Matthew 19:1-12 User’s Manual Allows For Crashes

When Jesus had finished saying these things, he left Galilee and went into the region of Judea to the other side of the Jordan. 2 Large crowds followed him, and he healed them there.

3 Some Pharisees came to him to test him. They asked, “Is it lawful for a man to divorce his wife for any and every reason?”

4 “Haven’t you read,” he replied, “that at the beginning the Creator ‘made them male and female,’[a] 5 and said, ‘For this reason a man will leave his father and mother and be united to his wife, and the two will become one flesh’[b]? 6 So they are no longer two, but one flesh. Therefore what God has joined together, let no one separate.”

7 “Why then,” they asked, “did Moses command that a man give his wife a certificate of divorce and send her away?”

8 Jesus replied, “Moses permitted you to divorce your wives because your hearts were hard. But it was not this way from the beginning. 9 I tell you that anyone who divorces his wife, except for sexual immorality, and marries another woman commits adultery.”

10 The disciples said to him, “If this is the situation between a husband and wife, it is better not to marry.”

11 Jesus replied, “Not everyone can accept this word, but only those to whom it has been given. 12 For there are eunuchs who were born that way, and there are eunuchs who have been made eunuchs by others—and there are those who choose to live like eunuchs for the sake of the kingdom of heaven. The one who can accept this should accept it.”

User’s Manual Allows For Crashes

Jesus, I enjoyed what N.T. Wright wrote in Matthew for Everyone about this passage.   He said that he had a car manual that outlined what you should do in case of an accident or a crash.  He said that it also told you how best to navigate dangerous weather conditions like storms and snow.  The point was that even though the manufacturer allowed that crashes would happen, the manufacturer was not advocating crashes and dangerous or reckless driving.  The same was true of some of the laws in the Old Testament.  Even though the rules allowed for divorce and told you what to do in case of a divorce, they did not advocate divorce.

Jesus, you opened the way to a life where those who walk in your Holy Spirit would not have to follow the weaker ways left by Moses.  That seems so strange in our days where Christians are divorcing at the same rate as pagans.  According to this passage the rate of divorce would show a profound problem with spiritual formation.  My guess is that most Christians do not see marriage as an avenue where you transform them.  They see marriage as a venue where you reward them.  We have a tendency to think that we should receive a certain set of products from marriage and we are very disappointed when that is not the case.  We should have a continuously compassionate and understanding spouse;  we should receive support, safety, and security;  we should have exciting sex, adventures, and satisfying conversations.  We also have a set of things that we believe we should not have to endure in marriage:  alienation; lack of mutual appreciation for things; sexual sacrifice; depression; grief; anxiety; anger; stubbornness.  However, when our spouse seems harder to relate to, love, or respect it is a time when You can fill that suffering with more healing and more of yourself.  Also, before we become passionate about judging our spouse for the speck in their eye we ought to see the plank of a judgmental spirit and growing contempt within ourselves.  We tend to transfer our own issues onto others and then leave them for irreconcilable differences.  I know you can uproot the pain that we carry inside and blame on others.

Help us to cease looking for the ideal marriage, but help us to see the ideals that you are forming in us by the marriage that we are in.  Help us to release our dreams of what should be and rejoice in what is.  Help us to be less proud, but help us to learn from your humility.  Help us to remember how you sacrificed yourself and left heaven, so that we can sacrifice the unrealistic expectations that we create.  Help us then to dedicate our lives to unconditionally accepting and redeeming those who are closest to us and to work in ever-increasing circles.

Questions

  1. What reasons did people in Jesus’ day give for divorce?
  2. What do you think Jesus’ questioners expected from a marriage?
  3. Why do people prematurely want to be free from a marriage?
  4. What if Jesus gave up on you the same way others have given up on their spouses?
  5. How can Christ be formed in you to sacrificially give to your spouse, your friends and even your enemies (which may be your spouse at this point)?
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About Plymothian

I teach at Moody Bible Institute in Chicago. My interests include education, biblical studies, and spiritual formation. I have been married to Kelli since 1998 and we have two children, Daryl and Amelia. For recreation I like to run, play soccer, play board games, read and travel.
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