October 7th, 2012
Grace, Mercy and Peace are yours from God our Father and our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ, Amen.
My friends, today our Lord shows us the blessings of marriage and children. Today, Jesus doesn’t teach so much about divorce as He does about marriage. And He follows this teaching up with a reminder of those great blessings that come from marriage, namely children. It’s a lesson that applies to all of us with regard to our own marriages and our own children. But more importantly Jesus reminds us today of the perfect marriage, the marriage that all marriages shall be modeled after, namely Christ’s marriage to the church, and the blessings that come therein to the children of God who have been brought into the marriage feast through the waters of baptism.
In Jesus day the Pharisees played a prominent role in the lives of the Jewish people. They were knowledgable about the writings of the OT and their understandings placed them into positions of authority that allowed them to make the laws. Today Mark reminds us that these prominent men approach Jesus with a plan to entrap Him.
A little history is necessary here. It is important to note that these Pharisees were not in agreement about the Jewish law on the subject of divorce. One (minor) school of thought said that divorce was permissible for acts like a woman burning a mans dinner, while the other school of thought (which the Pharisees were allied with) said that a man could divorce his wife if he found a prettier woman, in fact, the Pharisees were of the mind that a man could divorce his wife for any reason, the only necessary thing was to write her a certificate of divorce.
So they ask our Lord today; “Is it Lawful for a man to divorce His wife?” Our Lord responds: “What did Moses command you?” Immediately, the threat of Jesus being trapped is averted; for Jesus cares not about the contemporary, sinful ways in which the Pharisees viewed divorce. Christ was and is no respecter of contemporary sins and thus dismisses the question in order to teach these snakes what time and perpetual sin had hidden from their view.
Christ teaches these men, and us, that marriage is not what man makes of it, nor shall divorce be viewed as a convenient way to dissolve it. But these Pharisees are willful and stubborn and they use their masterful knowledge of the scriptures to address Christ with the words of Moses (Dt. 24:1-4); “Moses allowed for divorce” they reply. But here the Pharisees make a huge mistake, a mistake that is still common in our day; a mistake which believes that because the law permitted something that it was the Will of God. Clearly this was not the case as our Lord explains. Moses wrote this law permitting divorce because of your hard-heartedness; because of your obstinacy. In other words; Moses allowed the Jews of His day to entertain their sin, to actively separate themselves from the blessings of marriage if they so chose. But Jesus reminds the Pharisees that even though divorce was legal in the eyes of the state; is was not right or permissible in the eyes of God. The Pharisees were slaves to their own judgement, their ever growing sin and their traditions. They had grown accustomed to divorce being normal, in much the same way we and our children have today. And as time passed the sins of their father’s grew worse, until, in the days of Christ sin had grown so rampant that women were treated like cattle and men could divorce their wives for any reason they wished. Christ reminds them that this was not what was intended.
From the beginning; Jesus says; as He quotes the book of Genesis… even before Eve was created, marriage was given given in order that companionship, togetherness, selfless love and service to one another could be rendered; but more importantly marriage was given that man and woman would be reminded of the perfect marriage that exists between Christ and His Church. Christ reminds us of this in verse 7 when He says that a man shall leave his mother and father and will be joined inseparably to his wife. Certainly many of us think about actual husbands and wives here but our Lord is speaking about something more something greater; namely his death and resurrection where He will forsake his relationship with the world, would give up all notoriety and success and affix Himself to the cross, bleed and die for His bride the church. This marriage is tangible for us; consider baptism and what Christ has done to us there… He has united us to Him, we are part of Him, He is part of us; in baptism you have become a member of the body of Christ, indeed the bride of Christ. And because of this, the benefits of this true marriage, expands to include not just temporal husbands and wives but indeed all the baptized.
The death and resurrection of Jesus was done for His bride, and we have each been made partakers of this marriage gift through the waters of baptism wherein we have been made a part of.
Marriage too has thus been ordained as a gift, where man gives to wife and wife receives from the man. No longer shall women be seen as property, but she shall instead be seen as bone of bone and flesh of flesh, seen as the finest and fairest of all creation created to receive love, protection and the sacrifice of her man. And it in this; in man serving and woman receiving we can actually behold the great truths of how Christ our loving bridegroom sees us; His bride, His beloved church, to whom He provides protection, self-less love and unconditional forgiveness when she sins; we the bride we receive all these things from our perfect Husband, Christ.
And so for the question of divorce posed by the Pharisees; we must understand that if any bridge-groom had grounds to divorce His wife it would be Jesus, for his bride has in every way, been unfaithful. We have run after other loves, we have sought the love and adoration of those who were not our true bride-groom. Christ… has watched His beloved, the one for whom He died; scorn Him, desert Him, commit sin with other gods and what is His retort? Forgiveness. His blood shed for her on the cross, indeed His blood shed for you and me. And seeing things this way we begin to see the great folly of divorce.
Seeing things this way, it would be foolish for us to grant Christ the same liberties that are so common in our modern day wouldn’t it? It would be foolish for us, as the bride of Christ, to say to Him that He should divorce Himself from us, for We understand the damning implications of this. St. John reminds us in his 14th chapter: “No one comes to the Father except through me.” According to our temporal standards, the rules and norms of our sinful existence, Jesus would be well within His rights to divorce Himself from us… but He understands more readily than we do what the eternal consequences of that divorce would be; eternal death, damnation and separation from Him forever. The author of the Hebrews reminds us today “Now in putting everything in subjection to him, he left nothing outside his control. (YET) At present, we do not yet see everything in subjection to him.” Instead we see a world in rebellion against God… indeed we can even see His beloved bride in rebellion against Him. Individuals who have put away the unlimited love of Christ in favor of relations that do not resemble the perfect marriage of Christ the Bride-groom to the lovely church. Some will continue to fight into darkness, continually living to create their own flickering light and will one day pass from this world to everlasting darkness and eternal separation, they will receive that which their lives said that they wanted and their wish will be granted, but for others; having these things revealed to us we will be brought to our knees before Christ the loving Husband begging the question of Him: “What is man that you are mindful of Him?” And He has responded.
We are reminded in the closing verses just how mindful He is. We understand this by the little children that are brought to Him. We are reminded of how desperately He wishes to take those little ones who need Him so greatly. He takes them into His arms that He might tenderly speak to them, hold them and bless them, He has done the same for us. For He has taken us up out of the depths of sin and suffering, and has made us not just to be part of the church but we are indeed his beloved Children. Yes, we are to see this portion of the text literally, for we know how much Jesus desires to bless, and receive the little children. But we also see ourselves in this portion of the text, for we are His children, having been brought to Him already in the waters of baptism. And we are reminded that these little ones, these ones beloved by Christ receive the kingdom merely because they receive, uninhibited and fully trusting. The Lord with the certain hope that He has redeemed them, will take care of them, and wishes for nothing other than presence with them. He has forgiven His bride her many sins and He receives you as His children with open arms.
Earthly marriage, as wonderful as it is, is but a picture of the marriage between Jesus and His Church. Jesus is our divine Bridegroom, and we are the Bride He has made holy in Baptism. As in any marriage, what is His is ours, and what is ours is His. His holiness is ours, our debt of sin becomes His. The union of Christ and His Church is fruitful. It bears the little children of faith. God has settled us into earthly families. God settles us in the family of the Church. For fifty seven years now He has settled us in this family at Pinnacle and has promised that He will ever take us, as little children, into His arms and bless us. The pledge of His faithfulness is the body and blood of our Savior, given and shed for us, for the forgiveness of sins, here distributed at the Christian family table. Amen.