THE LIFE OF CHRIST
In our last lesson, we looked a couple of Parables in Luke 18. In this lesson, we will begin by looking the events recorded in Matthew 19 and Mark 10. We will begin with the first 12 verses of Matthew’s account, which are also recorded in Mark. I will be adding in extra details that each account provides.
Matthew 19:1 Now it came to pass, when Jesus had finished these sayings, that He departed from Galilee and came to the region of Judea beyond the Jordan. 2 And great multitudes followed Him, and He healed them there.
Mark’s account adds more details:
Mark 10:1 And multitudes gathered to Him again, and as He was accustomed, He taught them again.
When Jesus had finished speaking these parables that we looked at in our last lesson, He and His disciples leave Galilee and go to the region of Judea beyond the Jordan, which Joshepus called “the Peraea.” This area was known for its beauty. As we combine the two accounts, we learn that that multitudes followed Jesus, and they would gather around Him. As usual, Jesus would heal people, and He would use these opportunities to teach people as well.
Next we read:
Matthew 19:3 The Pharisees also came to Him, testing Him, and saying to Him, "Is it lawful for a man to divorce his wife for just any reason?" 4 And He answered and said to them, "Have you not read that He who made them at the beginning 'made them male and female,' 5 "and said, 'For this reason a man shall leave his father and mother and be joined to his wife, and the two shall become one flesh'? 6 "So then, they are no longer two but one flesh. Therefore what God has joined together, let not man separate." 8 He said to them, "Moses, because of the hardness of your hearts, permitted you to divorce your wives, but from the beginning it was not so. 9 "And I say to you, whoever divorces his wife, except for sexual immorality, and marries another, commits adultery; and whoever marries her who is divorced commits adultery."
I also want to read part of Mark’s account since part of it adds more information.
Mark 10:2The Pharisees came and asked Him, "Is it lawful for a man to divorce his wife?" testing Him. 3 And He answered and said to them, "What did Moses command you?" 4 They said, "Moses permitted a man to write a certificate of divorce, and to dismiss her." 5 And Jesus answered and said to them, "Because of the hardness of your heart he wrote you this precept. 6 "But from the beginning of the 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, 8 'and the two shall become one flesh'; so then they are no longer two, but one flesh. 9 "Therefore what God has joined together, let not man separate."
As we have come to expect, anytime people started gathering around Jesus, the Pharisees always seemed to show up because they did not like Jesus having such a following. So, they would do their best to try and ask Him questions that might take away from His popularity. Though Jesus has taught several times on the topic of divorce, these Pharisees ask Him about it. The reason I think they asked Him about it was because there several schools of thought on this matter. Perhaps, they thought if Jesus chose one of them, that this would divide those who following after him.
There were three schools of thought based on the Mishnah from a section called “Gittin.” Notice what we learn from what WVBS says about this:
1. Shammai school of thought - taught that a man could not divorce his wife unless he found her to be unchaste.
2. Hillel school - taught even if she burned the food a man could divorce his wife (see Deut 24:1).
3. Akiba school - taught if a man found one fairer than his wife (“no favor in his eyes”), he could divorce her.
The school of Shammai agrees with Jesus’ teaching. Mark chapter 10 approaches divorce from the woman’s viewpoint. Divorce was allowed in Judaism, and it involved a simple process in which the person being divorced from would receive a certificate (called a get). There was no thought about the sanctity of the marriage relationship, or the consequences of this action. This certificate, which was placed into the woman’s hands, read “Go, thou art free to marry any man” (Gittin 9:3). The certificate protected her from being charged as an adulteress if she should remarry. (WVBS)
All three of these schools of thought come from:
Deuteronomy 24:1 "When a man takes a wife and marries her, and it happens that she finds no favor in his eyes because he has found some uncleanness in her, and he writes her a certificate of divorce, puts it in her hand, and sends her out of his house,
The interpretation was based on the view of what is meant by “some uncleanness in her.” Though Jesus’ answer agreed with the school of Shammai, Jesus was not really agreeing with any of these schools of thoughts. Instead, He bypassed them all and simply taught what God’s Word said on the matter because whether any of these schools of thought were right or wrong, the best thing is to go to God’s Word. Jesus makes it clear, that in the beginning it was never intended for man to divorce His wife, and it was only permitted for a time under the Law of Moses because of hardness of their hearts. Please understand that God allowed this to take place, but it was not commanded because as Jesus points out, the original marriage law was for man and women to become one flesh and no one is to separate that union, hence the expression, “until death do you part.”
This teaches us that God has a universal law when it comes to marriage and divorce which applies to all people. This is important for us to comprehend because some try to twist verse Mt. 19:9, which says.
Matthew 19:9 "And I say to you, whoever divorces his wife, except for sexual immorality, and marries another, commits adultery; and whoever marries her who is divorced commits adultery."
Some try to say this verse only applies to Christians, thus non-Christians are not affected by Jesus’ Words. However, verse 9 makes it clear that it includes every single person. Notice it says “whoever divorces”. The word “whoever” means every single person Christian or non-Christian. Please note the following example.
Mat. 5:21… “whoever murders will be in danger of the judgment.”
Clearly we can see the word “whoever” applies to everyone. To further illustrate this point, take a look at the following companion passage of Mat. 19:9.
Matthew 5:32 "But I say to you that whoever divorces his wife for any reason except sexual immorality causes her to commit adultery; and whoever marries a woman who is divorced commits adultery.
It should be easy to see that Jesus is stating that whoever divorces his wife for any reason except for sexual immorality/fornication causes her to commit adultery and whoever marries a woman who is divorced commits adultery.
Another point that needs to be made here is from the word “except”. When Jesus used this word, it automatically eliminates all other reasons for getting divorced and being able to remarry. Please understand that only sexual immorality/fornication can constitute a biblical divorce where the innocent party can remarry without living in adultery. Let’s examine another passage that clearly shows the exclusive nature of this word “except”.
John 14:6 Jesus said to him, "I am the way, the truth, and the life. No one comes to the Father except through Me.
It is easy for us to see that the only way to the Father is through Jesus. If we can see the exclusiveness of this passage, then we should be able to see it in Mat. 5:32, 19:9. When Jesus tells us the only exception that will allow someone who is divorced to remarry scripturally is by sexual immorality/fornication, then we need to accept that no other way exists.
I don’t know of any faithful Christians who would ever try to add another way to the father in John 14:6, so what makes some Christians think they have the right to add another way for remarriage in Mat. 5:32, 19:9?
There are also some who would argue that Jesus was only reinterpreting Moses’ Law and that Mat. 5:32, 19:9 doesn’t apply to Christians today. However, there is a major problem with this view because under Moses’ Law an adulterer was supposed to be put to death.
Deuteronomy 22:22 " If a man is found lying with a woman married to a husband, then both of them shall die -- the man that lay with the woman, and the woman; so you shall put away the evil from Israel. (See also Lev. 20:10;
Whatever law Jesus was talking about certainly did not belong to Moses’ Law because He simply calls for the adulterer to be put away and not killed. Therefore, Jesus was teaching something that applies to everyone today and He was not simply reinterpreting Moses’ Law. Besides, He makes it clear that He is talking about the law of marriage that was in effect before the Law of Moses
Some also like to say that Mat. 5:32, 19:9 doesn’t apply to non-Christians. Consider the following example. Let’s say a person gets divorced and remarried 10 times for some other reason besides sexual immorality/fornication. Now if Mat. 5:32, 19:9 doesn’t apply until someone becomes a Christian then this would mean the person from our example could remain married to their tenth mate when they become a Christian. Then once they become a Christian they would be held accountable to Mt. 5:32, 19:9 from that point forward.
In other words they would never have to repent of their adulterous marriage they were in. This view has some major problems. I have already shown that “whoever” in Mt. 5:32,19:9 includes both Christian and non-Christian. This view also implies that it would be impossible for a non-Christian to be held accountable for adultery or fornication. However, the Word of God emphatically states there are sexual immoral people of the world:
1 Corinthians 5:9 I wrote to you in my epistle not to keep company with sexually immoral people. 10 Yet I certainly did not mean with the sexually immoral people of this world, or with the covetous, or extortioners, or idolaters, since then you would need to go out of the world.
We can see that non-Christians were guilty of adultery among many other sins before they became Christians:
1 Corinthians 6:9 Do you not know that the unrighteous will not inherit the kingdom of God? Do not be deceived. Neither fornicators, nor idolaters, nor adulterers, nor homosexuals, nor sodomites, 10 nor thieves, nor covetous, nor drunkards, nor revilers, nor extortioners will inherit the kingdom of God. 11 And such were some of you. But you were washed, but you were sanctified, but you were justified in the name of the Lord Jesus and by the Spirit of our God.
Another great example to show the universal law of divorce and remarriage can be found in the following verses:
Mark 6:17 For Herod himself had sent and laid hold of John, and bound him in prison for the sake of Herodias, his brother Philip's wife; for he had married her. 18 For John had said to Herod, "It is not lawful for you to have your brother's wife."
What law is John talking about? It can’t be the Law of Moses because Herod was a Gentile and thus Moses’ Law would not apply to him. The only reasonable explanation is that his actions violated God’s universal law of marriage that started with Adam and Eve as expressed by Jesus in Mat. 19:8. Both Christians and non-Christians have the same set of rules, to say otherwise would mean that God is showing partiality to the non-Christian, which we know that He does not:
Romans 2:11 For there is no partiality with God.
Some think that they can purify an unholy marriage by being baptized. They come to this conclusion because they think baptism will wash away all their sins and make them a new creature allowing them to start over anew. Is this true? Will baptism purify an unholy marriage?
The key to answering this question is found in the basic principles of becoming a Christian. We must hear the Word (Rom. 10:14-17), believe (Jn. 8:24), repent (Lk. 13:3), confess (Rom. 10:10), and be baptized for the remission of sins (Acts2:38). A person cannot have the remission of sins unless they have obeyed all these steps.
For example, if a person did not believe, then it would be pointless for them to repent, confess or be baptized. If a person is not willing to confess Jesus as Lord, then they will remain lost as Jesus said:
Matthew 10:32 " Therefore whoever confesses Me before men, him I will also confess before My Father who is in heaven. 33 "But whoever denies Me before men, him I will also deny before My Father who is in heaven.
Similarly, if a person refuses to repent, they would simply be getting wet at their baptism and would still be hopelessly lost in their sins.
Repentance is the key to answering our question. True repentance is not merely feeling sorry for what you have done, instead it involves changing what you are currently doing, and you must conform to the will of God as we read in:
2 Corinthians 7:10 For godly sorrow produces repentance leading to salvation, not to be regretted; but the sorrow of the world produces death. 11 For observe this very thing, that you sorrowed in a godly manner: What diligence it produced in you, what clearing of yourselves, what indignation, what fear, what vehement desire, what zeal, what vindication! In all things you proved yourselves to be clear in this matter.
Matthew 21:28 " But what do you think? A man had two sons, and he came to the first and said, 'Son, go, work today in my vineyard.' 29 "He answered and said, 'I will not,' but afterward he regretted it and went. 30 "Then he came to the second and said likewise. And he answered and said, 'I go, sir,' but he did not go. 31 "Which of the two did the will of his father?" They said to Him, "The first." Jesus said to them, "Assuredly, I say to you that tax collectors and harlots enter the kingdom of God before you.
Romans 12:1 I beseech you therefore, brethren, by the mercies of God, that you present your bodies a living sacrifice, holy, acceptable to God, which is your reasonable service. 2 And do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind, that you may prove what is that good and acceptable and perfect will of God.
For example, if a man steals a car and then he feels sorry about it, but he continues to keep the car, he has not repented. Now if this man feels sorry for what he did and he takes the car back to the owner and asks him for forgiveness, this is true repentance.
Let’s examine one more example. A homosexual couple attends a gospel meeting and they are ready to become children of God. They are excited and they are ready to be baptized, but they think it’s acceptable to remain in their homosexual lifestyle. Can they become children of God if they refuse to repent of their homosexuality? Will baptism purify their sinful relationship? Most Christians would boldly say, “No, they cannot become a Christian until they turn away from their sinful relationship.”
It is easier for people to see this principle when it is applied to a thief or to homosexuality, but the same principle applies to those who try to justify their adulterous marriage through baptism.
Jesus makes it clear that if a person remarries for any other reason than sexual immorality or the death of your mate, you are in an adulterous relationship (Mt. 19:9; Rom. 7:2-3). The sin of adultery is no different from the sin of the thief or the sin of the homosexual couple. If a person is living in an unholy marriage, the only way that they can become a Christian is by turning away from their adulterous marriage. If a person is already a Christian and they have allowed themselves to enter an adulterous marriage, the only way that they can be forgiven for their sin is to end their marriage.
I would recommend that you read Ezra 9 and 10 because you will see that the children of Israel had married foreign women and had children with them. You will see that God did not approve of these marriages and they had to send these women and the children they had with them away. Though this is an Old Testament example, it shows just how serious God is about marriage being right.
So, baptism will not purify an unholy marriage. You must repent by ending your unlawful marriage and remain single for the rest of your life. Some will find this difficult to accept, but we must look beyond our own emotions and compassion and faithful accept the perfect will of God. Notice what the Lord tells Isaiah.
Isaiah 55:8 " For My thoughts are not your thoughts, Nor are your ways My ways," says the LORD. 9 "For as the heavens are higher than the earth, So are My ways higher than your ways, And My thoughts than your thoughts.
Anytime we try to change the Word of God to fit our wishes, it’s because we have a lack of faith and trust in God. We would all do good to take the advice of the following verses:
Proverbs 3:5 Trust in the LORD with all your heart, And lean not on your own understanding; 6 In all your ways acknowledge Him, And He shall direct your paths. 7 Do not be wise in your own eyes; Fear the LORD and depart from evil. 8 It will be health to your flesh, And strength to your bones.
Marriage is wonderful institution given by God (Gen. 2:18-24) and He does not want it to be broken (Mat. 19:6). It is a lifetime commitment (Rom. 7:1-4). When a husband and a wife live their lives based on the Word of God, they will have a beautiful marriage (Eph. 5:25-33; 1 Pet. 3:1-2,7; 1 Cor. 7:3-5; Titus 2:4). We need to make sure that we choose the right person for marriage without rushing into it. Just as we struggle in our relationship with God, we will struggle in our relationship with our mates. We have to learn that marriage is a give and take relationship, and we must be willing to compromise, but we should never compromise God’s truth or twist it to make things work out like we want them to.
When it comes to the topic of divorce and remarriage, it is very challenging to uphold what God’s Word says about especially if you or someone you love find themselves living in adultery. This teaching is so hard that some cannot accept it and they either ignore it or they find someone who will teach a different view on the topic so they can feel good about living in sin. Some will turn away from God. With such a high divorce rate in our country, it certainly makes this one of the hardest teachings Jesus ever gave because of what it involves. So, I in no way say this is an easy teaching to uphold, but if we trust in God’s wisdom, we will uphold it.
We know that Jesus answers the Pharisees question about divorce, but Marks account gives us a little more information:
Mark 10:10 In the house His disciples also asked Him again about the same matter. 11 So He said to them, "Whoever divorces his wife and marries another commits adultery against her. 12 "And if a woman divorces her husband and marries another, she commits adultery."
Some time later, Jesus and His disciples are in a house. At this time, His disciples ask the question again about divorce. So, Jesus tells them the same thing, just with less detail, and He does not mention the exception of sexual immorality/fornication. However, you will notice that this time, He mentions the woman doing the divorcing instead of the man, which shows that a woman or man can do the divorcing.
One reason for the difference between two accounts could be because Matthew’s account was written with the Jew in mind, and if any divorcing was done it was done by the husband. However, Mark was written with the Roman or Gentile in mind. Though divorce was usually done by a man, it was also done by women, which is probably why the woman is mentioned as divorcing in Mark’s account.
Next, His disciples say:
Matthew 19:10 His disciples said to Him, "If such is the case of the man with his wife, it is better not to marry." 11 But He said to them, "All cannot accept this saying, but only those to whom it has been given: 12 "For there are eunuchs who were born thus from their mother's womb, and there are eunuchs who were made eunuchs by men, and there are eunuchs who have made themselves eunuchs for the kingdom of heaven's sake. He who is able to accept it, let him accept it."
Basically, His disciples understand how hard this teaching is, that they can to conclusion that it would be better not to marry than to be stuck with someone forever that you did not care for. Again, this stresses the importance of making sure to the best of your ability that the one you marry is going to be the one for life.
I found some commentaries to be silent on the remaining verses about the example of the three different kinds of eunches, and also found some strange thoughts regarding this example, but the one I liked the best, is the one I am going share with you, which is from WVBS.
But only those. It is applicable only to those who find themselves in the situation He was addressing. There are those who may not wish to marry, and there are those who are happy with their mates. This is not a relevant issue with them.
19:12 For there are eunuchs who were born that way from their mother’s womb; and there are eunuchs who were made eunuchs by men; and there are also eunuchs who made themselves eunuchs for the sake of the kingdom of heaven. He who is able to accept this, let him accept it.”
This verse begins with the Greek word gar, which is the word for. Therefore verse 12 continues the discussion about marriage and divorce and remarriage. There are two ways to approach verse 12.
1. Speaking literally about eunuchs. Jesus says there are three types of eunuchs. Such a position does not address its relevance to the previous discussion about marriage and divorce. Therefore, this position is to be rejected.
2. To understand “eunuch” to be an example. The word “for” lends the evidence to this argument. Jesus uses the example of eunuchs to show the rigidity of His statement. He has never before discussed eunuchs, and to do so now does not bear on the issue of divorce.
There are three types of eunuchs:
1. Those who were born that way. This is someone sexually impotent from birth, a person who finds himself in a situation that cannot be changed.
Application: There are some who are not ever going to be married. They, perhaps like the Apostle Paul, choose to live the single life.
2. Eunuchs made that way by men. It was not uncommon in Biblical times for Gentile governments to select strong young men from the general populace for the purpose of castrating them and placing them into the service of the queen. They were castrated so they could not have sexual desire for the queen. These men did not choose to become eunuchs, they were made eunuchs by others.
Application: A eunuch is one who is incapable of having a sexual relationship. If one decides to divorce his wife (but not for sexual unfaithfulness), she has been made a eunuch (figuratively, not literally). Not by her own choice, but by someone else. Jesus said: “he who marries a divorced woman commits adultery” (Mt 5:32). Therefore, she has been forced into a celibate life. This is a very difficult situation. But that does not afford her the opportunity to have a sexual relationship with someone else, any more than a eunuch made that way by men could be sexually active.
3 Make themselves that way for the sake of the kingdom. They chose to be celibate for the sake of the kingdom.
Application: Here is a person who, perhaps because of his own unfaithfulness, was put away. So, because of his desire to be saved, does not remarry. Why? Because he forfeited his right to marriage when he chose to be unfaithful. Therefore, he makes himself a eunuch (not literally, but figuratively) for the sake of the kingdom.
Verse 12 should not be separated from the context of 1-11. The point about eunuchs is an illustration of verses 3-11. The New English Bible translates this verse as follows: “For while some are incapable of marriage because they were born so, or were made so by men, there are others who have themselves renounced marriage for the sake of the Kingdom of Heaven.”
We need to remember the reason why Jesus teaches what He does. He is not saying something that is harmful for us, but this is here because of the good it will bring to our lives. If our lives are pure then the church is more pure and it functions better. There are some lessons to be learned from Ezra 10. God had them separate from the wives and children that were not of their own. That was for their own good. By considering the disciple’s response, we should learn to take marriage seriously. We should not enter into marriage carelessly or with little thought. It is a life-long commitment. We need to teach our children more about the life-time commitment and the intent of marriage.
As we come to the close of this lesson, I hope you have found it helpful and truthful. Nothing I can say can take away the sting of such a teaching. If I wanted to be pleasing to man, I would never teach on this topic, but I must continue to teach what the Scripture says even if it is one the hardest teaching within God’s Word. May we all remember, that God is in control and He knows what is best even if we have trouble understanding it. So, let us not be like the majority of those who turned away from Jesus because they could not understand His saying about eating His flesh and drinking His blood (John 6). Instead, let’s be like Peter who said the following after Jesus asked the apostles if they were going to leave Him as well:
John 6:68 … "Lord, to whom shall we go? You have the words of eternal life. 69 "Also we have come to believe and know that You are the Christ, the Son of the living God."