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Pastor Scott L. Harris
Grace Bible Church, NY
February 25, 2018
Turn to Mark 10:1 and put a marker there, then turn to Matthew 19:1 and put a marker there. We will be examining both of these parallel passages this morning in our study of the life of Christ. We have been studying Luke and John for some time, but our chronology now takes us briefly to Matthew and Mark before all three synoptic gospels synchronize again when children are brought to Jesus (Matthew 19:13-15; Mark 10:13-16; Luke 18:15-17).
Matthew is thematic emphasizing that Jesus is the promised Messiah, the king, and so does not follow a strict chronology or record all the various periods of Jesus’ ministry. Neither he nor Mark, whose account is short, record what is referred to as Jesus’ later Judean ministry recorded in Luke 10-17 and John 7-11. Both Matthew and Mark pick up the chronology again when Jesus comes south from Galilee and goes into the region of Perea which is on the east side of the Jordan river. In our last studies in Luke 17-18, Jesus was leaving the border area of Galilee and Samaria and heading to Perea.
Matthew 19:1-2 records, 1“When Jesus had finished these words, He departed from Galilee and came into the region of Judea beyond the Jordan;2and large crowds followed Him, and He healed them there.” Mark 10:1 records, “Getting up, He went from there to the region of Judea and beyond the Jordan; crowds gathered around Him again, and, according to His custom, He once more began to teach them.”
So the setting of our texts this morning is that Jesus has come south from Galilee and entered into the area of Perea where He is once again doing what He has done throughout His ministry. He is healing people and teaching the crowds that have gathered.
Matthew 19:3 explains what happens while Jesus is teaching. 3And some Pharisees came to him, testing Him, and saying, “Is it lawful for a man to divorce his wife for any cause at all?” Mark 10:2 states essentially the same thing. Both state that the purpose of this question is to test Jesus. The particular word here (peiravzw / peirazo) refers to the effort to try and cause someone to make a mistake and catch them in it. The question is a set up by which they hope to bring Jesus into disfavor with the people. The antagonism between Jesus and the Pharisees has existed for a long time and has been escalating. Jesus’ rebukes of them have been for their own benefit in warning them, but their self righteousness, blatantly exposed in Jesus’ parable about the Pharisee and the publican (Luke 18:9-14), led them to be incensed.
Mark 10:3-4 continues on to reveal the origin of their question and why they thought this would be a trap. As was typical for Jesus, He answered their question with a question. 3“And He answered and said to them, “What did Moses command you?” 4 They said, “Moses permitted a man to write a certificate of divorce and send her away.”
The answer of the Pharisees is taken from Deuteronomy 24:1-4 in which Moses details the general reasons and process for divorce and restrictions on remarriage. The Pharisees already knew that Jesus would take a very conservative view of this question from what He had said in the Sermon on the Mount. Their hope was that if they could get Jesus to publicly declare His view on this volatile issue, then He would be discredited, at least to some degree, with those that held to one of the other views.
There were three main views of divorce at the time. The most popular view was that of the Pharisees that basically allowed them to divorce their wives for “any cause at all.” This was the teaching of Rabbi Hillel who had died only twenty years or so earlier. Typical of the Pharisaical Rabbis, he had twisted the Mosaic Law into something self serving. Under the teaching of these Rabbis, wives were treated more like merchandise than the “helpmeets” God intended them to be. The twisting of the Mosaic Law opened the door for them to satisfy their lust for other women by making divorce easy and quick. Hillel taught that a man could divorce his wife for nearly any reason, some of them most trivial. Things like being infertile or speaking an unkind word about her mother-in-law were sufficient grounds. Other reasons included taking her hair down in public, talking to other men, or even burning the meal or salting it too much. Under those following the lead of Hillel, not only was divorce available, some even taught that it was required. One Rabbi wrote, “If a man has a bad wife, it is a religious duty to divorce her.” If Jesus allowed for this view, He would not only alienate the more conservative Jews in the crowd, but He would also be justly accused of being inconsistent since He has already said in Matthew 5:32, “but I say to you that everyone who divorces his wife, except for the reason of unchasity, makes her commit adultery; and whoever marries a divorced woman commits adultery.”
The view of Rabbi Shammai was the opposite of Hillel. He did not allow for divorce for any reason under any circumstance. This view was of course very unpopular. The Pharisees hoped that Jesus might espouse this view and then been seen by the people as narrow minded and intolerant. That might cause Him to lose some of His popularity and pave the way for them to later destroy Him which they have been plotting to do ever since Jesus rebuked them back in Matthew 12. In addition, if Jesus sided with Shammai, then they could accuse Him of being inconsistent since Jesus would eat with tax collectors and sinners and the followers of Shammai would never allow for that.
The third view allowed divorce but restricted it to only a few very specific reasons spelled out in the Law of Moses. Divorce was possible, but only under special circumstances. This view was rejected by the followers of Shammai as being too lenient and by the followers of Hillel as being too restrictive. If Jesus held to this view, then He would lose some favor with those holding either of the other views.
The Pharisee’s question to Jesus is one that interests many people today who want to be both religious and get what they want too. Their interest is in finding the loop-holes in the laws in order to avoid compliance instead of trying to understand the intent of the law in order to pursue compliance. It is a pursuit of selfish and sinful desires while trying to find a way to put a facade of acceptability over it. In this case, the Scriptures are studied to learn the parameters of being able to get a divorce for themselves or be able to grant approval to a friend who wants one. That is the way of man.
Jesus’ response disappointed them and shocked His disciples. It still disappoints people today which is why what He says here is usually either ignored or reinterpreted to match what the person wants it to say. Despite having what Jesus has taught on this subject, the most popular view stills parallels that of Hillel in allowing divorce for any reason. It is now referred to as “no fault” divorce and some form of it is the law in every state in the Union. There are also those who hold to views that parallel that of Shammai in which divorce is not allowed for any reason under any circumstance. And there are those that understand that divorce is allowed for only very specific reasons.
Jesus’ response to the Pharisees ignores their question and their statement about what they believed Moses commanded. Instead, Jesus goes directly to the heart of the issue and declared God actions and statements concerning marriage from the beginning. Jesus goes back to Genesis. “And He answered and said, “Have you not read, that He who created them from the beginning made them male and female, and said, ‘For this cause a man shall leave his father and mother, and shall cleave to his wife; and the two shall become one flesh’? Consequently they are no longer two, but one flesh. What therefore God has joined together, let no man separate.”
For those that seem to think that Genesis is optional or that it should be interpreted to match secular thinking, this passage again shows that Jesus taught that a proper understanding of Genesis is essential and that it cannot be reinterpreted to match man’s opinion. Man’s opinion must change to match what God has said.
Jesus first points to Genesis 1:27 which states, “God created man in His own image, in the image of God He created him; male and female He created them.” This is repeated in Genesis 5:2, “He created them male and female, and He blessed them and named them Man in the day when they were created.” It is bad enough that so much of our society has bought into the evil and lies concerning gender, but it is worse that so many professing Christians also advocate those lies. Jesus makes it very simple here. There are two and only two genders: male and female. There is not a multiplicity of genders and genders do not transmute from one to the other. Eunuchs are emasculated males. Even from a purely biological perspective, it is all in the genes. If you have the “Y” chromosome, you are a male. It really is that simple. A person may have gender dysphoria, but such confusion is not helped by pretending the identity is something other than the reality. Surgeries to try to make the physical body match the confusion only adds to the tragedy and suffering. Yet, lawmakers in several states have made it illegal for a counselor to say what I just did. They claim gender is fluid, yet apparently only in the direction opposite of genetic reality. They also advocate that the bodies of confused children be mutilated to match their confusion. That is nothing less that legalized child abuse. If you do not like these statements, your problem is not with me or even with Jesus. Your problem is with the God that created you and living in reality.
Why did God make them male and female? Jesus next quotes from Genesis 2:24, “For this reason a man shall leave his father and his mother, and be joined to his wife; and they shall become one flesh.” Many professing Christians and even church denominations are confused about marriage, but Jesus is not. It is the union of one man and one woman. That is God’s original plan for marriage and it has not changed. The two are joined together to become one. Again, if you do not like these statements, your problem is not with me or even with Jesus. Your problem is with the God that both created you and established the parameters for marriage. He will be your judge. Hating the messenger for faithfully declaring the message of his superior is both foolish and evil. The truth is the truth whether you like it or not.
The word translated as join here is suzeuvgnumi / suzeugnymi which translates the Hebrew qb1D5 / dabaq. The words describe the strong bond that is to be between the man and woman in marriage. Perhaps this is illustrated well by two pieces of wood being properly glued together so that they will not break where they are joined. They will fracture and shatter instead. So it is in marriage that the husband and wife are joined in such a way that they cannot be separated without severe damage to both. Notice as well that Jesus says that it is God that joined the two together. Marriage has a divine component and so is right and honorable for it is in keeping with God’s original commandments to mankind. Jesus also states that means no man should separate what God has joined together. That is the nature of marriage, and when man follows God’s design for it, they will be blessed. When man does not follow God’s design, then there will be negative consequences.
We have seen the consequences of rejection of God’s design in our own nation for several generations and it is only getting worse. It is not just the high rate of divorce, it also includes the large segment of the population that does not even bother to get married so that they do not have to deal with the legal ramifications when they break up, but the moral, emotional, and societal damage is still just as real. There is also now the perversion of redefining marriage to include legalization of relationships God declares to be abominations.
These ungodly views of marriage are a primary factor that is tearing apart the fabric that holds together our society – any society. Rates of divorce, shacking up and sexual perversion are not high because families are decaying, our families are decaying because so many men and women refuse to following God’s design for marriage and the family. Family destruction is a consequence of following selfishness and sinful desires. There are many political aspects to this, but even so, the major problems facing the family are moral, not political. Why? Because regardless of what the government allows or even promotes, no one must go against the stated will of God and do that which is evil in His sight.
Divorce, foregoing marriage and sexual perversion are all symptoms of the problem and not the problem itself. Rebellion against God is the actual problem. That is seen in the Pharisees’ question and response. Their minds were already perverted in looking for excuses and opportunity to go against God’s stated design for marriage. It is still the central problem today.
I don’t have to cite any statistics on this because we all know family members or friends who have suffered from such ruined relationships. We have all seen the devastation and many of you present have suffered it personally. You are aware of the financial, personal, emotional and mental devastation caused by divorce for all concerned, but especially the children.
Over two decades ago, Dr. Armand Nicoli of the Harvard Medical School said, “The trend toward quick and easy divorce, and the ever-increasing divorce rate, subject more and more children to physically and emotionally absent parents.” He added that if the trend continued, “the quality of family life will continue to deteriorate, producing a society with a higher incidence of mental illness than ever before.” We now live in that society, and we wonder why there has been such an increase of school shootings by mentally ill people.
Some of you can personally relate the description given in Pat Conroy’s book entitled, Death of a Marriage. He said, “Each divorce is the death of a small civilization. Two people declare war on each other, and their screams and tears infect their entire world with the bacilli of their pain. The greatest fury comes from the wound where love once issued forth . . . “When I went through my divorce I saw it as a country, and it was treeless, airless; there were no furloughs and no holidays. I entered without passport, without directions and absolutely alone. Insanity and hopelessness grew in that land like vast orchards of malignant fruit. I do not know the precise day that I arrived in that country. Nor am I certain that you can ever renounce your citizenship there . . . “For a year I walked around feeling as if I had undergone a lobotomy. There were records I could not listen to because of their association with Barbara, poems I could not read from books I could not pick up. There is a restaurant I will never return to because it was the scene of an angry argument between us. It was a year when memory was acid . . . “I began to develop the odd habits of the very lonely. I turned the stereo on as soon as I entered my apartment. I drank to the point of not caring. I cooked elaborate meals for myself, then could not eat them . . .”
Frankly, I am told by children of divorce that it is worse for them. Most children think that somehow they must be the reason for it, and they are often used as weapons by parents that continue to war with each other. They grow up confused about what marriage is supposed to be and what it means to be a husband or wife.
Divorce does not solve problems. It just creates new, often more complex ones. In light of all this it is no wonder that God says in Malachi 2:16, “For I hate divorce.” It destroys the family which God Himself instituted.
To this I must quickly add that having sexual relationships without getting married and relationships based on perverted sexual relationships do not solve the problems either. They only create even more complex and confusing problems, but that should be expected when people disregard God’s design.
Jesus’ reply to the Pharisees goes to the root of their problem. They were not interested in God’s will. They wanted to be able to pursue their own will while proclaiming themselves to be holy. Jesus took them back to the beginning and told them of God’s original plan for marriage. You would think that the Pharisees would be wise enough to back off at that point, but instead they press the issue.
Before I go on to Matthew 19:7, I do want to point out that comparing Mark 10 and Matthew 19 leads to an uncertainty about the exact sequence in what Jesus says. It appears to me that Jesus addressed the Pharisees, and then repeated the teaching to the disciples later when they asked Him again about this subject.
Matthew 19:7, “They said to Him, ‘Why then did Moses command to give her a certificate and divorce her?” These self proclaimed experts on the Law of Moses misapply what Moses commanded. The reference here is to Deuteronomy 24:1-4 which actually states, “When a man takes a wife and marries her, and it happens that she finds no favor in his eyes because he has found some indecency in her, and he writes her a certificate of divorce and puts it in her hand and sends her out from his house, and she leaves his house and goes and becomes another man’s wife, and if the latter husband turns against her and writes her a certificate of divorce and puts it in her hand and sends her out of his house, or if the latter husband dies who took her to be his wife, then her former husband who sent her away is not allowed to take her again to be his wife, since she has been defiled; for that is an abomination before the LORD, and you shall not bring sin on the land which the LORD your God gives you as an inheritance.”
The Pharisees wrongly assume that the issuing of a certificate of divorce is a command to divorce. Notice that not only does Moses not command the divorce to take place, he puts a restriction on remarriage if divorce does take place. They ignored that and concentrated on the nature of the indecency found in her in order to justify their practice of divorce. It is that debate about the indecency that resulted in the differing views on divorce. Jesus will clarify that for us in verse 9, but first Jesus explains the real reason for divorce.
Verse 8, He said to them, “Because of your hardness of heart, Moses permitted you to divorce your wives; but from the beginning it has not been this way.” That is the heart of the issue. Divorce was not commanded. It was permitted, and only then because of the hardness of their hearts. It is still the same today. Divorce occurs because of hearts that are hard toward the things of God, of following His will, of avoiding infidelity, of repentance, and of forgiveness. God through Moses indirectly and reluctancy permitted divorce because of the hardness of the human heart, but it is contrary to His design.
In Matthew 19: 9 Jesus answers their question about divorce in an off-handed manner. “And I say to you, whoever divorces his wife, except for immorality, and marries another woman commits adultery.” Carefully note here that Jesus still does not advocate, justify or sanction divorce. Mark simply states that divorce results in adultery upon remarriage. Matthew states the exception clause of the only case in which if divorce does occur, the innocent party does not commit adultery.
The one exception of compounding additional adultery is if the divorce was due to immorality. The word here is porneiva / porneia which is the general word for sexual sin including adultery, fornication, incest, homosexuality and bestiality. All of which are listed in Leviticus 18 as abominations before the Lord. Jesus is stating that the one exception to divorce resulting in increased adultery by the innocent party is sexual sin. Now there are other views of this passage, but this is my conclusion after extensive study of the subject. I do not find the other options to be either backed-up by Scripture, well reasoned or both. (My paper on this is in the back of the church – (See: The Exception Clause – Matthew 5:32 & 19:9)
I must stress again that Jesus neither advocates divorce nor gives a cause for divorce to occur. Jesus only states the one exception in which divorce would not cause the innocent one to commit adultery. I must be direct that most people approach Scriptures on the topic of divorce the same way as the Pharisees. They are looking for the sufficient cause to divorce. They want to know how they can get out of the marriage and get a different spouse instead of how to make the marriage work. This has become true even within conservative evangelical churches in which divorce is justified for an increasingly greater number of causes. I am sorry, but seeking divorce with excuses such as “emotional abandonment” because the husband does not meet the wife’s “emotional needs” is sin. I am not down playing the emotional turmoil that can be in a marriage, but whatever happened to 1 Peter 3 and the wife being submissive and winning her husband by her chaste and respectful behavior even if he is disobedient to the word? And for that matter, whatever happened to men living with their wives in an understanding way?”
What Jesus teaches here is a serious warning to those seeking a reason to get divorced. The commitment needs to be to God’s original design for marriage. If divorce does occur, be sure it is because your spouse has a hardened heart and not you. Be sure you are truly an innocent party in a divorce lest you become guilty of adultery upon remarriage. Even if your spouse has cheated on you, follow the example of Hosea. Be willing to forgive just as God has forgiven you of your sins. I know several ladies who have done this and are only divorced because the husband chose the other woman and left.
The Pharisees leave having their sinful hearts exposed once again by Jesus and now Jesus is alone with the disciples. Their reaction shows this was difficult for them to even grasp. Mark 10:10-12 records that they question Jesus about divorce again in private and He reiterates what he has taught. The disciples then conclude in Matthew 19:10, Then the disciples said to Him, “If the relationship of the man with his wife is like this, it is better not to marry.”
The disciples had been strongly affected by the common low view of marriage and practice of easy divorce. They, like our own society, viewed divorce as the simple solution to a marriage that did not met expectations. But if marriage really was for life – for better, for worse; for richer, for poorer; in sickness and in health – then maybe it would be better not to marry at all.
Their statement reveals their shallow view of God’s design for marriage and the selfishness of their own hearts. Marriage is not about getting from but about giving to one another. A blunt warning to you singles. If you think divorce is a good solution to a bad marriage, then do not marry in the first place. That kind of mindset will block you from being wholly committed and learning the lessons God can teach you through marriage. You will only end up making someone else’s life miserable.
Jesus responds to the disciples’ statement in verses 11 & 12, But He said to them, “Not all men can accept this statement, but only those to whom it has been given. For there are eunuchs who were born that way from their mother’s womb; and there are eunuchs who were made eunuchs by men; and there are also eunuchs who made themselves eunuchs for the sake of the kingdom of heaven. He who is able to accept this, let him accept it.”
This is a response to the disciples’ proposition that it is better not to marry. Jesus says there are only a few that will find that they are better off single, for singleness has its own set of problems and joys.
Some people will never be married because of some physical malformation that occurred at birth. Some men will not get married because they were castrated by other men – such was a common practice of conquering armies to do to the men they would take back as slaves. This may have happened to Daniel and his friends. Others will willingly live in celibacy because they have found that they have an advantage in serving God from that position. Paul talks about this in his own life in 1 Corinthians 7. Jesus says that if you can accept being single, then accept it for it can be good. However, keep in mind that neither singleness nor marriage is superior spiritually to the other. It is according to how God is working in your life. Also keep in mind that there are relatively few that can accept being single.
Whether it be as a single or as a married person, all of us need to keep in mind that the goal of our lives is to please God, serve Him and keep His commandments. We are not promised easy lives, but we are given rich and rewarding lives as we fulfill God’s will in our lives. And regardless of our marital status, as you work through the circumstances that God allows you to be in, you will find that it is often the difficult things you go through that bring you closer to the Lord and refine you into a more mature individual.
If you are married, stay that way. It is God’s gift to you both for your joy and for your growth. If you are single, never enter into marriage with the idea that divorce is an option. And regardless of your marital status, live for the Lord, not for your own selfish desires.
Jesus is in the region of ____________, healing and teaching people.
The purpose of the Pharisees was to “_____” Jesus – try to catch Him in something to make him unfavorable
The origin of their question is in the interpretation of Deut. 24:1-4 and the ________that allowed for divorce
The Pharisees’ hope was that Jesus’ conservative views would cause _____________among the people
Rabbi Hillel basically allowed divorce for any cause at all – this was the most _____________view
If Jesus affirmed Hillel, He would alienate the conservative Jews & be justly accused of ________________
Rabbi Shammai ____________allow for divorce for any reason under any circumstance – an unpopular view
If Jesus affirmed Shammai, He would ___________most Jews & be accused of wrongly eating with sinners
The third view allowed for divorce only for specific reasons – this view would be seen as a ______________
Like the Pharisees, interest in this question is usually related to being able to __________ sin
Despite having Jesus’ teaching, the most popular view today parallels _______________
Jesus ignored their question and statement and went back to God’s intent and commands at ____________
Jesus taught that a proper understanding of ______is essential & it cannot be reinterpreted to man’s opinion
Genesis 1:27; 5:2 – there are only ___genders: male & female. If you have a “Y” chromosome you are male
Genesis 2:24 – God made them male & female so that they could be joined as one flesh – ____________
Joined (suzeuvgnumi / suzeugnymi & qb1D5 / dabaq) a strong bond, __________together
Rejection of God’s design results in very ____________consequences – emotional, financial, moral, societal
Ungodly views of marriage are a primary factor in the ongoing _______________of our society
Divorce, foregoing marriage and sexual perversion are all symptoms of ____________against God
These are destructive to adults – and worse for ________________
Divorce, sexual immorality, marriage perversion only makes problems more ______________and confusing
The Pharisees were _________really interested in God’s will – most people are still not
The Pharisees wrongly assumed that issuing a certificate of divorce as a _____________to divorce
Verse 8 – divorce occurs because of _____________of heart toward God and His commands
God ______________divorce, but did not command it, and it is contrary to His design.
Matthew 19:9 – Jesus _____________advocate, justify or sanction divorce.
The exception clause is when divorce might occur and not result in _____________by the innocent party
Immorality = porneiva / porneia – the general word for ________________detailed in Leviticus 18
If divorce occurs, be sure it is because of your spouse’s hardness of heart and not your own – be __________
The disciples are _____________and ask Jesus about divorce later and Jesus reiterates His teaching
They conclude that since marriage is for life and divorce is not a godly option, it is _________not to marry
If you approach marriage thinking divorce is an _____________, then it is better if you do not marry
Matthew 10:11-12 – only a few will find _______________to be a better option
People refrain from marriage for various reasons including the _____________of singleness in serving God
Neither singleness nor marriage is spiritually _______________- that depends on the individual
The goal of our lives is to please ______, serve Him and keep His commandments whether single or married
If married, that is God’s gift to you for your joy and _______________
If single, accept it if you can, but do not marry with the idea that ______________is an option.
Parents, you are responsible to apply God’s Word to your children’s lives. Here is some help. Young Children – draw a picture about something you hear during the sermon. Explain your picture(s) to your parents at lunch. Older Children – Do one or more of the following: 1) Count how many times a reference is made to marriage. 2) Discuss with your parents why marriage is good and why divorce is bad.
THINK ABOUT IT!
Questions to consider in discussing the sermon with others. Where is Jesus and what is He doing in this passage? Why were the Pharisees testing Jesus? What is the origin of their question? What were the three main views on divorce at that time in Judaism? What would be the problem for Jesus if He affirmed any of the three? How do the views on divorce today parallel the views on it then? Why does Jesus refer to Genesis 1:24 & 5:2? What does this tell us about Jesus’ understanding Genesis and its importance? How many genders are there? What are they? What determines that biologically? Are genders “fluid” – transmutable? Why did God make humans male and female (Genesis 2:24)? Why does it mean that a man is to leave his father and mother when getting married? Why is that important? What does it mean for the husband and wife to be joined together? Describe this joining in your own words? What is God’s design for marriage? Expand on this question by examining Ephesians 5:21-33 and 1 Peter 3:1-7. What is the ultimate reason a husband & wife should not be split apart? What do divorce, living together without marriage, and marriage perversions all have in common? What negative effects have these evils had on American society? Among people you personally know? Upon children? What does Deuteronomy 24:1-4 actually teach? Why did the Pharisees conclude that it commanded divorce? How do people do the same thing today as they study the Scriptures? What is the “hardness of heart” that Jesus refers to in Matthew 19:8? Why does that result in divorce? Mark 10 simply states that divorce results in adultery. Matthew 19:9 has an exception clause – what is being excepted? Why would immorality be a cause of that exception? To what specifically does “immorality” refer? Does Jesus in anyway advocate, justify or sanction divorce? Why or why not? How should a godly spouse treat an ungodly spouse? Why? What are your thoughts about the statement: “If divorce occurs, it should only because your spouse has a hardened heart and not you.” What should a godly spouse do if it is dangerous to be in the presence of their partner? Why did this teaching shock Jesus’ disciples? Why would they think it would be better not to marry? What does Jesus teach about singleness? What advantages are there in singleness that it should be accepted if able? Why is it rare that people are able to accept singleness? What is the purpose of your life? How I that purpose being fulfilled if you are single? How is that purpose being fulfilled if you are married?
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