“What therefore God has joined together, let not man separate.” (Mark 10:9 ESV)
The journey to the cross continues as we come to chapter 10 in our studies in Mark. Since the middle of chapter 8, Jesus has been teaching his disciples about the sacrifices that come with following him to that cross. He has made it clear that a true disciple will need to let go of earthly things that hold him back, forsaking his family, his job, and his own life if need be. Last week, we considered the consequence of rejecting Christ: eternal punishment. The stakes are indeed very high.
But not every believer will be subject to martyrdom. While many, including the disciples, have given their lives for the cause of the gospel, but for the majority of Christians, including those of us who live in a free nation, literal death is not as much of a threat. Yet, the manifold teachings of Christ are still relevant to us. We will apply these teachings in the everyday sacrifices we make at home, on our jobs, and in our society.
According to Larry Hurtado, Mark chapter 10 will bring the concept of sacrifice to bear on three material, earthly things that a disciple must consider as he follows Christ: 1) marriage (v1-10), 2) children (v13-16), and 3) possessions (v17-31). This Sunday we’ll consider marriage.
In this passage, Jesus is called on by the Pharisees to respond to a controversy among the rabbinc tradition concerning marriage and divorce. Deuteronomy 24 tolerates divorce, but the interpretation among rabbis differed. One school of thought interpreted the text very loosely, giving all sorts of reasons for men to divorce their wives (including spoiling dinner!) while the other school of thought only granted the right of divorce to men whose wives committed adultery.
The Pharisees’ questioning wasn’t a sincere pursuit of truth, however. Mark says they were “testing” Jesus. Remembering the fate of John the Baptist, who plainly told Herod he was in sin, the Pharisees were perhaps hoping they could get Jesus in trouble if he doesn’t answer to their liking. Once again, however, Jesus turns the question on its head.
The issue of marriage, of course, is not to be boiled down to “what constitutes a good reason to divorce?” Rather, we must go back to the foundational source – God’s word. And God’s word places marriage in a place of honor because it is a divinely instituted union given by God that creates one flesh out of two. So lofty, so significant, so divine is this institution that to break it would be grevious sin!
Jesus often doesn’t take sides. He doesn’t endorse either rabbinic tradition but rather puts marriage back into its rightful place. And by doing this, he condemns every man who desired to divorce his wife without considering the holiness of the covenant of marriage.
Christian, let us follow Jesus’ example in gaining our perspectives not from the world, not from tradition, but from the Word of God. Join us this Sunday as we tackle this very important issue of marriage, divorce, and remarriage, keeping in mind that though many have failed in this area, we worship a God who will always be faithful to his covenant with us!