Jesus then left that place and went into the region of Judea and across the Jordan. Again crowds of people came to him, and as was his custom, he taught them.
2 Some Pharisees came and tested him by asking, “Is it lawful for a man to divorce his wife?”
3 “What did Moses command you?” he replied.
4 They said, “Moses permitted a man to write a certificate of divorce and send her away.”
5 “It was because your hearts were hard that Moses wrote you this law,” Jesus replied. 6 “But at the beginning of creation God ‘made them male and female.’[a] 7 ‘For this reason a man will leave his father and mother and be united to his wife,[b] 8 and the two will become one flesh.’[c] So they are no longer two, but one flesh. 9 Therefore what God has joined together, let no one separate.”
10 When they were in the house again, the disciples asked Jesus about this. 11 He answered, “Anyone who divorces his wife and marries another woman commits adultery against her. 12 And if she divorces her husband and marries another man, she commits adultery.”
13 People were bringing little children to Jesus for him to place his hands on them, but the disciples rebuked them. 14 When Jesus saw this, he was indignant. He said to them, “Let the little children come to me, and do not hinder them, for the kingdom of God belongs to such as these. 15 Truly I tell you, anyone who will not receive the kingdom of God like a little child will never enter it.” 16 And he took the children in his arms, placed his hands on them and blessed them.
The context of this teaching on marriage is one where Jesus is being asked a trick question. It is not asked by someone who genuinely wants to know, but by someone who has an agenda. Herod had beheaded John the Baptist because of Herodias’ hatred of him. Herodias hated John the Baptist because he opposed her divorce from her first husband. Somehow, the Pharisees had managed to allow divorce for more and more reasons. The question being asked by Israel was “How far can we go?” How lenient can we be on divorce? The Pharisees had developed a lenient stance because Moses had allowed for divorce. It is in this context that Jesus is asked what he thinks. He then exposes a hardness of heart that was prevalent in Moses’ day and was also prevalent in Jesus’ day. People couldn’t stay married and some legislation needed to be put in place to protect outcast women and children who were discarded like used garbage. Moses’ law did not make divorce good, it handled the evils that arose from people who were going to divorce.
Divorce Is Wrong
Divorce is an evil. Those who are divorced would agree. They permanently have scars and pain from the relationship that failed. Some live in denial and move on, others take years of counseling to heal. In my opinion people come into marriage forgetting all their sin and baggage they carry. Their spouse triggers their unresolved issues. because they feel their own pain when their spouse acts, they tend to grow resentful of their spouse. They distance themselves from their spouse and blame them for the pain. However, the spouse is not the cause of the pain. The cause of the pain is deeper and complex. It takes years to deal with it healthily. So, a couple gets divorced and the hurting spouse takes the pain forward until they realise they have bad luck in meeting the same pain in their next relationship. If only they had realised that they are the source of their own pain, they may have found healing rather than isolation.
Jesus does not condemn divorced people. He answers those who would advocate divorce by declaring that divorce is evil. The alternative is not addressed here. Also, what to do with people who are divorced is not addressed here. The context is rather like the Obama administration asking evangelical churches whether they support same-sex marriage. The context would show that they already have a position and really do not want to understand, they want to entrap. The response from evangelicals would be that the Bible is clear that marriage is monogamous and between a man and woman. The question of how to relate to those who have been in a same-sex marriage or are in one, is a different question. Jesus may seem harsh if we take this passage out of context.
People are angry and upset. They carry a lot of pain. After the infatuation of romance fades, people do not know how to transition to a forgiving, self-sacrificial love. People project on their spouse all their unresolved issues and then add divorce. Help us to own our baggage and to see that most times our anger at our spouse is becausde they are triggering some unresolved hurt and pain in us. Give us the wisdom to seek you to identify the real issue and have you heal us.
- What was the context for a question on divorce?
- Why does Jesus seem to lack compassion for divorced people?
- What is a biblical position on marriage?
- How might people’s experience of family life and past trauma set them up for future divorce?
- How might a spouse deal with blaming their partner for their own unresolved issues?