Marriage Under Fire: Four Points From Mark 10:1-9

2 Oct

“And Pharisees came up and in order to test him asked, ‘Is it lawful for a man to divorce his wife?’  He answered them, ‘What did Moses command you?’  They said, ‘Moses allowed a man to write a certificate of divorce and to send her away.’  And Jesus said to them, ‘Because of your hardness of heart he wrote you this commandment.  But from the beginning of creation, ‘God made them male and female.’ ‘Therefore a man shall leave his father and mother and hold fast to his wife, and the two shall become one flesh.’  So they are no longer two but one flesh.  What therefore God has joined together, let not man separate.'”

There is so much more here to think about than four points.  However, I want to highlight four things that stand out about this picture and pertain to how we understand Scripture, our culture and the Gospel:

1. The Pharisees are prooftexters
Notice how the Pharisees came to test Jesus.  When Jesus responds to their question with one of his own, the answer by quoting the law in Deuteronomy 24:1-4.  Yet, the way in which they quote this Scripture is completely out of context.  Deuteronomy 24 is discussing how it is an abomination for a man who has divorced his wife to remarry her after she has been defiled by others (to whom she has been married).  Therefore, this is not a passage of the law legitimizing, or better yet, supporting divorce, but rather instruction on holiness and abstaining from defilement.

What the Pharisees wanted was support for what they already practiced.  Divorce was seen as acceptable, perhaps commonplace, and a popular item of discussion. [I say that because of all the things that the Pharisees could have asked to question Jesus, they chose marriage.  And if we look throughout the Gospel accounts, we see the religious leaders trying to cause Jesus to slip up and fall out of favor with the people. I see this situation as no different]  They had found their text of the Bible and were staking their claim for the legitimacy of divorce on that verse, even if it was out of context.

2. Jesus Points Back To Creation To Nullify Their Prooftexting
Yet, Jesus can see right through their question and their answer.  He knows what they are doing and He knows the fallacy in their answer.  We see it in His response which not only calls out their hardness of heart, which was the reason the Law was given to them, but also points them back to God’s intention for marriage in creation.  Jesus supersedes their fallen justification for divorce with a divine justification against divorce in defense of marriage.  “The two [man and woman] shall become one flesh. And they are no longer two but one flesh. What therefore God has joined together, let not man separate.”

3. Jesus Upholds the Covenant of Marriage
Not only were the Pharisees testing Jesus, they were looking for support.  They wanted Jesus to recite laws that permitted divorce, to take their side in the discussion.  But Jesus fails to fulfill their hopes, and vigorously defends marriage.  He knew that marriage was a “covenant” binding two people together.  Instead of following them down the path of agreement and compromise, Jesus shows from God’s Word the unchanging intention and desire for marriage that began in the Garden with Adam and Eve. I think we would do well to learn from Jesus’ example in our day and age.

4. God’s Sovereign Work in Marriage
Notice the last line of Jesus’ response and its significance to what Jesus is saying.  “What therefore God has joined together, let not man separate.”  Do you see how powerful this is?  Jesus is pointing to the fact that marriage is God’s work.  He joins together and, therefore, since He is the one who joins the two together, no man should seek to separate or undo that work.

And ultimately that points us to the Gospel and God’s work in our salvation.  He is sovereignly working to save people through His Son by the power of the Holy Spirit.  And as wretched sinners are drawn to God’s grace, God makes a similar statement as He does with regard to marriage: “For I am sure that neither death nor life, nor angels nor rulers, nor things present nor things to come, nor powers, nor height nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God in Christ Jesus our Lord. (Rom. 8:38-39)”  God is also at work in our union with Christ, the bridegroom, and nothing can undue His saving work. While people, in certain ways, may be capable of undoing a marriage between a man and a woman, no one can undue the uniting of a person to Christ.  What a great hope we have in this truth!

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