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Matthew 19

Dig Deeper:

HARD SAYINGS: Certainly the topic of Jesus' words on marriage and divorce require far more than a couple of short paragraphs, but let's note a few things about this passage that will aid in a correct interpretat

  • Jesus here is responding to a 'test' from the Pharisees (v3). They did not come seeking an honest, open discussion on matrimony, rather they were attempting to trap Jesus in His words. Jesus' answer must be interpreted in this context. Jesus' words here are normative; that is, we must view divorce as sinful and wrong. But at the same time, Jesus never meant this answer to be the full and final word on how to deal with divorce, or even more critically, how to receive those in the church who are divorced. He was simply turning the Pharisee's trap back around on them.

  • Divorce is a gift of God's grace. Yes, you read that correctly. In v7 & 8 they speak of how Moses permitted this, as if the whole thing was Moses' idea in the first place. 'Moses,' of course, is shorthand for the Law, which is sometimes even called the Law of Moses. But remember, it's God's Law. Moses just wrote it down. It's God who permitted divorce, which is certainly far outside of what He designed or desires for His image bearers. He allowed it because in our sinful world it sometimes can be the better alternative. To be very clear, God never wants divorce. It is always wrong and must be avoided and will always cause tremendous hurt and pain. But God does allow it; it is a gift of His grace to people in very broken situations.

  • Divorce is not an unforgivable sin. This passage is a perfect example of law vs. gospel. The Pharisees came to trap Jesus in the Law, but Jesus came to free people from their failure to keep the Law. Sadly, many people have been excluded from the Church because of divorce (either by the actions of others or themselves), when in reality the Church is exactly where they need to be.

CONTEXT, CONTEXT, CONTEXT: If you've learned nothing else in our Bible reading this year, I hope it's that understanding the context of a passage is the most important step in correctly interpreting it (I hope that's not the only thing you've learned, though!). Look at the context of chapter 19: it continues chapter 18's emphasis about throwing off the trappings of this world and embracing the Kingdom of Heaven, as a child does (v13-15) and without being weighed down by your 'treasures' on earth (v16-30). In this context, we can see the whole flawed premise of the Pharisees. They want to know how to use divorce as a tool to satisfy earthly desires. They should have been asking Jesus how to build marriages that promote and enhance families' understanding and focus on the coming Kingdom of Heaven.

Prayer Tips:

  • ACKNOWLEDGE WHO GOD IS: The Creator who made us male and female, and who has made us, His Church, His bride forever (v4).

  • ALIGN YOUR LIFE WITH GOD'S WILL: What God has joined together, let no one separate (v6).




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