This is one of the hardest parts of Mark’s gospel – but if we find it hard. how much harder was it for Jesus.? To test him he is asked the question ‘ Is it lawful to divorce or not?’
Jesus’ response is “What does Moses say?”. Moses lays down the law – and the law is clear that there is a means of getting a divorce – and yet this is a ‘live’ issue for Jesus’ time (as it is for ours) – because there were some husbands who were effectively abandoning their wives using the legal system. Jesus can’t support the law which allows a wife to be abandoned simply on her husbands say-so, and yet in Jesus time as in ours there are marriages which have failed and which need to end.
So Jesus does not answer the question directly, but stresses the seriousness of the marriage bond.
Jesus warns that divorce cannot be treated as a state of eradicating the marriage, ‘as if it never happened’ – and so he teaches that it is like adultery to enter into a 2nd marriage – these may be Rabbinic shock tactics, like last week’s teaching to pluck out your wandering eye. Perhaps if Jesus had known the words of our marriage ceremony he would have said that divorce was not be entered into lightly or thoughtlessly…
Jesus teaches people to think Why is the law? not just what is the law? – Jesus wants people to live their lives seeking good and love, not seeking to trick others and pin down exactly what they should do.
And so he speaks of receiving the kingdom like a child – loving, not squirming out of our responsibilities, and accepting that the greatest god and the greatest power of God’s rule of love. Amen.