Teaching about Divorce
(Matthew 19.1-12; Luke 16.18)
1After Jesus left, he went to Judea and then on to the other side of the Jordan River. Once again large crowds came to him, and as usual, he taught them.
2Some Pharisees wanted to test Jesus. So they came up to him and asked if it was right for a man to divorce his wife. 3Jesus asked them, “What does the Law of Moses say about this?”
4 They answered, “Moses allows a man to write out divorce papers and send his wife away.”
5Jesus replied, “Moses gave you this law because you are so heartless. 6 But in the beginning God made a man and a woman. 7 That's why a man leaves his father and mother and gets married. 8He becomes like one person with his wife. Then they are no longer two people, but one. 9And no one should separate a couple that God has joined together.”
10When Jesus and his disciples were back in the house, they asked him about what he had said. 11 He told them, “A man who divorces his wife and marries someone else is unfaithful to his wife. 12A woman who divorces her husband and marries again is also unfaithful.”
On his way to Judea, Jesus crossed the Jordan seizing opportunities to heal and teach about the kingdom of God as he traveled. Large crowds followed him. Likely, people were heading for Jerusalem to observe the Passover.
Threatened by his popularity, some of the Pharisees wanted to test Jesus in hopes that they could trip him up and discredit him. They wanted to stir up trouble for Jesus. The first question the Pharisees asked of him was about divorce. They wanted to know if it was right for a man to divorce his wife.
Jesus countered with a question. “What does the Law of Moses say about that?”
They smugly replied that Moses allowed divorce papers to be signed and a wife to be sent away at will. Jesus emphasized that that was not the original intent of God. He told the Pharisees in no uncertain terms that Moses created this law allowing for a husband to dismiss his wife through a divorce document. He explained that the law was necessary because of the hard-heartedness of men. This provision protected women from cruel husbands who were bound to them by law in a marriage.
Jesus continued to uphold the authority of the scriptures and explained that in the institution of marriage a man and woman left their families and were united under God. Through this union, sanctified and blessed by God, they become as one flesh, and ultimately, one in spirit.
Later Jesus reiterated this to his disciples and impressed upon them the importance of commitment to one another. Jesus understood the hard heartedness of humankind but he did not think it a reason to encourage divorce.
Dear Father,You know all things. Nothing I say will surprise you. Lord, help me understand the importance of commitment and how your plan for family is divine and a worthwhile reason for me to stay strong when I feel challenged. May you receive all the glory. In Jesus’ name, Amen.