Jesus’ Teaching on Divorce in Mark 10

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I have been working through Mark 10 this week. The chapter starts with the Pharisees testing Jesus on his view of the legality of divorce. It is possible given Mark 10:1 that Jesus just crossed over into Herod Antipas’ territory. Herod had divorced his wife to marry his half-brother’s ex-wife. So marriage, divorce and re-marriage was a big deal around this time, about where Jesus was when this happened.

The Pharisees are emphasizing divorce. Jesus flips it to the right emphasis – God’s intention for marriage. God intended for one man to marry one woman for life. That’s it. Period. We need to teach that until we are blue in the face.

Then there is 10:10-12 on remarriage. In this instance Jesus doesn’t give grounds for this but does say that remarriage can result in adultery.

This further emphasizes how serious God’s design and desire for marriage according to His plan really is. Some people have taken this as the unforgivable sin. I don’t believe that is the case. I have known people who gave up on God because they were taught this – that they couldn’t be forgiven unless they divorced a second time. You aren’t going to make a broken situation less broken by breaking more things.

We also need to take two things Jesus said in Mark 3:28-29 seriously – that God forgives all sin (3:28) except one (3:29) and that one is not remarriage adultery. That sin is blasphemy of the Holy Spirit.

There is hope for the divorced. There is hope for the remarried. We need to teach the desire and design God has for marriage. We need to be serious about keeping our marriages pure. When things go wrong we need to love people through it all and help them pick up the broken pieces and offer them hope.

We can teach both the seriousness of God’s Word and the reality of forgiveness. Teaching forgiveness doesn’t take sin less serious as we understand what it took for the forgiveness of our sins through Jesus.

Last, there are some other really important teachings in this chapter that if we took seriously, divorce wouldn’t be an issue. Jesus has the rich man ask him about how to get eternal life. Jesus tells him to sell everything and give it to the poor and then come follow Jesus. This principle would save a lot of marriages because the one thing that we would have difficulty letting go of with God is also something that hinders our marriage. To address this with God is to open ourselves up for a healthier marriage. A few verses later Jesus says this is impossible with man but possible with God (10:27_. Many marriages are lost because we operate out of our own strength rather than trusting God and being obedient to Him.

Jesus says a bit later in 10:31 that the last will be first and the first last. This also should characterize our marriages – putting our spouse above ourselves. Then James and John ask for seats of honor in the kingdom. Jesus says they are to be servants. Again, this would save many marriages.

Jesus teaches on divorce in 10:1-12 but the rest of the chapter contains vital teachings that would save many marriages. People have known divorce is wrong for centuries and beyond but still do it. We need to teach divorce isn’t God’s design or desire. We also need to teach the flip side – how we live in such a way that our marriages can work. That is Mark 10.

2 Responses

  1. Without going into detail my first marriage ended in a “biblical” divorce. One of the deepest valleys I have ever walked. At the time of the divorce I had not been to church in over 10 years. I cannot say that would have guaranteed my first marriage would have lasted if I stayed in church. There were a lot of factors that led to that divorce. Right before the divorce my children had found a church home. My ex-wife started going there as well. Then when I came she left (we were still married), I stayed. The people in that congregation wrapped our family in love. Some were able to stay friends with both of us without any conflicts. I am so thankful for those people. It was because of their love that I was able to rekindle my faith in God. As I healed, I asked God if it was his will to send me a woman who had a similar walk as I had. The woman he put into my life matched my childhood experiences and early adult experiences better than I ever imagined. We are approaching our 20th wedding anniversary, and God is at the center of our home. Our families blended so well, helped from the loving arms of a church family that accepted us for who we are, children of God with all our flaws.

  2. I believe that Jesus stuck exactly to the thought of the Law, even though he worded it differently – mainly because he tailored it for those who asked Him. The Law on divorce was meant to convey that not everything was a reason for divorce, but sexual immorality/uncleanliness. But also according to the Law, both parties were allowed to remarry without punishment after the divorce. This shows the grace of God, while we try to minimize that and make it more legalistic than it needs to be. We need to show more grace towards those who bad decisions in bad situations.

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