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. Some Pharisees came and tested him by asking, “Is it lawful for a man to divorce his wife?” “What did Moses command you?” he replied. They said, “Moses permitted a man to write a certificate of divorce and send her away.” Mark 10, verses 1-4.
Did you notice the sleight of hand when it came to divorce? The Pharisees start questioning Him. Jesus answers with a question, and they did a little word switcheroo that tried to bait and switch the conversation.
Nothing has changed.
A few years ago, my wife and I nearly divorced; I’ve covered the reasons why many times before. Yet it was Jesus who made the difference in our lives between divorce and reconciliation. We couldn’t have come back together without His intervention in our lives and in our marriage. I say this because, until that time, I had looked at marriage the way the Pharisees did. We’re permitted to do this or that because of X or Y. It’s true that, in other places in the Bible Jesus spells out conditions for divorce, but nowhere does He lay out that it’s a desirable option. Indeed, here in Mark 10, Jesus is spelling out the exact opposite and it goes right over the heads of the hard-hearted Pharisees.
They looked at marriage the way I used to: disposable. The Pharisees didn’t spell out the conditions for it or why a couple would divorce. They simply looked at it as a permissible thing. Moses the lawgiver even said so…
But that wasn’t what Jesus asked them.
In fact, thus far in the chapter, Jesus hasn’t said anything at all about divorce. Instead of outlining twelve-step program, Jesus responds with a question to make them think: “What did Moses command you?” He was saying “what did I say to you through Moses?” And, like I probably would have, they responded by getting bogged down in details while dodging Jesus’ question. Instead of answering the question – what did Moses COMMAND – they change the subject: Moses PERMITTED.
That matters because nothing much has changed. I say this from experience because, when my marriage was dying, I was letting it die. Actually, I was trying to kill it. It was all about me, all about what I felt and didn’t feel, what I was and wasn’t getting from the relationship, my wants and not what mattered. To me, divorce was permissible. But when Jesus manned me up, I saw that I wasn’t giving to the relationship, that my transgressions were what broke it down, and that I needed to confess, forgive, seek forgiveness, and change. More than all that, I came to see how Jesus wants us whole in Him first and foremost above anything else, even our marriages. Once we go to Him, things can change.
I know that so many people have legitimate reasons for divorcing, but I wonder how many people truly bring themselves to put it all at the cross before pulling the trigger. Moses permitted us to divorce; our system permits it; our code of conduct sometimes even seems to demand it. But that isn’t what Jesus commanded. He said that what God brought together no man should pull apart. THAT is what Moses commanded.
Lord, thank You for healing my marriage, for my wife, and for all the blessings You give my family through our marriage.
Read Mark 10, verses 1-12.