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The Day Jesus Dared to Preach About Marriage, Divorce and Remarriage!

October 7, 2012

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Nineteenth Sunday after Pentecost                         Trinity Lutheran Church

7 October 2012                                                                   Murdock, NE

 

 

Mark 10:2-12

 

WARNING!  This sermon is longer than usual due to the text’s dicey but very timely content.  So get settled in and fasten your seat belts.  It’s going to be quite a ride today!

 

They want to trap Jesus!  To ensnare Him! Put Him to the test!  Play a game of theological chicken! See if Jesus will flinch first!

 

No better topic to do that than the controversial topic of holy marriage, divorce, and remarriage!  “So what do you say Jesus?  We really want to hear your opinion?  You’re the sensational preacher these days?”  And that’s when they lob the verbal bomb!  “Do you give your permission for a man to divorce his wife?  Well, Jesus?  Speak up!  Everyone’s listening!  Everyone’s waiting for your answer!”

 

A trick question!  A trap!  Done on purpose!  In order to drag Preacher Man Jesus into the sticky and controversial debate of the scholars about divorce!  I.E. on what ground can a husband divorce his wife?  The hardcore rabbis had an answer:  “Divorce could only be permitted for marital infidelity!  Only then could a husband lawfully divorce his wife!”  The liberal or progressive rabbis were quite permissive!  “Name the reason!” they advised.  “Did she burn your toast?  Well, there you have it!  You have our blessing!  Divorce away!” 

 

What say you Jesus?  We’re dying to know!  Are you a right wing conservative?  Or are you a San Francisco progressive? 

 

Jesus answers their question with a question of His own! “What did Moses command you?  What did Moses have to say in Genesis, Exodus, Leviticus, Numbers and Deuteronomy?  What part of Moses is your go to answer?”

 

And they’re off to the races with an answer!  “Moses PERMITTED the husband to draw up the papers, file them, and put his wife away! It was all just a matter of paperwork!  So there! Checkmate!  Game, set, and match Jesus!” 

 

PERMIT?  Moses gave permission for divorce?  Not really.  That isn’t what Moses was doing in the Deuteronomy 24 passage that they reference!  Moses wasn’t in the mood to give anybody permission to do something that displeased the Lord!  Instead, in Deuteronomy 24 Moses regulates divorce and remarriage against further sin, against the multiplication of even more sin.  He wasn’t giving his permission!

 

But the Pharisees want Jesus to give His permission for divorce.  Want Jesus to agree that as long as the papers are drawn up properly, then a divorce could be signed, sealed and delivered!  They wanted a loophole in God’s will!  And the more pious the loophole the better! 

 

That’s when Jesus goes to the heart of the matter!  It’s really quite surprising!  Not what anyone ever expected!  He turns everything around!  Get a load of what He says:  “It was because YOUR HEARTS WERE HARD that Moses regulated divorce and remarriage!” 

 

Whoa!  He turns it all back on them! He categorically declares that divorce is a matter of the heart (a hardened one) not a matter of paperwork and following some kind of proper pious procedure! 

 

Hardness of hearts forced Moses to regulate divorce and remarriage!  Why?  Because a hardened heart is a calloused heart – a cold heart – against the spouse – and against the Lord.  A hardened heart is an unbelieving heart – a heart that can’t and won’t trust the Lord and His gifts!  A hardened heart looks for loopholes to justify sin – it desperately looks for ways to get rid of the spouse! 

 

Hard hearts have to be hemmed in or regulated by the Law.  And that’s what Moses had to do in Deuteronomy 24.  Sinful men could not be allowed to treat their wives like livestock that could be traded back and forth between other men.  Therefore Moses set boundaries in order to protect women. 

 

And the boundaries went like this:  if a man divorces his wife, and she gets remarried to another man, then there’s no going back to the first husband!  The point of Moses’ regulation, again, was to defend women from callous and cold treatment from their husbands like this:  “I don’t want her anymore!  Here, you can have her willy-nilly!  And when you’re tired of her just send her back my way!”  A woman is not a commodity.  She is very precious to the Lord and must be protected from a man who is totally selfish, capricious and cold!  Or as Jesus says:  “hard hearted!” 

 

But now the Pharisees want to use this protective and caring regulation from Moses and turn it on its head!  They want to use it as a license FOR divorce!  Use it to invent excuses for divorce!  To give divorce legitimacy before God!  And if they can get the Holy Man Preacher Jesus on their side, – all the better!  Then they can crow:  “Holy Man Preacher Jesus said it’s OK!”  Incredible!

 

So now what Jesus?  What do you have to say about all this?  Can you give us an answer?  A little help here Jesus!

 

He does.  And from an authority or source that catches us by surprise!  Seriously!  Who would have thought Jesus would go there?  NEVERTHELESS HE DOES!  CHECK IT OUT!

 

He goes to the Old Testament book of Genesis!  To God’s Word!  Yes, that’s right.  God’s Word!  Where God tells us what’s on His mind!  What’s His will!  What’s His good and beneficial desire for His people.  Jesus dares to go God’s Word to deal with this topic.  Listen:  “But at the beginning of creation God made them male and female.”   

 

AT THE BEGINNING!  This is huge!  He starts “at the beginning of creation!”  The way God graciously intends everything to be!  When everything was “very good.”  Including holy marriage between a man and a woman! 

 

AT THE BEGINNING!  Before Adam and Eve’s sin messed up God’s very good creation!  AT THE BEGINNING!  When God made Adam out of the mud and Eve from his side!  When God brought Eve to Adam as pure gift.  When Adam received Eve as the Lord’s precious gift:  “At last!  Bone of my bones!  Flesh of my flesh!  She will be called ‘woman’ for she came out of man.” 

 

And then more from Genesis!  God giving Eve to Adam in holy marriage in the Garden of Eden is the basis for all marriages!  “For this reason a man will leave his father and mother and be united to his wife and the two will become one flesh.”  

 

Now it’s time for all of us to have a serious talk.  How are we to live then according to God’s Word that Jesus Himself quotes? Hang on!  Here’s where the ride might get rather bumpy.  I’m going to do my best to help you today.    

 

Jesus speaks of the “two becoming one flesh.”  That’s what happens after the wedding ceremony in the honeymoon suite and then thereafter in the married couple’s bedroom at home.  Holy marriage is the only proper place for intimate love.  Only in holy marriage can a man and a woman be naked together and not be ashamed (Genesis 2:25).  This one flesh union is very physical!  But it is also an emotional and spiritual union.  In fact, it is a CLOSED COMMUNION!  No one or nothing is allowed to drive a wedge between a husband and a wife in any way shape or form!

 

Trinity has a number of married couples that have been united as one flesh in holy marriage for a long time.  For some of you it’s been 25 years.  For others, even longer!  A lot longer!  They can tell you from the hard knocks of experience that living in holy marriage is the hardest work they’ve ever had to do!  That it is never easy!  That it takes an immense amount of patience, persistence, forgiveness, prayer, and trusting God’s Word!   Especially against all their feelings and all the relentless “sermons” that they preach to themselves from their own hearts!  Brothers and sisters, we would all do well to learn from these wise couples whose youthful love has grown over the years into a mature marriage. 

 

AT THE BEGINNING!  The one flesh union between a husband and a wife is God’s good work!  His doing!  His giving!  Sometimes people choose a spouse for all the wrong reasons (she’s so hot! / he’s such a hunk! / he makes a ton of money! / she can really party!).  We make all kinds of plans and have all kinds of hopes.  But God Himself joins a man and woman in holy marriage by His almighty and creative Word!  God declares a man and a woman to be one flesh at the wedding ceremony!  And He permits them to be one flesh on their honeymoon!  That’s why Jesus declares in the text today:  “So they are no longer two, but one flesh.  Therefore what God has joined together, let man not separate.” 

 

“Let man not separate.”  Wow!

 

He means it.  No loopholes!  No excuses with Jesus!  He simply gives us God’s Word!  God’s will!  His giving for holy marriage!  The husband and wife are one flesh by God’s Word!  If anyone dares to divide or divorce what God joins together will be answerable to the Lord! 

 

Jesus never answered the Pharisee’s question.  He didn’t have to!  “Is it lawful for a man to divorce his wife?”  

 

Knowing God’s Word and will from Genesis – why would you or anyone ever ask?  Seriously!

 

The disciples have been silent the whole time.  Once they get into the house, they ask Jesus about this teaching.  And Jesus is quite blunt:  “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.”

 

Did Jesus just say that?  Really?  Yes, indeed He did! 

 

Those are very hard words for all of us to hear!  Like fingernails on the chalkboard!  Divorce your spouse and marry someone else and you commit adultery?  Yes, that’s what Jesus said!  In Matthew’s gospel Jesus, in mercy, permits one exception for divorce:  only when adultery has taken place.  When the marriage bed is defiled!  When the spouse one-fleshes with someone else outside of the marriage!  Such adultery rips to shreds the one flesh union of the marriage!  And those of you who have experienced the pain of being bitterly betrayed in that way are really quite thankful that Jesus allows that exception.   

 

These words of Jesus really should make you (who aren’t married) think twice about whom you marry.  After all, since marriage is a holy estate and instituted by the Lord you shouldn’t treat it as if it’s yours to do with as you want!  As if you can just dispose of your marriage when you get tired of it or when it gets to be too hard.  Like people do when they get tired of their used car or an old dress.   

 

In addition, you really ought to get to know quite well the person you think is marriage material.  You ought to know the family you might marry into.  You most definitely should share the same faith in Jesus Christ – be able to pray, worship and commune together at the same altar.  You need all the help you can when it comes to living in the rough and tumble of married life.  These words of Jesus should make you very, very, very particular about the kind of person you choose to marry!

 

In addition, these words of Jesus should give you great pause before you ever think about, let alone, decide to get a divorce!  God hates divorce brothers and sisters. 

 

Why?  Because it’s like doing open-heart or critical brain surgery with a spatula!  It’s a total disaster.  Divorce leaves massive open wounds that rarely heal and the wounds that do eventually close up leave nasty scars!

 

People who tell you that their lives are so much better after a divorce aren’t telling you the whole story!  They’re purposely leaving out the rated “R” parts.  Why?  Because the pain and loss of divorce is a second, a very close second, to death!  In fact, divorce is a death because it rips apart, tears in two and bleeds out the one flesh union.  Some of you know this pain and grief immensely, don’t you?  Been there and done that, right?

 

And so here we all are.  Sinners.  Among whom divorce happens.  Yes, even among us here at Trinity.  Sin and hard hearts have destroyed our marriages.  God’s will and Word could not be trusted. 

 

So what are we to do? 

 

Dare I say it?  I will.  I will dare to.  It is time to repent.  Time to confess our sin and use the crucified and risen Jesus against all our sin. IT IS TIME FOR OUR HEARTS TO MELT!  IT IS TIME TO BE GIVEN A NEW HEART!

 

This is so very important.  The danger of hardened hearts that leads to divorce is that these same hearts become hearts of stone toward God.  Have you ever met anyone who hasn’t been spiritually affected when a divorce happens?  I haven’t!  I guarantee that loopholes in God’s Word and all kinds of excuses won’t help.  They just contribute all the more to the heart’s spiritual sclerosis. 

 

All that we can do is do what a little child does he breaks something that is very valuable.  He picks up the pieces with tears in his eyes, crocodile tears pouring down his cheeks, and cries out to Mom and Dad:  “I broke it.  I’m so sorry!”

 

If Jesus’ words today regarding marriage and divorce have troubled you, I beg you to bring your trouble to Jesus.  Confess what bothers you.  Confess what convicts you.  Confess the brokenness of your life even if that includes a broken marriage and a devastated family.  Gather up the broken pieces of your life, set them at the bloody feet of Jesus who hung on the cross for you – who comes to you today in the Sacrament of the Altar with His Good Friday Body and Blood and confess:  “I’m terribly sorry Jesus.  I broke it.”  No excuses.  No loopholes.  No blame games. 

 

I beg you, let Jesus have what you’ve broken.  Don’t hold your sin outside of His forgiveness!  I tell you that in Him there is ample forgiveness.  He has more forgiveness than you’ve got sin!  He gave Himself into the sacrifice of death on the cross for you!  All of you!  The single, the married, the divorced, and yes even the remarried.  Jesus is for you:  sin and all!  He’s total Savior!     

 

So brothers and sisters, may God be gracious to you and strengthen your faith.  And I by the command of our Lord Jesus Christ forgive you all you sin in the Name of the Father and of the + Son and of the Holy Spirit.  AMEN!  AMEN!  AMEN!

 

The peace of the Lord be with you always!   

    

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