Hi, this is Pastor Ken and I want to thank you for joining me for the Monday Marriage Message Podcast. This will be the second installment in our series on Marriage and Divorce. Last time I read for you both of our focal passages for this subject, Matthew 19:1-10 and Mark 10:1-10. Today we will begin to look more closely at those scriptures. Mathew and Mark are considered synoptic gospels. In other words, those two gospels along with the gospel of Luke all cover much of the same ground. Often in those books, we read of the very same occurrences, but from the differing perspectives of the individual writers. The gospels of Matthew and Mark share the most common material and literally hundreds of verses in the two are nearly verbatim. Because of that we will study the conversation these two passages outline in parallel. I believe this will give us the most accurate understanding of Jesus’ position in this exchange between He and the Pharisees. Because the book of Mark was actually written first, I will begin there and then move to Matthew’s gospel.

Mark 10:1-2 Then He arose from there and came to the region of Judea by the other side of the Jordan. And multitudes gathered to Him again, and as He was accustomed, He taught them again. The Pharisees came and asked Him, “Is it lawful for a man to divorce his wife?” testing Him.

Matthew 19:1-3 Now it came to pass, when Jesus had finished these sayings, that He departed from Galilee and came to the region of Judea beyond the Jordan. And great multitudes followed Him, and He healed them there. The Pharisees also came to Him, testing Him, and saying to Him, “Is it lawful for a man to divorce his wife for just any reason?”

In both accounts, the first of these verses simply set the stage. They let us know who, when and where. The – who – Jesus, multitudes or large crowds presumably mostly if not all Jewish people, and the Pharisees, Jewish leaders who were scholars of Mosaic law. Next we have the – when – after Jesus finished teaching in Galilee. Finally, the – where – The region of Judea beyond the Jordan river. While we do know that when Jesus left Galilee He was going to Jerusalem, we don’t know the exact route He took. We do know however that both Matthew and Mark agree that Jesus traveled south to Perea, the district that lay on the east side of the Jordan river across from Judea and Jerusalem. It is likely that the Pharisees were also there because of the multitudes which gave away the fact that Jesus was among them. Matthew is clear in his gospel that Jesus was healing the multitudes, as well as teaching them of which news would have quickly spread and the Pharisees would have known they could find Jesus among the multitudes seeking healing.

The – what – and the  – why –  come in the following verses. First the what. Mark records it as follows; The Pharisees came and asked Him, “Is it lawful for a man to divorce his wife?” testing Him. Matthew put it this way; The Pharisees also came to Him, testing Him, and saying to Him, “Is it lawful for a man to divorce his wife for just any reason?” Finally the – why– why were they asking Jesus their question? Both Mathew and Mark agree, the Pharisees were testing Jesus. They were not testing Him in the sense of wanting to know if Jesus knew the correct answer, the Pharisees didn’t even agree among themselves what the right answer was. One sect of the Pharisees was more conservative and believed the only righteous reason for divorce was sexual impurity, either as a result of unfaithfulness resulting in adultery or misrepresenting virginity, having formerly committed fornication. Another more liberal faction of the Pharisees believed any reason for divorce was good enough. One only needed to find their wife unpleasing in any way to write a certificate of divorce and send her away. Like I said, the Pharisees weren’t testing Jesus to see if He knew the correct answer. They simply wanted to force Jesus to take a side of a heated topic so that He would be open to their criticism. They weren’t trying to test Him so much as entrap Him in His own words.

The two accounts we have here might seem somewhat to be contradictory. Mark says the Pharisees only asked if it was lawful to divorce while Matthew records that they wanted to know if it was lawful to divorce for just any reason. One explanation is that Matthew wrote his account after Mark’s so knowing what facts Mark had included, Matthew may have wanted to add more information about the Pharisees question in his gospel. Another possibility is that perhaps both factions of the Pharisees formulated their own question to Jesus in a way that would lead Him to answer that their view was right and the other was incorrect. Essentially this possibility suggests both were asked and Mark recorded the question of the more conservative group while Matthew added that the question from the liberal Pharisees was also posed to Jesus. Either way, they are not contradictory questions and Jesus’ answer which we will look at next time answered both or either perfectly.

It would be easy to be self-righteous and condemn the Pharisees for even bringing these questions to Jesus…except that here in America we couldn’t be more cavalier about the sanctity of marriage if we tried. The United States has the 3rd highest rate of divorce in the world. In the time that it takes one couple to recite their wedding vows 3 marriages are dissolved and 430 additional divorces will take place in the time the guests spend with the newlyweds at their reception. These statistics are a examples of the staggering 747,000 marriages that are dissolved in our divorce courts each year. Experience is supposed to be a good teacher, and one would hope that when we attempt something and fail, next time we would do better, not so in the case of marriage and divorce. According to the last U.S. Census, nearly half of all marriages end in divorce. 60% of second marriages fail and a full 73% of third marriages end in divorce. We aren’t getting better with experience…we are getting worse!

Make no mistake, divorce is a life altering event. I just spoke of the increased risk of future marital failure it produces for those who go through it. Maybe of greater importance, we need to ask what the peripheral impact will be. Statistics tell us that a person is 75% more likely to divorce if they have a friend who is divorced. Let that rest on you for a moment. When we divorce, we lower the chance of our friends remaining married. What about the children? Children of divorced parents have a 60% chance of divorce themselves when they marry. If they marry someone who also comes from a broken marriage (and statistically speaking children of divorce tend to marry children of divorce) their chances diminish even further. Unfortunately, the damage doesn’t stop there. Children of divorce have lower test scores and are twice as likely to drop out of school as are children of intact marriages. They have a much higher suicide rate, and are much more likely to live in poverty than are children whose parents remain married. There are many studies that indicate there are all kinds of negative impacts to the children of broken homes, enough that we should be willing to try to avoid them at all costs…even if it means staying and working on a difficult marriage.

Why are we getting divorced? What could be so critical that we are willing to take such high risks of future calamity to escape? Multiple studies have been done on the top ten reasons for divorce in America today. While there are some differences in the placement, there is agreement on what the top ten are and positioning of numbers 1through 3 as well as what comes in last at number 10. Affairs and unfaithfulness is first. Second is troubles with finances and third place goes to difficulty communicating. Each of the studies had physical and emotional abuse coming in at the bottom of the top ten reasons given for divorce.

When you take all of it into consideration, the question or questions posed by the Pharisees to Jesus weren’t beyond understanding even if they weren’t really all that interested in His answer. That is where we are going to differ as we walk through our study of these scriptural passages. We are going to pay very close attention to what Jesus had to say, because contained in His answer was healing and life. His answer provided the ability for the Pharisees, the multitudes, and yes, even us to experience healing and life in all of our marriages, no matter what difficulties may be plaguing them.

Questions to Answer:

  • What things if any do you think should be considered grounds for divorce?
  • Do you think most people are aware of the ramifications their divorce will have on others around them?
  • How much weight should be given to the damage others will suffer when deciding to end a marriage?

Actions to Take:

  • Discuss together your level of commitment to your marriage and family.
  • Pray daily asking God to guide your thoughts, words and actions toward your spouse so that your marriage can remain strong and be a witness of God’s grace and mercy.

So now, trusting Jesus to have the answers for the difficulties in your marriage, listen to what He has to say to you in His word…And Go Be Awesome!