2: “Some Pharisees came, and to test Him they asked, ‘Is it lawful for a man to divorce his wife?’” – The Pharisees felt that it was through adherence to the law that one could assure access to the kingdom of God. They knew the law and were respected for it. Jesus’ teachings flaunted the law and because of this the Pharisees saw Him as an enemy to their established religious practices. This question was posed in order to trap Jesus into the same fate that befell John the Baptist who opposed King Herod’s sinful marriage.
5: “Because of your hardness of heart he wrote this commandment for you.” – Moses had established a process in which a man could divorce his wife. Jesus teaches that the commandment is in place, not because God condones divorce, but as a result of man’s sinful nature.
9: “Therefore what God has joined together, let no one separate.” – The assumption Jesus is making is that true marriage is one based and founded in the love of God. It is a bond created by God which shall not be broken.
13: “People were bringing little children to Him in order that He might touch them.” – The disciples thought these parents were seeking a pathway to a charmed life for their children but Jesus showed that the children represent the manner in which we all are to enter into His kingdom.
14: “Let the little children come to me; do not stop them; for it is to such as these that the kingdom of God belongs.” – Link this verse to Jesus’ lesson on divorce. This is still a hardness-of-the-heart issue. Access to the kingdom is dependant on having an open and compliant heart that God can use.
15: “Truly I tell you, whoever does not receive the kingdom of God as a little child will never enter it.”
Points to Contemplate:
“Is it lawful?”
Do you ever find yourself focused on issues of right and wrong? Do you ever become indignant and self-righteous when you view the ways of the world? Does your relationship with God depend on “acting right” or by “doing the right things?” What happens then when you slip up and fail to act right? The Pharisees had legalism down as an art. They argued, debated, and analyzed every life circumstance in the context of the law. Jesus points out, however, that the law is not the basis for a relationship with God. What is required is an open heart. Can you use the Pharisees as an example that will guide you away from legalistic thinking and towards a living relationship with Christ?
What are your thoughts about divorce? Nearly half of us have experienced divorce in some way. Is Jesus saying that the divorces we have experienced, regardless of the situation, are wrong? Should we stay married no matter what is happening within the marriage? Or do these verses speak more to the conception of the marriage in the first place? Do we have high divorce rates because we are marrying for the wrong reasons? Are we too selfish? Do we take the life-long commitment too lightly? Are we not involving God as the basis of our unions? Do these verses underscore the importance of premarital counseling and focusing on creating a strong foundation with God before the wedding ever happens?
What is “hardness of heart?” Is it a condition of separateness that is inherent in mankind? Does it develop and harden as we grow older? Is it a rotten, cancerous growth from within due the accumulation of our sins? Is it a shell of self-righteousness that we have carefully crafted and diligently uphold? Do you recognize that a hard heart is the enemy of our marriages and the chasm in our relationship with God? When we face difficulties in our marriages does the heart tend to harden even further? What steps can be taken to soften your heart? In what ways can you grow to love your spouse and to approach God with the heart of a child? Promises of the Gospel:
From the attempt by the Pharisees to trap Jesus into speaking against the law of Moses or inciting the anger of Herod, comes a lesson that exposes every one of us. Our hearts are laid bare by the reality of our sins, self-righteousness, and separateness from God. Marriage is a bond created by God. It is a oneness, a holy covenant, between two people and God. When this bond unravels into the throes of divorce it reveals the pervasiveness of our sins and our separation from God. Jesus teaches us that we are to overcome this hardness of heart. As we learn to soften the casing of self-righteousness, as we give our sins of decay over to His loving forgiveness, as we learn to love one another and God as He has intended, then we are able to approach “the kingdom of God as a little child.”