Summary: A message to bring hope to those who are in difficult marriages and those who have been touched by the pain of divorce.
DDealing with Divorce
June 28, 2009
Some Pharisees came and tried to trap him with this question: “Should a man be allowed to divorce his wife?”3 Jesus answered them with a question: “What did Moses say in the law about divorce?”4 “Well, he permitted it,” they replied. “He said a man can give his wife a written notice of divorce and send her away.” 5 But Jesus responded, “He wrote this commandment only as a concession to your hard hearts.6 But ‘God made them male and female’ from the beginning of creation.7 ‘This explains why a man leaves his father and mother and is joined to his wife, 8 and the two are united into one.’ Since they are no longer two but one,9 let no one split apart what God has joined together.”10 Later, when he was alone with his disciples in the house, they brought up the subject again.11 He told them, “Whoever divorces his wife and marries someone else commits adultery against her.12 And if a woman divorces her husband and marries someone else, she commits adultery.” Mark 10:2-12 (NLT)
Much prayer has gone into the preparation of this sermon. More than most. Because the subject of divorce is a painful reality that has probably touched every person in this room in one way or another. It is a sensitive and painful issue, which calls for a careful balance between truth-telling and compassion. As lawyers often urge their juries, I hope you will listen to all of the evidence before you reach a conclusion.
“Reach down from Heaven and rescue me; deliver me from deep waters.” Psalm 144:11
Will you pray with me now?
"Lord, as we come to your Word, we pray that you will open our hearts and our minds, that we may understand your will, and live in your love. For we pray in the name of Jesus our redeemer. Amen."
A group of Pharisees came to Jesus, Mark says, to trap him, and asked what sounded like a simple question: "Is if lawful for a man to divorce his wife, for any and every reason?"
And just by asking, they placed Jesus in a very difficult spot. (I can relate).
On the one hand, there was Herod the Tetrarch. This was a different Herod from the one who tried to kill Jesus at his birth. What we need to know about this Herod is that he had married his sister-in-law, Herodias.
Now, marriage to your brother’s wife, while your brother was still living, was explicitly forbidden by Mosaic law.
You might remember that John the Baptist, never one for subtlety, went to Herod and told him this. And, as you know, John was beheaded for his trouble. Herod did not want to know what God thought of his adultery.
So, if Jesus denounced divorce, he risked the wrath of Herod.
On the other hand, if Jesus said that divorce was ok, he would seem to take away his credibility as a moral teacher.
Tough subject. Still tough today.
Even within the church, the discussion has been going on for centuries.
The law of God in Deuteronomy 24:1 describes divorce this way: "If a man marries a woman who becomes displeasing to him because he finds something indecent about her, (he may) write her a certificate of divorce, give it to her and send her from his house..."
What was this all about?
Well, before Moses, women who were divorced had no rights whatsoever. A certificate of divorce gave her at least some standing in the law, and (THIS IS IMPORTANT) the right to remarry.
By Jesus time, the debate was NOT about whether women should have the same right. The debate was about the meaning of the words "displease" and "indecent." There were two schools of thought.
The school of Shammai was very strict, and held that "something indecent" meant adultery and nothing less. The school of Hillel emphasized the clause "becomes displeasing to him," and said that a man could divorce his wife if there were anything he disliked about her – anything at all.
Needless to say, human nature and male pride made most people stick with the school of Hillel.
By Jesus’ time, divorce had become common, and women again had no rights in divorce. It wasn’t no fault, it was "women’s fault." The only grounds upon which a woman was permitted to divorce her husband were if he were a leper, a tanner, or a criminal.
It was a great situation for men. But Jesus was not satisfied with such a simple solution.
Instead of talking about grounds for divorce, Jesus decided to talk about the meaning of marriage.
Matthew 19:4 6 (NIV) ""Haven’t you read," he replied, "that at the beginning the Creator ’made them male and female,’ and said, ’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.""