Summary: Is divorce ever an option? We will look at that in this sermon titled, "The Permanence of Marriage."
Sometimes we get to look at easy passages. Sometimes we have to look at difficult passages. This is a difficult passage. But when we think about it, most of Jesus’ teachings are difficult. They are difficult because they force us to confront things in our life that we don’t want to. They force us to confront things that we want to push aside or cover up or justify. We want to either soften Jesus’ teaching or we want to ignore it. But Jesus taught the way that He did for a reason. He always confronted people in their most sensitive spot. This is a sensitive spot. If I was to ask for a show of hands—and I’m not. But if I was to ask everyone in here who has been somehow touched by divorce to raise your hand… every single one of us would have our hands in the air. Some in here have been through a divorce. Some have parents who have been divorced. Some have children who have been divorced. But each of us has been touched by divorce in some way or another. Now, we as a church have a couple of ways we can handle that. We can ignore it. We can act like it’s a problem for “those” people. But the fact is, that it isn’t. Recent statistics say that the divorce rate among people who claim to be church members is just as high as for those who aren’t. Either way, the divorce rate is approaching 50%. So, we can try to ignore it—but we really can’t. If you stand in a rainstorm, you can try to ignore the rain. But you’re still going to get wet. So, since we can’t ignore divorce, maybe we can soft sell it. We know we don’t like it, but maybe we can kind of accept it. Since it happens so much, it must be normal. And since it’s normal in our society, maybe we can just tolerate it and accept it as the way things are. Jesus certainly didn’t do that, did He? What did Jesus do? Jesus didn’t soft sell it. As a matter of fact, He seemed to take a harder line than anyone about divorce. But at the same time, He showed mercy and love and grace. Remember the woman at the well in John 4? She had been divorced five times. Is she the one who came and sought Jesus? No—Jesus sought her out. He sought her and showed her compassion and saved her. The fact is that divorce is one of the most traumatic things a person can ever go through. It is more traumatic than being the victim of a crime. It can be more traumatic than being the victim of abuse. It is even more traumatic than losing a spouse to death. The emotional trauma of divorce is worse than if your spouse had died. Why? Because divorce and the things leading up to it were the conscious choice of the people involved. Death very rarely is. Being a crime or abuse victim isn’t. So, as a church, we should have compassion on those who are in that situation. So many times, when a couple is going through a divorce, we are uncomfortable about it. We don’t know what to say or how to act. And we tend to avoid situations that make us uncomfortable. So—whether we mean to or not, we end up shunning those people who need us the most. Jesus didn’t shun hurting people. Neither should we. He sought them out and showed compassion. So should we. That doesn’t mean that you need to take sides or get in big long conversations about the situation. All you have to do is be there. All you have to do is shake a hand or hug a neck. All you have to do is love on them and be there for them if THEY want to initiate the conversation. That’s how we need to act toward divorce. We need to act like Jesus does. Have compassion on those who are experiencing it. But at the same time, never soft sell it. Never make it seem like it’s okay. Because it isn’t okay. Jesus makes that clear in this passage. As they always were doing, the Pharisees came to Jesus trying to trip Him up. See, difficulties about divorce aren’t just a new thing. So, they were asking Jesus about loopholes and technicalities. “When is it okay to get a divorce?” “Jesus, tell me where the line is.” “I want to know exactly how far I can go before I get in trouble.” What they were really wanting to do was the same thing we like to do. They were wanting to justify their own sin. Give me the specifics so I can come up with a loophole. The fact is, they had already come up with a whole series of loopholes. If there ever was a culture where it was easier to get a divorce than ours, it was theirs. Under Jewish law, if a woman displeased her husband in any way whatsoever, he was justified in divorcing her. They had whole statutes to justify divorce in the case of a woman burning her husband’s dinner. So they came to Jesus and asked Him, “Is it lawful for a man to divorce his wife for any reason he wants to?” See, that was one of the hot topics that the scholars of the day were debating. Some agreed with the statutes that said you could get a divorce for anything. Others were the strict ones. They said that you could only get a divorce for things like adultery or the specific things that were listed in the original Mosaic Law. So they were trying to drag Jesus into their theological debate. And Jesus shocked all of them. He told them that they were all wrong. Their question to Jesus was, “When is divorce an option?” If I was to ask you that question, what would you say? When is it okay for marriage to end in divorce? Adultery? Abandonment? Irreconcilable differences? Do you know what Jesus’ answer was? Never. Jesus said that divorce is never an option. I told you that this teaching is hard. We can talk all day long about the temporal consequences of divorce. We can talk about how it’s hard on the kids and destructive to society. But the real reason that divorce is not an option is because of the bigger consequences. In verses 5-6, Jesus immediately takes us back to when God created marriage in the first place.