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Matthew 19:1-12: Divorce

Posted by adventbiblestudy on May 17, 2012


Matthew 19:1-12 MKJV And it happened, when Jesus had finished these sayings, that He departed from Galilee and came into the borders of Judea beyond Jordan. (2) And great crowds followed Him. And He healed them there. (3) And the Pharisees came to Him, tempting Him and saying to Him, Is it lawful for a man to put away his wife for every cause? (4) And He answered and said to them, Have you not read that He who made them at the beginning “made them male and female”, (5) and said, For this cause a man shall leave father and mother and shall cling to his wife, and the two of them shall be one flesh? (6) Therefore they are no longer two, but one flesh. Therefore what God has joined together, let not man separate. (7) They said to Him, Why did Moses then command to give a bill of divorce and to put her away? (8) He said to them, Because of your hard-heartedness Moses allowed you to put away your wives; but from the beginning it was not so. (9) And I say to you, Whoever shall put away his wife, except for fornication, and shall marry another, commits adultery; and whoever marries her who is put away commits adultery. (10) His disciples said to Him, If this is the case of the man with his wife, it is not good to marry. (11) But He said to them, Not all receive this word, except those to whom it is given. (12) For there are some eunuchs who were born so from their mother’s womb; and there are eunuchs who were made eunuchs by men; and there are eunuchs who have made themselves eunuchs for the kingdom of Heaven’s sake. He who is able to receive it, let him receive it.

 

 

On the journey from Galilee to Judea, Peter’s mind went over the details of Jesus’ parable about the king who forgave a great debt, and how it related to him forgiving his brother seventy times seven. At the same time John’s mind went over the example and parable of the little child. John came to the conclusion, anyone who loves is a child of God and knows God.

 

As soon as they crossed the Jordan, crowds began to gather around Jesus. People came from all parts of the land. Young and old alike came to seek Jesus. Many of them came by faith to be healed of every imaginable disease. Some with common aliments, sore and strained muscles, headaches, and the occasional broken heart. Others had been suffering their entire lives. Old men and women born blind, never seeing the light of day, a tree, birds in the air, grass and flowers in the fields. Their other senses told them a story, but never fulfilled their curiosity. Utter joy filled their hearts, and song filled their voices as their eyes were opened, and the first site they saw was the face of their Savior. Broken and twisted limbs were healed. The more miracles Jesus performed on the shore of Jordan, the more people arrived to seek Him. The Spirit could be felt in the warmth of the sun, the very air they breathed, in every touch of Jesus.

 

John, still thinking about his personal relationship with God, noticed his concentration was interupted by a group of Pharisees standing near by. Something told him they were up to something. He began to pray. He asked the Spirit to give Jesus the wisdom to deal with whatever they were plotting. He remembered the attacks mounted against Jesus. It wasn’t long before one of them emerged from the group to approach Jesus with another question. “Is it lawful for a man to put away his wife for every cause?” John remembered, twice they had asked Jesus for a sign. Looking around he wondered why the Pharisees could not appreciate or understand what was happening before their eyes day after day. If this was not enough, what would convince them? He also remembered Jesus had explained this during His sermon on the mountain when He began His ministry. A smile came to John’s face. He felt his prayers had been answered.

 

At the moment Jesus was holding a little girl. His arms embraced her as He held her close to His chest. Her parents brought her to Jesus to heal a growth on her face. They feared she would never lead a normal life with this lump which grew larger over the years. Her parents wanted to give her a chance at a normal life. To be happy, fall in love, and one day marry. After a short prayer, Jesus took her hand, turned her towards her parents who sang out with words of praise. The growth was gone. Jesus looked at the Pharisees and said, “Have you not read that He who made them at the beginning made them male and female? For this cause a man shall leave father and mother and shall cling to his wife, and the two of them shall be one flesh? Therefore they are no longer two, but one flesh. Therefore what God has joined together, let not man separate.”

 

Peter could understand what Jesus was saying. He thought of God’s Words in Genesis. God created man in His own image. To think, every man is created in the image of God. What have we done to this image? God caused Adam to fall into a deep sleep, took out one rib from Adam’s side, and formed Eve from the rib. God could have simply spoken Eve into existence, but He formed her with His own hands, and brought her to Adam. God had prepared the perfect helper for Adam. There was a reason for Adam to wait. He named every animal on earth. Each had a mate, but there was no mate for him. Why? Did God want Adam to feel a deep need for a mate before He brought him Eve? This was a question Peter would have to remember. He wanted to one day ask Jesus why.

 

Andrew was looking at Jesus’ answer from a different perspective. He was also considering how the Pharisees and priests treated Jesus, and would not accept Him. His mind focused on the words of the prophet Hosea. Then the LORD said to me, “Go and love your wife again, even though she commits adultery with another lover. This will illustrate that the LORD still loves Israel, even though the people have turned to other gods and love to worship them.” (Hosea 3:1 NLTse) Andrew was beginning to understand how the Pharisees had forgotten their first love, clinging onto another in the form of pride and self exhalation. Their traditions would not allow them to accept the Son of God as a humble servant of God and His people.

 

John had not expected the answer Jesus gave, but as soon as he heard it, his mind also thought of Genesis. And Adam said, This is now bone of my bones and flesh of my flesh. She shall be called Woman because she was taken out of man. Therefore shall a man leave his father and his mother, and shall cleave to his wife and they shall be one flesh. (Genesis 2:23-24 MKJV) As John was thinking about the close connection between a man and his wife, he remembered another description of marriage recorded by Malachi.

 

Here is another thing you do. You cover the LORD’s altar with tears, weeping and groaning because he pays no attention to your offerings and doesn’t accept them with pleasure. You cry out, “Why doesn’t the LORD accept my worship?” I’ll tell you why! Because the LORD witnessed the vows you and your wife made when you were young. But you have been unfaithful to her, though she remained your faithful partner, the wife of your marriage vows. Didn’t the LORD make you one with your wife? In body and spirit you are his. And what does he want? Godly children from your union. So guard your heart; remain loyal to the wife of your youth. “For I hate divorce!” says the LORD, the God of Israel. “To divorce your wife is to overwhelm her with cruelty,” says the LORD of Heaven’s Armies. “So guard your heart; do not be unfaithful to your wife.” You have wearied the LORD with your words. “How have we wearied him?” you ask. You have wearied him by saying that all who do evil are good in the LORD’s sight, and he is pleased with them. You have wearied him by asking, “Where is the God of justice?” (Malachi 2:13-17 NLTse) What God has joined together, let not man separate.

 

The Pharisee was also thinking about Jesus’ answer, but not in the same terms as the disciples. He had already prepared a response. His fellow Pharisees waiting, and watching, expected him to carry out the mission he had volunteered for. The Pharisee did not expect the answer Jesus gave. He also thought about Genesis, but he was faced with a choice. What would his associates think if he agreed with Jesus and continued the conversation in accordance with His answer? He could not risk the outcome. He decided to follow the plan by asking Jesus, “why did Moses then command to give a bill of divorce and to put her away?”

 

Jesus looked at the Pharisee with pity in His eyes. He knew this was not the answer the Pharisee wanted to give, but he was not strong enough to overcome the pressure. Jesus had no choice but to tell the Pharisee the truth. “Because of your hard-heartedness Moses allowed you to put away your wives; but from the beginning it was not so. And I say to you, Whoever shall put away his wife, except for fornication, and shall marry another, commits adultery; and whoever marries her who is put away commits adultery.”

 

Jesus knew the Pharisee was still thinking about the first marriage in Eden. He knew the Pharisee was trying to think of an answer to salvage his dignity. That was one of the main causes of divorce, saving dignity. The popular belief justified divorce from one scripture. “Suppose a man marries a woman but she does not please him. Having discovered something wrong with her, he writes her a letter of divorce, hands it to her, and sends her away from his house.” (Deuteronomy 24:1 NLTse)

 

A man could put away his wife for just about any reason. If she nags him, fails to keep the children in line, embarrasses him in public, does not cook or clean to his expectations. The list goes on. This was not what God intended for marriage. This was not what Jesus came to teach. What God has joined together, let not man separate.

 

The Pharisee stood there confused. He had never considered it a sin to marry another man’s divorced wife. Was this what God meant by being one flesh? He didn’t know how to answer. He had accomplished what he set out to do, draw Jesus into a conversation about divorce, but now, he forgot his defense. All he could think about was the question in his mind, was it a sin, adultery to marry a divorced woman? After a few moments he turned away from Jesus and returned to the group of Pharisees.

 

After the group of Pharisees left, the disciples turned to Jesus and asked, “If this is the case of the man with his wife, it is not good to marry?” Jesus knew they had learned a lot from His lesson, and continued to explain, “Not all receive this word, except those to whom it is given. For there are some eunuchs who were born so from their mother’s womb; and there are eunuchs who were made eunuchs by men; and there are eunuchs who have made themselves eunuchs for the kingdom of Heaven’s sake. He who is able to receive it, let him receive it.”

 

All the disciples, including Peter, James, and John began to feel a glow inside. They were beginning to understand. Each of them saw the difference between the lesson God wanted us to learn from the union of marriage, and the common concepts being taught. For the first time the could clearly see one fact, God’s lesson and intent have never changed, and neither has His blessing. On the other hand, the earthly concept of marriage and divorce have been constantly changing. Even in their short lives.

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