Our most intimate connection is with our Lord. Yet, even as safe as He has proven to be in saving my soul, I find that I easily push Him away, choose myself, or the busy-ness of the world around me. I know I’m not the only one. This week we talked about our tendency to push our spouse away when what we need to to come together to enjoy the synergistic moments of healing. Why do we do that? I believe we have a tendency to push away anything that changes us or calls us to change for fear of the moments of metamorphosis when change feels bad and therefore is bad. For better or worse, change is necessary. As we look into our marriages, let’s not forget that Christ’s relationship with the Church (or the body of people that believe in Him) is our best model for seeing God’s design for marriage in scripture. Let’s take a look at this relationship and see if there is anything we can learn about pulling away from our beloved.
Christ is good. We know is presence provides peace to our busy souls, fulfillment to the emptiness that the world offers. As perfect as He was, the people still pushed Him away. In the gospel of Matthew, the crowd that followed Jesus is written as a nameless character throughout the story. Written for the Jewish audience, Matthew is showing Jesus’s jewish heritage as the Messiah while presenting the crowd with a “Jekyll and Hyde” personality. We see the crowd having a favorable reaction towards Jesus proclaiming he is the Son of David, yet this is the same “crowd” that sends him the cross.
They didn’t recognize Him. In the beginning of His ministry, and right after His 40 days of fasting in the desert and being tempted by a deceptive Satan, we see Jesus return to Nazareth. Going home feels good, even comfortable. There are times when all we want to do is go home where everyone knows who you are and who you’ve always been- shared history together. Jesus does this, but makes a critical announcement while there. Luke 4:16 details what happens. “He went to Nazareth, where he had been brought up, and on the Sabbath day he went into the synagogue as was his custom. And he stood up to read.” At this point, Jesus opens the scroll of the prophet Isaiah and reads the passage that details the prophesy of who the Messiah would be. The audience would have known this passage well. After all, they have been waiting for the Messiah for so long they have created an expectation as a people of what he would be like. He reads the following words, “The Spirit of the Lord is on me, because he has anointed me to preach the good news to the poor. He has sent me to proclaim freedom for the prisoners and recovery of sight for the blind, to release the oppressed, to proclaim the year of the Lord’s favor.” And then he rolls up the scroll and sits down without finishing the sentence written by Isaiah that speaks of vengeance and says “Today this scripture is fulfilled in your hearing.” In other words, I am the Messiah you have been waiting for. At first, the crowd is amazed that this person they knew as a boy was claiming to be the Messiah, but when he foreshadows their betrayal of him, they turn on him and attempt to throw him off a cliff.
Sometimes those that are closest to you will not recognize who you are made to be. We often see the potential for our spouse and therefore only “see weaknesses”. The people knew Jesus too well and yet didn’t know him at all. How is that possible in your own marriage? It is so easy to see the person who doesn’t roll up the toothpaste the way you want instead of who they are meant to be. Our spouse is meant to be an extension of God’s relationship with us. If they are following God, then there will be times when God will speak to you through them instead of to you and vice versa. If your spouse is not following God, God still desires to refine your character in how you handle your situation. Like a mirror, they often reflect what needs to change within us, and that is quite uncomfortable. It’s much easier to find a cliff to throw them off of.
By the time we get to Matthew 16, the crowd “character” has reached it’s peak in numbers. People love Jesus, follow him, and watch in anticipation as he performs miracles. Jesus asks Peter who the crowd says that He is. Peter’s response is that the crowd says he is “John the Baptist, others say Elijah; and still others , Jeremiah or one of the prophets.” Peter himself acknowledges that Jesus is “Christ, the Son of God”. Not too long after this intimate moment, Jesus tells the disciples about his upcoming death. Peter in love, but unfortunately confused by his expectation of who Jesus was, begs Jesus not to follow through. Jesus responds by pushing Peter away, even calling him Satan!
I think this is an important look at how even in marriage we must handle evil. Anything that does not fall within the will of God is what must be pushed away. It is God’s design for marriage that we sharpen each other and in doing so pull together and not allow sin in ourselves or the world push us apart. We have talked before about externalizing our struggles. Remember, “I am not an angry person- I struggle with anger”? If we are pushing our spouse away, it should only be because we know that in order to protect ourself or children involved from abusive hurt we must do so- that is what God would want. That is the natural consequence to the sin that an abusive spouse has committed against his family. Otherwise, pushing our spouse away because we just don’t want to forgive or feel hurt puts us in the sinful seat. Let us not forget that Jesus brought Peter back into his presence because he knew Peter’s heart and had said that Peter would be the “Rock upon which he would build his church.” Peter’s words were tempting Jesus to be other than He needed to be, but there was still love for Peter himself. If we can learn to look past our spouse’s small mistakes, we will see a love that remains to be part of God’s design for our life.
In taking a final look at the crowd’s response to Jesus, Matthew is asking a big question of us. Will we be like the crowd? Will we follow Jesus when he does the things we expect of him, fits in our pretty convenient box, puts on a good show only to reject him when he turns out to be different than we expected or wanted? It is very easy to follow Christ when everything is going our way. It’s a whole other ballgame when the tension is calling for a large dose of character adjustment.
And what does this mean for our marriage? Neither of us is Jesus. Yet we are called to be like him. We have made the commitment and LOCKED THE DOOR and said that we will choose daily to be transformed by the Lord into his likeness. Encourage your spouse to be close to the Lord, transformed, and that the Lord would speak through your spouse to help transform you. He sacrificed himself for the same crowd that killed him, saying “Forgive them Father, they know not what they do”. All because he knew they misunderstood him. The Church body in return chooses to trust Jesus, to follow, and to remain as blameless as possible, pulling towards him for forgiveness and closeness. What will you do?