Summary: When we fail to keep his perfect standards perfectly, our failures remind us that Jesus, the cross and the empty tomb is our only hope.
The Gospel passage from Mark 10:2-16 appears at first glance to be two unrelated stories, but there is a connection between the two of them. Both stories tell us how Jesus cares for the outcasts and the less fortunate in society and how he expects us to treat them.
In Old Testament times, children and women were on the lower levels of society. Women were seen as nothing more than property, and children were considered to be useless until they were old enough to help out around the property. Women could become the victims of divorce for reasons as minor as burning the meal, not keeping the house clean or for getting older. As a result, if they did not have another male relative to support them, they usually ended up in prostitution.
God intends for marriage to last forever, but he also knows our faults. He gave us a high standard to aim for, but he always keeps our weaknesses in mind when he deals with us. That does not give us an excuse to sin. He always calls us to obey him and refuse to compromise what he knows is right. When we honour him with our conduct, he blesses us with an abundant sense of peace, joy and goodness.
God knows that in some cases divorce is inevitable, especially in cases of physical, mental or emotional abuse. That is why Moses allowed divorce, but he made it as difficult as possible. The divorce document had to be written, and because most people could not read or write, the process took time. It was hoped that during this time both parties would work out their differences and save their marriage.
Divorce is painful. It hurts people other than the parties directly involved. Siblings and parents suffer. Friends sometimes have to choose sides. I’m speaking from personal knowledge, because my own brother is divorced from his wife. The people who hurt the most though are the children. They are often caught in the middle of the proceedings and disagreements. It’s bad enough that some people think that children should be seen and not heard. Children are vulnerable enough as it is, and they are often the most vulnerable in a divorce.
Mark’s Gospel is the gospel of mercy, so it is appropriate that Mark follows Jesus’ teaching about marriage and divorce with Jesus’ calling of the little children. Broken marriages and little children represent the sad state of the human race and condition. When Jesus embraced the children, he embraced the human race and replaced its pain with the love he has in his heart.
All of us are hurting in one way or another. The only way we can get over our hurt and our pain is to come to Jesus like a little child-naïve, trusting, full of wonder and curiosity. We need to come to him with a simple faith. If this seems simple, it is because it is simple. All we have to do is remember the words of the 1970s hit song “Everything is Beautiful”:
Jesus loves the little children
All little children of the world
Red and yellow, black and white
They are precious in his sight
Jesus loves the little children of the world
To know the abundant life Jesus offers, we must let go of our control. We must stop protecting ourselves, because Christ is our defense. We must stop taking responsibility for ourselves, because God is our provider. The path to childlike innocence and trust is tricky, but it begins when we take the step of letting down our guard and allowing God to provide for us just like parents provide for their children.
Jesus came to heal the wounds cause by Adam and Eve and the original sin in the Garden of Eden. He came to heal relationships and broken marriages, our relationship with each other and our relationship with the less fortunate. Rather than establishing hopelessly high standards, Jesus is calling us to a high vision. He wants us to conduct ourselves in keeping with God’s will so that we might be a blessing to our families, our neighbours, and ourselves. When we fail to keep his perfect standards perfectly, our failures remind us that Jesus, the cross and the empty tomb is our only hope.