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.”
People were bringing little children to him in order that he might touch them; and the disciples spoke sternly to them. But when Jesus saw this, he was indignant and said to them, “Let the little children come to me; do not stop them; for it is to such as these that the kingdom of God belongs. Truly I tell you, whoever does not receive the kingdom of God as a little child will never enter it.” And he took them up in his arms, laid his hands on them, and blessed them.Mark 10:1-16
The question of divorce and remarriage is a complex one and to better understand the the biblical, theological and pastoral issues involved, one would do well to read David Instone-Brewer’s treatment of them in his excellent book Divorce and Remarriage in the Bible. We have to note that Jesus is not forbidding divorce here, but asserting that it is a legal allowance made for by Moses only because of human sinfulness; when human sin results in the breakdown of a marriage, then divorce becomes a legally permissible recourse to leave that marriage.
However, even though Moses gave that legal allowance, the positive intention of God for those who marry is to maintain their marriage for life (or until death separates them). This is grounded in the goodness of creation itself, in the nature of humanity. A couple who unites in marriage unites for life, and it is only when God’s intention of a life-long marriage is lived out (and lived out well!) that there is joy and flourishing. God sees that this good!
More importantly, God intends for this most primordial and most fundamental human relationship to image the love that his Son has for the church. A Christian couple who sacrificially loves each other and commits to doing so for life is a living icon of of God’s Son: out of love, Jesus gave his life up for his church; and out of love, Jesus has united the church to himself and will never forsake it. It is for this reason that the Revelation of John presents him as a bridegroom and the church as the bride in the age to come—he is the bridegroom who sacrificed himself to obtain his bride and they will be in union to the ages of ages.
So, if we wonder why Jesus is so against the dissolution of marriages, it is because of his indissoluble commitment to us and his desire for us to imitate and image him. Therefore, Christians who wish marry ought to keep in mind that marriage is a lifelong commitment to another person and ought not to enter into it frivolously. Yet, once entered into, they are presented with an unique privilege to represent the love of Jesus to the world in their relationship.
- It is only with remarriage that the divorced person commits the sin of adultery (Mk. 10.11-12). ↩︎