Today’s Reading: Mark 10
Today’s reading is a tough one. Jesus gets a test . . . a test about marriage and divorce.
Before we dive into this chapter, listen to these poignant words from Augustine, which apply to what we’re studying today: “If you believe what you like in the Gospel, and reject what you don’t like, it is not the Gospel you believe, but yourself.”
Now let’s read about Jesus’ test: “Some Pharisees came up to Jesus, testing Him, and began to question Him whether it was lawful for a man to divorce a wife” (Mark 10:2).
There are some hot-potato issues in the church—and one of those is about divorce and remarriage. Not only is this controversial today in the body of Christ, it was also in the first century when Jesus was here on the earth.
It’s important to note that not every question is from an honest heart. Not every questioner is asking to get a truthful answer. Some people ask to see if you agree with them. That is why the divorce question here is not for the religious people to learn the truth, to discover insight or wisdom, but to see if Jesus agrees with them. They already had their opinions and now they want to test Jesus.
To test assumes two things: (1) you are the teacher; (2) you already know the answer, so you’re seeing if your student knows the answer. Then you grade them on their answer. Think of the audacity—they are testing the omniscient God to see if He knows, not the right answer, but their answer.
That is really the issue today. When was the last time you asked Jesus a question about your struggling marriage? When was the last time you sought direction and theological wisdom from Him?
So many times we will go to a book, a pastor—someone who has already decided for us. But what about this issue? Have you ever asked Jesus: Should I divorce?
Most never ask Jesus if we should, instead we ask for help once it’s already decided. Then we ask for Him to bless our already decided-upon plans.
If this is what you do, then this is the painful truth: you are testing Jesus just as these religious people did.
So how did Jesus respond?
First, we need to see it from a biblical basis and not a culture or society basis. With all the divorce that is happening today, people try to adjust Jesus’ words to fit our epidemic of marriages falling apart. It’s like our government that can’t stop drugs so they legalize it to make that the best answer. But that is not an answer to a problem.
So if half of the marriages in the church end in divorce, as some statistics suggest, do we have to adjust Jesus’ words based on the twenty-first-century marriage problem? I don’t think so. Some have cited successful remarriages as their reason that divorce can’t be wrong. They argue, “So and so got remarried and look at them after twenty-five years. It must be okay.”
But we must be careful that we don’t adjust Scripture to fit our beliefs or wants. Instead we must take Jesus’ words as they stand:
He answered and said to them, “What did Moses command you?” They said, “Moses permitted a man to write a certificate of divorce and send her away.” But Jesus said to them, “Because of your hardness of heart he wrote you this commandment. But from the beginning of creation, God made them male and female. For this reason a man shall leave his father and mother, and the two shall become one flesh; so they are no longer two, but one flesh. What therefore God has joined together, let no man separate.”
Here’s my summary based on Jesus’ words: Divorce was instituted by Moses. The motive for divorce was that our hearts are hard. Therefore, the reason for divorce was because we have hard hearts. Every marriage, no matter the struggle or the sin or the offense, can have a miracle ending with God if our hearts are soft.
God’s intention from the beginning of creation was for two to become one flesh—and what God has joined together, no one should separate.
I heard a counselor once say to a young woman contemplating marriage: “Do not accept a man’s proposal until you have successfully worked through at least one significant disagreement. Better yet, make it a heated argument that leaves one of you preferably in tears. If you have never been in the thick of a serious conflict with that person, you don’t really know their heart. And marriage needs a soft heart to face hard situations.”
So let me try to make this applicable. Divorce is an option—but it occurs because of a person becoming hard hearted.
Just look at the statistics on divorce and remarriage. Statistics have shown that in the United States, 50 percent of first marriages end in divorce. The number raises to 67 percent of second marriage, and 73 percent of third marriages. Why do the percentages go up each time a person gets married? Because they very likely have not addressed the hardness issue.
So now the question is . . . where is your heart today? Are you working toward a soft and tender heart? Or have you allowed your heart to become hardened?
Someone said it like this: “How do you fix your troubled marriage? You don’t need a change of partners, but a change in partners.”
We are only halfway through our scene with Jesus, though. When the disciples hear Jesus’ response to the Pharisees, they ask for more insight. Notice verse 10: “In the house the disciples began questioning Him about this again.” They are not testing Him, but genuinely questioning Him. They wanted answers. That was the difference between them and the religious leaders.
As you read Jesus’ response, think about what that means for you in your marriage, if you are married, or if someday you want to pursue marriage. Ask Jesus what He means, just as the disciples did.