Family Values - Lectionary Reflection for Pentecost 19B
Mark 10:2-16 New Revised Standard Version (NRSV)
2 Some Pharisees came, and to test him they asked, “Is it lawful for a man to divorce his wife?” 3 He answered them, “What did Moses command you?” 4 They said, “Moses allowed a man to write a certificate of dismissal and to divorce her.” 5 But Jesus said to them, “Because of your hardness of heart he wrote this commandment for you. 6 But 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,[a] 8 and the two shall become one flesh.’ So they are no longer two, but one flesh. 9 Therefore what God has joined together, let no one separate.”
10 Then in the house the disciples asked him again about this matter. 11 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.”
13 People were bringing little children to him in order that he might touch them; and the disciples spoke sternly to them. 14 But 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 kingdom of God belongs. 15 Truly I tell you, whoever does not receive the kingdom of God as a little child will never enter it.” 16 And he took them up in his arms, laid his hands on them, and blessed them.
Mark operates out of the apocalyptic worldview that the end-times (the realm of God) will be like the beginning time (existence as it was at the time of creation, in Eden). In the prefall world, divorce was not necessary because relationships manifested fully the characteristics that God intended. [Preaching the Gospels without Blaming the Jews, p. 156]
This is surely a difficult word. It honors covenant, but it places a heavy burden on the couple. What if the relationship is deeply flawed? Is there no way out? At least here in Mark, it appears that even after a divorce the couple remains married – for to remarry is to commit adultery. This leads Allen and Williamson to conclude that Judaism might have been wiser here than Mark’s Jesus. The apocalyptic worldview failed to deliver. Life may require a lot more grace than Mark is able to deliver.