MAIN TEXT: MARK 10: 1-12
And he left there and went to the region of Judea and beyond the Jordan, and crowds gathered to him again. And again, as was his custom, he taught them.
And Pharisees came up and in order to test him asked, “Is it lawful for a man to divorce his wife?” He answered them, “What did Moses command you?” They said, “Moses allowed a man to write a certificate of divorce and to send her away.” And Jesus said to them, “Because of your hardness of heart he wrote you this commandment. But from the beginning of creation, ‘God made them male and female.’ ‘Therefore a man shall leave his father and mother and hold fast to his wife, and the two shall become one flesh.’ So they are no longer two but one flesh. What therefore God has joined together, let not man separate.”
And in the house the disciples asked him again about this matter. And he said to them,“Whoever divorces his wife and marries another commits adultery against her, and if she divorces her husband and marries another, she commits adultery.”
Mark, as writer of this gospel account, is showing us Jesus’ progression to the cross. This ugly destiny isn’t due Him because of any fault of His. He is innocent. We are why He chose to go to the cross. We are guilty. We are broken. We are marred by sin and live within the sin-ravaged world. Our bodies show it. Our environment shows it. Our choices show it. Our relationships show it. Nothing in all of creation is left untouched from sin’s twisting and distortion – marriage included.
Many believers are as casual about marriage and divorce as those that are far from God. Our culture believes, “I have a right to be happy” and this often seems to trump all other truth that presents itself on the subject. Divorce is painful – often ranking higher (in studies) in emotional, physical, and spiritual toll than death of a spouse or parent. John Piper says,
“Death is usually clean pain. Divorce is usually dirty pain.”
Even though divorce has become widespread only in the past century or so, it has been a flashpoint for controversy for ages, as we see in our text today. The Pharisees were looking for an opportunity to condemn Jesus and seized on the issue of divorce to test Him. This conversation is pertinent to us today as well.
The Pharisees set a trap
The Pharisees did not come to Jesus because they wanted to know His views on marriage and divorce. Mark informs us that it was to test or trap, Him (verse 2). There are two possible hopes for this trap:
- If Jesus would say that it was not lawful for a man to divorce his wife and marry another, He would place Himself in opposition to Herod Antipas who had just done that. John the Baptist had confronted Herod (Matthew 14:1-12) and was imprisoned and executed. The Pharisees may have hoped that this same fate would come to Jesus.
- It also may have been a theological trap they were setting for Jesus (verse 4). There was a large controversy going on among rabbis regarding the understanding of Deuteronomy 24:1-4.
Jesus interprets Deuteronomy
Jesus was never concerned with popular opinion but rather truth and holiness. He points them back to the Word of God (verse 3). Their inadequate interpretation and understanding was revealed on verse 4. The Pharisees had built a theology of divorce that was never meant to be.
Jesus declared that Moses’ words about divorce were not a command nor permission – but rather they were a divine concession because of the hardness of the human heart (verse 5). God saw the wickedness and made a concession. God hates divorce (Malachi 2:16) but made a concession. The concession also helped to protect women and stop the abuse of dowry money being scammed out of a family.
Jesus links marriage to creation (verse 6). He takes them back to before Mosaic Law and before sin. God created a male and a female. He reminds the Pharisees that God made both men and women, infusing both genders with dignity. This is His original plan – anything other than that is not God’s plan for marriage. The two become one flesh – a spiritual union under God – a supernatural connection that God does (verses 7-8). Jesus gave His conclusion (verse 9).
In Matthew 19:8-9 Jesus declares the only grounds in which divorce is permissible, “sexual immorality”. Scholars agree that these original words encompass a wide variety of sexual sins. This was Jesus’ interpretation of Deuteronomy 24. Paul added a common Christian exception, “if an unbelieving partner separates” (1 Corinthians 7:12-15). Jesus adds that if you divorce and remarry for other reasons it is adultery (verses 11-12). If you have been through an illegitimate divorce or sinned sexually, these are not unforgivable sins. The kingdom of God is not closed to those that have been divorced.
Today, people in the church are divorcing for reasons the Bible does not recognize. God allowing us to end our marriages when they are violated by sexual immorality is an amazing concession to human sin. This concession however does not go as far as divorce on the grounds of incompatibility.
What is our response to God’s sanctity of marriage?
Since God holds up the sanctity (the state or quality of being holy) of marriage, we are not in charge. We have made divorce a trivial thing – this should not be. We do not marry nor divorce in a vacuum. We do these things within the presence of God’s loving presence. God gift is grace in our marriage as an active participant – not a silent bystander. The world devalues the weight and goal of marriage. Society dumbs down divorce to the dissolving of a legal contract. The enemy of your soul wants you to believe that marriage is no big deal.
- Nurture our marriages: If God created marriage, then it is not about you – it’s about God. Our marriages are to present the Gospel to the world: the trinity, reconciliation, love, covenant. The state did not make your marriage, God made it. You took a covenant before God – He upholds it with no exceptions.
- Look for ways to be godly - not for a way to get what you want. Looking for a way to get what you want always leads to dissatisfaction.
- Seek to serve – not to be served. Serving, loving, preferring one another, and submitting one to another is God’s plan (Philippians 2:1-7). In marriage you have the greatest opportunity to obey both commands of Matthew 22:37-39.
- Pull the log out of your own eye. Matthew 7:1-5 is a great guide. Our expectations are not usually of ourselves, but rather they are of our spouse.
- Keep romance alive. Work at it. Learn love languages. Spoil your spouse, show appreciation, and apologize often. Have a sense of humor about yourself.
- Prepare your children to be good spouses.
- Don’t give up.
- Get help. This includes both biblical and professional.
- Be a help to others. Reach out to younger couples especially. Model, teach, and encourage.
The gospel and Christ’s reconciliation of us to the Father should be seen in our marriages.
All of life must be lived for Christ!
NEXT WEEK'S PASSAGE: Mark 10:13-16
APPLY TO LIFE
This week, as you reflect on the message, utilize this section to help you apply what has been taught to your life. Think of friends, co-workers, neighbors, family etc., that you could meet with to have a time of mutual sharing as you open God’s Word together.
This simple acronym (BLESS, B - Bless, L - Listen, E - Eat, S - Speak, S - Sabbath) should help you to frame your life according to the great commandment “love God” (Matthew 22:37) and the expression of that commandment in loving your neighbor (John 13:34). Each time you meet, start by discussing the rhythms of your life according to B.L.E.S.S.
Intentionally bless: Christ-followers, non-believers and those different than you.
Listen to what God is saying to you, through His Word and others.
Share a meal with a Christ-follower and also a non-believer.
Talk to God through prayer and to others about Jesus through witness.
Be intentional about taking time to both rest and recreate.
DISCUSS THE MESSAGE
How has the world changed in the last 50 years with regard to relationships and divorce? What were the social trends behind those changes? What can the church do to improve society?
How has the fall influenced God’s ideal for marriage? How does it affect the way a Christian might counsel couples?
What can the church do to help prevent divorce before it happens? What can individuals do?