Jesus left that place and went beyond the Jordan and into the region of Judea. Crowds gathered around him again and, as usual, he taught them. Some Pharisees came and, trying to test him, they asked, “Does the Law allow a man to divorce his wife?”
Jesus answered, “What did Moses command you?”
They said, “Moses allowed a man to write a divorce certificate and to divorce his wife.”
Jesus said to them, “He wrote this commandment for you because of your unyielding hearts. At the beginning of creation, God made them male and female. Because of this, a man should leave his father and mother and be joined together with his wife, and the two will be one flesh. So they are no longer two but one flesh. Therefore, humans must not pull apart what God has put together.”
Inside the house, the disciples asked him again about this. He said to them, “Whoever divorces his wife and marries another commits adultery against her; and if a wife divorces her husband and marries another, she commits adultery.”
People were bringing children to Jesus so that he would bless them. But the disciples scolded them. When Jesus saw this, he grew angry and said to them, “Allow the children to come to me. Don’t forbid them, because God’s kingdom belongs to people like these children. I assure you that whoever doesn’t welcome God’s kingdom like a child will never enter it.” Then he hugged the children and blessed them.
If you haven’t seen the movie, The Stoning of Soraya M., you should. But let me warn you - it’s not for the faint of heart. It’s a brutal movie. But it could very well be one of the most important movies ever made. It’s the true story of Soraya, a wife and mother living in modern Iran who was stoned to death by the community after her abusive husband worked the system in his favor.
I think that’s the meaning behind Jesus’ response to the Religious Opposition. Again, not wanting to really have a conversation with Jesus, they set out to “test him.” They continue to set up these theologically twisted questions so that they can corner him and use his responses against him and the people following him. It doesn’t sound like they have the interests of the people in mind, does it? This is about them coming out ahead.
But you gotta love the way Jesus responds! “The reason the Law allows you to divorce your wife is because of your unyielding heart!” I think in this scenario, divorce is seen as a mercy. If divorce wasn’t an option, a lot more women would end up like Soraya (even though they were supposed to be getting divorced).
I think Jesus’ reply to the Religious Elite is about that very thing. His point is that people shouldn’t take marriage lightly. It’s a bond that runs deeper than we realize. In fact, it goes beyond our understanding. Whether we think marriage is an outdated, archaic institution or not, I think something really happens on a deeper level. Perhaps some people haven’t really changed that much from Jesus’ day. Maybe the laws for divorce are in place because some people have “unyielding hearts.” They want things their way and they won’t compromise. When things do go the way they think they should, they just get a divorce. But that’s not why those laws are in place. The laws are in place to protect each other.
But that’s not the way marriage is supposed to work. Marriage is about two people learning to love and grow together. It’s about seeing ourselves as becoming better people because of the lives we share with our spouses. It’s about learning what really matters is putting ourselves aside for our spouses. It’s about being content. Recently, the news has been abuzz about the couple who has been married for 80 years! John and Ann Betar were married on 25 November 1936 when he was 20 and she was 16. They’re the longest married couple in the US. When asked what their secret was, the couple replied, “Just contentment. Of really living. Normally.”
Lastly, in our story today, there’s the situation with children.
I guess the disciples just don’t get it! I mean, for the last couple of days, Jesus has been talking to them about children, about having childlike faith, about having to become as children. Then what happens? The next time they run into a situation with children, the disciples scold the people! Apparantly, Jesus was just too busy to be bothered with children. Sheesh. I know sometimes I miss stuff, but, I like to think I would have got the message.
This paragraph shows us just how deep our biases run. Whether it’s society or class or economics or sexual orientation or culture, some of us just can’t see that Jesus came to put things right. That all of those biases need to be reformed, reconciled, or removed. G_d’s Realm belongs to people who have faith like children. For the only way to “enter” G_d’s Realm is through the door of childlike faith.
In the Love of the Three in One,
Br. Jack+, LC