DUNCAN/The kingdom and marriage
If you have your Bibles, I’d invite you to turn with me to Matthew 19:1-12. Jesus has been speaking to his disciples, in an extended series of lessons in Matthew, chapter 18. Now, in Matthew 19, He’s left Galilee, He’s in the border regions of Judea just on the other side of the Jordan ministering to multitudes. As He does so, the Pharisees press Jesus with a question about divorce to allow Jesus’ teaching to be publicly scrutinized. They could have cared less about the marriages that were involved. Their one goal was to catch Jesus Christ in a trap. Their desire was to get Him involved in a controversy which would cause His reputation to suffer no matter what answer He gave. And so, they had no concern for your soul; whereas, throughout this passage Jesus shows every concern for your soul. I’d like you to see two things as we look at this difficult passage together. First, that Jesus cares for the people. Second, that Jesus teaches a high view of marriage.
I. Jesus Cares for the People
The first thing you will see in verses 1 and 2 is that Jesus is the one who truly cares about people.
Notice where He is ministering. He’s ministering in the border regions on the other side of the Jordan. Now let me ask you this: Were the Pharisees out there ministering? Were they out amongst the multitudes caring for their souls? No, they were out there in order to catch Jesus in a trap. Jesus was out there ministering to those people. He was healing them. They were following Him in multitudes, and He was giving His heart, His life, and His soul to them. It is important to understand that Jesus is no “pie in the sky,” “ivory tower theologian,” simply saying what the preacher is supposed to say here. Jesus is the one in this passage who has invested Himself in the lives of people.
It is important for you to know that the Pharisees were lax on the issues of divorce. That may surprise you because your mindset is to think of the Pharisees as legalists, nitpickers, people who are dotting every “I” and crossing every “T” with regard to the law of God. And you may say, what in the world are they doing with a relaxed view on marriage, divorce, and remarriage? Well, in fact, their legalism plays into that because the Pharisees paid a lot of attention to a passage in Deuteronomy from which they drew their teaching on divorce. And they parsed it very carefully. But they overlooked the fundamental teaching which had been set forth on marriage in Genesis 1-2. They strain at a gnat, and they swallow a camel. They make a great deal about the lesser things of the law while ignoring completely the weightier matters of the law, and on these issues of marriage, divorce, and remarriage.
II. Jesus Teaches a High View of Marriage
I want you to see in verses 3-9, Jesus engaging these Pharisees on the issue of marriage and divorce. And He’s going to teach us here that we ought to have a high view of marriage. We ought to practice a high view of marriage in our own families. And we ought to help others walk through the difficult struggles and trials that always are attended to marriages in a fallen world. I want you to note that whereas Jesus, when he was approached in Luke 12, and asked by a certain group to help them divide the family inheritance, that Jesus said to them: “I’m not your judge. You go find a judge or an elder and let him divide the family inheritance. I’m not going to get involved in that.” That was His response when some came and asked Him to help with the family inheritance, but when people came to Him and asked Him about His views on marriage, divorce, and remarriage, He was more than willing and ready to pronounce what God’s views were on marriage, divorce and remarriage. He did not hesitate to lay down the law. He did not hesitate, if I can use this language, to poke His nose into our business. We are very uncomfortable with folks pressing us in these areas. Whether they be from the church, even our neighbors and friends. We feel that our marriages are very private, and it’s none of your business. The Lord Jesus says, “Yes, it is My business.”
Now the Pharisees were basing their opinions on divorce on Deuteronomy 24:1-34. And they very carefully misread Moses in that passage to argue that Moses was commanding a very broad range for grounds for divorce. And Jesus responds to their question by taking them right back to Genesis 1- 2, and He says, “Look, what is marriage, what does God institute marriage for?” He instituted marriage in order to present oneness between a man and a woman who would leave from parents, and they would cleave to one another. And so, He quotes to them the words from Genesis 1:27, and Genesis 2:24, and then He adds His own words, “So they are no longer two but one flesh. What therefore God has joined together, let no man separate.” Jesus says, “Marriage is to promote oneness and, therefore, we are never to flippantly consider breaking up an institution which is designed to promote oneness. We are never to take that lightly. He says to the Pharisees, “Shame on you, you’re ignoring what Moses taught in Genesis.”
Now the Pharisees thought that either He was going to get trapped in the theological skirmish, or perhaps they thought that Jesus was going to actually oppose Moses, by saying, “Moses was wrong when he said such and such in Deuteronomy.” But Jesus basically says to the Pharisees, “Once again your problem is not that you care too much about what Moses said, it’s that you don’t care enough about what Moses said because you haven’t read the foundational statements of Moses about marriage carefully enough.
Perhaps you are in an irreparable situation. A situation where the marriage vow has been so grossly broken, that the opportunity for reconciliation is not there. You still need to gather around and say, “It is not my lack of respect in regard to the marital estate, but rather the opposite. My high esteem leads me to say that this marital relationship must end because of the infidelity that has occurred.” Whatever the case is, we all need to devote ourselves to upholding the status of marriage. It is not just a foundation of our nation; it is the foundation of our congregations. We all have a vested interest in helping one another in the areas of marriage and family. Whether we’re single, whether we’re divorced, whether we’re married, whether we’re happily married. All of us have a vested interest in helping one another in this area. May God help us do so.