Jesus on Divorce and God's Plan for Marriage - Mark 10:1-12

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What does the Bible say about marriage, divorce and remarriage? In a world where marriage is often avoided or minimized and divorce is often normalized and even praised it is important that we consider how God would have us think about these significant matters. In Mark 10 we come to a passage where Jesus speaks both to the issue of divorce and also of God’s good design and plan for marriage.

As we come to this passage we must acknowledge that for many people this topic is very personal. Almost everyone has been impacted in some way, directly or indirectly by divorce. For some the topic elicits reminders of the some of the hardest moments of life. Thankfully, as Christians we know that Jesus came to bring grace and forgiveness for all who have sinned and hope and restoration for all who have been sinned against.

The setting – The road to Jerusalem (10:1)

  • As Jesus travels from Galilee to Judea He is knowingly traveling the road to the cross. He knows that Jerusalem is the place where He will be betrayed, arrested and crucified, and yet He goes willingly. He goes in order to complete the work that will lead to our salvation.

The confrontation – A question about divorce (10:2)  

  • Throughout His ministry the Pharisees have continually opposed Jesus and sought to discredit Him. In this case they raise a question that was highly debated: Is divorce lawful and for what reasons can it be considered? Of course this isn’t an honest question. It’s not an attempt to gain insight, but an effort to turn people against Jesus.

The concession of Moses for divorce (10:3-5) 

  • Jesus first responds with a question. He appeals to the Scriptures and asks the Pharisees about the commandments of Moses. Their response comes from Deuteronomy 24:1-4, a passage that had often been used to justify divorce for any reason. However Jesus points out that this law wasn’t given as a positive command, but as a concession because of sin (the hardness of the hearts). His purpose was to show that the aim of the Deuteronomy passage was not to make divorce permissible but to limit sinfulness and to control its consequences.This ‘case law’ doesn’t reflect God’s ideal for His people but was a response to the people’s sin.

The intention of God for marriage (10:6-9)

  • As a means of explaining God’s disapproval of divorce Jesus appeals to the design and intention of marriage. Quoting from Genesis 1:26-27 and 2:23-25 Jesus recalls the purpose of God in regard to marriage.
  • Marriage is rooted in creation– Appealing to Genesis Jesus recalls that marriage was planned and established by God for the good of His people. He created it and He is the One who should define its’ use.
  • Marriage is the making of one from two – Marriage is more than a legal agreement or joint partnership. It’s unlike any other relationship, when we are joined in marriage we become one flesh. 
  • Marriage is a work of God– While we perceive marriage as something we form and govern, the Scriptures reveal that when we are married we are joined together by God.
  • Marriage is meant to be for a lifetime– According to Scripture neither man nor woman controls marriage, but God. He is the authority over marriage: what God has joined together, let man not separate. 
  • Application- As the people of God we should be the first to herald that marriage is a good gift from God, for the good of people, and we should strive to see marriage honored and received according to God’s design.

The consequences of divorce and remarriage (10:11-12)

  • Although the setting and audience change, the conversation continues. Jesus goes on to tell His disciples that those who break the covenant of marriage and marry again commit adultery. It’s a strong statement that reinforces how highly God values marriage. God designed and instituted marriage and He calls us to take that institution seriously.

God’s compassionate allowances

  • The teaching of Jesus in Mark emphasizes God’s good plan for marriage and how divorce contradicts and distorts God’s intention for marriage. That said, other passages in the New Testament reveal that God has provided compassionate allowances for those who have been sinned against. In Matthew 19:9 Jesus offers sexual immorality as an exception to the requirement that marriage should be lifelong. If a person is sinned against in this way divorce is allowed, although not required. A second allowance in found in 1 Cor. 7:12-15 where Paul says that if a Christian has an unbelieving spouse who leaves the marriage, the believing spouse can be freed from the marriage and even allowed to remarry. It should also be noted that those who enter a second marriage sinfully do not remain in an ongoing state of sin. After repenting the marriage should not be thought of as an ongoing act of adultery and it should be maintained in a way that honors God.