Mark 10: 1 – 12 NLT
Discussion about Divorce and Marriage
10 Then Jesus left Capernaum and went down to the region of Judea and into the area east of the Jordan River. Once again crowds gathered around him, and as usual he was teaching them.
2 Some Pharisees came and tried to trap him with this question: “Should a man be allowed to divorce his wife?”
3 Jesus answered them with a question: “What did Moses say in the law about divorce?”
4 “Well, he permitted it,” they replied. “He said a man can give his wife a written notice of divorce and send her away.”
5 But Jesus responded, “He wrote this commandment only as a concession to your hard
hearts. 6 But ‘God made them male and female’ from the beginning of creation. 7 ‘This explains why a man leaves his father and mother and is joined to his wife 8 and the two are united into one.’ Since they are no longer two but one, 9 let no one split apart what God has joined together.”
10 Later, when he was alone with his disciples in the house, they brought up the subject
again. 11 He told them, “Whoever divorces his wife and marries someone else commits adultery against her. 12 And if a woman divorces her husband and marries someone else, she commits adultery.”
Talking about divorce is a touchy subject since so many marriages end in divorce. According to Net News ledger, the average length of marriage in Canada is 14 years, and 38% of marriages end in divorce. Apparently, the divorce rate has remained steady since the 1980’s, but there has been an increase in the rate recently for newer marriages. Although divorce is fairly common, it is never an easy situation. There is always pain and regret. One of my daughters is divorced and leads the DivorceCare group at LSA. So, I’ve personally seen the grief caused by divorce.
As usual, as we’re going through the Book of Mark, I read the commentary, A Ransom for Many by Steve Wilmhurst. He had some interesting things to say about why the topic of divorce came up at this point in Mark. Jesus travelled to Judea, an area east of the Jordan River. This was the area where Herod Antipas lived, the man who married his brother’s wife, Herodias. She apparently hadn’t divorced her first husband, just took on new one. The two of them were the reasons John the Baptist was killed because he spoke out about their marriage. So, the Pharisees corner Jesus in this area to see what he would say about divorce. Maybe they hoped Herod would get rid of Jesus the way he did John.
There were two positions on divorce in Jesus’ day. One group called Shammai thought that divorce was permissible only when one of the partners was unfaithful or there was some other moral failure. The Hillel group agreed with that, but also added that divorce was possible if a man decided his wife was not suitable for some reason. Divorce is mentioned in the Old Testament in Deuteronomy 24: 1 – 2 (NLT) “Suppose a man marries a woman but she does not please him. Having discovered something wrong with her, he writes a document of divorce, hands it to her, and sends her away from his house. When she leaves his house, she is free to marry another man.” They all agreed that divorce required a written paper, so that no one could argue about the status of the person. Now the Pharisees wanted to see what Jesus would have to say on this divisive subject.
But Jesus goes right back to creation in the Garden of Eden. God created men and women with a sexual nature. A marriage between them was to be a close bond – they were to become one flesh (Genesis 2: 24). That verse also mentions that the man and woman were to leave their parents, the closest relationship they had experienced in life up to that point. Marriage was designed to be a life long relationship. When talking with the disciples afterward, Jesus says that divorce is possible, but not remarriage. Some scholars think that Jesus was referring to the situation with Herod and Herodias. She walked out on her first husband and married the second without a legal divorce. That would definitely be wrong.
We may differ on what we think is allowed in the church today concerning divorce and remarriage. But, I think we can all agree that God’s original plan before sin entered the world was that marriage was for life. Now we live in a broken world. As Christ followers, when a marriage starts falling apart, we need to do all we can to repair the damage whatever it is. That is
God’s first intention for marriage. Marriage is not something we can walk away from easily. But when all our attempts have failed, we can also accept that God forgives us. We don’t have to feel that we are outsiders in the church, second-class members. Romans 3: 23 tells us:
“For everyone has sinned; we all fall short of God’s glorious standard.”
Everyone one of us has sinned, failed at living up to God’s standards in so many ways. We can’t point fingers at someone else. Each one of us can only stand before God because we are forgiven through Jesus’ death and resurrection. Just as God loves us, we must love one another.