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.