The text this morning is a complex one. Two main stories today; First, Jesus teaches about divorce. It can be an uncomfortable topic. Jesus teaches it, so we’re going to address it.
All Scripture is God-breathed and is useful for teaching, rebuking, correcting and training in righteousness, 17 so that the servant of God may be thoroughly equipped for every good work. ~ 2 Timothy 3:16-17
We believe that. The bible is given to us so that we can be equipped to live a life in service of Him.
Before we get in to what Jesus says, the text itself, lets dish a little about what the world says about divorce. The societal view on divorce, particularly in America, has shifted RADICALLY in the last 60 years. There was a time not long ago that even the law was quite averse to divorce. New Yorkers had to wait until 2010 before their state would grant a “no fault” divorce without a justification like adultery or battery. The idea that marriage is something we can just change our minds about is a very new concept in America.
As much as we try to avoid it, the world can really influence us and the way we feel about important topics. So take a minute, and ask yourself, what do you think about divorce? Do you believe marriage is a man-made device? And so if so we can treat it like other man-made things? Maybe that isn’t the case for you. Perhaps marriage is something you give respect to. It’s something we honor, take seriously.Either way, this morning we will level set whatever we believe about marriage with the only thing that matters, with the word of God.
The second story we’ll read is Jesus instructing what kind of person can receive his kingdom. He tells the disciples to “let the little children come to me”. Possibly a familiar story, but we’ll read another installment of the disciples failing to understand who Jesus is, and why he came.
Our title this morning is “God meets us where we’re at”. One of the greatest tenants of Christianity is that we don’t need to show up with anything. “nothing in my hand I bring, simply to the cross I cling”. We don’t need to arrive before we are welcomed in.
These stories can orient our hearts, if we let them. It can define how we see our relationship with our spouse, and also define our relationship with him.
Mark 10:1-16 (ESV)
10 And he left there and went to the region of Judea and beyond the Jordan, and crowds gathered to him again. And again, as was his custom, he taught them. 2 And Pharisees came up and in order to test him asked, “Is it lawful for a man to divorce his wife?” 3 He answered them, “What did Moses command you?”
- So what is going on? Why are they asking him this question?
- If it feels like a loaded question, it probably is. Mark states it was to test him.
- Huge point here. Jesus uses the scripture to refute his attackers. We can try to live like Jesus and model our lives after him in many ways but perhaps none more important than this one. Scripture is the default; it is the first thing he checks.
- Jesus flips the question back on them, knowing they are ready with the answer. They say…
4 They said, “Moses allowed a man to write a certificate of divorce and to send her away.”
- The response from the pharisees. Moses said we could do it!!
- You get the sense that they wanted a chance to justify their own actions. The pharisees probably thought they were following the law of Moses.
- I don’t know for sure if any of these religious leaders had been divorced, but let’s paint a picture of what marriage looked like in those days. Roman rule has been around for a while, and they were pretty lenient with divorce as a legal proceeding. In their society marriage was a contract set up between families, and sometimes those contracts didn’t work out. Simple.
- Divorce was part of Jewish culture even before the Romans entered the picture. In Jewish law, a man could send his wife away with some provisions, for specific reasons. But the pharisees are misusing Deuteronomy 24.
Jesus goes on teaching:
5 And Jesus said to them, “Because of your hardness of heart he wrote you this commandment. 6 But from the beginning of creation, ‘God made them male and female.’ 7 ‘Therefore a man shall leave his father and mother and hold fast to his wife, 8 and the two shall become one flesh.’ So they are no longer two but one flesh. 9 What therefore God has joined together, let not man separate.”
- Jesus again quoting scripture here, he recaps the God breathed account of the first marriage. The pharisees should know this.
- “No longer two”. This is how God describes a couple who is married. What does that mean to you?
- Distinct personality? Different jobs? But what about different friends? Living in different places? Finances?
- You can tell there is a very different vibe here, not just a contractual agreement
- “let not man separate”. This can be uncomfortable, but this is what the bible teaches
- There are other accounts of his teaching, where Jesus gives some very limited exceptions, but here in this gospel Jesus sticks to Gods heart surrounding marriage.
- There are three points that Jesus makes very succinctly:
- He confirms the law Moses gave them / Moses allowed for divorce
- He then reminds them of God’s intentions surrounding marriage / That marriage is from God, that it is unique and permanent
- And lastly he explains the reason there is a difference / God permitted divorce as a merciful concession to people’s sinfulness. Because of their hardness of heart he allowed for it.
- What Jesus says here is so counter cultural that we’ll see his disciples need clarification
10 And in the house the disciples asked him again about this matter. 11 And he said to them, “Whoever divorces his wife and marries another commits adultery against her, 12 and if she divorces her husband and marries another, she commits adultery.”
- Sounds like the disciples want Jesus to level with them. Give them the real scoop, he didn’t really mean that right? You are saying we should not divorce our spouse?
- Not only should a man not divorce his wife, but if he marries another, he is then committing another sin against God!
- These are not rules for just men or just women. If God has joined something, what ways are there for us to separate?
- Through today’s lens we might think this is really unfair. Jesus is saying if you remarry you are committing adultery.
- Do you feel like being married is a right? In America there is an expectation, we can marry someone that we love? But the hard truth is that we cannot separate what God has joined.
- As serious as this is, remember it is a sin like all the others we commit every day. It is forgiven through Christ. It is something to repent from.
- If you are left or abandoned, know you are not forgotten and abandoned by our God. He is there for us.
- As humans we have a tendency to look for the exceptions, what about this? Practical application is important. Especially when its directly applicable right now. If you have questions about this, I encourage you to dive in, to the text, in prayer, ask your discipler
- But it shouldn’t be about what we can get away with. Jesus is telling us we need a high view of marriage; we should not look to justify our actions like the pharisees. We cannot attempt to water down Gods command and intention/design of marriage like they did.
13 And they were bringing children to him that he might touch them, and the disciples rebuked them. 14 But when Jesus saw it, he was indignant and said to them, “Let the children come to me; do not hinder them, for to such belongs the kingdom of God.”
- The disciples saw it as a waste of time.
- Interesting to note that His harshest words are reserved for the disciples, not the pharisees. He was indignant, showing anger and annoyance.
- The disciples thought that the children were not worth Jesus’ time. They needed to grow up first, be ready to understand what he was teaching.
- Jesus says no, in fact they are the ones ready to hear what he has to say.
15 “Truly, I say to you, whoever does not receive the kingdom of God like a child shall not enter it.” 16 And he took them in his arms and blessed them, laying his hands on them.
- When I first read this, I asked myself “how do children receive things”?
- the key verb here is receive. Its passive. Not achieve or bring about the kingdom. It is a gift to us
- Jesus puts his hands on them
- But to answer the question, what is it about children that Jesus is drawing our attention to?
- Characteristics of a child, the most obvious is dependence
- A child does not make any meaningful contributions to the household
- Yet Christ says we need to be like them.
- That is how we are to participate in the kingdom. We rely on him. We ask to draw near him. We ask him to accept us in our sin and helplessness. We go to him for everything. Study his every word, like a kid watching his parents.
There is still grace for us. He still wants us where we are. He certainly doesn’t want to leave us there, but he is ready to accept us, faults and all. Spurgeon makes the point that the little child finds no difficulty, in fact needs to do nothing to grow in to a man. Yet the difficulty lies in us growing down to become like a child.
What’s the point?
• What areas in life do I not want to listen to Jesus?
o Things that make us uncomfortable. Do you think the bible is wrong, or not worth listening?
• Am I studying Gods word enough to grasp the nuance?
o Godly living isn’t merely difficult, but can be complicated. We have his words, but are you studying it enough?
o Christians need to study this book, understand what God is saying. Give him the time to talk to us
• Am I acting with one flesh in my marriage?
o Opportunity to examine marriage. Are we doing things as one flesh? Are there areas of your marriage that you’ve resisted fully joining together in?
o What does being one flesh mean to you?
• Do I depend on God like a child, or do I attempt to bring something to the table?
o It seems pretty important to “receive the kingdom…like a child”. How?
Jesus isn’t here to beat people over the head. God’s grace is directly related to what God knows you can handle. He knew that the Israelites were operating in a messy world. Sin, betrayal, broken promises, all played a part in corrupting God’s design for marriage.
Jesus taught so that the pharisees would understand that a man who divorces his wife in order to marry another woman is doing the same thing an adulterer does, but under the cover of the law of Moses.
He wants us to value the relationships he has made for us. That’s what this passage is about, both are God centered relationships that he has for us. The way we can approach him as a child, and the way we are to treat and interact with our spouse.
Statistics obfuscate the truth, they tell you divorce is inevitable. But that already is a lie. It is Satan at work, deceiving us. The truth is that we have the spirit in us. We have a God who saves, who gives grace.
As Christians, we are to commit to marriage in the context of a community of believers. We move forward, knowing we are not going to be perfect in anything let alone marriage, and we strive for God’s vision of marriage instead of living in fear of what the world says is normal or unavoidable.
I don’t have a secret trick to a happy marriage that avoids divorce, but I want to leave us with an encouragement, to adopt God’s outlook on marriage. And an encouragement especially to heed his command to receive the kingdom like a child. Depend on him like a little kid.