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Matthew 19:1-12

Marriage and Divorce

  • Rich Jones
  • Weekend Messages
  • May 15, 2011

While Jesus was ministering and healing the multitudes, some Pharisees came in order to test Him. They challenged Jesus to answer a dilemma having to do with divorce. They thought perhaps they could catch Jesus on the horns of a dilemma that had divided them as well. Basically, there were two leading rabbis who held opposite views on divorce and saw the debate as an opportunity to trap Jesus. In his response we find valuable insight into what God's perspective is on marriage.

  • Sermon Notes
  • Scripture

Marriage and Divorce

Matthew 19:1-12 

Chapter 19 begins with Jesus leaving the area of the Sea of Galilee and coming south into the region of Judea beyond the Jordan River. There were huge crowds that followed Him and He healed them there. But while Jesus was ministering and healing the multitudes, some Pharisees came in order to test Him. They challenged Jesus to answer a dilemma and a raging debate having to do with divorce.

They thought perhaps they could catch Jesus on the horns of a dilemma that had divided them as well. Basically, there were two leading rabbis who held opposite views on divorce and saw the debate as an opportunity to trap Jesus.

The debate centered on the proper interpretation of Deuteronomy 24:1-4 where Moses gave some instruction regarding divorce. It reads, "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 indecency in her, and he writes her a certificate of divorce…" The debate, then, centered around the word "indecency" other translations use the word "uncleanness."

Rabbi Shammai held a very restrictive view, teaching that there was virtually no justifiable reason for divorce. Rabbi Hillel held a very liberal view and taught that a man could divorce his wife for any reason at all. In other words, according to the teaching of Rabbi Hillel, if a wife made the coffee too strong; that would be grounds for divorce, or burnt the toast, or didn't please him in one way or another he could divorce her.

So they presented the debate to Jesus, expecting him to choose one side or the other. If Jesus chose the extremely liberal interpretation, they would accuse him of not taking the Word of God seriously, if Jesus chose the extremely restrictive view, He risked losing his popularity with the people. But instead of answering the question by speaking about divorce, He instead spoke to them about marriage.

I find it very interesting that the discussion about marriage and divorce should come immediately after Jesus's teaching about forgiveness. The whole of chapter 18 has to do with becoming great in the eyes of God and forgiveness is an important part of the transformation that God desires.

Ruth Graham once said, "The best marriages are made up of two great forgivers.” I'm so glad Jesus addresses the question about marriage and divorce because He's addressing everyday life and the transformation that God desires in each of us must apply to everyday life.

We need God's perspective, because He's the one who created it and therefore He's the one who knows how to honor it. Where do people get their concept of marriage? Mostly from our culture and most often, that's not much help at all.

Prince William and Kate Middleton were married recently and almost a third of the planet watched as the prince kissed his wife and they drove off in their Aston Martin to live happily ever after. You can imagine how many young girls wished they were Kate Middleton; the idea of marrying a prince has been around a long time. Kids get a lot of ideas from children's books, but mostly they learn from watching us.

Some kids were asked, "How do you decide who to marry?"

  • "You got to find somebody who likes the same stuff. Like if you like sports, she should like it that you like sports and should keep the chips and dip coming."
      • Allan, age 10
  • "No person really decides before they grow up who they're going to marry. God decides it all way before, and you get to find out later who you're stuck with." --Kirsten, age 10

Another child was asked how to stay happily married…

  • "Be a good kisser. It might make your wife forget that you never take out the trash." --Erin, age 8

God's Word gives us great insight into God's heart about marriage and also about divorce. I love the fact that when Jesus is challenged to answer a question about divorce, He begins by talking about marriage and so we should do the same as well.

This is about the transformation that God desires. A good marriage is not just about finding the right person; it's also about being the right person. I submit that who you are before the Lord has everything to do with who you will be in your marriage.

I. The Two Shall Become One

  • Jesus brought them back to the beginning quoting the book of Genesis, "He who created them from the beginning made them male and female, and said, ‘For this cause a man shall leave his father and mother, and shall cleave to his wife; and the two shall become one flesh.”
  • The idea of one flesh of course suggests the beauty of sexuality, but it's also much more than that as God shows us in His Word.
  • There is to be oneness of soul and spirit that God designed as well which is why Paul wrote to the church at Corinth not to be unequally yoked together with unbelievers.

A. Marriage is a picture of Christ and the church

  • Marriage is very important to God, not only because he created it for our blessing, but also because of what it represents.
  • This is what Paul was speaking about in Ephesians chapter 5…

Ephesians 5:28-32 This is a great mystery, Christ and the church.

  • In the scriptures, a mystery is something that was formerly hidden, but now revealed. We see that God has something deeply spiritual and significant He wants us to understand about marriage; that it's a picture of the relationship of Christ and the church.
  • This is such an amazingly deep subject it would take many books to speak of such great significance, so perhaps this will just whet our appetite to understand more.
  • It all has to do with the concept of the two becoming one. There are several scriptures that speak of it.

Galatians 2:20, I have been crucified with Christ, and it is no longer I who live, but Christ lives in me; and the life which I now live in the flesh I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave Himself up for me.

Colossians 1:27, to whom God willed to make known what is the riches of the glory of this mystery among the Gentiles, which is Christ in you, the hope of glory.

B. Husbands, love your wives

  • Jesus spoke about God's design for marriage that the two should become one and then Paul gives us more insight about what that means in Ephesians 5.
  • Paul even breaks it down into the husband's part as well as the wife's part and when we follow God's design for marriage, then amazing blessings follow, but much trouble comes when the husband or wife become hard of heart.

Ephesians 5:25-28 Love as Christ loved the church

Illus - a couple from another church that I had never met before asked if they could come in and talk about their marriage problems. They talked for a few minutes and then I said, "I think I know what your problem is…" I looked at the wife, "You don't feel loved," and then looked at the husband, "You don't feel respected." "Wow, that's amazing," they said. No, it’s simply God's Word. 

  • The husband is supposed to represent Christ in the marriage. That is an awesome responsibility and impossible to do unless the husband is himself submitted to the Lordship of Jesus Christ.
  • We can't represent Christ's heart unless we ourselves know what Christ's heart is about.

Illus - there was a particular point when Moses became angry with the people of Israel and misrepresented God. A pastor must be very careful to represent God's heart and a husband must be very careful also.

  • How did Christ love the church? By giving Himself up for her by taking her burdens unto Himself; by edifying and building her up.
  • And as we learned in Matthew 18, we should forgive because of how much we have been forgiven. And the same goes with grace, patience, kindness, gentleness, etc.
  • Lastly, husband, do your part out of honor to Christ. Don't wait for her to do her part; that would be true for wives as well.

Illus – “I’ll start respecting when he starts loving,” or “I’ll start loving when she starts respecting,” won’t work.

C. Wives, respect your husbands

  • Paul wrote in Ephesians 5 that wives should respect their husbands and that as the church is under Christ so also should wives be to their husbands.
  • That may not be a politically correct view, but it is a biblical one. It is helpful to see the perspective, "as unto the Lord."
  • This is one of the keys to marriage God's way. If God created marriage, then He knows the principles that will make it work best.

Illus - Not only that, a two headed anything is a monster.

Illus – There are different Greek words for “husband,” and one of them is georgos – farmer – one who produces fruit. In that illustration, then the wife is the soil. Remember the parable of the sower and the soils.

II. God Hates Divorce

  • After Jesus finished teaching them about marriage, they challenged him again, "Why then did Moses command divorce?"
  • Jesus immediately corrected them, "Moses permitted, not commanded, divorce because of your hardness of heart."
  • I know there are a lot of people here who have experienced or are experiencing divorce and I'm not here to make you feel badly about the past, I'm here to speak about what God wants for your future.
  • I think everyone here who has been divorced would join me speaking to the importance of strengthening your marriage so you can avoid divorce.
  • I'm convinced the reason God hates divorce is because it hurts everybody and most especially the children and we know how God feels about children.

A. There is an allowance for adultery

  • When you see the importance of the two becoming one flesh, we understand why Jesus gave an allowance for divorce due to adultery.
  • Paul also adds an allowance in 1 Corinthians 7.

1 Corinthians 7:15 Yet if the unbelieving one leaves, let him leave; the brother or the sister is not under bondage in such cases, but God has called us to peace.

  • The number one reason given for divorce today is "irreconcilable differences." But there's always going to be differences.
  • The problem is hardness of heart. Divorce is not commanded in such cases, there is after all the possibility of forgiveness. But Jesus recognized that there may be such hardness of heart that there is no true repentance.

B. Honor God and soften your heart

  • That's the whole point; God does not want our heart to be hard, He wants us to soften our heart toward the Lord and that will cause us to soften our heart toward our spouse.
  • The problem with easy divorce is that it's easy for you to spend your time thinking about how you're going to get out and that keeps you from thinking about how you're going to make it work.

Illus - Several states have Covenant Marriage laws to demonstrate the importance of the marriage covenant.

Illus - you would be amazed what a difference a soft heart makes; sometimes I've asked couples who can't communicate simply to start praying together. I learned this lesson the hard way.

  • Another benefit of a soft heart towards God and towards your spouse is that it makes your prayers more effective.

1 Peter 3:7, husbands… show her honor as a fellow heir of the grace of life, so that your prayers will not be hindered.

  • Marriage takes work; soften your heart, keep talking, keep the weeds out.

Matthew 19:1-12    NASB

1 When Jesus had finished these words, He departed from Galilee and came into the region of Judea beyond the Jordan; 2 and large crowds followed Him, and He healed them there. 3 Some Pharisees came to Jesus, testing Him and asking, "Is it lawful for a man to divorce his wife for any reason at all?" 4 And He answered and said, "Have you not read that He who created them from 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 they are no longer two, but one flesh. What therefore God has joined together, let no man separate." 7 They said to Him, "Why then did Moses command to give her a certificate of divorce and send her away?" 8 He said to them, "Because of your hardness of heart Moses permitted you to divorce your wives; but from the beginning it has not been this way. 9 And I say to you, whoever divorces his wife, except for immorality, and marries another woman commits adultery."

10 The disciples said to Him, "If the relationship of the man with his wife is like this, it is better not to marry." 11 But He said to them, "Not all men can accept this statement, but only those to whom it has been given. 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."
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