Now when Jesus had finished these sayings, he went away from Galilee and entered the region of Judea beyond the Jordan. And large crowds followed him, and he healed them there.
And Pharisees came up to him and tested him by asking, “Is it lawful to divorce one's wife for any cause?” He answered, “Have you not read that he who created them from the beginning made them male and female, and said, ‘Therefore a man shall leave his father and his 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.” They said to him, “Why then did Moses command one to give a certificate of divorce and to send her away?” He said to them, “Because of your hardness of heart Moses allowed you to divorce your wives, but from the beginning it was not so. And I say to you: whoever divorces his wife, except for sexual immorality, and marries another, commits adultery.”
The disciples said to him, “If such is the case of a man with his wife, it is better not to marry.” But he said to them, “Not everyone can receive this saying, but only those to whom it is given. For there are eunuchs who have been so from birth, and there are eunuchs who have been made eunuchs by men, and there are eunuchs who have made themselves eunuchs for the sake of the kingdom of heaven. Let the one who is able to receive this receive it.”
Matthew 19:1-12 (ESV)
Jesus is once again challenged by the Pharisees. They think they have the perfect trap for him, because two different places in the Torah talk about marriage, Genesis and Deuteronomy. The two don’t seem to agree with each other. If Jesus points them to one, they can always point to the other to discredit Jesus. But they don’t understand why the difference is there in the first place.
Jesus quotes Genesis to them and they think they’ve won. They quickly point out Moses’ command to refute him. But it doesn’t work. Jesus takes the opportunity to explain fully why God allowed Israel to do such a thing. It was because of their sinful hearts that God needed to create a law to protect the innocent. If a woman was put out of a household, she was deemed unclean. She would spend the rest of her life either as a beggar or a prostitute. But this law allowed the woman’s reputation to be redeemed so she could marry again. So you see the law was intended as a protection for the innocent.
Now many generations later, this law had been abused so much that Jesus puts a qualifier on it. The only legal grounds for divorce is sexual immorality. If you leave your spouse for another reason and marry another, that is adultery in God’s eyes. Makes you wonder about the divorce laws we have today.
Even Jesus’ disciples are blown away by these remarks. They don’t understand the gift that marriage is, but rather look at it like it is a burden. Jesus calmly reproves them. If you want to be celibate for the kingdom of God, look to the eunuchs. Are you willing to go to that extreme to avoid marriage? (Men, you should be cringing about now)
Personally, I’m glad for the gift of marriage. My wife has been a huge blessing in my life. But better than that is the marriage that is to come; the wedding supper of the Lamb. One day Jesus will return and there will be a huge wedding feast. If you have repented from your sins and believed in the death and resurrection of Jesus, then you are considered to be part of the bride of Christ. Even though we are an adulterous people, Christ died for our adulteries and invites us into the wedding feast. Believe in Christ and be forgiven. This is good news!