Click HERE for an audio version posted on our Facebook page
I invite you to open your Bibles or Service Folders to Mark chapter 10 as Jesus teaches us that family is created by God.
The writer of Ecclesiastes states that there is nothing new under the sun. Ever since Adam and Eve fell into sin the same problems have existed in some form or another. Adam and Eve fought over whose fault it was that they were in trouble with God. Neither wanted to admit their part in committing the first sin. There was jealousy among their children to the point that Cain ended up killing his brother Abel. There were marriage and family problems for Moses to deal with while Israel was traveling in the wilderness, and King David had plenty of family problems in the palace. The Rabbi’s of Jesus’ day were arguing about under what circumstances a member of the Synagogue might be granted a divorce. There is nothing new under the sun.
We are told that some Pharisees brought this age-old argument about divorce to Jesus. Unfortunately, they weren’t so much concerned about Jesus providing an answer as they were about trying to get Jesus to say something unpopular, or contrary to Scripture; something they could use to discredit him. Again, as we have seen over the past weeks in the news, there is nothing new under the sun.
The test question they put to Jesus was this: Is it lawful for a man to divorce his wife. Matthew’s report hints at the slant they were putting on the question as he reports the phrase, for any and every reason. Those who study what the Rabbi’s of the day had written point out that those who followed Rabbi Shammai said the only reason would be adultery. Those who followed Rabbi Hillel gave a broad meaning to the phrase “a matter of shame”, and stated that an acceptable reason could be spoiling your husband’s dinner. Rabbi Akiba went so far as to say that finding another woman more attractive than your wife was a reason for divorce. Apparently they thought that no matter how Jesus answered the question someone would be angry at him. And that’s still the case today.
How did Jesus answer this difficult and potentially divisive question that we are still asked today?
3He replied, “What did Moses command you?” 4They said, “Moses permitted a man to write a certificate of divorce and send her away.” So, it sounds like divorce is permitted then, as long as you file the proper paperwork.
Don’t jump to conclusions. Jesus told them, “He wrote this command for you because of your hard hearts. What Moses permitted was in his role as earthly ruler who had to keep order in society. He was not permitting what God had forbidden; he was regulating what was being done in defiance of God, by people who refused to listen to God. He was protecting women from men who wanted to change partners as often as the seasons change.
Jesus answered the question about marriage the same way we need to answer it today. He answered it on the basis of God’s word, not on the basis of the opinions of Rabbis or what was happening in society. He answered by pointing people back to the beginning.
Ken Ham is very good at pointing out that Satan knew what he was doing when he began attacking the first three chapters of Genesis. If you throw out those chapters, then anything goes. Then marriage is a human institution and humans can make it whatever they want – not just by making up reasons for divorce, but who can be married to whom. If we want to know what marriage is to be, Jesus says, “go back to Genesis, to the beginning, to what GOD created.”
6 From the beginning of creation, God made them male and female. 7For this reason a man will leave his father and mother and be joined to his wife, 8and the two will become one flesh. So they are no longer two but one flesh. 9Therefore, what God has joined together, let no one separate.
It’s pretty simple, really. God made Adam. He let Adam discover for himself that it wasn’t good to be the only human on the face of the earth by having him name the animals. Then God built another human from a piece of Adam’s side, one that was a perfect match for him and he for her. He made one MALE and one FEMALE. He brought Eve to Adam who recognized God was giving him a wonderful gift, and marriage was created. Scripture is careful to let us know that this thing we call marriage would continue for all time. One male and one female would leave their family of origin and form their own family. They would become one, not just in a physical union, but in their goals and in faith. This union is to be considered consecrated by God and is not to be broken. What has become one is not to become two again.
Even Jesus’ disciples were struggling a little with what Jesus was saying about marriage. It’s likely that they had friends or relatives who were divorced. But Jesus makes it very clear to them, and to us, “Whoever divorces his wife and marries another commits adultery against her. 12If she divorces her husband and marries another, she commits adultery.” Of course, Matthew records Jesus as adding the one exception, marital unfaithfulness, which he seems to be implying here as it seems the divorce he is talking about is for the purpose of marrying another.
Like the disciples, we all know people who have gone through a divorce. We can’t let our feelings for them get in the way of what God says. Divorce always involves sin. God hates divorce, the Bible says. It’s not his best. Even when he allows it, when one or the other spouse has been unfaithful, sin has separated what God has joined together.
But, it must be said that it is not an unforgivable sin. In fact, if you look down on someone who has gone through a divorce and pat yourself on the back and think, “I’m doing well because I have not been involved in a divorce,” watch out. Jesus equates lust with adultery. A heterosexual couple living together outside of marriage is breaking the same commandment as those who practice homosexuality. With the preponderance of nudity and the use of sex to sell things, with what is on TV and in the movies and on the internet, and at the store check out, all of us have to confess that we are guilty of sins against God’s commandment “do not commit adultery.” As Jesus told those who had gathered to stone the woman caught in adultery, “if you are without sin, cast the first stone,” and no one did.
How we need to daily confess our sins of lust, the times that we forget that we are one with our spouse, joined together by God, the times we might wish it weren’t so. How we need to daily look to Jesus as the one who perfectly kept God’s will in regard to the sixth commandment. How we need to be reminded every day that Jesus took the punishment we deserve for these sins on himself on the cross. Being assured of our forgiveness we are inspired to avert our eyes, to turn away from sin, to avoid tempting situations, and to do whatever we can to see our spouses as a gift from God to whom we are faithfully devoted for life.
After God created marriage by bringing Eve to Adam he told them to be fruitful and multiply, to have children. It’s God’s will that we see children as precious gifts from God.
The disciples struggled with that concept, at least on this occasion. When mothers were bringing their little children, Luke says even babies, to Jesus, the disciples tried to stop them. They rebuked them. They told them that they were doing something wrong – probably wasting Jesus’ time, after all, he had more important things to do than to bless children.
Jesus has a strong reaction. The only stronger reaction I can think of is when he cleared the temple: 14When Jesus saw this, he was indignant. He said, “Let the little children come to me! Do not hinder them, because the kingdom of God belongs to such as these. 15Amen I tell you: Whoever will not receive the kingdom of God like a little child will never enter it.” 16And he took the little children in his arms, laid his hands on them, and blessed them.
We are to see children as gifts of God, never as a bother or a burden. We are to bring them to Jesus. They are people too. They have eternal souls from the moment of conception. They need to hear the word, to be brought up in the training and instruction of the Lord. In fact, they often outshine us when it comes to demonstrating faith. They simply take God at his word. They don’t argue about whether something seems logical, or possible. They simply say, “God said so, therefore it is true.” They trust God’s promises no matter what. Jesus let these children know how precious they were to God by physically touching them and blessing them.
How thankful we are that so many bring their children to church, to Sunday school, to Children’s programs like VBS, or Power Hour. We should never hinder them, thinking that they are too little to believe, or that they are too noisy, or might mess up the building. Jesus says that they believe in him and that through faith they are a part of his kingdom. He wants them to be blessed through the hearing of his word.
Marriage and family are still a topic of discussion in our day. When the discussion turns to divorce, or gay marriage, or how to view children, Jesus shows us what to do. Go back to the beginning. Remember God created marriage to be between one male and one female. In marriage he joins them together for life. If it is his will to grant them children, they are to be treated as special gifts from God and brought to him to be blessed through baptism and through frequent contact with his word.
What a gracious savior we have. He didn’t let anything keep him from upholding the truth of God’s word, even when what God says was unpopular or controversial. He didn’t let anything keep him from showing love to little children. He didn’t give up on his disciples, even though he was angry with them, nor does he ever give up on us. When we sin, he calls us to repentance. He assures us that he lived and died to pay for our sin, whatever it may be. He reminds us that he lives and rules over all things so that he is always there to help us bring forth fruits of repentance, to help us stand firm against Satan’s attacks on marriage and family, for our good and his glory.