Mark 10:1-12 (ESV)

1 And he left there and went to the region of Judea and beyond the Jordan, and crowds gathered to him again. And again, as was his custom, he taught them. And Pharisees came up and in order to test him asked, “Is it lawful for a man to divorce his wife?” He answered them, “What did Moses command you?” They said, “Moses allowed a man to write a certificate of divorce and to send her away.” And Jesus said to them, “Because of your hardness of heart he wrote you this commandment. But from the beginning of creation, ‘God made them male and female.’ ‘Therefore a man shall leave his father and mother and hold fast to his wife, and the two shall become one flesh.’ So they are no longer two but one flesh. What therefore God has joined together, let not man separate.” 10 And in the house the disciples asked him again about this matter. 11 And he said to them, “Whoever divorces his wife and marries another commits adultery against her, 12 and if she divorces her husband and marries another, she commits adultery.”

Jesus traveled through Judea, slowly making his way toward Jerusalem. Again, the Pharisees tried to trap him. This time, they questioned him about marriage and asked about the legality of a man seeking a divorce from his wife. The two main groups among the rabbis of the day were divided on the issue of divorce. One group said a man could divorce his wife, but only if she were unfaithful. The other group said a man could divorce his wife for any reason. The Pharisees hoped that Jesus would offend at least one of the groups, and thereby lose some of his popularity. But Jesus turned their question back on them and responded with a question. He asked, “What did Moses command you?” Well, they answered that according to Deuteronomy 24, Moses said if a man wanted to divorce his wife he needed to give her a certificate. Jesus explained that Moses allowed the certificate to protect women who were victims of men demanding an unjust divorce. A woman with the certificate was free to marry another man and at least retain some social dignity. The men who wanted to “put away their wives” without valid reason often didn’t care what happened to women after they’d been discarded. That’s why Jesus said Moses allowed it due to the hardness of their hearts (v. 5). Then Jesus added, “What therefore God has joined together, let not man separate.”

Jesus declared that in God’s design for marriage, a man should leave even his parents and be joined to his own wife. Then he continued, “And the two shall become one flesh” (from Genesis). Marriage is a lifelong covenant of unity that models the loving bond between Christ and the church. Genuine Christians are in a permanent relationship with God and cannot be separated from the love of Christ. As Jesus said, in the end, it is God who has joined the husband and wife together, so unjust divorce is a sin against him. If you are married today, put the concept of divorce out of your mind. Don’t ever threaten your husband with divorce. And if you are not married, make sure you look for a spouse who agrees with God about divorce. We are to view marriage as highly as God does. Jesus saw marriage as the most important human relationship; his followers should value it in the same way.