Sermon Summary from July 9, 2017
Mark 10:1–12 (NIV) • Pastor Tim Tseng
Yes, yes, for many of us, getting married is the most important thing on our minds. So divorce is way off our radar. Anyway, no one gets married thinking, “Oh boy, I can’t wait till I get divorced!” But today’s scripture is still important because it helps us respond to this question:
What does Jesus’ opposition to divorce teach us about discipleship?
But let me be clear. Divorce is a very sensitive topic because more and more people today are affected by it. So as I attempt to interpret this passage, Jesus’ principles of embracing those who are hurting and loving one another are always in the background.
I. A concession to human frailty: “because your hearts were hard…” Mark 10:5
a. Concession to how the powerful devalue marriage.
When the Pharisees attempted to test Jesus by asking for his opinion of the legitimacy of divorce, I believe they wanted to connect Jesus to John the Baptist. John had criticized King Herod and his sister-in-law Herodias (with whom the Pharisees were in alliance against Jesus) for divorcing their spouses to marry each other (Mark 6:18). Herod is typical of most rulers for whom marriage is little more than an inconvenience for political gain. King Henry VIII of England is the most infamous monarch who married six wives and divorced five of them for the sake of getting a male heir.
b. Concession to patriarchy (Moses’ certificate of divorce, Deut. 24:1-4)
The Pharisees (and Jesus’ disciples) believed that Moses gave men permission to dispose of wives for just about any reason. The Hillel school says that a man may divorce his wife even if she has merely ruined his dinner. Rabbi Aqiba says he may divorce her even if he finds another woman more beautiful than she is. Jewish women were not permitted to divorce their husband.
c. Therefore Jesus rejects divorce because it devalues marriage and women.
Jesus appeals the Genesis 1:27 and 2:24 to argue that before Moses, God had already designed marriage to be an eternal bond and not something to be trivialized. That’s why Jesus privately told his disciples that divorce and remarriage are tantamount to adultery.
But this is where it gets tricky. Many Christians treat divorcees like adulterers. In John 8:2-11, Jesus shoes us that it is not appropriate to condemn people who have failed to live up to “moral standards.” All of us have sinned, so none should cast the first stone.
Indeed, there is biblical support for divorce in the case of infidelity, abuse, and when an unbelieving spouses chooses divorce.
II. Marriage and relationship fidelity models God’s love
By rejecting the kind of divorce that trivializes marriage, Jesus wants his disciples to display the importance of relational bonds. In a consumer-dominant society that commodifies relationships, our fidelity to marital and other relationships – through ups and downs – models God’s eternal love for us (see Hosea, Jeremiah 3, Malachi 2).