Jesus’ death—the momentous climax in the drama of salvation—ultimately marks the lengths that God will go to save His beloved from the clutches of danger.
I’m a sucker for a good love story. Nothing beats a riveting tale about a couple overcoming all obstacles and achieving their happily ever after.
Of course, the love stories we read in books or watch on TV are not always realistic. In fact, some of them are so silly that we can’t help but laugh—or even cringe!—while consuming them. Yet, despite their occasional silliness, real and fictional romances have inspired countless novels, movies, paintings, and other wonderful works of art. Take Elizabeth Bennett and Mr. Darcy from the classic English novel, for example. Or even Lucy and Ricky Ricardo (based on and acted by the real-life power couple) from the iconic American sitcom. Both stories—though from vastly different times and places—have influenced generations of people and poignantly illustrated the ability of love to beat the odds.
Many scientists have attempted to explain the universal appeal of romance movies and books. Phillip Hodson, a fellow at the British Association for Counseling and Psychotherapy, suggests that love stories, particularly romance movies, are so enthralling because it gives us hope of finding love of our own. “We all need hope in our lives,” he says, “and Hollywood trades on hope.” Clinical psychologist Dr. Bart Rossi adds that watching or reading romances evokes deeper feelings within us and makes us ponder existential questions. He explains: “It brings up a lot of emotion and depth—what is the meaning of life? What are we all about?”
While I agree with Hodson and Rossi’s theories, I think that the true and real reason we are drawn to love stories is that our Maker—the One from whom all love flows—designed us to love and to be loved. “We love because he first loved us,” declares John (1 John 4:19).
So, now that it’s the week of Valentine’s Day, let’s ponder together the greatest love story ever told: the love story between God and humankind. The love story of all love stories, the Bible tells the story of God’s relentless pursuit of man, and God’s loving plan to rescue him from the three-fold powers of hell, death, and Satan. Beginning with God’s ancient promise to redeem Adam and Eve of their sin, the story culminates in the death of God’s Son, Jesus, who lovingly sacrifices His life in the place of humankind.
Jesus’ death—the momentous climax in the drama of salvation—ultimately marks the lengths that God will go to save His beloved from the clutches of danger. From the moment God the Father breathes life into the first man to the moment God the Son draws His last breath on the cross, the Bible tells the greatest love story ever told in history.
Falling in Love—then Falling from Grace
The story of the Bible begins in heaven on earth: Eden. In this paradise, God places the first man, Adam, and then creates Eve to be his companion and life partner.
“This is now bone of my bones and flesh of my flesh,” poignantly remarks Adam, reflecting on the creation of his wife. “She shall be called ‘woman,’ for she was taken out of man” (Genesis 2:23).
The Bible thus begins with God’s love for His creation spawning the love between a man and woman. In other words, His love is procreative. It manifests itself in the relationship between Adam and Eve and ultimately becomes the basis of all human relationships.
God goes on to give the primeval duo free reign in Eden, but under one condition: They must never eat from the tree of the knowledge of good and evil. If they do, He warns, they “will certainly die” (Genesis 2:17).
Of course, we all know what happens next. The cunning devil, in the form of a serpent, tricks Eve into eating the forbidden fruit. Eve, in turn, convinces her husband to have a bite—dooming them both to death.
Adam and Eve’s story, therefore, ends up being a tragic one, beginning with life and prematurely ending with death. Well, at least that would have been the case had not God given Adam and Eve reason to hope.
A Glimmer of the Gospel
Though He curses both Adam and Eve for their disobedience, God gives the first couple hope for their species’ future redemption. To the serpent He says: “And I will put enmity between you and the woman, and between your offspring and hers; he will crush your head, and you will strike his heel” (Genesis 3:15).
Theologians have interpreted this verse as the first ever prophecy of Jesus’ atoning death. In fact, in Christianity, Genesis 3:15 is known as the protoevangelium. This is a compound of two Greek words, protos meaning “first” and evangelion meaning “good news” or “gospel.” Put simply, Genesis 3:15 is the first place in Scripture where God hints at the good news of salvation.
As theologians explain, Jesus—who is the direct descendant of Eve (i.e. her “offspring”)—figuratively “crush[es]” the head of the serpent by dying on the cross at Calvary, meaning “Place of the Skull” in Latin. Furthermore, by enduring a full Roman crucifixion, Jesus—whose feet were nailed to the cross—undergoes just what God predicted would happen: “[The serpent] will strike his heel.”
Old Testament scholar Derek Kidner has described the protoevangelium as “the first glimmer of the gospel,” and Victor P. Hamilton has emphasized the importance of the redemptive promise included in the curse. Indeed, even when mankind disappoints and breaks their covenant with Him, God shows them mercy, promising that someday their very own descendant will redeem them.
Christ, Our Husband and Savior
In many parts of the Bible, God is referred to as the bridegroom or husband of His people. “For your Maker is your husband,” writes Isaiah, “the Lord Almighty is His name—the Holy One of Israel is your Redeemer; He is called the God of all the earth” (Isaiah 54:5).
As humankind’s metaphorical husband, God makes it His duty to protect and provide for us, enacting a daring plan for mankind’s salvation. Fulfilling His prophecy from Genesis 3:15, God lovingly sends His beloved Son, Jesus—who is the direct descendant of Adam and Eve (Luke 3:38)—to live a perfect life and pay the price of man’s sin: “For God so loved the world that he gave his one and only Son, that whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life” (John 3:16).
As I write, I am reminded of a poignant scene in Paradise Lost that imaginatively brings to life the drama that occurred in heaven after Adam and Eve’s fall. In the scene, God—who has urgently convened His heavenly court—declares that an acceptable sacrifice must be made: Someone worthy must offer to die to pay for man’s sin.
The angels and saints are silent. None are willing or brave enough to volunteer themselves as a sacrifice for man. “Patron or intercessor none appeared,” laments the narrator (Book 111, Line 219).
But then something wondrous happens.
Without hesitation, the Son, “in whom the fulness dwells of love divine,” offers Himself up as the sacrifice: “Behold me, then: me for him, life for life/I offer; on me let thine anger fall/Account me Man: I for his sake will leave/Thy bosom, and this glory next to thee/Freely put off, and for him lastly die/Well pleased; on me let Death wreak all his rage” (Book III, Lines 225, 236-41).
The scene is shocking. The Son, who sits at the right-hand of God—and who is God Himself—has volunteered to suffer and die on behalf of man.
I know that this scene is fictitious, but it perfectly imagines the selfless love of Jesus. As Milton writes, Jesus will do anything—even offer to sacrifice His life in the most gruesome fashion—in order to save His beloved people.
No love story, real or fictional, has ever depicted such a deep, unselfish love. God goes beneath Himself—going as far as to take on human flesh—to die in the place of man. He, who is the King of Kings and Lord of Lords, is mocked, spat on, punched, flogged, and crucified naked so that humankind could be spared the punishment of God’s just wrath. What an amazing story—and an even more amazing God!
Overall, as the Gospels so richly illustrate, God figuratively “marries” Himself to humanity by taking on human flesh. Like a good husband, Jesus becomes our Protector and Provider, selflessly giving up His life in exchange for us. I love this passage from Ephesians 5:25-27:
"Husbands, love your wives, just as Christ loved the church and gave himself up for her to make her holy, cleansing her by the washing with water through the word, and to present her to himself as a radiant church, without stain or wrinkle or any other blemish, but holy and blameless."
The Wedding of the Lamb
After upbraiding Israel for committing spiritual adultery (i.e., the sin of idolatry), God prophesies of a future when He and the people of Israel will be united as one. “In that day,” declares the Lord, “you will call me ‘my husband’… . I will betroth you to me forever; I will betroth you in righteousness and justice, in love and compassion. I will betroth you in faithfulness, and you will acknowledge the Lord” (Hosea 2:16, 19-20). This prophecy also mirrors one from Isaiah: “As a young man marries a young woman, so will your Builder marry you; as a bridegroom rejoices over his bride, so will your God rejoice over you” (Isaiah 62:5).
The day humankind will be married to God is later envisioned by John the Evangelist in the Book of Revelation. “Hallelujah!” he hears a multitude joyously cry. “Let us rejoice…For the wedding of the Lamb has come, and His bride has made herself ready” (Revelation 19:6-8).
As Valentine’s Day fast approaches, let us take a moment to ponder the divine romance—the timeless story of the passionate, selfless, and perfect love of God, who freely and willingly sacrificed His life so that we can live. Like the male lover who knocks on the door of his beloved and affectionately cries: “Open to me, my sister, my darling, my dove, my flawless one” (Song of Songs 5:2), Jesus longs for us to open our hearts and invite Him inside.
“Behold,” He proclaims, His words echoing across time and place and all of eternity, “I stand at the door and knock” (Revelation 3:20).
Photo Credit: ©GettyImages/DKosig
Roma Maitlall fancies herself a bit of a logophile (from the Greek, meaning “lover of words”). Her lifelong passion for writing—combined with her love of Jesus—inspired her to study English and theology at St. John’s—a university located in Queens, New York, her hometown, where she always dreamed of becoming a writer. Now a full-time writer, Roma enjoys spending time with her wonderful sisters and family, learning everything there is to know about history, literature, art, and Christianity, and using her words to give glory to Jesus.