With the magisterial “in the beginning” so familiar from Genesis, John opens his gospel using the language of Moses to describe the new creation. Like the first creation of Adam, when light shined into darkness, John tells us that a new light shined into the
darkness of Adam’s fallen world as the eternal God became flesh and tabernacled among us. The Word who created the world in the beginning became man to accomplish the world’s redemption. Consequently, in John’s new Genesis, Jesus becomes the new Adam.
But once the Word became authentic man in John’s new Genesis, He came under the law: “it is not good that the man should be alone” (Gen. 2:18). Even for One as perfect as Jesus, once He took upon Himself a truly human nature, He must have a bride. John the Baptist recognized this and rejoiced that he had heard the voice of the Bridegroom (John 3:29). The new Adam had come, and He was seeking His bride.
In the fifth chapter of Ephesians the apostle Paul admonishes Christian husbands to love their wives as Christ loves the church. To support his standard for Christian marital love, Paul appeals to Moses, citing his commentary on God’s gift of a bride to Adam. “Therefore a man shall leave his father and mother and hold fast to his wife, and the two shall become one flesh” (Eph. 5:31, see also Gen. 2:24). After Paul quotes Moses, he continues his correspondence by boldly claiming that Moses was writing about Christ: “This mystery is profound, and I am saying that it refers to Christ and the church” (Eph. 5:32).
According to the pattern for man described by Moses, and Paul after him, Jesus had left His Father and had come to seek His bride. But how will John’s new Genesis describe the creation of a bride for Jesus? Surely the new Adam will find His bride after the similitude of the old Adam; He will receive her from the hand of God the Father. But the first man received his bride only by suffering a great wound in his side. What a mystery was that wounding! It is as though God was teaching us from the very beginning, even before the fall of man, that the most perfect bond of love between a man and his wife could only come from the very depths of a deep wounding.
What did Paul read in the account of the creation of a wife for Adam that taught him about the creation of the church as a bride for Christ, the last Adam? What was the wisdom of God displayed in the creation of the woman, which caused both Paul and John to see a pattern for the creation of a bride for the last Adam? Let’s rehearse the story, as Moses recorded it, of God’s provision of a bride for Adam.
God the Father said that it was not good that the man should be alone, so He brought a deep sleep upon Adam. Although Adam was still innocent, having committed no sin, nonetheless God wounded him deeply, piercing his side. Out of Adam’s bloody side God took that substance from which He created the woman for the man. God then healed Adam of his wound, and awakened him from sleep, whereupon He presented to Adam the woman in all her purity and beauty (Gen. 2:18, 21–23): “And the rib that the Lord God had taken from the man he made into a woman and brought her to the man. Then the man said, ‘This at last is bone of my bones and flesh of my flesh; she shall be called Woman, because she was taken out of Man.’”
In the creation of a bride for the first Adam, Paul recognized the pattern of God’s provision of the church as a bride for the last Adam. John likewise recognized this pattern, and so he tells us how that provision was made. At the climax of his gospel, John tells us how God the Father brought upon His Son the sleep of death. Although Jesus was still innocent, having committed no sin, nonetheless God permitted His side to be pierced by a Roman spear. Out of Jesus’ side poured forth water and blood, the blood for the bride’s purchase, the water for her purification (John 19:34). God then healed Jesus of His wound, and awakened Him from the sleep of death, whereupon God will one day present to Jesus His bride in all her purity and beauty (Rev. 21:2).
What a mystery of beauty is the Christian religion! The apostles Paul and John teach us that even before the fall of man, God was foreshadowing the pattern of our redemption. In the wounding of Adam, recorded in Genesis 2, we find a type of the redemptive provision God would make for our salvation, a picture historically prior to the very sin of Adam that necessitated our redemption, as recorded in Genesis 3. How rich is our Reformed theology! Truly the elect have been saved from the foundation of the world, for as He said, He has loved us with an everlasting love. And just as Eve would always know the love of Adam by the scar he carried on his side, so we, as the bride of Christ, will one day recognize the scar on the side of the One who loves us. For like Thomas, we too will one day have all our doubts dissolve when we are invited to reach out and receive the One whose side was wounded so deeply, all out of an unfathomable love for us! ν