Saturday, January 19, 2013

Matthew 19 - Divorce and Teachings on the Kingdom
LINK: Matthew 19

173. Jesus teaches about marriage and divorce: Matthew 19:1-12, Mark 10:1-12


Jesus is in "Judea beyond the Jordan" which is Perea (#22 on the map). 

The religious leaders tried to trap Jesus with a controversial issue: divorce. There were opposing positions on this issue among the religious leaders. The followers of Hillel, the elder believed you could divorce for any reason. The followers of Shammai were strict observers of the Law and believed you could only divorce your wife for sexual misconduct. 

Jesus did not get involved with the debate between the two camps. He went all the way back to Genesis where God says what He had joined together, no man was to tear apart because they were one flesh (Matthew 19:6; Mark 10:9; Genesis 2:24).

This prompted them to ask why Moses allowed it in Deuteronomy 24:1-4.  I wrote about this in Year One of the Bible Book Club:
This chapter contains a key passage when doing a study on divorce and remarriage. Divorce was widespread in the ancient Near East, but the Old Testament always refers to it as a tragedy (Malachi 2:16). These commands were given to regulate what was already a practice in the culture. A remarriage to a former husband would be like a legal adultery and this was detestable to the LORD. The whole purpose behind this law was to discourage frivolous divorce. Jesus also interpreted this passage and implied that divorce was outside the divine ideal for marriage (Matthew 19:3-9). 
(Bible Book Club: Deuteronomy 23-27 - Covenant Stipulations)
Moses allowed divorce because people's hearts were hard, but God's intention for marriage goes back to Genesis (So much begins at Genesis. That is why I feel it imperative to study it closely.). Jesus had already proclaimed that the only reason for divorce was marital unfaithfulness (Event #54, Matthew 5:32). The Greek word for "marital unfaithfulness" is porneia which is a broader term than the word for adultery which is moicheai. It means the "relentless, persistent, unrepentant, lifestyle of sexual unfaithfulness (different from a one-time act of illicit relations)" (The Bible Knowledge Commentary, Matthew 19:1-12).  Some might see this as only serial philanderers would be eligible for divorce, but one might make the case that any kind of porneia (like addiction to pornography) would be cause for divorce. 

Regardless, Jesus stressed the importance of the marriage relationship. The disciples concluded that maybe it would be better to remain unmarried, but He said this was only for those to whom it was given. God has already said that marriage was good (Genesis 2:18) and Paul later said that marriage is better than immorality (1 Corinthians 7:2). 

I want to add that Paul gave further reasons for divorce in 1 Corinthians 7 with desertion by an unbelieving spouse being the main one. 

174. Jesus blesses the children: Matthew 19:13-15, Mark 10:13-16, Luke 18:15-17

Children were not a waste of Jesus' time and were important to Him. These children ranged in age from babies to preteens. In the Mark and Luke accounts He said we were to receive the kingdom with child-like faith.

175. Jesus speaks to the rich young man: Matthew 19:16-30, Mark 10:17-31, Luke 18:18-30

The rich man thought he could "do" something to gain eternal life. Jesus has just said we must receive the kingdom like a helpless child (Mark 10:15; Luke 18:17), but this man wanted to know how he could help himself to get there.

Jesus shook this man's false perception of what is good. Nothing we do is going to reach the perfection of God's goodness. Not even keeping five of the ten commandments dealing with human relationship that Jesus quotes in this passage. (The Mark account has a "do not defraud" which is not one of the commandments, but some commentators believe it is a paraphrase of the 10th commandment in Exodus 20:17 or a supplement to "you shall not steal" and "bear false witness.").

Even if the man had kept them all, he did not have total devotion to God because he loved money more (Matthew 19:22; Mark 10:22; Luke 18:23), breaking the first commandment to have no other gods before him. The Jewish mindset was that a man's riches were an indication of God's blessing. So Jesus, when lovingly asked the rich man to give up all his wealth and told His disciples that it was hard for a rich man to enter the kingdom, was speaking counter to everything they had ever understood about God. The camel (the largest animal in Palestine) through the eye of a needle comment related to a Jewish proverb of the time that depicted the impossible. 

This made the disciples wonder if they could even enter the Kingdom, and Jesus responded by indicating that it is impossible to enter by human effort, but God can make it possible by His grace (Job 42:2; Ephesians 2:8-10)!


Divorce is a very controversial issue; so controversial that I kept skipping this post. Divorce is a very painful thing, and I do not want to hurt or offend anyone.  

Please read my REFLECTION from a post I wrote in the Bible Book Club in 2010 on 1 Corinthians 7.  It is such a sobering portrait about marriage and divorce among evangelicals. It is fascinating (and sad). 

Marriage is not something we should enter into lightly. Here is an article based on more research about marriage that I found interesting (and depressing):

A Marriage without Regrets: Do You Regret Getting Married? (This has no relationship to the book I am recommending below and is not a biblically-based article.)


I recommend the "Marriage without Regrets" Bible Study by Precept Ministries. It is one of the most valuable topical Bible studies I have ever done. This study is good even if you are not married. It helps one know what to look for.  

There is also a book by the same title:
A Marriage Without Regrets: No matter where you are or where you've been, you can have...


Lord, please preserve our marriages. We fall on Your mercy in this area. I pray that struggling marriages might get the help they need from You so they can survive the storms of our lives and the culture around us. We ask this in Jesus' name. Amen. 
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