Don’t Be a Hard Heart
There are several things going on in this chapter. Jesus teaches on marriage and divorce. He establishes the need for humility for His disciples. Furthermore, He reorients His disciples about priorities. God’s kingdom is not made up of worldly riches, so we need to have our priorities right towards our own kingdom building mindset.
The creation mandate for marriage is clear in this chapter. If anyone wondered what Jesus taught about marriage, this passage makes it clear. God’s intention for marriage is one man, one woman for life. Any other version, or perversion of marriage, is sinful.
The Pharisees seek to catch Jesus in a controversy. There are many Pharisees around today. They do not want to know what God’s teaching on marriage or divorce is, they just want to catch ministers at odds with the prevailing culture or the law itself. We should use Jesus’s method when dealing with such people. We ask, “Have you not read your Bible?”
And it came to pass, that when Jesus had finished these sayings, he departed from Galilee, and came into the coasts of Judaea beyond Jordan; 2 And great multitudes followed him; and he healed them there.
Wherever Jesus goes, He attracts a crowd. And as is His practice, Jesus heals them.
3 The Pharisees also came unto him, tempting him, and saying unto him, Is it lawful for a man to put away his wife for every cause?
Wherever crowds of disciples are following Jesus, envious Pharisees also follow. The crowds desire healing. The Pharisees seek to catch Jesus off guard. It says here they tempted Him. Essentially, they are tempting Him to give an answer.
If Jesus says that it is lawful to put away your wife for every cause, He will run afoul of certain religious leaders. If He says that it is not lawful to put away your wife for any reason, then He will run afoul of the people who have grown accustomed to this practice. We can tell by the response of His own disciples that the people had grown very accustomed to no fault divorce.
This tempting of Jesus was the interpretation of a particular Old Testament clause. Keep in mind that the Pharisees intent here was not to get expert analysis on the exegesis of the Old Testament passage. This was a controversy and they were pulling Him into it. From their perspective there was no way for Jesus to answer without causing offense.
Lightfoot says, “The question here propounded by the Pharisees was disputed in the schools, and they divided into parties concerning it, as we have noted before. For the school of Shammai permitted not divorces, but only in the case of adultery; the school of Hillel, otherwise.”
Deut. 24:1 When a man hath taken a wife, and married her, and it come to pass that she find no favour in his eyes, because he hath found some uncleanness in her: then let him write her a bill of divorcement, and give it in her hand, and send her out of his house.
4 And he answered and said unto them, Have ye not read, that he which made them at the beginning made them male and female, 5 And said, For this cause shall a man leave father and mother, and shall cleave to his wife: and they twain shall be one flesh.
Jesus is reinstituting the creation order. Christians ought to live the way God intended man to live in the beginning. That is, one man one woman for life. In Christ, this is possible. Any aberration from this is sinful. Jesus is making that point paramount.
The Jews wanted special pleading. They wanted to divorce their wives and to do so without being condemned of sin. Jesus does not allow this.
Have ye not read? Jesus has no problem putting the Pharisees in their place. He asks them, You have a Bible right? Did you read it? Jesus makes it clear that the Pharisees do not know how to accurately interpret their Bibles. They chop up texts to prove their points not with the intent to submit to the text.
Male and Female- The point here that Jesus is making is that God intended for one man to be married to one woman for the rest of His life. In Adam’s case there was no second choice for him. In fact, Eve failed him greatly, and Adam did not get to opt out. He could not give Eve a certificate of divorce. No one else to marry. One man, one woman for life.
Jesus’s point is no any reason divorce. But we also should pay attention to His method of argument. He appeals to the creation mandate. One man, one woman. That was God’s intention and it held true 4000 years later in the New Testament. Marriage is only between one man and one woman and these two shall not separate unless there is particular adulterous sin.
A priori argument- Shall a man put away his parents? A son leaves his parents and cleaves to his wife. However, his parents always remain his parents and he always has obligations to them. Jesus taught that an adult son is still responsible to take care of his parents. Here, He is teaching that the relationship between husband and wife is even closer than this. If the obligations to parents is so strong, how much more the obligation to a spouse?
6 Wherefore they are no more twain, but one flesh. What therefore God hath joined together, let not man put asunder.
One flesh- The one flesh union is how man and woman fit together. The two join in conjugal relations and become one. It is this and more. The two have become one and therefore ought not to be separated. Since God has joined them, only God, or only God’s standard can separate them.
Because the wife is so fully at one with the husband, it would be as if he was cutting on himself to send her away. No man would cut off his own member and so he ought not cut off his wife with whom he is one.
7 They say unto him, Why did Moses then command to give a writing of divorcement, and to put her away?
The Pharisees succeeded in getting Jesus to take a side. They figured they had Him. Jesus, you say we cannot divorce for any reason but Moses said we can. They try to pit Jesus against Moses. But Moses was righteous in all his house.
Again, the Pharisees think they know the Scriptures but they do not submit to the Scriptures, they sit in judgment of them.
8 He saith unto them, Moses because of the hardness of your hearts suffered you to put away your wives: but from the beginning it was not so.
Sklerokardia- sclerosis of the heart.
The Pharisees think they know something about marriage and divorce but they do not. He confronts them directly. Moses did not disagree with the creation mandate. Jesus points out that the people in the wilderness were lustful. They desired to seek other wives and husbands. This was not part of God’s creation mandate for marriage.
In such a situation, women are at a great disadvantage. If they are put away and cannot remarry, then they are in real danger. So, Moses required them to put away wives with a specific reason. If she has not committed adultery, then she can remarry. If she cannot remarry, then her former husband may be the cause of her downfall.
It was mere hardness of hearts toward wives, women and children that forced Moses to put into action a law that would protect them.
9 And I say unto you, Whosoever shall put away his wife, except it be for fornication, and shall marry another, committeth adultery: and whoso marrieth her which is put away doth commit adultery.
If you put away your wife for any reason other than adultery and marry another, then you commit adultery. And if you seek to marry such a wife then you are committing adultery.
Jesus took a firm stand against ‘any reason’ divorce. But He did it in such a way that the Pharisees were condemned and He was not caught in their controversy.
10 His disciples say unto him, If the case of the man be so with his wife, it is not good to marry.
Jesus’s own disciples take issue with His rule. They had been so influenced by the culture of their day that they cannot imagine such a high standard for marriage. This resonates in our day.
Many Christians have dramatically lowered their standard for marriage. Furthermore, many Christians have completely abandoned the creation mandate. They deny one man, one woman. They deny even the need to wait until marriage before conjugal relations.
The disciples think it would be better not to marry than to have to stick with a wife for an entire lifetime.
Many young man today are taking this same tack. They are marrying later and later or not marrying at all. They think it would be better not to marry than to have to marry for a lifetime.
11 But he said unto them, All men cannot receive this saying, save they to whom it is given.
There are only some men for whom it is really better to not marry. God made men with the desire for a woman. This is a sexual, emotional and spiritual desire. The Bible is unambiguous about this. Most men need to find a wife, and soon.
If you are among those who have the gift of singleness, then you are an exception, not the rule.
12 For there are some eunuchs, which were so born from their mother’s womb: and there are some eunuchs, which were made eunuchs of men: and there be eunuchs, which have made themselves eunuchs for the kingdom of heaven’s sake. He that is able to receive it, let him receive it.
Don’t be a Hard Heart
Why is their divorce? Because of heard hearts. In every divorce, whether for Biblically lawful reasons, or not, there are hard hearts. This is at least one hard heart and more likely two.
These hard hearts did not get there all at once. At one point, the man and the woman loved each other and wanted to be together. But the hardening of the arties occurs little by little over time, until eventually there is a stroke or a heart attack.
How do you keep these arties clear? Love and respect, confession of sin, looking over faults. You have to do this daily. You have to do this today.
Your heart can grow hard towards God or a spouse, towards a parent or even towards a child. What once was a weird character flaw that you enjoyed can start to bug you. After a while it really annoys you. Then you hate it. Then you cannot live with it. Stop all that. Stop it!
Jesus would not do that. He is faithful to His bride. He loves her and gardens faithful, weeding, beautifying until there is only beauty. But He does not grow weary in doing good.
I hate when you do that. I hate it when. Look, the better response is to accept the weirdness. Learn to cherish it. The Lord’s cherishes you and you have no right to be cherished.
Think about what you think about. Is that all good? The Lord knows those thoughts. Think about what you say. Is that all good? The Lord knows those words. Think about things you’ve done and the things you do? Would you want Him to put you away or to cover all that sinful mess up with the grace of His body and blood? Of course, the latter and this is exactly what He does.
Furthermore, having done that for you, He calls you to do the same for your husband, your wife, your children, your parents, your fellow saints.