Divorce (1st Sunday in Lent)

lent-2017Mark begins the Journey to Jerusalem like this:

Jesus then left that place and went into the region of Judea and across the Jordan. Again crowds of people came to him, and as was his custom, he taught them.

The “that place” Jesus is leaving is the lakeside city of Capernaum, almost a second home for Jesus in Mark’s Gospel. Mark records Jesus and his disciples taking the non-Samaria route to Jerusalem, crossing the Jordan River and heading south. This was a pleasant way to go, but led to Jericho and the long climb to Jerusalem, an elevation rise of 3,400 feet. Mark show us Jesus as the perpetual, eternal teacher, and this journey did not stop his teaching ministry.

Some Pharisees came and tested him by asking, “Is it lawful for a man to divorce his wife?”

“What did Moses command you?” he replied.

They said, “Moses permitted a man to write a certificate of divorce and send her away.”

“It was because your hearts were hard that Moses wrote you this law,” Jesus replied. “But at the beginning of creation God ‘made them male and female.’ ‘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.”

jesus-and-the-phariseesSurprisingly, the first stop on the Journey to Jerusalem concerns the issue of divorce, a controversial topic in Jesus’ day. We get a dose of creation theology as a reminder that God has created us with a pattern in mind when it comes to marriage. Jesus recognizes, though, that divorce is a long-standing practice among his Jewish nation, going back to at least the time of Moses.

From the perspective of his determined trip to the cross, however, Jesus’ answer rings a different bell than the divorce controversy. God’s plans will not be thwarted. If God has planned it, we are foolish to try and stop him. Jesus has already told his disciples what awaits him in the city (and will tell them again). Now there is no turning back.

When they were in the house again, the disciples asked Jesus about this. He answered, “Anyone who divorces his wife and marries another woman commits adultery against her. And if she divorces her husband and marries another man, she commits adultery.”

To be sure, there is valuable teaching here about marriage, divorce, and adultery. Perhaps, just perhaps, there is something else here, though. Adultery was a common way for Israel’s prophets to describe the nation’s unfaithfulness to her God. Jesus himself referred to his peers as a “sinful and adulterous generation” (Mark 8:38).

We, too, play the adulterer when we act unfaithfully and shamefully in our relationship with God. As we begin the Lenten season and travel with our Lord, my we leave behind our “cheatin’ hearts” and trust in him.

Prayer: Lord God, strengthen our marriages and our commitment to marriage. May you also strengthen our wayward hearts and point them to Jesus, the pioneer of our souls. Amen.

Mark Krause
Nebraska Christian College of Hope International University

The view in this blog are those of the author and not necessarily those of his employer.

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Face Setting: Meditation for the First Sunday of Lent

face like flintToday is the first Sunday in the 40-day Lenten season. Lent is the period of the church year leading up to the celebration of Resurrection Sunday. It has been used for centuries as a time for personal reflection, sacrifice, fasting, and recommitment of the Christian’s life.

Luke’s Gospel gives about ten chapters to Jesus’ final journey to Jerusalem (a big expansion over Mark’s single chapter, Mark 10). In the seven Sundays of Lent 2015, I would like to use this narrative as a vehicle for our own journey to the cross.

Luke begins this epic journey with this statement:

 As the time approached for him to be taken up to heaven, Jesus resolutely set out for Jerusalem. (Luke 9:51)

The phrase, “resolutely set out” is striking in the original language (αὐτὸς τὸ πρόσωπον ἐστήρισεν), literally meaning “he set the face.” It is surely an echo of Isaiah 50:7:

Because the Sovereign Lord helps me,
    I will not be disgraced.
Therefore have I set my face like flint,
    and I know I will not be put to shame.

This verse comes in the third of Isaiah’s “Servant Songs,” passages that are deeply prophetic and descriptive of the coming Messiah. A common theme in these songs is the physical abuse and humiliation the Messiah would suffer. Yet Isaiah puts these powerful words in the mouth of the Messiah, “I have set my face like flint.”

Flint was the hardest of common stones for the people of Isaiah’s Israel, found as nodules in the abundant limestone of the area. Flint was durable because of its hardness and capable of holding a sharp edge. This made it useful for tools and weapons.

Luke’s use of this metaphor illustrates the great determination in Jesus to go to the holy city despite his expectation of a painful death. He has already revealed this to his disciples:

The Son of Man must suffer many things and be rejected by the elders, the chief priests and the teachers of the law, and he must be killed and on the third day be raised to life. (Luke 9:22)

Would you begin a journey that you knew would cost your life? Would you have the courage to take that first step?jesus-walking

As we enter the Lenten season, let us examine our own lives in this regard. Ask yourself these questions:

  1. Are you willing to endure suffering because you are a follower of Christ?
  2. Are you willing to follow Christ for the rest of your life, even until the day of your death?
  3. What are the particular distractions in your life that sidetrack or delay your own Journey to Jerusalem?
  4. What must you give up to follow Jesus to the cross?

Let us begin this journey with prayer and determination on this, the first Sunday of Lent, 2015. Pray with me:

Lord Jesus, I want to follow you. I know it will not be easy. Help me to make the hard choices a disciple of yours must make. Help me to leave behind the things of this life that would pull me away from you. Hold me close to you. Never let me go. Let my feet follow in your footsteps.

Amen.

Mark Krause
Nebraska Christian College