As we journey through the Witness of Mark, we want to encourage you to first begin with the Daily Reading that will take you through the entire book of Mark. Then, read the First 15 Scripture and Reflection to dive a little deeper into verses from the Daily Reading.
Today's daily reading is: Mark 10:1-12
Some Pharisees came and tested him by asking, “Is it lawful for a man to divorce his wife?”
“What did Moses command you?” he replied.
One of my commitments as a Christian is to face things that are hard. This includes reflection on passages of Scripture that are not easily interpreted or that are difficult and painful to hear. Today’s reading is found at the beginning of one such passage when Jesus is questioned about divorce.
At this point in the story Jesus is in Judea and a crowd is with him. Some Pharisees come to test him, and ask him about the law and if a man can divorce his wife. Bible scholars have observed that this question was widely discussed in rabbinic literature just after, and perhaps during, Jesus’ lifetime. The Pharisees want Jesus to weigh in. Jesus responds by asking a question of his own, “What did Moses command you?” The Pharisees answer by noting that Moses permitted a certificate of divorce in certain circumstances (Deuteronomy 24:1-4).
Jesus counters. He reaches back to the beginning, citing Genesis 1:27, Genesis 5:2, and Genesis 2:24. The Pharisees have asked about what is “lawful” and responded by telling Jesus what is “permitted.” But Jesus asks what Moses “commanded,” and points to Old Testament texts that contain exhortations or directives that cannot be ignored. While the Pharisees may have intended to trap Jesus and force him to side with one party or another regarding the lawful grounds for divorce, Jesus drives them back to the Scriptures and tells them instead to face a larger issue: the will of God, and God’s intent for marriage itself.
Jesus’ interpretive remarks do lead him to take a position that is “more stringent that of the strictest rabbis” (Lamar Williamson, Jr., Interpretation: Mark, 176). Jesus moves beyond what Moses wrote “to what God made and meant; from loopholes that may be permitted to the intention of what is commanded.” Williamson calls this a focus on “gift and grace” instead of legalism, which is “more demanding but also more free.”
In Mark 10:10-12, Jesus speaks directly to the disciples. And he offers a statement that was as startling then as it is now: “Anyone who divorces his wife and marries another woman commits adultery against her. And if she divorces her husband and marries another man, she commits adultery.” The statement is descriptive. Jesus does not command, “Do not remarry.” Jesus acknowledges that divorce happens, as does remarriage. But God’s intent, the ties that occur in marriage, and the pain that results when those ties are broken are all acknowledged.
In The Social Principles of the United Methodist Church, we read, “God’s plan is for lifelong, faithful marriage. The church must be on the forefront of premarital, marital, and post-marital counseling in order to create and preserve healthy relationships. However, when a married couple is estranged beyond reconciliation, even after thoughtful consideration and counsel, divorce is a regrettable alternative in the midst of brokenness.” The statement adds, “Divorce does not preclude a new marriage. We encourage an intentional commitment of the Church and society to minister compassionately to those in the process of divorce, as well as members of divorced and remarried families, in a community of faith where God’s grace is shared by all.”
If you are married, strengthen your relationship. Renew your commitments, and remember that your bonds are a gift and grace given by God. If you are not married, consider carefully the meaning of Christian marriage and your present calling as a person who is single. If you are divorced, please know that God’s grace truly is shared by all, and that you are loved by God and God’s people. And if you are remarried, consider how God can help you to remain faithful to your vows and to God’s purposes in marriage. For all of us, let us pray that the marriages we do celebrate would remain strong, sustained by lifelong, covenantal bonds.
Lord Jesus, help me to face up to hard things in your word, and to answer your call to obedience. In your name, Amen.
Scripture taken from the Holy Bible, New International Version ® NIV ®. Copyright © 1973, 1978, 1984, 2014 by Biblica, Inc.®. Used by permission. All rights reserved worldwide.