Summary: Some Pharisees came and tested him by asking, “Is it lawful for a man to divorce his wife?”
Have you heard the dreaded stat that 50% of marriages today end in divorce? Yeah, that isn’t actually true. It was a myth. It came from a projection that if the divorce rate continued to raise by 2% each year, that it could reach that level. But it never actually did.
It’s probably closer to 30 to 35%, maybe lower. It’s a hard thing to measure. In fact divorce has been on the decline, thanks to younger generations which are either staying married or not getting married at all. In fact, in 2019, the divorce rate reached the lowest it had been in 50 years, with only 7.6 per 1000 marriages in 2019 ending in divorce.
I had also often heard from well meaning pastors that the divorce rate of 50% of the world was the same within the walls of the church. That was according to a now debunked 2001 Barna study. The study didn’t take into account church attendance or spiritual activities, just what people said they believed. But if you factor in church attendance and other factors that should someone who is really an active Christian, the rate drops massively. From what I can tell only about 12-16%.
So all of that to say, it isn’t all bad news, it’s not great, but it’s not all bad news. Too many times we’re told it’s hopeless, might as well give up, but don’t always believe the press and what you hear, it may not actually be backed up by the data.
So today we’re talking about marriage and divorce, and what messiah Jesus had to say about these important topics. We’ll also see gender, and sexuality included in this discussion today. And along with that, children, as marriage, divorce, gender and sexuality is of course linked with children, the birth of children, and the raising of children. It all fits together.
In Mark chapter 10 today, we see in verses 1-2:
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.
2 Some Pharisees came and tested him by asking, “Is it lawful for a man to divorce his wife?”
The first thing to notice is that the Pharisees question is not genuine. They aren’t coming to Jesus because they just long to know what he thinks about the issue. This is a tactic to try to trip up Jesus, so they can find a reason to accuse him of teaching falsely.
The Lord Jesus wisely responds to this question with another question. Keep that in mind when dealing with someone questioning you. Sometimes the best answer is to ask a question back to them.
Here is what Jesus says:
3 “What did Moses command you?” he replied.
4 They said, “Moses permitted a man to write a certificate of divorce and send her away.”
The Pharisees are most likely thinking of the book of Deuteronomy.
Jesus responds and says, “5 “It was because your hearts were hard that Moses wrote you this law,” Jesus replied.
Jesus indicates that this Old Testament command was given by Moses because of the hard heartedness of the people of Israel over their past history. He gave them option of divorce as a concession to their weaknesses.
This is what it originally said in Deuteronomy:
“If a man marries a woman who becomes displeasing to him because he finds something indecent about her, and he writes her a certificate of divorce, gives it to her and sends her from his house...” -Deuteronomy 24:1
But Jesus has a new command for them. A new challenge. A new way. That divorce is not simply a note to be written, and but marriage is something greater.
And here we see Jesus defining numerous terms for us, and he makes so many things very clear to us, that many have become confused about in our society. God’s restrictions are holy and good and true. Jesus quotes all the way back to the Old Testament, the first book, Genesis, for his definition of gender, marriage, and family union.
6 “But at the beginning of creation God ‘made them male and female.’[a] 7 ‘For this reason a man will leave his father and mother and be united to his wife,[b] 8 and the two will become one flesh.’[c] So they are no longer two, but one flesh. 9 Therefore what God has joined together, let no one separate.”
Definitions of Gender and Marriage
Jesus Christ defines gender: male and female only
Jesus Christ defines marriage: between man and woman only
Jesus Christ defines the marriage union: two become one only
Jesus Christ defines divorce, they must never separate (with exceptions for special circumstances)
Now, when Jesus gathers with his disciples privately, he goes into a bit more detail. He would always do this, give a general command or parable to the public, then go alone with his disciples to explain in greater detail what he meant.