One of the most revelatory parts of my life in recent years has been sharing and praying with my wife early in the mornings. As I was praying in bed with my Donna the other day I had a firm sense of the glory of Jesus as the most radiant of Bridegrooms. This verse came to mind “You are the most handsome of the sons of men; grace is poured upon your lips; therefore God has blessed you forever.” (Psalm 45:2 ESV). Psalm 45 is a messianic psalm (Heb 1:8-9) whose story of the marriage of the king and princess finds fulfilment in the wedding of Jesus and the Church. Suddenly a number of things seemed to run together in my mind and left me with a profound awareness that in the End Marital Bliss will fill the whole universe. This is the goal for which God created the world. Whatever our personal experiences of marriage and despite the very real visible defects in the people of God, Jesus is excited about the Wedding to come. The marriage supper of the Lamb will be the completion of Jesus own identity, for this will be the occasion when the Bridegroom at last becomes a Husband (Rev 19:6-9; cf. 2 Cor 11:2).
A Groom of Glory
When we read about the “handsomeness” of Jesus we are not to think of this in worldly or physical terms but in terms of an unparalleled beauty of character. Psalm 45 goes on to exalt the messiah, “In your majesty ride out victoriously for the cause of truth and meekness and righteousness; let your right hand teach you awesome deeds! (Psalm 45:4). This is surely the meekness of the “triumphant entry” into Jerusalem on a donkey (Matt 21:5cf. Zech 9:9). The triumph of Jesus is a moral and spiritual one achieved by his voluntary carrying the full ugliness of our sin on the cross; “he had no form or majesty that we should look at him, and no beauty that we should desire him.” (Isa 53:2 cf. 52:14). As Jesus bears our dereliction and prays for us poor lost sinners an incomparable beauty of love, grace, mercy and forgiveness pours forth from the cross (Mark 15:34; Luke 23:34). Whereas the inner handsomeness of Jesus was totally unseen and misunderstood to natural eyes at the crucifixion, his true splendour bursts forth in the resurrection. It is the resurrection that reveals the completeness of who he is as the BRIDEGROOM in the fullness of the glory of God ; it is this revelation that transforms all our human self-understanding.
Paul says, “though we once regarded Christ according to the flesh, we regard him thus no longer. Therefore if anyone is in Christ there is a new creation…” (2 Cor 5:16-17 ESV). When Paul was encountered by the risen Lord on the Damascus Road he saw “the glory of God in the face of Jesus Christ” (2 Cor 4:6) in a way that was utterly overpowering. This was not an overpowering by brute force, but with the sheer radiant excellence of the beauty of a human being perfected in the glory of God (Isa 33:17) . Similarly, when the apostle John saw the exalted Jesus whose “face was like the sun shining in full strength” (Rev 1:16) this was the “sun of righteousness with healing in its wings” (Mal 4:2). What John saw was surely the uncreated light of God’s splendour that will in the End fill the whole universe (Rev 21:23 cf. 1 Tim 6:16). Those who have seen the glory of the Lord in this light can no longer speak of him in an ordinary manner.
Seeing the Glory
In the great passage which parallels human marriage with Christ and the Church Paul says, “Husbands, love your wives, as Christ loved the church and gave himself up for her, that he might sanctify her, having cleansed her by the washing of water with the word, so that he might present the church to himself in splendour, without spot or wrinkle or any such thing, that she might be holy and without blemish.” (Eph 5:25-27 ESV). When we speak the Word to one another as it truly is, robed in the beauty, majesty and splendour of the character of Jesus, we must be cleansed from all mediocrity (Col 3:16-17). (This is most particularly true for Christian marriages.) The revelation of the handsomeness of Christ takes his Bride captive in love; “But thank God! He has made us his captives and continues to lead us along in Christ’s triumphal procession. Now he uses us to spread the knowledge of Christ everywhere, like a sweet perfume. (2 Cor 2:14 ESV cf. Ps 68:18). What is our response to such precious things?
Giving the Gift
In the original divine order marriage and family was to be the holy place where true human identity was to be unbreakably established. Through Christ our Husband this will in the End be so to the glory of God our Father. In the meantime this call remains; the manifold identity confusions of our day cry out for the revelation of the Handsome Groom which alone can restore both the Church and Christian marriages into potent spheres of grace where human self-understanding can be healed of all its most grievous ills. This will never happen as long as the Church as we know it is preoccupied with worldly prosperity or dominated by the legalisms of right and wrong. The New Testament speaks of a different mode of awareness, one that is rarely understood and appreciated in our day; the Christian who is aware of the “treasure” of the wonder and loveliness of Christ within will endure any hardship to make Jesus known to others (2 Cor 4:7-12 cf. John 4:28-29). There is a compulsion to communicate ultimate beauty which is boundlessly free and images both the agony and ecstasy of the gospel (2 Cor 5:13-15).
I stand in constant amazement to think that my own spouse would put up with me day after day for 38 years, but Jesus wants each of us by his side forever! That Christ should be excited by union with his Church, with you and me and all those other believers whose fallibility we know all too well, is completely beyond human comprehending. It only makes sense in the light of the unconditional loving sacrifice of the cross. Words cannot convey the attractiveness of the Son of God. It is time that we abandoned our muted forms of speaking about and serving Jesus, and moved once more as a Church in the wild power of the Spirit’s all consuming passion (cf. S of Sol). Until this happens and such a visitation from high alights upon us the identity confusions of our time, spiritual, sexual and psychological, will grow in intensity (Luke 1:78). Yet there is hope, “the most handsome of the sons of men”, this is our Jesus.