JESUS AND DIVORCE

Mark 10:1-12

BRIEF INTRO:

10 “Setting out from there, Jesus *went to the region of Judea and beyond the Jordan; crowds *gathered to Him again, and, as He was accustomed, He once more began to teach them.”

Mark has reported on Christ’s ministry from the “early days” around Jordan and Jerusalem (1:9), Galilee (1:15-6:29), His withdrawal from Galilee, and subsequent ministry in Capernaum, Phoenicia, and Samaria. Unlike Luke and John, Mark does not record Christ’s ministry in Judea but does share with his readers the ministry He had in Perea (10:1-52), His last in Jerusalem, and then His movement to the cross and ultimately His resurrection!

In the last chapter (9), Jesus was in Capernaum and most likely entered the house of Peter, but there is no certainty on that where He asked the disciples what they were discussing along the way. That conversation led to others dealing with discipleship, temptation, and self-denial. Now Mark records that Jesus left that place and “went to the region of Judea” (v.1). The Judea region encompasses Jerusalem, Hebron, and Emmaus, to name a few towns that might help you gain your “geographical “bearings!

Crowds again flocked to Jesus when they saw Him. This has been testified to throughout Mark’s writing. And just as normal and expected as it was for the crowds to gather around Jesus, so it was for Him to teach them. One characteristic of Jesus that stands out through His ministry is selflessness!

And some (Pharisees) came up to Jesus, testing Him, and began questioning Him whether it was lawful for a man to [a]divorce his wife.

FOCUS ONE: THE BIG TEST

We quickly gather that this topic of divorce (and, secondarily, remarriage) was controversial in Christ’s day. But this wasn’t the only controversy that Jesus contended with. Mark shared in 2:1-12 the dispute over Jesus’ right to forgive sins. In 2:13-17, there were issues with His fellowship with tax collectors and “sinners,” His right to do good on the Sabbath (Mark 3:1-6), as well as the disciples eating with unwashed hands (7:1-5, 14-23). 

In this case, the Pharisees approach Jesus to “test” Him. The Pharisees accepted both the written and oral law but were more liberal in interpreting the law, unlike the Sadducees. The Sadducees practiced a literal interpretation of the law and stressed strict observance of it. So, we can understand that these differences play a “major” part in the testing of Jesus on this issue!

The Pharisees question Jesus: (motivation-to test Him)

  • Their question-Was it lawful for a man to divorce his wife? Matthew adds, “for any reason.” (Cr. Deuteronomy 24:1).
  • Jesus countered: “what did Moses command you?
  • They said Moses permitted them to “write a certificate of divorce” and send her away.
  • “Because of the hardness of the offending party (in the cruelty of their unfaithfulness to their spouse). Jesus replied that Moses “permitted” it because of their hardness of heart. It was also permitted because of the hardness of the offended party (being unable to forgive and restore a damaged relationship).
  • They tried to get Jesus to speak against Mose or popular opinion.
  • Note: “Incompatibility, not loving each other anymore, brutality, and misery are NOT grounds for divorce, though they may be proper grounds for a separation and consequent celibacy within marriage.” Forgiveness and reconciliation are prized jewels of the gospel and are to be sought after in any relationship, especially the marital relationship!

Some other questions that need to be addressed are: What is a “certificate of divorce? Was divorce commanded OR permitted? Is the biblical view of marriage and divorce the same in our culture today? The process?

And He answered and said to them, “What did Moses command you?” They said, “Moses permitted a man to write a [a]certificate of divorce and [b]send his wife away.” But Jesus said to them, “[c]Because of your hardness of heart he wrote you this commandment. But from the beginning of creation, God created them male and female. For this reason a man shall leave his father and mother[d], and the two shall become one flesh; so they are no longer two, but one flesh.Therefore, what God has joined together, no person is to separate.”

FOCUS TWO: JESUS’ EXPLANATION OF MARRIAGE

There is so much in Jesus’ response that time alludes me of the opportunity of being exhaustive in my comments, so let me highlight the main things:

The main point is that divorce was not God’s plan from the beginning!

  • From the beginning of creation, God made males and females (Genesis 1:27). He created marriage so that male and female (for this cause) would leave their parents and become “one flesh.”
  • God joins males and females in covenant; through “sexual relations,” they become one flesh.
  • No longer viewed as two separate entities within the bonds of marriage (One flesh). “But two souls in one body, with a complete union of interests, and indissoluble partnership of life, fortune, comfort and support, desires and inclinations, joys and sorrows.”
  • No man (District justice, judge, etc.) has the biblical authority to “separate” or make divorce provisions. (Why? Because it’s not merely a social contract, it is a spiritually binding covenant before God).

The debate is centered around Deuteronomy 24:1, a Mosaic law that permitted divorce. The question the rabbis sought to answer was: what constituted uncleanness?

Two schools of thought:

Rabbi Hillel- “Understood uncleanness to mean any sort of discretion.”

Rabbi Shammai- “understood that uncleanness (Deuteronomy) meant sexual immorality and said that was the only valid reason for divorce.”

“William Barclay described the teaching of Rabbi Hillel on divorce and the term uncleanness in Deuteronomy 24:1. “They said that it could mean if the wife spoiled a dish of food, if she spun in the streets, if she talked to a strange man, if she spoke disrespectfully of her husband’s relations in his hearing, if she was a brawling woman (who was defined as a woman whose voice could be heard in the next house). Rabbi Akiba even went the length of saying that it meant if a man found a woman who was fairer in his eyes than his wife was.”

Some rabbis even went so far as to say that it was a man’s religious duty to divorce a lousy wife. Here we see where Jesus differed and the Pharisees wanted to try and use that against Him.

This is why the “certificate of divorce” was permitted. It provided a degree of protection for the innocent spouse and removed the stigma of her unfaithfulness in the marriage. It provided her with the opportunity to remarry.

It is important to note that Matthew adds “for any cause at all” (v. 3), which reveals the thinking mentioned above. I love how Jesus asks: “Have you not read” (Matthew 19:4). These Pharisees should be well educated in what scriptures teach. They would have known Malachi 2:14 and Genesis 1:27)!

10 And in the house the disciples again began questioning Him about this. 11 And He *said to them, “Whoever [a]divorces his wife and marries another woman commits adultery against her; 12 and if she herself [b]divorces her husband and marries another man, she is committing adultery.”

FOCUS THREE: WHY IT MATTERS

  • God’s design for marriage

Was and always will be that a man and woman unite together in the covenant of matrimony until death. The word translated as “be joined” literally means “to glue,” reflecting the strength of the marriage bond.

That the marriage union would be a picture of Christ and His love for the church (Ephesians 5:22-33).

That marriage between a man and a woman would constitute the firmest foundation for building a family.

That God-designed sexual expression would help married couples build and express intimacy with one another. Sexual relations outside the marriage covenant is forbidden.

When God designed or created marriage, He pronounced it “very good” (Genesis 1:31). It is still good in His eyes. Mankind has perverted this sacred union in many ways: sexual promiscuity, homosexuality, trans-sexual, or any other irregular sexual behavior has destroyed families and weakened our society. 

“No fault” divorces have made it much easier to end a marriage “for any reason.” But God does not forget the covenant that was made before Him.

So, with these things in mind, we must remember that God, not the state, established biblical marriage (Genesis 2:21-25). It is between a “male” and a “female” only. It is a sacred institution in His eyes and, therefore, NOT something to be thrown away when the going gets tough. Instead, it is something worth fighting for! 

Marriage is a gospel issue. That is why clarity about its definition matters, and so does its purpose and longevity. “If we depart from, or fail to stand up for, the biblical view of marriage, we are taking a step away from the gospel itself. The whole bible is a story of the marital love of God, our whole lives are that story if we have eyes to see.”

Perhaps that statement is new to you. Think about it. Two sinners living together, always seeking to serve the self, now have to learn how to serve their spouse! We tend to make things more about ourselves; it makes sense, that is our nature. But just like anything else in this universe-IT’S REALLY ALL ABOUT HIM. 

“Our earthly marriage as Christian’s paints a vibrant portrait to the watching world of this divine design. God’s blueprint is for Christ and the church to become one (Galatians 3:28; 1 Corinthians 12:13).”

“What therefore God has joined together, let no man separate” (Mark 10:9).

Enduringword.com bible commentary

Holman Book of Biblical charts, maps, and reconstructions

Life way.com article

HUSBANDS AND WIVES need EACH OTHER!

Extended reading: Job 2

Devotional reading: Job 2:9-10

There are many things in this life that can place us in a time of desperation. It is one thing to lose some comforts that this life affords; a job, convenience, or health, but quite another to lose the support of a spouse. In times of our greatest struggles we need our spouses, we need their support, counsel, and presence. We need their “vote of confidence” when everyone else has none. We need their hugs of assurance when everyone else may be cold toward us. We need to feel their presence when no one else is there.

We do not know much about Job’s wife, but what we read in these verses is very telling and extremely heartbreaking. She appears to be a very bitter woman and unable to share in his pain. She seems to have turned away from faith, and the result: a cold callous heart. They needed each other, perhaps now more than ever, but we read that they are separated, isolated in their emotional anguish and Job’s physical pain.

“In all fairness to Job’s wife, her agony was unfathomable, and she undoubtedly spoke out of sheer pain and frustration. After all, she had suffered the same losses as Job. All of her children died in what seemed like a freak accident, and the wealth that Job and his family enjoyed vanished in an instant.” Even so, her agony doesn’t excuse her harsh words.

I wish that scripture recorded Job’s wife relenting and coming by his side, but it doesn’t. The mutual love and encouragement shared would have helped them both during this time of great loss. 

We need to be present for our spouses. Physically, emotionally, and mentally there for them, especially when things get rough. Our tendency is to isolate ourselves when we need to open our hearts with our loved ones. Our tendency is to “act” like we’re ok when we are falling apart. Let’s learn from Job and his wife and resolve to love one another and care for one another while praying with each other as we face the storms of this life together.

Adapted from Every mans Bible