We can know God’s view of divorce through studying what Jesus taught concerning divorce. In our study of Mark 10, we saw the religious leaders trying to trap Jesus and in the process we find Jesus helping us understand how God views divorce:
“And Pharisees came up and in order to test him asked, “Is it lawful for a man to divorce his wife?” 3 He answered them, “What did Moses command you?” 4 They said, “Moses allowed a man to write a certificate of divorce and to send her away.” 5 And Jesus said to them, “Because of your hardness of heart he wrote you this commandment. 6 But from the beginning of creation, ‘God made them male and female.’ 7 ‘Therefore a man shall leave his father and mother and hold fast to his wife, 8 and the two shall become one flesh.’ So they are no longer two but one flesh. 9 What therefore God has joined together, let not man separate.” 10 And in the house the disciples asked him again about this matter. 11 And he said to them, “Whoever divorces his wife and marries another commits adultery against her, 12 and if she divorces her husband and marries another, she commits adultery.” Mark 10:1-10
There are two pivotal issues that the reader needs to understand in regard to the interaction between Jesus and the religious leaders of His day.
First, the motivation of the religious leadership was to kill Jesus. Notice the growing tension in Mark’s Gospel account:
And they went into Capernaum, and immediately on the Sabbath he entered the synagogue and was teaching.
Reaction: 22 And they were astonished at his teaching, for he taught them as one who had authority, and not as the scribes.
And when Jesus saw their faith, he said to the paralytic, “Son, your sins are forgiven.”
Reaction: 6 Now some of the scribes were sitting there, questioning in their hearts, 7 “Why does this man speak like that? He is blaspheming! Who can forgive sins but God alone?”
And the scribes of the Pharisees, when they saw that he was eating with sinners and tax collectors, said to his disciples, “Why does he eat with tax collectors and sinners?”
Reaction: 17 And when Jesus heard it, he said to them, “Those who are well have no need of a physician, but those who are sick. I came not to call the righteous, but sinners.”
Now John’s disciples and the Pharisees were fasting. And people came and said to him, “Why do John’s disciples and the disciples of the Pharisees fast, but your disciples do not fast?”
Reaction: Jesus taught them on the fact that He was the long awaited groom for the bride that was Israel.
And the Pharisees were saying to him, “Look, why are they doing what is not lawful on the Sabbath?”
Reaction: Jesus taught them on the proper understanding of the Sabbath.
The Pharisees went out and immediately held counsel with the Herodians against him, how to destroy him.
Reaction: “Jesus withdrew with his disciples to the sea, and a great crowd followed, from Galilee and Judea …”
And the Pharisees and the scribes asked him, “Why do your disciples not walk according to the tradition of the elders, but eat with defiled hands?”
Reaction: Jesus replies: “And he said to them, “Well did Isaiah prophesy of you hypocrites, as it is written, “ ‘This people honors me with their lips, but their heart is far from me …'”
The Pharisees came and began to argue with him, seeking from him a sign from heaven to test him.
Reaction: And He (Jesus) sighed deeply in his spirit and said, “Why does this generation seek a sign? Truly, I say to you, no sign will be given to this generation.”
And he cautioned them, saying, “Watch out; beware of the leaven of the Pharisees and the leaven of Herod.”
And when they (i.e. Peter, James and John coming back from the mountain on which Jesus was transfigured before their eyes) came to the disciples, they saw a great crowd around them, and scribes arguing with them [regarding the fact that the disciples could not expel a demon from a boy that had been brought to them].
After each interaction between the religious leadership of Israel and Jesus, we see Jesus frustrated at their spiritual blindness and we see the growing resentment of the religious establishment. Therefore, by the time we get to the interaction between Jesus and the religious leaders in Mark 10, it is crystal clear that they wanted Jesus disposed of. However, Jesus begins to take the time necessary to straighten out the bad teaching that the religious establishment had been giving to the people for, potentially, generations. Mark 10 is the last showdown before Jesus would travel to Jerusalem for the Passover feast and his murder at the hands of the religious leadership (see Mark 11). It is vital to understand this dynamic if we are to clearly see the gravity of the interaction between Jesus and the Pharisees in Mark 10.
We will address the second pivotal issue in Part 2.