Mark 10.1-16

Title: The Family: God’s Design

Text: Mark 10.1-16

I want to try something. You’ve all seen movies and TV, I’m guessing you’ll know what to say when I do this. Hello, my name is Fred and I’m a sinner.

Congregation: Hello, Fred.

Let me begin with a story: It was a political time and of course, being outspoken, I waxed eloquently about the sinfulness of abortion, the right to life, and the need for us to pick a leader who would stand for Life! I don’t remember even saying it, but later, Lisa came and spoke to me about what I had said. Someone there at that gathering couldn’t face this judgmental legalist. What was passed on to me through my wife was this: I was right in what I said, but I needed to be aware that when I’m harping on the sinfulness of abortion, there might just be someone in my presence who has experienced it. And for those who had gone through the pain of abortion, their suffering in silence needed my message of hope and forgiveness. My ‘lightning bolts’ and ‘thunderous’ preaching needed to be offset with a little bit of rain.

I look back on that time with shame. I wish I could have presented myself with more of God’s grace and mercy. Abortion is wrong, it is murder, but where there is shame, there is mercy and forgiveness, too.

Did you catch that? Where there is shame, there is mercy and forgiveness, too. That’s my sermon this morning! Because, when you look at any family, there is no perfect family. It is a unit of sinful people.

You see, what’s ironic about all of this, is I’m a sinner in need of God’s mercy, too. I don’t often think of mercy in areas I’ve never needed it. I’ve never had an abortion nor have I been party to one. As for family, Lisa and I have been married almost 40 years – next year we’ll celebrate 40 years of marriage! And in that time, I have not been the perfect husband, father, son or son-in-law. I have knelt before God in need of his mercy, begging for his forgiveness. I have had to ask pretty much every family member to forgive me for something, at some time.

Now, You’ve heard the passage read today and you’re probably thinking: uh, oh! Well, I don’t think it will be that bad. Yes, where we have failed, there is a sense of guilt – I say a sense because God’s forgiveness removes our guilt, but it doesn’t remove the feelings – not totally. And if you’re divorced then there is always someone in the church to remind you that you’re a failure. Well, that isn’t the goal here. Because, I wouldn’t say you’re a failure, but rather your marriage failed. There is a huge difference between those two.

So, let me reiterate this premise: all of us here today are sinners, but where there is shame, there is mercy and forgiveness, too. I want you to know that I’m not casting stones today.

To help us understand what Mark is doing, let’s review our context. I think context gives us what we’re looking for in helping us understand this passage. Taking the words at face value, without context, sets us up for legalism.

Context

Now last week, I think I had a couple of folks get lost in this phase of establishing the context. I mentioned that there is a cycle that repeats itself three times in 8.22-10.52. Mark is showing us something – he’s giving us context:

You’ll find in each cycle, three key elements:

  1. The Passion Prediction: Jesus will suffer and be mistreated by evil men; they will kill him, but 3 days later he will rise again.
  2. A Zealous Response on the part of the disciples: Peter, John, James & John;
  3. Jesus Teaching on what True Discipleship looks like – misunderstanding what following Jesus means, Jesus then teaches those with him what it means to be a true follower.

Jesus says:

  1. You understand me to be the Messiah. You want to follow me and be like me, good. Let me tell you what the Messiah looks like. I will travel to Jerusalem where I will be betrayed into the hands of sinful men who will shamefully mistreat me and kill me. But, after three days, I will rise again.
  2. The Disciples do not understand what Jesus is saying and demonstrate that with a zealous response:
    1. Peter rebuking Jesus.
    1. John, rebuking a man who isn’t in their group.
    1. James and John ask for positions next to Christ in the new kingdom.
  3. Jesus then says: Uh-Uh… you’re not getting it. Disciples of the Messiah are different than what you’re expecting. They aren’t selfish and self-seeking. They don’t want positions of power and prestige to my right or to my left. They are like me – they give of themselves on behalf of others.

That’s the cycle, and we see it in

  1. 8.31-9.1; the 2nd in
  2. 9.30-50; and the final cycle in
  3. 10.32-45

So, contextually, Jesus is teaching them what the Messiah truly looks like and what disciples or followers of the Messiah look like. That’s our context: What a true disciple of Christ looks like.

Transition: Now, we’re in Chapter 10, verse 1. Rd 10.1; More detail, more “context” is given here. He moves from private teaching (9.35) to more public teaching. Crowds are gathered and the Pharisees are there. Next, Christ moves from teaching the crowds to addressing the topic the Pharisees have given him (rd 10.2): Is it lawful for a man to divorce his wife? Here is where it gets quiet. All eyes are focused on him. What will he say?

I think verse one is important in gaining context because Mark tells us where Jesus is. Do you remember the two men who appeared with Christ when he was transfigured before the disciples on that mountain? Elijah and Moses. This place, where Mark tells us Jesus is teaching, is near where both of those men ended their lives. This place is where a chariot of fire separated Elijah from Elisha and Elijah then went up in a whirlwind to heaven. This is also the place where Moses preached his last sermon – the book of Deuteronomy. This is the topic under discussion – Deuteronomy; and the place Moses was before he marched up Mount Nebo and died.

This is the topic because the Pharisees bring it up. But why? To Test him – this is the same word used of the devil in 1.13, when he was tested, or tempted by the devil in the wilderness when he fasted for 40 days. They’re trying to trip him up, just like Satan. Cf.: 8.11

A Trap is Set: More Context

This is not only the area where Elijah was taken up and where Moses preached his last sermon, but it was also the place where John did his baptizing. He preached against Herod Antipas and Herodias and their immoral relationship. Herod had taken his brother’s wife and was in an immoral relationship with her. He had tossed the law of God under the bus so that he might fulfill his own selfish desires. Maybe, and I don’t know that this was their motive, but I tie it to this word describing their actions as that of the devil’s in chapter one – maybe they hope he will be like John the Baptist. Maybe they’re hoping Jesus will get on his high horse and criticize the King. If he would do that, they could run to the king and condemn his actions. Which by the way, is what they eventually will do. Not by telling the King that Jesus preached against his immorality, but that Jesus set himself up as a king. And when confronted with this, Pilate sought to set Jesus free, but they said to him, if you do, you’re not a friend of Caesar’s. And so Pilate throws it back at them and they say: We have no king, but Caesar!

With this understanding, (they’re trying to trap Jesus as he is teaching the people), Jesus gives them his answer: he answers with a question: rd v 3; What does the Bible say? Rd v 4; “Moses allowed a man to write a certificate of divorce and to send her away.” Read Deuteronomy 24.1-4:

24 “When a man takes a wife and marries her, if then she finds no favor in his eyes because he has found some indecency in her, and he writes her a certificate of divorce and puts it in her hand and sends her out of his house, and she departs out of his house, and if she goes and becomes another man’s wife, and the latter man hates her and writes her a certificate of divorce and puts it in her hand and sends her out of his house, or if the latter man dies, who took her to be his wife, then her former husband, who sent her away, may not take her again to be his wife, after she has been defiled, for that is an abomination before the Lord. And you shall not bring sin upon the land that the Lord your God is giving you for an inheritance.

From that, the Pharisees condense that law down to: “Moses allowed a man to write a certificate of divorce and to send her away.

They have missed it. 1st,

  1. They like the part that reads, if then she finds no favor in his eyes…
  2. However, they totally overlook that part that reads, because he has found some indecency in her… the Hebrew word used here for indecency means she was found naked and her behavior improper; the LXX understands this word and translates it in the Greek as he has found her in an ugly affair. Not affair as a euphemism in the 21st Century, but rather meaning matter. So, to be fair, Moses doesn’t say adultery – and that makes sense. That law has already been addressed. She should be put to death. So, it is a serious matter outside of adultery. Just what? We don’t know.

Well, the religious leadership wanted to nail that down – so they outlined what some indecency in her might mean. And they came up with some of the following answers

  • If she burned his meal.
  • If she feeds him food that isn’t Kosher
  • If he finds someone more beautiful than her because she finds no favor in his eyes.

Review: They have missed it because they like the part she finds no favor in his eyes, and they’ve missed it because they re-define where he finds some indecency in her, and they’ve missed it because

  • The law here is he may not take her again to be his wife. All the rest are conditions being set.

24 “When a man takes a wife and marries her, if then she finds no favor in his eyes because he has found some indecency in her, and he writes her a certificate of divorce and puts it in her hand and sends her out of his house, and she departs out of his house, and if she goes and becomes another man’s wife, and the latter man hates her and writes her a certificate of divorce and puts it in her hand and sends her out of his house, or if the latter man dies, who took her to be his wife, then her former husband, who sent her away, may not take her again to be his wife, after she has been defiled, for that is an abomination before the Lord. And you shall not bring sin upon the land that the Lord your God is giving you for an inheritance.

She is defiled because there is no longer a purity between the 1st husband and the woman. The Religious leadership then took it upon themselves to ignore the law of God and interpret their own desires into God’s law. Eventually making it so that a man could put away his wife simply because he wanted someone different; someone younger, prettier, richer, or whatever!

The Savior knows their hearts; he knows their motives. They aren’t interested in the doctrine of Divorce. They want to trap him. They want him to say something that goes against their traditions and teachings. They want him to upset the King. They want to give him enough rope that he will hang himself. But Jesus doesn’t fall for it. rd v 5;

The Law was given to show us our Sinfulness

The commandment stems from your hard hearts. (Hard Hearts has been an underlying theme through these passages) That was never God’s plan for marriage, for God created marriage. Rd 6-9; His plan was perfect. His plan for marriage is perfect. It is His idea! Do any other combination outside of this picture and you destroy what God has made. And that is what he teaches us!

  • Two men – that’s not marriage – that’s an abomination; punishment: put them to death.
  • Two women – that’s not marriage – that’s an abomination; punishment: put them to death.
  • Adultery – that’s not marriage – that, too is an abomination; punishment: death.

The list goes on: incest, bestiality, fornication, pedophilia – read Leviticus 17-18; The punishment was so severe as to demonstrate to others that God detests something other than what he made. That’s why he gave us His Law – to show us that we are sinners and we need his forgiveness.

Rd v 6-7; this Gk word translated Hold Fast means to be faithfully devoted to; most lit.: to glue to;

Illustration: In the movie Master and Commander of the far side of the World, there is an old, old sailor on the boat. On his hands, right about here, he has letters tattooed on his fingers. HOLD FAST; So, in a storm, when he’s got his hands wrapped around a rope, he’ll never forget and let go!

That is the idea behind what God has planned in marriage – That we would HOLD FAST to the one we’ve committed our lives to… to the one we entered into covenant with – that’d when the storms of life rage upon this storm-tossed sea of our lives, we would not let go because we know to let go would be the death of us!

(Pause)…but somehow, they miss that! Jesus re-iterates three times: rd v 8;and the two shall become one flesh.’ So they are no longer two but one flesh. What therefore God has joined together, let not man separate.” You can’t be any clearer than that!

Meanwhile, back at the ranch…

The disciples want Jesus to do some clarification (remember, their hearts are hard ,too). Rd v 10; And Jesus answers them plainly:“Whoever divorces his wife and marries another commits adultery against her, 12 and if she divorces her husband and marries another, she commits adultery.” Keep this statement within the context of the whole story. Don’t isolate this statement and make it the focal point. I don’t think that is what Jesus is doing here. I don’t think Mark is writing this story to us and saying, now forget everything I’ve said and hang your hat on this statement alone. The context of Jesus’ statement is that a Pharisee can’t just be unhappy with his wife because he finds a pretty young lady and then gives her a writ of divorce and sends her away and marry this other lady. If he does, he is committing adultery and if she remarries, he’s causing her to commit adultery.

Ill.: Years ago a woman came to me about her husband. He was in a relationship with a married woman. So, I confronted him. He said, he was, and he wasn’t going to stop. I then got two other men to go with me to visit him again, as witnesses. We pleaded with him to stop. We talked to him about the consequences – about what happened to King David. He said: look, I’m leaving my wife, I’m getting a divorce, I’m going to marry this other woman. We’re both then going to ask for forgiveness.

That’s not what Grace is for!

Jesus says here and let me be very clear – divorce is granted in certain situations – those situations arise out of sinful behavior – hard hearts.

Let me also say, I’m not saying go ahead and get a divorce at whatever grievance you may have against your spouse and just ask for forgiveness later.

I think what Jesus is teaching here about remarriage in verses 10-12 must be used within the context of the whole passage and the context of Deuteronomy 24. Let’s go back to what Jesus said in the beginning – the Law there is showing us we’re sinful people. Sinful people need forgiveness. That isn’t an excuse to sin!

Remember Paul’s argument: Where sin abounds, grace abounds all the more! Then should we sin more, so that Grace may abound? μὴ γένοιτο! May it never be!

So, let’s bring this to a conclusion… what do I want you to take with you when you leave this morning

Take-a-ways:

  1. Divorce is Destructive and has lasting consequences. Let me show you something: Do you remember how I’ve shared with you about the Top and the Tail? What is in the next story (13-16)? Rd w/ emphasis on Child/ren. Go back to 9.36f; v42; Now, why would Mark put children in his story to bracket the passage on Divorce. I was a child of Divorce. My parents divorced before my 1st birthday, so I never knew a home where my parents lived and loved together.
  2. Your marriage is a picture of the Gospel to others: your children, grandchildren, friends, workers, and the world. Divorce is not a picture of the Gospel. God has given us evidence of his great love for us in so many different wonders of the world. Marriage is one of those. I believe this is one of the reasons the world has done all it can to redefine marriage and to do away with it all together. Eph 5; Husbands love your wives as…
  3. We are all sinners in need of God’s grace. Sin separates us from God. However, Sexual sin is different in that it involves a broken covenant. It is very serious in God’s eyes. And, it should be serious to us. He created the marriage bond to be a spiritual bond. Bearing false witness hurts. Stealing something hurts others. But sexual sin destroys in a catastrophic way. There is a ripping away, a tearing away of these two fabrics that have become one fabric.
  4. Don’t use his grace as a free pass to sin! Shall I sin all the more that grace may abound? God forbid! To quote from Dietrick Bonheoffer, “Don’t cheapen the grace of God.”

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Filed under Christian Living, Grace, Mark, Scripture

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