Apr 21, 2013
Mark 10:1-12

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Two Important Contextual Details:

1. Jesus is on a direct and deliberate journey towards Jerusalem:

  • Jesus heads South with the intention of passing through the region of Galilee. 

  • He stays the night in Capernaum before heading East to the Jordan River.

  • Once at the Jordan, Jesus will progress South into the region of Judea.

  • Before ultimately heading West up to Jerusalem for the Feast of Passover.

2. The lesson on servanthood sets the stage for a lesson on marriage and divorce.

[Mark 10:1] “Then Jesus arose from there and came to the region of Judea by the other side of the Jordan. And multitudes gathered to Him again, and as He was accustomed, He taught them again.”

Scene of Activity

Jesus has left Galilee for the last time ending what we call His “Galilean Ministry.” 

Since most of the Jews from Galilee would be making this same pilgrimage to Jerusalem, Jesus utilizes the opportunity to teach the people “as He was accustomed.

[Mark 10:2] “The Pharisees came (signifying intent - was not accidental) and asked Jesus, “Is it lawful for a man to divorce his wife?” testing Him.” 

Mark provides subtle updates as to the plot to destroy Jesus.

Plot began in Mark 3:6, “Then the Pharisees went out and immediately plotted with the Herodians against Him, how they might destroy Him.”

Plot takes shape in Mark 9:31, “the Son of Man is being betrayed....”

The Plot to arrest and murder Jesus need three conditions to align:

  • They needed a time and place. 
  • They needed due cause. 

  • They needed to sway His support.

Judas could provide both a time and place once Jesus entered Jerusalem. 

Jesus had provided enough material for trumped up charges.

Hang Up: They’re running out of time to turn the multitudes against Him.

Which is why “they came and asked Him” - literally “they kept asking Him.

Jesus knew their question wasn’t honest which is why He seems reluctant to answer. 

He also knew the intent behind their questions was to “test Him.” 

Testing” - Greek verb “peirazô” - “to solicit to sin.”

The only other person guilty of this act was Satan back in Mark 1:13.

Pharisees Question: Is it lawful for a man to divorce his wife?” 

Matthew 19:3 adds, “for just any reason.

Note: The Pharisees were not asking whether or not divorce was “lawful,” they were asking Jesus to define what specific reasons warranted divorce.

The Law of Moses permitted divorce under one set of criteria.

Deuteronomy 24 - “When a man takes a wife and marries her, and it happens that she finds no favor in his eyes because he has found some uncleanness in her, he can write her a certificate of divorce.... and sends her out of his house.”

Problem: Moses statement “she finds no favor in his eyes” and “he has found some uncleanness in her” was admittedly vague. 

Two Interpretations of the Law:

1. Liberal View promoted by Rabbi Hillel.

Uncleanness” was interpreted as any sort of discretion.

Meaning: A man could divorce his wife for any reason.

2. Conservative View promoted by Rabbi Shammai.

Uncleanness” was interpreted as only a reference to sexual immorality. 

Meaning: A man could only divorce on the grounds of sexual sin. 

Purpose of the Question: Since the population gravitated towards the liberal view, if the Pharisees could get Jesus to take a contrary stand it would divide His support base.

Three Phases to Jesus’ Response concerning Divorce:

Phase #1: Jesus explains the origin of the Law.

Phase #2: Jesus explains on what grounds divorce was permissible. 

Phase #3: Jesus reinforces what reasons were not permissible for divorce. 

Phase #1: Jesus explains the origin of the Law.

[Mark 10:3-5] “And He answered and said to them, “What did Moses command you?” They said, “Moses permitted a man to write a certificate of divorce, and to dismiss her.” “And Jesus answered and said to them, “Because of the hardness of your heart he wrote you this precept.” 

Jesus skips the particulars of the Law by focusing instead on the origin of the Law. 

He does something shrewd.... He asked, “What did Moses command you?” 

Command” - Greek verb “entellô” - “to order, to command.”

The Pharisees wisely reply, “Moses permitted a man....” 

Permitted” - Greek verb “epitrepô” - “to gain leave.” KJV: “Moses suffered....”

PT01 on the Origin: Moses did not command, but rather permitted divorce.

Note: There is a significant difference between commands and concessions - between requiring action verses allowing it.

Moses allowed divorce under certain conditions, but he never created a set of absolutes whereby divorce was sanctioned by the Law.

Something allowed is by definition of less importance than something required. 

The Liberal View was a direct contradiction to the Law’s original intent. 

God never intended for the dissolution of a marriage. The precept for divorce was only added by Moses as a concession to deal with a sinful, stubborn people.

It’s been said, “Rather than an expression of God’s will, sadly divorce was a concession to man’s willfulness.”

Note: In requiring a divorcee submit a “certificate” Moses was attempting to discourage the act (which was easy in that culture) instead of condoning it.

PT02 on the Origin: Divorce only existed “because of the hardness of their heart.”

Greek noun “skiêokardia” (skleros: hard, kardia: heart) - literally a “hard heart.” 

The derivative of this word “sklêrynô” - “to make dry or hard” was used in Acts 19:9 and Romans 9:18 to describe the hardened heart of Pharaoh. 

This “hardness of heart” was the result of sin not the progression.

Jesus is telling these Pharisees the only reason Moses made a concession for divorce was because of the hardened condition of their heart towards the will of God. 

Pharisees Question: “For what lawful reasons can a person get divorced?”

Jesus replies, “If we understand the origin of the precept, we shouldn’t consider what lawful reasons exist for divorced. We should instead consider all the reasons divorce should be avoided.”

Point: Divorce was a concession God made to handle a broken human condition.

“Divorce should only be a matter of absolute last resort - once all other viable options have been exhausted - and no other feasible solutions remain present.”

Phase #2: Jesus explains on what grounds divorce was permissible. 

[Mark 10:6-9] “But from the beginning of the creation, God ‘made them male and female.’ ‘For this reason a man shall leave his father and mother and be joined to his wife, and the two shall become one flesh’; so then they are no longer two, but one flesh. Therefore what God has joined together, let not man separate.” 

In order to answer their question and explain the logical grounds for divorce, Jesus decides it would be helpful to first explain God’s original intention for marriage.

1. Marriage is Divinely Inspired - “From the beginning of creation God.”

Jesus is making it clear the blueprint for marriage predated the Law and was instituted before sin entered the human condition.

God created marriage for 3 specific reasons:

  • Procreation - Genesis 1:28, "Be fruitful and multiply.”
  • Pleasure - Song of Solomon 1:2, “Let him kiss me with the kisses of his mouth; for thy love is better than wine.”

  • Picture - Ephesians 5:23-25, “For the husband is head of the wife, as also Christ is head of the church; and He is the Savior of the body. Therefore, just as the church is subject to Christ, so let the wives be to their own husbands in everything. Husbands, love your wives, just as Christ also loved the church and gave Himself for her.”

“From the beginning of creation, God made them....” - Jesus is affirming the creation process. That God created humanity we didn’t evolve. (B-Sides)

2. Marriage is Founded on Gender Distinctions - “God made them male & female.”

For this reason” - This phrase indicates that God created both male and female and established gender roles for the express purpose of marriage. 

The male and female anatomies have been uniquely created by God specifically for a sexual union in the bond of holy matromony.

This means heterosexual attraction is the only basis for a marital union.

3. Marriage is to be Monogamous - “Man shall be joined to his wife.”

1 Corinthians 7:2-3, “Nevertheless.... let each man have his own wife, and let each woman have her own husband. Let the husband render to his wife the affection due her, and likewise also the wife to her husband.”

1 Timothy 3:2, Paul says an Elder should be “the husband of one wife.”

Polygamy and Polyamory therefore distort God’s original intention for marriage.  

4. Marriage is Consummated by Heterosexual Sex - “Two shall become one flesh.”

Sex forges an intimate bond both physically & emotionally between male & female.

Flesh” - Greek noun “sarx” - “earthly nature of man apart from the divine.”

Note: Homosexual activity fails to achieve the prerequisites required for this “onefleshness” that God intended for marriage. 

Romans 1:27, “For this reason God gave them up to vile passions. For even their women exchanged the natural use for what is against nature. Likewise also the men, leaving the natural use of the woman, burned in their lust for one another, men with men committing what is shameful, and receiving in themselves the penalty of their error which was due.”

5. Marriage is a Miracle Performed by God - “What God has joined together.”

“Has joined together” - Greek verb “syzeugnymi” - “to fasten to one yoke.”

Define: “Marriage is the process of God joining together a man and a women.

The goal of marriage is more than you being happy. Ultimately, it’s two people emulating the person of Jesus Christ in their love and commitment to one another. 

Did you know God has staked His reputation on your marriage?

6. Marriage is Sacred - “Let not man separate.”

Separate” - KJV: “Put Asunder” - Greek verb “chôrizô” - literally “to divide.”

Jesus is literally pleading, “May it absolutely not be for man to separate something that God has joined together.” 

God is warning mankind.... “hands off what I’ve created!” 

The bonds of holy matrimony matter to God which is why I believe we see such a perverted attempt to distort the very thing God has sanctioned! (B-Sides)

It’s at this point in the dialogue (after He’s discussed the reason the Law provides a concession for divorce, and after explaining God’s intended purpose behind marriage) that Jesus finally answers the Pharisees question. 

Q: “For what lawful reasons can a person get divorced?” 

A: Matthew 19:9, “And I say to you, whoever divorces his wife, except for sexual immorality, and marries another, commits adultery."

Because the monogamous, marital covenant-for-life depends on the consummated union provided by heterosexual sex whereby male and female “become one flesh,” sexually immoral behavior is ok’d by God because it attacks the “onefleshness” essential for the bonds of holy matrimony.

Phase #3: Jesus reinforces what reasons were not permissible for divorce. 

[Mark 10:10-12] “In the house His disciples also asked Him again about the same matter. So He said to them, “Whoever divorces his wife and marries another commits adultery against her. And if a woman divorces her husband and marries another, she commits adultery.”

The Pharisees wanted to know what legal grounds existed for divorce. 

Note: Aside from sexual sin, you can also build a Biblical argument that divorce is also permissible in the case of domestic abuse, child endangerment, and abandonment. 

The disciples follow up question seems to center itself upon what happens to a person who divorces their spouse for any other reason aside from sexual sin.

Jesus’ answer: Nothing else in permissible (already ruled on sexual sin). 

His answer does reinforce an important reality: Divorce has consequences! 

Divorce without a Biblical reason is sin and remarrying considered adultery.

You might claim “irreconcilable differences,” but this is not recognized by God! 

Application: How should we handle the following scenarios?

1. I’ve been cheated on.... what should I do?

If your spouse is remorseful and you feel as though you can find the strength to forgive and work through your issues it’s always better to stay married than divorce.

We’ve all cheated on Jesus and He was willing to give us another chance.

2. Our marriage is on the rocks and we’ve been considering divorce.

Remove divorce from your vernacular and instead resolve to work on your issues. 

Seek Godly counseling and find accountability. Learn to discuss, not argue! 

In extreme cases you should consider separating for a defined period of time.  

3. I divorced my spouse but have not yet remarried.

Go to your spouse - apologize - and seek reconciliation. 

4. I divorced my spouse and have remarried.

It’s an undeniable reality that you’ve committed two sins: divorce and adultery. However, neither of these sins are beyond the reach of God’s grace.

Repent and ask God for forgiveness. Seek to allow these past mistakes to have a positive influence on your present marriage.

5. I was divorced.... what do I do?

Moses’ instructions in Deuteronomy 24 were designed to protect the victim. 

Moses said a certificate of divorce must be filled out insuring the victim was able to move on and marry another. 

In Jesus’ dialogue, it seems God’s grace is abundant to the one divorced unjustly, whereas His rebuke, instructions, and warning are imparted to the divorcee. 

Following servanthood was a lesson on marriage and divorce, it’s not an accident Jesus turns His attention from these topics to that of children.