Jesus’ Royal Wedding Ceremony: Genesis 2, John 20

You may have tuned in to the royal wedding of Harry and Meghan just to ogle over the fashions worn by guests. But regardless of the reason, most royal fans tuned in to the media-dominated, spectacular event. The event was hard to miss. But, ironically, the majority have missed the most important wedding ceremony in history, the wedding ceremony of Jesus and His bride. Jesus’ royal wedding is featured in John’s Gospel, but few have noticed it.

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Yet, for Bible readers familiar with canonical patterns in Israel’s Scripture, Jesus’ wedding is expected. If the first Adam, a messianic figure, experienced a type of wedding ceremony, then we should also expect the pattern to be repeated with the last Adam, the Messiah Himself. And, after all, Paul exhorts husbands to love their wives as Christ loved the church—His Bride. Jesus is married to His church.

But did Scripture skip Jesus’ wedding ceremony? At first, it might appear that God overlooked the starting point of Jesus’ married life. Adam’s wedding was covered, but perhaps not the new Adam’s. Perhaps Jesus’ wedding is assumed but not recorded. But mere appearances can be misleading. Scripture does include Jesus’ wedding ceremony for us, but to spot it, we must carefully examine Scripture for clues like a detective.

Rewind the History Tape

It makes sense for us to re-watch history’s first wedding. This resonates because John takes his cues for Jesus’ wedding ceremony from that first nuptial scene. So, let’s rewind the wedding game film to the start and carefully observe what happened.

The First Adams Wedding: Genesis 2

Adam’s search for a corresponding partner, a wife, in a garden proved fruitless (Gen 2:19-20). So, based on God’s foresight[1] that it was not good,[2] not beneficial, for the man to be alone, He put Adam into a deep sleep. While Adam slept, God the marriage builder, took one side of Adam and then shut the door to his flesh.[3] He then built[4] that one side into a woman. Adam’s side is identified as a temple side, a sanctuary side.  So, Adam now constitutes one side, one half of the temple and newly-built Eve is the other half, the second side.[5] Keep that idea of ”side” in mind.

Like the gracious provider that He is, God then brought the woman to the man freshly awakened from sleep. Joined together by God, they form one complete temple.

“…God brought her to the man.” Gen 2:22b

Adam’s very first words assert her inseparable connection to him; she will be called “woman” because she was taken out of man (Gen 2:23). Keep that term “woman” in mind as well.

This unique identity as a completed temple, made up of two equal temple sides, explains why a man—rather than remaining at home as an incomplete temple—will leave his father and mother and glue[6] himself to his wife, and the two become one flesh (Gen 2:24). Adam and Eve are one flesh, one temple, held together by construction glue. End of the history tape.

Is There a Part Two?

Is there any corresponding story in the New Testament about a bride, a woman, being brought to the last Adam in a garden, after a period of sleep? And does the side of the last Adam receive any attention? Is Jesus identified as a temple as is the case with the first Adam?

Yes, there is a corresponding story. Jesus will reenact history’s first wedding. But to recognize it for what it is, John prepares us early in his Gospel. John drops major clues into his story.

Jesus’ very first miracle is at a wedding (2:1-11) where water is turned into wine are by His word. He also uses the odd term “woman” to address his mother (John 2:4). That’s unusual.

The second clue for a wedding involves Jesus’ cleaning out the Jerusalem temple (John 2:13-25). When questioned about his authority to do so, Jesus’ words provide another major wedding clue. “Destroy this temple and I will raise up in three days…But the temple he had spoken of was his body.” Like the first Adam, Jesus’ body, after awakened from the sleep of death, is the new temple (John 2:19,21). Temple and sleep are clues from Genesis 2.

Then, in the very next chapter, John drops another wedding clue on the path. John the Baptist explicitly identified Jesus as the Bridegroom who has now come. Observe his words about Jesus:

“The friend of the bridegroom, who stands by and listens for him, rejoices greatly when he hears the bridegroom’s voice. This then is my joy and it is complete.” John 3:30

So, Jesus is a bridegroom. But, who is the bride? And when is the wedding? John provides us with an Old Testament courtship scene in the familiar story of Jesus and the Samaritan woman at the well (John 4). It’s a major clue. But it might prove helpful to remind ourselves of the details of this prior courtship pattern. It is a pattern repeated three times in the Old Testament.

Courtship Pattern

A pattern of courtship is repeated with three well-known couples: Isaac and Rebekah (Gen 24:10-28), Jacob and Rachel (Gen 29:1-14), and Moses[7] and Zipporah (Ex 2:15-20).  In each story, a man meets an unknown woman at a well in a foreign country. Water is drawn from the well. The drawing of water from the well establishes a bond, a host-guest relationship. Each of the women in the stories returns home to tell of the stranger at the well. And all three encounters of a man and woman at a well in a foreign country concludes with the ringing of wedding bells. Three weddings that began at a well. See the thrice-fold pattern? The pattern is a clue.

It should be no surprise, then, that the same courtship pattern reappears in John 4. Jesus also meets a woman at a well in a foreign country.  He asks her for water, and after discussion, she returns to her Samaritan town telling them about the stranger she met at the well. So, we could be forgiven for expecting this encounter to play out with Jesus marrying the Samaritan woman. The thrice-told Old Testament pattern suggests that it must be here and now in Samaria at a well.

But wedding bells stay silent in John 4.[8] The Samaritan woman becomes the greatest evangelist in John’s Gospel but does not marry Jesus. But John’s courtship story is another clue and keeps alive our interest in watching for Jesus’ expected wedding.

Adam and Jesus

Finally, in John 20, our wedding expectation is finally realized. John skillfully aligns his picture of Jesus’ marriage to His bride, the church, to correspond with the story of God’s provision of a bride for Adam the first groom (Gen 2).  Adam’s first wedding ceremony matches Jesus’ wedding ceremony to a tee. Observe the string of clues:

Jesus’ body, put to sleep in death,[9] was resurrected after three days. His new body, like Adam’s, also constitutes the new Temple (see John 2:19-22). Jesus’ new bride, the church, was then brought to Him in a garden after the sleep of His death.[10] Mary, symbolic of all believing women, is the first to travel to the Jesus’ tomb. Jesus’ first spoken word after the sleep of death, like Adam’s, were “woman” (John 20:15).

Confession and Vows

And it was those scars on Jesus' side, the new temple, that persuaded an unbelieving skeptic like Thomas, symbolic of all men of faith, to believe that the Lord he knew prior to the cross was the same Lord now awakened and standing in front of him.  Thomas confessed his faith in the awakened Jesus and said: “My Lord and my God.” (Ὁ κύριός μου καὶ ὁ θεός μου; John 20:28).[11] In this confession of faith, we see the vows in the wedding ceremony of Jesus and His bride, the church.

Jesus’s new bride is the church, composed of women and men of all races who, by faith, confess His sacrificial death on the cross, resurrection from the sleep of death, and His divine nature.

Two Garden Weddings

So, to prepare us for Jesus’ wedding, John dropped multiple clues on our pathway through his Gospel. Then, with the end of the road in sight, John arranged the wedding of Jesus, the last Adam, to correspond with history’s first wedding. 

Both weddings occurred in a garden. Both ceremonies occurred after the sleep of the groom. Both grooms bear scars on their sides after sleep, but not before. Both grooms uttered “woman” as the first words after sleep. And both sets of bridegrooms and brides share the same identity as temples of God. Both enjoy the breath of God. Just as God breathed His life into the first Adam (Genesis 2:7), so also Jesus the last Adam breathed his Spirit into His bride (John 20:22).  

And just as the water turned into wine came from Jesus’ word at the first wedding in the Gospel (John 2:1-11), so also the water and the blood came from Jesus’ side in preparation for the final wedding in the same Gospel (John 19:34).

Weddings act as bookends in John’s family-oriented Gospel. The first garden wedding in Genesis was meant ultimately to foreshadow the greatest wedding in history.

You may have missed Harry and Meghan’s royal wedding. No worries. No eternal consequences. But don’t miss the opportunity to become the bride of Jesus, God’s beloved Son.

Samuel Stone’s hymn[12] celebrates our marriage connection to Jesus in song:

The church’s one foundation is Jesus Christ her Lord;

She is his new creation, by water and the word:

From heav’n he came and sought her,

to be his holy bride;

        With his own blood he bought her,

And for her life he died. Amen.

 

Thank you for reading.

 

Notes:

1] The Hebrew phrase, “God saw” means “foresaw.” His seeing implies pro-vision—literally “seeing beforehand” or “foresight.” See same use of the verb in Genesis 22:14.

[2] “Goodness” (tov) implies simply of benefit for humans.

[3] “Closed up” as in English translations is more accurately, “closed the flesh” and is not a surgical term—such as suturing--but a word used for closing the door to a building or the gate to a city. Adam is a building. When God closed up Adam’s side, He was closing the door of a temple.

[4] “Built” is a construction term used for the building of cities and houses.

[5] The author is not attempting to obliterate or blend gender distinctions. Rather, the author is demonstrating the co-unity of man and woman, their identity as temples, their purpose in life as worship. While they are different from one another, they are yet complementary by God’s design.

[6] The Hebrew word means “to glue together.” Jesus uses the Greek equivalent in Matthew 19:5 for the marriage of a man and a woman.

[7] “An Egyptian man rescued us from the shepherds, and what’s more, he even drew water for us.” Exodus 2:19. Moses as an infant was drawn from the water and was given the name meaning “drawn from the water.” He will take God’s people through water that will close over his enemies and in the desert, he will bring forth water from a rock.

[8] The clue that a wedding will not occur at this well is that the woman left her bucket at the well rather than drawing water. The drawing of water is the clue that a bond is established.

[9] John teaches us by means of this episode of the raising of Lazarus from the dead that death is a type of sleep. See John 11:1-16. Only John’s Gospel contains this story. It’s a clue to be used by the reader in chapter 20.

[10] Illustrated by the woman, Mary of Magdala, in 20:10-16, and Jesus’ male disciples in 20:24-28).

[11] The same terms for God are used in the Greek version of Genesis 2: Ὁ κύριός; ὁ θεός Lord and God.

[12] The Church’s One Foundation, Samuel Stone, 1866.