Read Matthew 19
Jesus headed back to the region of Judea. It didn’t matter where he went, there were always people coming to him, and that included the Pharisees. In this case, some Pharisees wanted to test Jesus.
They asked him:
“Is it lawful for a man to divorce his wife for just any reason?”
This hardly seems like a test. It sounds like a legitimate question, but consider where we have been before only a few short chapters ago.
John the Baptist had been imprisoned and eventually was beheaded by Herod. What landed John in prison? He was critical of Herod who took his brother’s wife as his own. Essentially, he divorced his brother from his wife and made her his own wife.
This is stuff of Hollywood and soap operas and First Century Judea, but ever so relevant to the question of the Pharisees.
Should Jesus just say no to any and all divorce, that would put him in opposition to Herod and perhaps that would render an expedient solution to this Jesus problem. Herod already thought that Jesus was John the Baptist resurrected, so it was uncertain if Herod would imprison him and kill him again, but it was worth promoting the controversy to the maximum extent possible.
Jesus noted that divorce was never in the original plan.
“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.”
But, but, but Moses said we could divorce our wives.
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.”
This should have sounded familiar as Jesus addressed the topic during the Sermon on the Mount.
This time, prompted by the Pharisees, Jesus noted the condition of the human heart. Your hearts became hardened.
Marriage is tough. It is impossible with a hardened heart.
The disciples decided to chime in with a declaration of their own. Note that they were not asking a question but assessing the teaching and declaring this to be an obvious truth.
The disciples said to him, “If this is the situation between a husband and wife, it is better not to marry.”
Jesus might have surprised his disciples. He said, you’re right, with a slight qualification. If you can give up your romantic, sexual, and physical needs and live only for God, then that is exactly what you should do.
If you can…
As we know, most cannot or will not set aside what was originally given to us to propagate the species. We start with the best intentions in marriage but our corrupted human hearts make the journey difficult.
If you can forgo marriage and give your life to God alone, then do it. If not, then you had best seek a partner who will put God first and Jesus in the center of your marriage.
Here is a challenge for only a few. If you can live only for God, then live only for him and forsake union with a husband or wife. It’s not for everybody, but if it is for you, do not be encumbered in marital relationship when you were made only for relationship with God.Amen.