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Date: Nov. 10, 2019

Author: Bob Henkins

Mark 10:1-12

Key Verse: Mark 1:9

Therefore what God has joined together, let no one separate

I find it very interesting how timely the word of God is. Yesterday, my family and I went to a breakfast wedding and today I have to speak on the topic of divorce. Amazing isn’t it. I had never been to a breakfast wedding before. It was a beautiful and I’m so happy for the new couple. A sad fact is that in roughly the time it took them to recite their wedding vows, nine couples were divorced. That’s a rate of about one divorce every 13 seconds or 6646 per day or 2,419,196 divorces every year. (stats are from 2016) The United States has the 6th highest divorce rate in the world. (Russia has the highest) Divorce is expensive. Most expensive celebrity divorces: Mel and Robyn Gibson ($425M), Arnold Schwarzenegger and Maria Shriver ($250-$300M) Michael and Juanita Jordan ($168M) Most expensive ever: Harold and Sue Ann Hamm ($5.3B) Professional dancers seem to have the highest divorce rate (43) while agricultural engineers have the lowest (1.78). Sadly, the movie “War of the Roses”, staring Danny DeVito, Michael Douglas & Kathleen Turner, may be a picture of our current times. The film is a dark comedy that follows a wealthy couple with a seemingly perfect marriage. When their marriage begins to fall apart, material possessions become the center of an outrageous and bitter divorce battle.

However, there is some good news, divorce rates over the past decade have been dropping from 4.1 to 3.2 per 1000 total population. Before we celebrate to quickly, marriage rates have also dropped from 11.5 to 6.9. (greater drop than divorce) Recent studies have shown that the reason for the decline of both the marriage and divorce rates in the US is because millennials are choosing to wait longer to get married and are staying married longer. But out of all the states, Illinois has the second lowest divorce rate. Finally, something good we can say about Illinois (where our Governors literally make your license plates). Another good thing is, if you have sincere strong religious beliefs, you are 14 percent less likely to get divorced than if you have no religious affiliation. That’s enough about divorce, let’s see what today’s passage is really about.

Our passage starts today in chapter ten of Mark’s gospel. Let’s take a look at verse 1 which reads, “Jesus 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.” (v1) As you can see from this map here, Jesus is heading toward Jerusalem so that he can be there in time for the Passover. He’ll make his entry into Jerusalem in chapter 11. This map shows a possible route Jesus may have taken as he heads south into Judea. This verse notes that he crossed over the Jordan river and you can see that on the screen here. And as usual, many people come out to see Jesus. In our era of electronic social media word spreads so quickly, but what I find it interesting is that over two thousand years ago they had their own form of social media and they could spread the news just as quickly. The more things change, the more they stay the same.

This verse talks about Jesus’ custom what does that mean? When you talk about someone’s custom, you’re really talking about their usual way of behaving. Do you have any customs? What are some of the things that people will usually find you doing? Maybe for some of us that may be a loaded question. I find people’s customs interesting. I think our customs show what we are really interested in. For me, researching football, finding out what’s going on, watching games, or playing Madden might be considered one of my customs. One of the things that you would usually find Jesus doing is teaching. He loved to teach those that came to him about his Father God and what his kingdom was like. Maybe teaching was his passion.

As Jesus was teaching the crowd, some Pharisees come to him with a wrong motive. Take a look at verse 2. “Some Pharisees came and tested him by asking, “Is it lawful for a man to divorce his wife?”” Maybe if a divorced man asked this question it would be a different motive as he might have been seriously contemplating his life. But they didn’t come to Jesus to learn. The Bible says that if you really want to learn about God, if you are seeking him sincerely, with an honest heart, you will find him. (Deut 4:29, 1Ch 28:9, 2 Ch 15:2) Their hearts were hard. Therefore, we can see that the Pharisee’s question was a hostile one. They were trying to set him up. As we know from the map I showed earlier, Jesus was now in the region of Judea, this was the southern part of Israel which meant that Jesus was standing in Herod Antipas’ jurisdiction.

And if you remember from our earlier study of Mark chapter 6, John the Baptist rebuked Herod Antipas for unlawfully divorcing his wife and remarrying his brother’s wife Herodias. For this, John was imprisoned, and it eventually cost him his life. Maybe the Pharisees were hoping to get Jesus with the same result. And if Jesus had agreed with divorce maybe they would have gotten him involved with the controversy between two popular rabbi’s which I will get into in a minute.

So what was their discussion about? Take a look at verses 3-9. ““What did Moses command you?” he replied. They said, “Moses permitted a man to write a certificate of divorce and send her away.” “It was because your hearts were hard that Moses wrote you this law,” Jesus replied. “But at the beginning of creation God ‘made them male and female.’ ‘For this reason a man will leave his father and mother and be united to his wife, and the two will become one flesh.’ So they are no longer two, but one flesh. Therefore what God has joined together, let no one separate.”” Before he answered, Jesus wanted to find out what was on their mind, so he answered their question with another question.

Jesus didn’t seek the latest trend or modern thinking; he went to the law to find the answer. It would be the equivalent of us going to the Bible to find our answer. These days many people think the Bible is outdated and irrelevant. They do not value God’s word and do not think that it can help them with modern issues. What they don’t realize is that the word of God is not static. It is alive and active. It has endured the test of time. It is sharp and can penetrate the hardest of hearts. It can divide the soul and the spirit and even judge the thoughts and attitude of our heart. (Heb 4:12). It can also give us new birth. (1 Pe 1:23)

Their hearts were hard and needed softening.

Here’s the controversy they tried to get Jesus involved in. In Matthew’s account the Pharisees asked, “Is it lawful for a man to divorce his wife for any and every reason?” This differs slightly because Matthew wrote his account for the Jews who were aware of a dispute between two powerful Rabbi’s, Shammai and Hillel over Deut 24:1. “If a man marries a woman who becomes displeasing to him because he finds something indecent about her, and he writes her a certificate of divorce, gives it to her and sends her from his house,” Shammai focused on “something indecent” and taught that marital unfaithfulness was the only allowable cause for divorce while Hillel focused on “who becomes displeasing to him” and taught that a man could divorce his wife if she did anything he disliked, even if it was something as simple as burning his food.

Actually, God never liked the idea of divorce, but because the men of that time treated women as property, and it influenced how they viewed marriage and divorce. They wanted to send the women away empty after using them. Then the woman would not be able to get married again and since she could not work for herself, she had no way to support herself. So Moses wanted to protect the women and allowed for divorce in certain cases.

Divorce was an accommodation to human weakness and was used to bring about order in a society that had disregarded God’s will, but it wasn’t supposed to be the norm. Therefore, the purpose of Deut 24 wasn’t supposed to make divorce acceptable, but to reduce the hardships of its consequences.

Jesus took them all the way back to the book of Genesis for their answer. He goes back to the time before human sin to show God’s original intention. God instituted marriage as a wonderful blessing to mankind that would unify and bond a husband and wife for their lifetime.

Two becoming one shows how permanent God intended marriage to be. For example, when you put two balls of clay together you now have one. You cannot tell when one ball ends and the other begins, it is one homogeneous mass. But when you separate it, now you have two halves. And you can never separate them like they were in the beginning because they were changed after they became one. Over time, they will become one color.

So, in conclusion, what do you think the point of this passage is? To deal with divorce? To help marriage? To show the duplicity of the Pharisees? To come to God with a sincere heart? What is Jesus’ point when he is alone with his disciples? Take a look at verses 10-12. “When they were in the house again, the disciples asked Jesus about this. 11 He answered, “Anyone who divorces his wife and marries another woman commits adultery against her. 12 And if she divorces her husband and marries another man, she commits adultery.”” (v10-12) When Jesus is alone with his disciples, he’s a little more candid with them and often gets into deeper discussion about important matters. And so, when the disciples are alone with Jesus, they ask him privately about this, and he equates divorce with adultery, why? Maybe Jesus wanted to show the value God places on marriages or maybe how serious divorce really is. And so, he is pointing out, divorce is adultery before God. When he talks about one flesh that sounds kind of theoretical, but adultery was practical and in your face. They had a lot of harsh rules against adultery. In their time, if someone was caught committing adultery they would be killed. (Lev20:10) Adultery is one of the Ten Commandments. (Ex 20:14) Adultery is mentioned 45 times (58%) in the Bible whereas divorce is mentioned 33 times (42%). 1.4 times more likely to be mentioned. God does not like adultery. Interestingly King David is held in high regard, even though he sinned, it’s because he sincerely repented after committing adultery read Psalm 51 to catch a glimpse of David’s broken heart.

When we think of join together, it’s a beautiful picture of marriage. The gospel itself, we are all one, united in faith, we are joined together. Think about things that we join together. The leftover pieces are usually not useful. Like a chain, if you separate the links, you no longer have a chain only links that are not useful. If you separate the chapters of a book, you no longer have a book only random thoughts. In the computer world, the leftover pieces of SQL joins are not useful. Marriage is not just for the love of the people, but it is actually put together for God’s purpose. God establishes every marriage and he establishes them for a purpose. In a marriage you learn how to love someone unconditionally. Like the hymn we sang earlier this morning, “I Surrender All” we have to completely surrender ourselves to love someone unconditionally.

I surrender all – Christ gives a good example as he surrendered all for his bride - the church. Jesus protected his bride, he died for his bride. Jesus pursued the church like a husband pursues his bride. Jesus forgave his bride and loved her to the end. Imagine what it would be like if Jesus divorced the church and went after his bride with a divorce lawyer, like in the “War of the Roses” it would be tragic and a bitter story. In some ways, in a marriage you get salted with fire. This refines you. Marriage grows you as a person in ways that you can’t do by yourself. In the book of Genesis, God says that it is not good for a man to be alone. This is true, it is not good for anyone to be alone, we are social creatures and need companionship and love. And we need to love others as well.

Nowadays people don’t stick to marriage long enough to see the final result. They want to get out if it gets a little hot. Imagine if you put all the ingredients together for a cake but don’t put it in the oven to finish it, all you will have is uncooked batter. But after heat is applied, something delicious comes out. The same came be said of marriage. Just as you can’t unboil an egg, or unbrew coffee, these are one-way process, marriage was intended to be a one-way process as well. You can’t just undo a marriage because the two were made one and then separated by force. That’s not a pretty picture.

On the broader scope, marriage is a picture of our relationship with God. Adultery is breaking that relationship. That’s why divorce is so bad. In order to make marriage work, we have to surrender our self. If we are stubborn and hold on to what we want and not take care of our spouse, in time, we will not have a spouse. Therefore, what God has joined together, let us not separate.

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