The Pharisees ask Jesus for Marital Advice

Some Pharisees came to him to test him. They asked, “Is it lawful for a man to divorce his wife for any and every reason?”

“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 flesh. Therefore what God has joined together, let no one separate.”

“Why then,” they asked, “did Moses command that a man give his wife a certificate of divorce and send her away?”

Jesus replied, “Moses permitted you to divorce your wives because your hearts were hard. But it was not this way from the beginning. I tell you that anyone who divorces his wife, except for sexual immorality, and marries another woman commits adultery.”

Matthew 19:3-9

Jesus has entered into Judea, and the Pharisees come out to “test” Him… and away we go. Their test concerns the issue of marriage and divorce. They begin with an interesting question, one that can possibly be taken more than one way. Jesus in His reply takes it in a way they hadn’t expected, for instead of quoting the Law of Moses, He goes to Genesis instead quoting Genesis 1:27 in verse 4, and to Genesis 2:24 in verse 5; it would seem that Jesus placed a higher priority on the way marriage was originally intended to be than He did on the compromise God made with the fallen state of the people in Deuteronomy 24.

The Pharisees are all about keeping the Law, and as ironic as it may sound, this was their downfall in the end, so they ask Jesus about this in verse 7. (For them, Moses = Law).

Jesus replies in 19:8-9, with an explanation similar to His teaching on the subject in chapter 5, and for more on that, see my comments in that section. Rather than rehashing that here, I hope you will concentrate on Jesus and His orientation on the whole issue: He goes right back the point in time where God ordained marriage, and not on what came later; even the Law of Moses. While the scholars argue about the details and modern day politics, we can gain an amazing insight into Jesus’ mission and ultimate purpose in these verses, for in going back to the beginning, mentioning only in answer to their specific question any “exceptions” or concessions God may have granted, Jesus tells us about His mission: can you see it?

Jesus didn’t come with the idea of maintaining the status quo of their day, not even of the Law itself, for in His fulfillment of the Law, and establishment of an entirely New Covenant between God and His people, Jesus was taking the view that the Kingdom of heaven was not only near at hand, but already a reality, with no concession to the sin that He would take away for good. Thus, the message in this passage is not about what loopholes there might be in marriage, but on how we are to live in the Kingdom. There might be a loophole or escape clause, there might be problems in the present evil age, but in its ultimate fulfillment, we will be taken all the way back to way things were before sin had entered into the picture, for sin will be entirely done away with, along with all evil, and even death itself.

For us to say that His was an apocalyptic view would be an understatement for certain; certainly it is a view filled with hope and good news in that the day will come when all of these problems are gone. Yet, here we are, still living in a sinful and wicked world; filled with heartache and pain, what do we do in the here and now? Do we take the Pharisees’ viewpoint and debate the loopholes, or do we take the view of Christ and do our best to live according to the way God intended for us from the beginning?

Clearly that is a choice each of us should carefully consider. For the disciples, it was also a complex and bewildering prospect, and they had questions for Jesus about this. We’ll see the questions and answers when we get back together next time!

Advertisements

About Don Merritt

A long time teacher and writer, Don hopes to share his varied life's experiences in a different way with a Christian perspective.
This entry was posted in Bible and tagged , , , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

9 Responses to The Pharisees ask Jesus for Marital Advice

  1. shellysom91 says:

    Very interesting article and one a lot of people won’t want to touch with a ten foot pole. lol.
    One thing that I thought about when reading this that I haven’t thought about before, is another way Jesus could have been also commenting on our relationship with him. Jesus married and the church and we are kind of married to it when we give Jesus our lives. From the beginning of creation, we were supposed to be with Him, like a man and woman were supposed to be together in marriage; but because we decided to turn away/harden our hearts to Him, God compromised and let us go.
    Not sure if this makes sense, but just an observation.
    Again, great article. =)

  2. Roo's Ruse says:

    Then if I understand correctly, when we concentrate on relationship with God, we learn to love ourselves and in doing so we learn to see others as He sees us all. Personally, I trip up over my shortsightedness and people’s wrongness – I lose focus in a heartbeat. But the longer I see myself as God sees me, the more He reveals what He sees – our brokenness – vision becomes clearer and love abounds. What a great post!

  3. paulfg says:

    Don, I love the way you differentiate between the different conversations. Too often I forget the different “teachings” to the disciples, the Pharisees, the “crowds”, etc (working backwards again). And here you have shown me something totally new. Thank you!!

  4. lroitsch says:

    Thus, the message in this passage is not about what loopholes there might be in marriage, but on how we are to live in the Kingdom. – LOVE this! I am reading Gary Thomas’ book “Sacred Marriage”. Does God want us to be happy in marriage or holy? Good thoughts. Love your blog!

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s