Sundays in Mark (29) 10:1-12 Divorce
Continuing our simple Sunday reflections in the Gospel of Mark. This week 10:1-12 and the topic of divorce.
This is a complex passage with a lot going on which can’t be easily covered in a simple relfection. It is an important text regarding the ethical issue of divorce and remarriage today. But any conclusions of what the Bible teaches about divorce need to be based on the whole biblical witness – which is well beyond the focus of this post.
A less obvious point of importance is what Jesus says about the equality of men and women:
- The question Jesus is asked is very probably tied to geography. He is moving south towards Judea, across the Jordan and perhaps into Perea, the area ruled by Herod Antipas, John the Baptist’s executioner. John of course lost his life challenging Herod over his marital arrangements. Do Jesus’ questioners hope to trap Jesus?
- Jesus challenges popular application of Mosaic provision of divorce. Its primary purpose was to provide some protection for the divorced wife (the certificate) allowing her release from the marriage and freedom to remarry. It was not to make divorce a ‘right’ or where the man could just ‘dispense with’ his wife if she displeased him.
- Jesus’ reaffirmation of the divine institution of marriage in 7-9 is a challenge and warning to Jewish men whereby it was the man alone who could institute divorce. This is very likely also a bold challenge to Herod Antipas & Herodias and their relationship.
- Jesus statements in 11-12 are mutal – BOTH the man and woman are not to divorce [or the text could mean 'desert'] or they will be guilty of adultery against their spouse as they form a future sexual relationship. What should not be missed here is how radical Jesus’ stance is here in equating male and female responsibility and dignity.
Lord, you have created us male and female; made in your image; of equal worth and signficance; made to live in relationship of mutality, love and care. We pray today especially for those we know whose marriages are under strain. Pour out your grace and bring healing, reconciliation and joy. Amen
1Jesus then left that place and went into the region of Judea and across the Jordan. Again crowds of people came to him, and as was his custom, he taught them.
2Some Pharisees came and tested him by asking, “Is it lawful for a man to divorce his wife?”
3“What did Moses command you?” he replied.
4They said, “Moses permitted a man to write a certificate of divorce and send her away.”
5“It was because your hearts were hard that Moses wrote you this law,” Jesus replied. 6“But at the beginning of creation God ‘made them male and female.’ 7‘For this reason a man will leave his father and mother and be united to his wife, 8and the two will become one flesh.‘ So they are no longer two, but one. 9Therefore what God has joined together, let man not separate.”
10When they were in the house again, the disciples asked Jesus about this. 11He answered, “Anyone who divorces his wife and marries another woman commits adultery against her. 12And if she divorces her husband and marries another man, she commits adultery.”