Thursday, May 31st. Mark 10:1-12

He left that place and went to the region of Judea and beyond the Jordan. And crowds again gathered around him; and, as was his custom, he again taught them.


Some Pharisees came, and to test him they asked, ‘Is it lawful for a man to divorce his wife?’ He answered them, ‘What did Moses command you?’ They said, ‘Moses allowed a man to write a certificate of dismissal and to divorce her.’ But Jesus said to them, ‘Because of your hardness of heart he wrote this commandment for you. But from the beginning of creation, “God made them male and female.” “For this reason a man shall leave his father and mother and be joined to his wife, and the two shall become one flesh.” So they are no longer two, but one flesh. Therefore what God has joined together, let no one separate.’


Then in the house the disciples asked him again about this matter. He said to them, ‘Whoever divorces his wife and marries another commits adultery against her; and if she divorces her husband and marries another, she commits adultery.’  Mark 10:1-12


Now we come to the matter of divorce, the dissolution of a marriage.  Few passages in scripture elicit the intensity of emotional reactions as do those concerning divorce.  For good reason.  Marriage and divorce ought never be taken lightly.


But having said that, let me say this:  In all my years as a pastor I have never yet sat down with a couple to prepare for their wedding to hear them say, “We don’t care so much about the wedding, we’re just anxious to be married long enough to go through a long and difficult divorce and then live the rest of our lives with guilt and shame, all the while knowing that our partner is potentially enjoying a much better life with someone else. Even better, we might wait to divorce until we have a couple of innocent children so we can drag them through the process with us and sentence them to growing up in a car pool with a calendar helping them remember whose house they will be sleeping in each night.  That way, even our grandchildren will have to make uncomfortable decisions about who to invite and where they will sit at their own weddings some day.”


God knows that little is more painful in life than divorce.  Divorce, simply stated, is devastating.  So is a marriage that isn’t working – whatever that might mean in individual cases.  So let’s listen to these words from Jesus and hear two clear messages in them.


First, in the world of the Old Testament law, women (like sheep) were considered property.  They belonged to their father until their father struck a bargain with a suitable mate, whereupon the woman moved into the tent of her husband and became his property.  If she displeased her husband in any way (the “grounds” for divorce in Deuteronomy 24:1read “she does not please him because he finds something objectionable about her.” ) the man could simply write a certificate of divorce, kick her out of her tent, and she would have no alternatives but return to her father’s tent, find another man, become a prostitute, or starve.


The primary function of Jesus’ words in their context is to protect women.


Second, notice that the Pharisees ask Jesus to “test” him.  They aren’t seeking helpful information, they have simply chosen an inflammatory subject to trap Jesus.  Their choice of questions should help us understand that divorce has always been a painful reality, a touchy subject, and we should be wary of treating it as an “issue” separated from the real world of human relationships, emotions and consequences.


Most often, as a pastor, I am asked what seems to be a simple question:  Is divorce a sin?  I have learned that that question is a wolf in sheep’s clothing.  It looks like an intellectual question but often (usually) cloaks the real questions – How do I move forward after seeing my whole world crumble around my ears?  Does God still love me?  Is healing and forgiveness possible?


Here, as in so many other areas of life, a question is less of a question and more a plea for help.  And an answer is less of an answer than an invitation to a deeper conversation.  Yes, divorce is a sin but it is also a confession of a whole host of sins that led to the divorce.  Yes, divorce is tragic, it is the death of a relationship, but it is also a redemptive act which can open us to a new future.


The Bible is crystal clear that God hates divorce.  We can understand that.  No one wants their children to suffer.  But prolonging suffering by suffocating under a burden of shame and guilt is no answer either.  Here our faith isn’t far from our common sense – while we know that divorce isn’t God’s will, if it happens, whether we make it happen or whether it happens to us, how we divorce, how we use it as our teacher rather than our jailor, how we behave before, during and after, makes all the difference in the world.


Let us pray:  Dear Lord, we pray today for the health and well-being of marriages.  May people so learn to trust in you that they are free to love and trust one another, free to live in trustworthy ways.  And we pray today for those whose lives have been scarred by the pain of divorce and its consequences.  Help people learn, move through their grief and pain, heal from their shame, and adjust as well as possible to a new life.  We pray for parents and we pray for children.  In Jesus’ name.  Amen.


5 Responses to “Thursday, May 31st. Mark 10:1-12”

  1. Joanne Says:

    I am going thru a divorce and luckily it is amicable. We did not rush into it but it was a long time coming with the suffering we have been going thru. My faith holds me strong and will get me through it. Thank you for writing about a difficult decision made by couples and giving us the sense everything will be ok.

  2. NC Grandma Says:

    Thank you, Pastor Kerry for this commentary on Mark 10. I divorced in 1977 and remarried in 1978. This passage from Mark has ‘haunted’ me (and my son) for many years. God hates divorce, but I know He loves me. My first husband became a better father after we separated. My current husband has been faithful and our marriage is strong. My faith has grown and I hope others who read this and are going through the pain and the same fear I felt each morning (I prayed: ‘Lord, help me get through this day!’) many years ago, will know God’s grace.

  3. Mary Says:

    Such an outstanding devotion today. Thank you, Pastor Kerry.

  4. Kerry, Allie, Jonathan and Steve Says:

    To say this is a “tricky” one is an understatement.

    Wouldn’t it be nice if life were oh so simple.

    Or, would it?

  5. maxmaw Says:

    May I suggest the following for consideration: 1) Unquestionably, the rabbi’s were testing Jesus’ knowledge about his own faith, Judaism, and the rules for marriage and divorce. 2) Jesus’ statement means that if you seek a divorce in order to marry another, you are committing adultery. That would be true because it was not permitted. 3) Nor could a husband simply divorce a woman because the husband found something ‘objectionable’ about his wife. The word, ‘objectionable’ is codified, meaning that there is a list of offenses, and it is not open-ended. An example would be if she was not the virgin that was specified. 4) One additional point: A marriage and divorce do involve property, but the woman was and is not chattel or property. Whatever property was exchanged by both sides in a contract for marriage is at stake in a divorce, and must be negotiated or returned according to the code for marriage and divorce.

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