But in a fallen, sinful world, none of us can really make promises like that on our own. We don’t know the future, but we can look around and see the kind of world we live in. There are no shortages of surprises. The number of divorces in our society is a huge illustration of this fact. Why didn’t those marriages work out? Well, there were surprises. Maybe there was sickness, maybe there was betrayal, maybe there was growing sin and bitterness and lack of forgiveness. But the bottom line is that those couples didn’t expect certain trials, certain failures, certain problems to arise and when they did, they decided that their promises were not big enough for those challenges. Their vows were not big enough for those failures.
That’s why you can’t stand here today and promise to have what it takes to be married ‘till death do us part.’ On your own, you do not have the strength, the courage, the stamina, the patience; you don’t have the wisdom or the understanding to make this marriage work.
In a fallen, sinful world, we can only make big promises like wedding vows if we have someone else backing us up. We can only make big promises, if there is someone else who makes even bigger promises. It’s like when a teenager or a young adult wants to take out a loan or make a big purchase that requires financing. The bank always requires a co-signer. The bank wants somebody to sign as the back up on the loan so if that young person ends up defaulting and not being able to pay, then the bank can come after the co-signer, the one who volunteers to back them up. The co-signer says if they can’t pay, then you can come to me, and I’ll pay the bill.
In this broken world, the only way we can make big promises is if we have someone who shows up to a wedding, to our baptism, to our vows and signs on the dotted line with us. We need someone who will guarantee our vows, who will back us up if we run out of money. All those broken families, all those broken marriages, so many of them are broken because they didn’t have a co-signer, they didn’t have a back up, they didn’t have someone who would step in when there were surprises, when there was a crisis, when there was sin and failure.
But the good news of Jesus is that God has sent His Son into the world as an oath, a promise in His own Son, and in His own Son’s blood, a promise that cannot be broken, a promise that cannot be taken back. And that promise in His own Son covers and backs up all the godly promises and vows we take in this life. There will come a day when you are both surprised: you will be surprised by your own sin or brokenness or the other’s sin and brokenness. And then you will have a choice to make: will you take it to Jesus for Him to cover? Or will you decide that your problems are too big for your promises? The promise of God in Jesus is that there is no problem too big for Him. His promise is bigger than any surprise. His vow was sealed with His own blood and He knows the future perfectly. There are no surprises for God. His promises are as big as the entire future.
So my exhortation to both of you as you make these promises today is to look to Jesus who is your co-signer, your guarantor, the One who will always back you up. You don’t have what it takes to make these promises by yourselves, but there is One with us today in this room who does. And who always will. Remember His promises: He promises to never leave you or forsake you. He promises to save you when you call on His name. He promises to send His Spirit to help you and to comfort you and to lead you into all truth and to give you His peace. So as you make your promises today, do so in joy and hope and confidence not because you have what it takes, but because you don’t and yet you know the One who does. He promises to fill you with all the strength, all the patience, all the grace you need, and He will always back you up.
In the Name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit, Amen!