Markby Robert M. Solomon
The crowds kept following Jesus, and He continued to teach them (v. 1). The Pharisees approached Jesus to test Him again; they were relentlessly hounding Jesus. They asked Him whether it was lawful for a man to divorce his wife (v. 2). This was a tricky question for there were contending schools of thought among Jewish rabbis. It was true that the Mosaic Law allowed for divorce (Deuteronomy 24:1-4), but there were various interpretations and applications. The more liberal view (following Rabbi Hillel) was that a man was free to divorce his wife for almost any reason, even when a meal was accidentally burned. However, Rabbi Shammai permitted divorce only on the grounds of immorality. His more conservative view was understandably less popular. Instead of taking sides with a particular rabbinic school, Jesus turned their attention inwards and backwards.
The provision for divorce had been made because of human sinfulness (″your hearts were hard″; v. 5). ″You should search your hearts to discover the answer to your question. Do you harbour sinful motives?″ Jesus seemed to be saying.
Also, Jesus pointed to the creation account in Genesis. God made Adam and Eve and joined them together in marriage, as one flesh. ″Therefore what God has joined together, let no one separate″ (v. 9). Marriage was for life (1 Corinthians 7:39) and God hated divorce (Malachi 2:16). It was not to be treated lightly.
Later, Jesus explained to His disciples that because marriage was a lifelong, one-flesh union, divorce (other than for unfaithfulness on the part of one spouse, see Matthew 19:9) would lead to adultery when remarriage took place (vv. 11-12) because in the eyes of God, the couple was still married. Here, putting all the gospel teachings together, Jesus established that divorce other than for marital unfaithfulness was unacceptable. This was the view of the Reformers in the 16th century. In this case, both parties would be guilty of adultery if they were to remarry. In the case of marital unfaithfulness, the guilty party had already committed adultery; the marriage covenant had already been breached. If a divorce took place,the other spouse was free to remarry. Some also refer to Paul's additional provision for desertion (1 Corinthians 7:15). Jesus rejected popular forms of easy divorce, which were abuses of the law. Marriage is intended to be for life.
Marriage is God's idea. What do you think is the purpose of marriage? Why is adultery contrary to the purposes of marriage?
How does God respond to failure in marriage? What is the place of sin and grace in marriage?