In the letter to the Hebrews the writer says “In former days God spoke through the prophets but in these last days He has spoken to us by a Son.” So let’s listen. He who has ears.............
Here we have in Mark’s gospel the supreme Christian underpinning of the sanctity of marriage from the very lips of Jesus himself.
In case anyone missed it;
“Jesus said to them “Whoever divorces his wife and marries another commits adultery against her, and if she divorces her husband and marries another, she commits adultery””
In Mark’s original rendition there are no mitigating circumstances at all, unlike Matthew’s version which adds “except for unchastity”.
Here in the bold and radical original we have Jesus’ view that Marriage is an unbreakable sacred bond and this view circumvents “the law” which famously in Deuteronomy, and quoted at Jesus in this passage, allows divorce.
Jesus circumvents the law and goes back further to the original intention of God revealed in the book of Genesis. Jesus said the law that permits divorce was only given as a concession because of the sinfulness of human beings but that it was never meant to be that way.
Jesus says plainly that the commandment that permitted divorce was given because of our hardness of heart and then quotes from the book of Genesis;
From the beginning “God made them male and female”. “For this reason a man shall leave his father and mother and be joined to his wife and the two shall become one flesh. So they are no longer two but one flesh.” Then Jesus says those wonderful words now enshrined in our marriage service;
“Therefore what God has joined together, let no one separate”
Jesus says that strong monogamous marriage between a man and a woman is the original and good and healthy intention that God ordained for all humanity. It is the place for the nurture and upbringing of children. Significantly the text then moves without a break to the famous piece which in the King James version says “Suffer the little children to come unto me”
In our society’s misguided “anything goes” environment, self indulgence, self interest, and an insistence of individual rights takes increasing precedence now over any responsibility to wider society, your husband or wife, or even your children
Marriage has been devalued and reduced to “just a piece of paper” in the eyes of the metropolitan liberal elite, a view that has now become the norm, destabilising and destroying the bedrock of stable civilised society especially in working class areas. Divorce is now normalised and easy.
Christians though have a higher aspiration, a higher calling and our ways are not their ways. Our way is the way of God, the way of Christ, revealed as in today’s passage, in scripture.
There is a deeper theological insight here of course. That in circumventing the law and going right back to Genesis, to the original good creative intention Jesus is saying that in Him and through Him we are re-creating Eden.
He is inaugurating the transformative power of God to redeem and judge and put right all that is wrong in the world – to return the world to its original pristine state.
The new creation that Jesus ushers in, revealed and validated by the resurrection of his body is the answer to all our longings for things to be put right – for justice to be done – for God’s will to be done here on earth as it is in heaven (as Jesus told us to pray).
And this beautiful understanding of marriage is a part of that new beginning. This, Jesus is saying, is how it always should have been.
I am confident that my role, whatever church I happen to be the vicar of is not to cave in to the ways of the world but to present a different, wholesome, self denying, honest, truthful and Christ-like account of this new creation and the expectations and the responsibilities laid on Christian’s shoulders to faithfully reflect and preach the way of Christ, not the way of the world.
The promotion of marriage as the sacred union between one man and one woman for life is an important constituent part of that.
Our responsibility is not to follow worldly wisdom but to “Repent and believe the good news. The Kingdom of God has come near” and his way has been revealed to us. We don’t have any excuse.