Midweek Minute in March: Mar 3

Today’s reading can feel confusing – especially in today’s cultural context.  Some of us have walked through the pain of divorce, had parents who divorced or know and love someone who is divorced.  It’s hard to know what to do with Jesus’ words here.  

As with so many passages in the Bible, context helps.  When the Pharisees asked Jesus about divorce they were most likely hoping to get him in trouble with the authorities.  Jesus outsmarts them by referring to the law of Moses – which was traditionally accepted as the gold standard.  However, there were several different ways of thinking about why a divorce might be allowed.   Some rabbis believed that anything could be grounds for divorce, while others said that only an act of moral indecency allowed for it.  They wondered where Jesus stood on the topic.  Jesus points back to God’s heart and original intent for marriage all the way back in Genesis; a text that the Pharisees would have known well.  

Later, when Jesus is alone with his disciples, they ask him to elaborate.  Yes, he says, divorce isn’t great for either men or women.  This answer was surprising for the disciples because, at that time, only men could divorce under the traditional practice in Israel.  And then, depending upon which interpretation of the law they followed, a man could divorce a woman for doing nothing more than burning their toast!  By including women, right alongside men, Jesus affirms that a woman is more than property to be used, exchanged, or discarded. He elevates women’s status and gives dignity to them.  This would have been surprising to the hearers at the time and telling of the heart of God for humanity – women and the marginalized in particular.  

Reading the Bible can be challenging and passages like these can feel like roadblocks to our study when we don’t understand them.  However, getting beneath the surface of the text can be rewarding and help us understand God in a fuller way.  There are tons of good resources for when you get stuck. For more on this text check out this commentary or Ben Valentine’s sermon on Marriage and Divorce.  

May you continue to study the scriptures, even when it feels hard, and may God reveal his heart for you and the world through His word.