture
While every person reflects aspects of the image of God, a husband and wife union is the most important picture in the Bible of how intimate our relationship with God can be. God is portrayed as the “husband” who loves us, and we are like the “wife,” who responds back to Him. In the New Testament, Christ is pictured as the groom; the Church is His bride. Marriage shows us how deep and intimate our relationship with God can be!
For more on this topic:
“Cultivating a Kingdom Marriage,” Parts One and Two, Focus on the Family Broadcast with Dr. Tony Evans
The Meaning of Marriage: Facing the Complexities of Commitment with the Wisdom of God, book by Timothy Keller with Kathy Keller
“Teach Your Children About Marriage”: Two free downloadable resources help you pass on the truth about marriage.
This Momentary Marriage: A Parable of Permanence, book by John Piper