Mark 10:1-9 (NIV): Jesus then left that place and went into the region of Judea and across the Jordan. Again crowds of people came to him, and as was his custom, he taught them.
Some Pharisees came and tested him by asking, “Is it lawful for a man to divorce his wife?”
“What did Moses command you?” he replied.
They said, “Moses permitted a man to write a certificate of divorce and send her away.”
“It was because your hearts were hard that Moses wrote you this law,” Jesus replied. “But at the beginning of creation God ‘made them male and female.’ ‘For this reason a man will leave his father and mother and be united to his wife, and the two will become one flesh.’ So they are no longer two, but one. Therefore what God has joined together, let man not separate.”
The Pharisees came to Jesus with a hot-button issue to “test Him;” to see where He landed on the theological spectrum. Was he on the side of the more liberal interpreters of the law, who declared on the basis of Deuteronomy 24:1 that if a man finds ANYTHING displeasing in his wife (for example, if she burns his food, or if she is not as attractive as she once was), then he is permitted to divorce her? Or was He on the side of the more conservative interpreters who (on the basis of the same Scripture) declared that only adultery was adequate grounds for divorce?
Like any good theology teacher, Jesus turned their attention to the Scriptures: “What did Moses command you?” Theology is much too important, with consequences that are far too significant, to be left to opinion. And these Pharisees, who knew the Scriptures forward and back, were ready with their answer: “Moses permitted a man to write a certificate of divorce and send her away.” (Deuteronomy 24:1 again.)
The problem was, they were looking at the wrong Scripture, because they were thinking about the wrong topic. They were researching Scriptures on divorce. But Jesus wanted to help them to approach the issue from the other end: What did Moses say about the nature of marriage? Jesus acknowledged that Deuteronomy 24:1-4 talked about the rules for divorce, but divorce rules were put into place only because the hard hearts of the Israelites made adultery and divorce a possibility. It was a concession, not a command.
Jesus pointed clear back to the origin of marriage to give the true answer to the question. In the beginning, God created humanity male and female (Genesis 1:27), creating the woman from the bone and flesh of the man (Genesis 2:21-24). In marriage, the man and the woman become one flesh again. That is what marriage is all about: two people becoming one flesh for a lifetime. Divorce is then tearing this one-flesh creation in two, rather like tearing a person in half. It causes untold pain and damage to both halves. Therefore Jesus’ answer to the question is based on the Scripture about marriage, not the Scripture allowing divorce as a concession. His decision (which is ultimately God’s decision): “Therefore what God has joined together, let man not separate.”
Father, this is not a very popular viewpoint these days – nether part of it, in fact. The idea that marriage is something that YOU designed in the beginning (and the fact that Jesus had anything at all to say about the nature of marriage) has come under heavy attack. And the further idea that divorce shouldn’t be allowed any time people decide that they don’t want to be married any more (“no fault” divorce) is also unpopular. But Your truth has never been subject to popular opinion or majority vote. When we are looking for how You want us to live our lives, our opinions are of no value at all. Only Your word gives us the truth, and the true values to live by. Help us, Lord, to continue to search Your word, not just for our “theology,” but for direction and truth in every area of our lives. Amen.