Hi, this is Pastor Ken thanks for joining me once again for the Monday Marriage Message where we search God’s instructions to experience a highly successful marriage.
This will be the final installment in our study of marriage and divorce based on the conversation Jesus had with the Pharisees recorded for us in the 19th chapter of Matthew and the 10th chapter or Mark. I hope this in-depth look at this topic has been both interesting and informative. Most of all I hope it has spurred you on to recommitting to your own covenantal marital relationship. Additionally, if you have been through divorce yourself as I have, I pray you have not found this study to be judgmental or condemning in nature. It is my hope that you have heard what I think Jesus intended even the Pharisees to hear…that there is forgiveness and grace for our failures, but that future blessing relies on our willingness to repent and choose to follow God’s best for us going forward.
Last time we looked to the conclusion of that recorded conversation. Both Mark and Matthew record that after finishing His discussion with the Pharisees, Jesus then spoke privately with His disciples answering some questions they had on their minds after listening to the exchange.
Mark simply tells us that, In the house, the disciples also asked Him about the same matter. So He said to them, “Whoever divorces His wife and marries another commits adultery against her. And if a woman divorces her husband and marries another, she commits adultery.” Mark 10:10-12 I believe Jesus was saying several important things here. First we know from what we read a few weeks ago in Malachi 2:15-16 that God is seriously opposed to divorce. In fact, in that study we saw that the original Hebrew text intimated that in the context of that passage divorce actually means to be ‘opposite God’. We certainly know that Jesus would not have spoken contradictory to scripture. In His answer to His disciples, Jesus seems to address two separate issues, both divorce and re-marriage. First, He speaks concerning if a man or woman divorce…but mentions no consequence as a result of the divorce. I certainly don’t think this indicates Jesus approves of divorce, nor that there are no consequences if someone chooses to divorce. As I just mentioned God’s word found in Malachi already indicates that one of the consequence is being outside the will of God. That will certainly require repentance and will likely be the catalyst for various other natural consequences often including but not limited to broken homes, familial dysfunction, financial difficulty, etc. The next part of Jesus statement to the disciples addresses the second consideration “and marries another”. This does include a stated consequence. Jesus said that if someone divorces and remarries another, they commit adultery against their former spouse. Why did Jesus include this difficult statement? I believe He did so for several reasons. First I think Jesus meant for us to wrestle heavily with the importance God places on marriage. God endorses marriage…not divorce. I believe whole-heartedly that God recognizes divorce as ending a marriage, but that does not alter the fact that He intends only death to conclude the marital relationship, hence, His graphic description of a violent murder scene in Malachi when talking about the matter. I also believe that Jesus response to the Samaritan woman He encountered at Jacob’s well indicates God’s recognition of divorce concluding marriage. In John 4:16-18 it is recorded that Jesus said to her, “Go call your husband and come here.” The woman answered and said, “I have no husband.” Jesus said to her, “You have well said I have no husband, for you have had five husbands, and the one whom you now have is not your husband, in that, you spoke truly.” Jesus was clear that the woman had been married five times and was in fact living in a sixth relationship that had not been consecrated by marriage. The intimation is that this poor woman had been a part of several divorces and remarriages. Jesus called each of those marriages valid. The only one not validated was the current one because according to Christ, no marriage between those two had taken place. God clearly validates divorce, but just as clearly does not endorse it. So, what was Jesus point? I think that the point Jesus was making here is that divorce is errantly seen by mankind as a solution for a ‘problematic marriage’. I think that Jesus is simply trying to point out that instead of solving problems, divorce simply creates an additional set of problems that will also have to be dealt with, and does not solve any that formerly existed. If there are problems in our marriages, the solution is to deal with the problems, not compound them.
I in no way desire to minimize what Christ was expressed so succinctly. Divorce goes against God’s best for us and potentially creates all kinds of unintended consequences. Context is incredibly important here. Let’s not forget that Jesus was speaking with His disciples at this point in a private setting. These were the men that He would rely upon to continue spreading the good news of the gospel as well as to teach the soon to be born church how to walk in righteousness. Jesus is not about what we can get away with and still be considered ok spiritually. Jesus is all about righteousness and the perfecting process of His bride.
The book of Matthew records more information about this private exchange with the disciples. In his account Matthew wrote that Jesus told the Pharisees that if someone divorced for any reason other than sexual unfaithfulness and remarried they would be guilty of committing adultery. Remember this was said to Pharisees who thought they were within the bounds of the law to divorce for any reason at all. Jesus stern response to these men apparently got His disciples thinking that such a strict view of the sanctity of marriage was not only unusual but perhaps too difficult to follow through with. We read their response in Matthew 19:10-12. His disciples said to Him, “If such is the case of the man with his wife, it is better not to marry.” But He said to them, “All cannot accept this saying, but only to those whom it has been given; For there are Eunuchs who were born thus from their mother’s womb, and there are eunuchs who were made eunuchs by men, and there are eunuchs who have made themselves eunuchs for the Kingdom of Heaven’s sake. He who is able to accept it, let him accept it.
Jesus’ disciples were doing what many of us often do when we don’t like direction we have been given. Most of us will counter unwanted guidance with an extreme. We do this because we find what we have just been told to be an extreme, so we respond with one of our own. It is an act of immaturity and is often easy to recognize in our children even if we don’t want to see it in ourselves. A teenager who has just been told they can’t go out with their friends for one reason or another may counter with a statement like “I guess I’ll just have to stay home forever then!” This is essentially what the disciples were doing. Jesus had simply stated a truth concerning the high value God places on His miraculous act of taking a man and a woman and making them one for the purpose of reflecting Himself. The truth Jesus expressed: Unless pornea has impacted marriage there are no grounds for divorce. Essentially Jesus was saying even if a marriage is terrible, if both spouses remain faithful sexually, they should stay put in their “One Flesh” condition and submit to God and look to Him to be the healer of their broken marriage. The disciples responded by saying, “If you have to stay in a marriage that makes you unhappy, maybe it is better to just not get married in the first place!”
Jesus simply illustrated to them that their thinking on the matter was flawed by taking it a step further. He told them that most people would not be cut out for a life of celibacy. There are those who are born unable to experience sexual union, and there are those who have been made that way by others. This latter statement was likely in reference to the practice of slaves sometimes being castrated by their masters to remove their sexual drive and keep them focused on their work. Finally, Jesus said that there are those who willingly give up their own physical desires to further the Kingdom of God. Paul spoke of this as well in 1 Corinthians chapter seven. Jesus response to the extreme statement made by the disciples pointed out that a life of voluntary celibacy was unrealistic without a specific calling on one’s life to do so, and that it was not a viable way of avoiding sin. Choosing not to marry to avoid sin is useless since the opportunity to sin is equally possible for someone who is single. The disciples had essentially said that if divorce without the pornea exception and subsequent remarriage would constitute adultery then better to not marry. Jesus responded that an unmarried person with normal sexual desire would be at an equal or even greater risk of sexual sin.
As a marriage counselor, I have had many people challenge Jesus statements about marriage and divorce. Those who question the validity of what He said in the conversation He had with the Pharisees want to use the Pharisee’s sin as the basis for why Jesus made such strict statements and therefore remove from themselves any need to submit to the same standard. I might be able to go down that road except that both Mark and Matthew also recorded the private conversation Jesus had with His disciples afterward. In that exchange, Jesus made no reference to the Pharisees at all. He spoke directly to the disciples. This can only mean that Jesus words did not apply only to the Pharisees but to the disciples as well. That means if we claim to be Christians, disciples of Jesus, they apply to us too.
I understand that in our society (and we think we have progressed as a society though I believe there is actually much proof to the contrary) there are many reasons good enough for divorce. We believe (as a society) that abuse, physical, emotional, mental, or otherwise is cause for divorce. Jesus does not agree. We think that if our spouse is harsh and we don’t think the way they parent is healthy it is a good enough reason to divorce. Jesus does not agree. We believe that if a marriage is unhealthy for us, (and we alone are the one who can decide if it is or is not healthy), we should be free to divorce. Jesus does not agree. We go so far as to say that if we have irreconcilable differences (whatever they are) it is probably better to divorce. Jesus does not agree. Does Jesus then want us to endure all of the things I mentioned and possibly even other hurtful things in our marriages? Of course not! However, Jesus understands people because He created them. Jesus also understands marriage because He invented it. Jesus understands sin because He died to pay the price for it, none of which had been committed by Him. Jesus understands, and with all of that understanding, Jesus understands something else that your grandmother understood…two wrongs won’t make it right. Having been the one who made people, instituted marriage and died to pay the price for our sin, Jesus understands better than anyone that divorce will not solve any problem…it only complicates it.
So now, understanding more about why it is so important to remain in the one flesh condition God created of us. Trust Him to guide and direct how to work out the problematic difficulties in your marriage…and go be awesome!