Here are my notes from the sermon itself:
Sometimes we find ourselves where we don’t think we want to be. We’ve been enjoying a gentle excursion through Mark’s Gospel where we’ve met Jesus the healer, Jesus the wise teacher, Jesus the one who offers grace, love and mercy instead of legalism and religiosity.
So Mark 10 seems to hit us hard. This does not sound like the Jesus we were expecting. Suddenly he seems to be the one saying down The Law. What do we do when Jesus seems to go right against our contemporary culture’s understanding of morality and relationships?
At the outset we recognise that:
- This is a big subject – far too big to cover in one sermon even if we sneak in a bit of extra time! So we have produced additional notes on the topic (see https://faithroots.net/2015/05/17/divorce-and-re-marriage/)
- This a sensitive subject. Most of us will be affected in someway
- People we love who have been affected by a marriage breaking up
- Some of you directly affected –your own marriage or parents
- Some may even come with a sense of guilt feeling/knowing that you’ve played some part in a break up
So how does Jesus handle the issue?
A) We need to start with God’s big picture of marriage
- The “Test” (v2-4)
Is divorce okay –it’s another trap –a controversial subject will Jesus take sides? (v2)
The debate is about Deuteronomy 24:1 recognised as permitting divorce providing a certificate is issued (v3-4) but on what grounds? Moses talked about divorce when a husband finds something wrong with his wife? Some took ‘liberal’ view, any reason could fit the criteria. Others took a ‘strict’ view that only adultery provided grounds for divorce.
- Jesus’s response (v5-8)
- The Law was there to provide for hard, sinful hearts(v5). Divorce is never a good thing. Really, Moses was acknowledging what already was happening and starting to put some restrictions on it. These would have protected women from abuse and control.
- God’s creation plan was different (v6-8)
- One man one woman (v6)
- A public exclusive commitment (“leave parents” & is “joined to his wife”) (v7)
- A permanent intimate union (v8)
Marriage has a special place in God’s plan
Because faithfulness in marriage is important because it reflects God’s love and faithfulness
Within the Trinity –Father & Son
To his people
And this is important whether we are dealing with this specific challenge or something else. For example being loyal in friendships, faithful in our commitment to a local church, diligent in our work etc.
This brings us to the next bit.
B) God’s Grace and Faithfulness mean that we can face even the toughest circumstances when things seem to go wrong (v10-12)
You probably weren’t expecting that to be the application of these verses. So let’s have a look
This is probably the controversial bit. If we’d left it at v9 we would probably see this as a good idea. But Jesus has to push things a bit further so no-one can be in any doubt.
“Whoever divorces his wife and marries someone else commits adultery against her.”
Jesus says that if marriage is a call to love and faithfulness then divorce and re-marriage is an act of unfaithfulness
An exception clause
Now at this point it is worth noting that Mark does not give us the whole transcript here. He’s giving us the main point. Matthew fleshes out the detail a bit more. Jesus does allow for some circumstances where this statement does not apply. He gives an exception clause “except for immorality”
There’s been a lot of debate and discussion about how this exception clause applies over the years. You can read a bit more on this in the additional article. I personally take it to mean that
-Some of you will be the “victims” you have been deserted. Your partner has killed the marriage by unfaithfulness.
-In those cases I personally believe that there is freedom to remarry.
Impossible things become possible –how and why
Our culture tells us
- Do what makes you happy
- If things don’t seem to be working give up and try something different
That’s why sex has become something you do for pleasure wherever, whenever and with whoever
That’s why we live in a culture where relationships don’t last and where we are scared of commitment (and this probably has wider implications than marriage –think about work, church, communities etc)
And in that context what Jesus says seems hard to bear – in fact the disciples say “if that’s the standard then it’s better not to marry at all (Matt 19:9).
So why does Jesus call us to this type of faithfulness?
Well two clues
- v5 The law of Moses had to function as “a concession to your hard hearts”
This isn’t just about marriage and divorce, it’s about how we relate to God’s Law (remember all that stuff in Romans from last year and by the way we will come back to this next week).
God’s Law can teach us. It can point out where we are wrong and it can give us a means of surviving in a messed up world but it cannot deal with hard hearts.
But now Jesus is here. The Good News is that his death on the Cross deals with our hearts. He changes us and he gives us his Holy Spirit.
- Context –God’s ‘foolishness’ defeats human ‘wisdom’
Jesus is turning their world upside down –or really the right way up because their world was a world where the powerful fought for more power
–and Jesus gave time to the little ones and said that the Kingdom belonged to little ones
All of this means that
Because of the Gospel
- Powerful people are called to stop using their power and influence to find loopholes so they can walk over others. There’s no place for bullying in the church
- People who would be unfaithful can be faithful –the temptation to stray does not have to be acted on.
- It means that we can learn to forgive one another as He has forgiven us
- It means that we can have grace to persevere even through tough times.
The Gospel restores us back to God’s creation purpose for us
- God is faithful to us –he gives strength
- If you are facing tough times in your marriage or picking up the pieces of the aftermath
- If your personal circumstances mean singleness
- If you are struggling with questions about your own sexuality and identity
- God’s love and mercy means he deals with our hearts and forgives and heals. This is vital –for those who are already well down the path of crushing others. You can stop, you can change.
- God’s Law is always more loving and gracious than our own attempts at mercy