Hi, this is Pastor Ken and I want to thank you for joining me once again for the Monday Marriage Message. This is the third installment in our study of Marriage and divorce based on the scriptural references of Jesus’ discussion with the Pharisees on the same topic found in Matthew 19:1-10 and Mark 10:1-10.
Last time we essentially looked at the verses that let us in on the setting of the discussion. Those few verses let us know who was there and when and where it took place. We also covered what question or questions were posed to Jesus by the Pharisees and why they were asking Him about such things. I mentioned that they were not really all that interested in what Jesus’ answer would be, only that they would be able to entrap Him in His words whichever side of their internal difference of opinion He endorsed.
Today we will begin to look at His answer and why it was so perfect, and how He avoided giving them the ammunition they intended to use against Him. Jesus did give the Pharisees an answer but He was not entrapped, rather He asked them a question that I think caught them off balance. As we did last week we will begin with Mark’s account because it was written first. That doesn’t mean it is more correct, it simply means that some of what Matthew wrote may have been to fill in some more of the story. Or as I suggested last week, it might indicate both the conservative and liberal factions of the Pharisees had questioned Jesus from their differing perspectives. I will begin reading the question or questions posed by the Pharisees for context and then the beginning of Jesus’ answer that I want to focus on today.
Mark 10:2-3 The Pharisees came and asked Him, “Is it lawful for a man to divorce his wife?” testing Him. And He answered and said unto them, “What did Moses command you?”.
Now from Matthew 19:3-4 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?” And He answered and said unto them, “Have you not read that He who made them at the beginning, made them male and female, and said ‘For this reason a man shall leave his father and mother and be joined to his wife and the two of them shall become one flesh?’”
Because of the way that these two passages are structured by the two writers, I am of the opinion that both factions were posing their own version of the question. Mark seems to be telling it from the conservative Pharisees’ position and Matthew sounds as if he was recording the other side of the question. Mark having written his gospel first would not have known further gospels were coming and might have believed the more complete understanding of Jesus’ teaching would be gained from the more conservative of the questions. Having benefit of knowing what Mark had recorded, Matthew may well then have decided in His gospel He would also speak to the more liberal view and fill in some of those blanks since the more comprehensive approach had already been taken. As a result part of what we look at today may seem repeated in the next episode but I want to pay special attention to how the accounts intersect so that we can glean a complete understanding of Jesus’ teaching on the subject.
I also want to point out that The Master answered as He did with great intent. To begin, let me point out that Jesus did not answer their question as posed. Jesus was not being elusive; He was being wise. First He was being asked to take a side in a debate for the sole purpose of entrapping Him. Jesus saw right through that and used a brilliant tactic. He did not ignore the question, which would have illustrated rudeness on His part, He answered their question with a question, that was on topic…sort of. According to Mark He asked them “What did Moses Command you?” According to Matthew He asked them “Have you not read, that He who made them at the beginning, made them male and female?”
To my way of thinking, this is some of the evidence for the theory that both factions each asked their own question. Each author writes that Jesus answered with a question of His own, but records a different question. This is what some people use to call the accuracy of these accounts into question. However, when you consider that Jesus might well have had one conversation but with two different groups of Pharisees, it all makes sense. The overall teaching and answer Jesus offered brings one to the same conclusion but the two questions Jesus asked would lead there by different avenues.
I like to imagine that Jesus looked at the stricter, more conservative Pharisees and asked, “What did Moses Command you?” They gave Him their answer, which we will look at next time. Then I imagine Jesus turned to the more liberal group and in question form, He gave the answer He was hoping to get from the first group. He asked them; “Have you not read that He who made them at the beginning, made them male and female, and said ‘For this reason a man shall leave his father and mother and be joined to his wife and the two of them shall become one flesh?’” I think when Jesus asked the question “What did Moses command you?”, the answer He was looking for was Genesis 2:24…that would have been the correct answer. Instead, the Pharisees began to twist what Moses had written in Deuteronomy chapter 24, a scripture we will look at in great detail in an upcoming episode. Jesus then turned to ask the second group a different question, but not being dissuaded, He asked directly about the portion of the Law He was referring to in His first question.
Another thing that Jesus was doing in this exchange was redirecting the topic of the initial questions or questions. The Pharisees were asking about divorce, Jesus was going to answer in terms of marriage. He understood that divorce is the result of flawed thinking, and He was not about to engage in a flawed conversation. The first task before Him was to change the topic from divorce to marriage, and He did so expertly by avoiding giving a direct answer to their question and instead asked His own question to them about marriage.
When Jesus asked selfish proud men who were scholars of the law, “What did Moses command you?” He knew they could not resist giving an answer. They were all too eager to show this rabbi with such a crowd of followers, just who it was that knew the law backward and forward, inside and out. Their problem was that they still wanted to talk about divorce, (out of the mouth, the heart speaks) and so they referred to Deuteronomy 24 which has some instruction regarding divorce. When Jesus saw that the condition of the hearts of even the conservative men wanted to be free to divorce their wives, He then asked further, (in my opinion of the more liberal Pharisees) “Have you not read?” Again these were experts of the law, they prided themselves on how familiar they were with the first five books of the scriptures. I think Jesus asked this quite tongue-in-cheek, and then led them directly to the part of the law He was referring to when He asked His initial question.
The commandment Jesus was referring to was not one of the 10 commandments, nor was it from the mosaic law of do’s and don’ts, it was a precept, a statute of Creator God as to the process He uses to create us in His image and in His likeness. When God decided to make mankind, it is recorded in Genesis 1:27 So God created man in His own image; in the image of God He created him, male and female He created them. We know that God made Adam from the dust of the ground and breathed life into him and Adam became a living being (Gen. 2:7) Then later that same day (the sixth day) God put the man to sleep took a rib from his side and created his perfect counterpart. When God woke Adam and presented Eve to him Adam declared: “This is now bone of my bones and flesh of my flesh, she shall be called woman because she was taken out of man.” (Gen. 2:23) Adam was essentially recognizing that he and Eve were created “One flesh”. In response to Adam’s recognition, and instituting a way to miraculously endow every married couple thereafter with the same “One flesh” experience Adam and Eve enjoyed, God heralded His mandate, the very one Jesus was referring to in his exchange with the Pharisees. “For this reason, a man shall leave his father and mother and be joined to his wife and they shall become one flesh”. (Gen.2:24)
Questions to answer:
Why do you think the Pharisees were so fixated on the subject of divorce?
Do you think most people marry today only after considering if there is a way out should they find themselves experiencing extreme difficulty?
What do you think that mindset has done to the overall view of the value of marriage in our society?
Actions to take:
Thank God DAILY for your marriage, gratefulness is an immense help in times of trouble.
As a couple, thank God right now for your “One Flesh” experience, ask God to help the two of you view your marriage as having such high value that you will never look for a way of escape from His blessing on your lives.
So now, giving God thanks for the miraculous “One Flesh” experience He has endowed you and your spouse with, use it for its intended purpose to reflect the likeness and image of your Creator…and Go Be Awesome!