“Husbands, love your wives, as Christ loved the church and gave himself up for her” (Ephesians 5:25).
God’s design for marriage in the Bible pictures the husband loving his wife the way Christ loves his people, and the wife responding to her husband the way Christ’s people should respond to him. This picture was in God’s mind when he sent Christ into the world. Christ came for his bride and died for her to display the way marriage was meant to be.
No, the point of the analogy is not that husbands should suffer at the hands of their wives. It’s true, that did happen to Jesus in a sense. He suffered in order to bring a people—a bride—into being, and these very people were among those who caused his suffering. And much of his sorrow was because his disciples abandoned him (Matthew 26:56). But the point of the analogy is how Jesus loved them to the point of death and did not cast them away.
God’s idea for marriage preceded the union of Adam and Eve and the coming of Christ. We know this because when Christ’s apostle explained the mystery of marriage, he reached back to the beginning of the Bible and quoted Genesis 2:24, “A man shall leave his father and mother and hold fast to his wife, and the two shall become one flesh.” Then in the next sentence he interpreted what he had just quoted: “This mystery is profound, and I am saying that it refers to Christ and the church” (Ephesians 5:31-32).
That means that in God’s mind marriage was designed in the beginning to display Christ’s relationship to his people. The reason marriage is called a “mystery” is that this aim for marriage was not clearly revealed until the coming of Christ. Now we see that marriage is meant to make Christ’s love for his people more visible in the world.
Since this was in God’s mind from the beginning, it was also in Christ’s mind when he faced death. He knew that among the many effects of his suffering was this: making the deepest meaning of marriage plain. All his sufferings were meant to be a message especially to husbands: This is how every husband should love his wife.
Even though God did not aim, in the beginning, for marriages to be miserable, many are. That’s what sin does. It makes us treat each other badly. Christ suffered and died to change that. Wives have their responsibility in this change. But Christ gives a special responsibility to husbands. That’s why the Bible says, “Husbands, love your wives, as Christ loved the church and gave himself up for her” (Ephesians 5:25).
Husbands are not Christ. But they are called to be like him. And the specific point of likeness is the husband’s readiness to suffer for his wife’s good without threatening or abusing her. This includes suffering to protect her from any outside forces that would harm her, as well as suffering disappointments or abuses even from her. This kind of love is possible because Christ died for both husband and wife. Their sins are forgiven. Neither needs to make the other suffer for sins. Christ has borne that suf- fering. Now as two sinful and forgiven people we can return good for evil.
*This is taken from John Piper’s book “The Passion of Jesus Christ,” which was later released under the name “50 Reasons Jesus Came to Die.” Please visit Desiring God’s Website for more gospel-centered resources from John Piper. You can also download a free PDF of “50 Reasons Jesus Came to Die” here.