Jesus on Divorce
2Some Pharisees came, and to test Jesus they asked, “Is it lawful for a husband to divorce his wife?” 3Jesus answered them, “What did Moses command you?” 4They said, “Moses allowed a husband to write a certificate of dismissal and to divorce her.” 5But Jesus said to them, “Because of your hardness of heart Moses wrote this commandment for you. 6But from the beginning of creation, ‘God made them male and female.’ 7‘For this reason a man shall leave his father and mother and be joined to his wife, 8and the two shall become one flesh.’ So they are no longer two, but one flesh. 9Therefore what God has joined together, let no one separate.”
10Then in the house the disciples asked Jesus again about this matter. 11He said to them, “Whatever man divorces his wife and marries another commits adultery against her; 12and if she divorces her husband and marries another, she commits adultery.”
13People were bringing little children to Jesus in order that he might touch them; and the disciples spoke sternly to them. 14But when Jesus saw this, he was indignant and said to them, “Let the little children come to me; do not stop them; for it is to such as these that the dominion of God belongs. 15Truly I tell you, whoever does not receive the dominion of God as a little child will never enter it.” 16And Jesus took them up in his arms, laid his hands on them, and blessed them.
So it may seem a bit odd – but for me the story of marriage hinges on the fact that the very next story for Mark’s gospel is the blessing of the children. Here’s why. Did you notice that folks were bringing children to Jesus so that he might lay hands on them? Well a close reading would show you that people knew that Jesus’ hands heal people – so these are not just any children – presumably these are sick children in need of healing. And in those days – the popular thought on sickness was a result of either the sins of an individual or the sins of parents passed on to successive generations. So what Jesus is crossing that boundary of sin by blessing these children!! So what it seems to say to me is – that if you want to be defined by the laws of scripture, like the Pharisee’s, by all means, do so and so stand condemned. But if you want to know about grace and inclusion – then be like one of these little children, receive forgiveness and learn to be blessed.
Because it would be better to see the kingdom of God like a child – to see that the world is full of possibility and new life, to receive blessings from God and then to pay them forward in the world, rather than worry about how completely we are following the letters of the laws. For me this story is about the children, the vulnerable children, and the need for blessing in our world. And the challenge of this passage for me is to continue to see the children of the world – the vulnerable, the folks in need. Which in today’s world might just be the family that is going through a divorce, or the children who are struggling because their parents have been divorced and they are dealing with the custody shuffle from one house to the next, or the now single mom who is struggling to try to make ends meet. Perhaps we should seek ways to be as Jesus was – a healing presence in people’s lives who are going through hell. Because I believe, that’s what it means to see the Kingdom of God, to believe in the promise of grace, mercy, love, and new life. And as disciples of Jesus we are called to share that Good News with the world, no matter what our context is.