Nineteenth Sunday after Pentecost: Mark 10:2-16

In the Name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit.  Amen.

Just because something is legal doesn’t make it right.  That was part of the messae that Jesus wanted to tell the Pharisees in the text for today.  When the Pharisees came and asked Him, “Is it lawful for a man to divorce his wife?”, Jesus essentially answered, “Just because it’s legal doesn’t make it right.”

Now, divorce is not something that God ever intended for marriage.  See, the Pharisees wanted to test Jesus.  They wanted to trip Him up, and so they came to Him with an impossible question.  Some of the Pharisees, on the one hand, said that divorce is always permissible, that in every circumstance it’s okay to do.  Some of the other Pharisees, on the other hand, would say that divorce was permissible only under certain circumstances.  But Jesus comes, and He says that divorce is not something that God intends.  Just because it’s legal doesn’t make it right.

Now, admittedly, this is a very difficult thing to hear.  This is not something that is easy to listen to in our culture, because divorce is so very common.  But we have to understand that what Jesus is trying to do here is to point the way to what God does intend for marriage.

And so, we can deal with those things which we struggle with in our culture.  Some of them are really easy to deal with.  Take, for example, gay marriage.  Just because it’s legal doesn’t make it right.  God intends for marriage to be between a man and a woman.  But this is something that’s probably a little more abstract for most of us, a little further off.  We don’t usually have to deal with this.  Something a little closer to home is probably something like divorce.  God doesn’t want us to get one.  God intends for marriage between a man and a woman to continue, to continue in what He wants it to be.  Now, sometimes it might be the lesser of two evils.  Sometimes, we have to deal with it because of our broken, fallen situation, but it is not what God wants for us to have.  He wants us to continue in that marital relationship.  But something even closer than that, closer than that than perhaps divorce, would be something like adultery, fornication.  Just because it’s common in our culture doesn’t make it right, whether that be because we deal with premarital sexual relations or extramarital sexual relations.  This is not what God intends.  He intends for a husband and a wife to express their love for each other within the bounds of marriage.  But the one that’s perhaps the closest and the most difficult to deal with is dealing with the sin of lust.  Christ says in the Gospel of Matthew:  “If you look at a woman (or we can say, if you look at someone other than your spouse) with lust in your heart, you have already adultery with that person.”  Now, that’s a very difficult thing to deal with, because we live in a culture which is saturated with sex.  We see it in our movies.  We see it in our advertisements.  We see it in our books.  It’s something that we find very difficult to avoid.

But if this is where we are, caught in the midst of this sinful world, well, what is the answer?  How do we deal with this problem?  The answer comes in the book of Ephesians, where Paul writes:  “Husbands, love your wives, as Christ loved the church and gave himself up for her, that he might sanctify her, having cleansed her by the washing of water with the word, so that he might present the church to himself in splendor, without spot or wrinkle or any such thing, that she might be holy and without blemish.  In the same way husbands should love their wives as their own bodies. He who loves his wife loves himself.  For no one ever hated his own flesh, but nourishes and cherishes it, just as Christ does the church, because we are members of his body.  ‘Therefore a man shall leave his father and mother and hold fast to his wife, and the two shall become one flesh.’  This mystery is profound, and I am saying that it refers to Christ and the church.”  And so that is the answer, that even though we’re caught in the midst of this sinful, broken world, Christ gave Himself up for you to forgive you your sins.  None of these sins which are committed against marriage are unforgivable.  There is forgiveness in Christ, because in Christ, giving Himself up for His bride, the Church, He shows the pattern of what God intends marriage to be.  Because Jesus sanctified her, Jesus purified her, and Jesus loved her, loved her so much that He gave Himself up even unto death for her, for you.  And so Christ will never divorce His bride, the Church.  Christ will always be faithful to His bride.  And Christ is always devoted to her.

And so, though we deal with these things within our situation, within our life, dealing with these sins against marriage, we can see in Christ that God has sanctified us and has purified us so that we may become His bride, the Church.  And in that pattern which see between Christ and His Church, we can see what God intends for our marriages to be.

In the Name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit.  Amen.