“Therefore what God has joined together, let no one separate.” Mark 10 is a text that has been used against divorce and against gay and lesbian marriage, there is a kernel here that really needs to be focused on. This is one of those “clobber” texts, weaponized to fight against beliefs different from one’s own.
And yet, the irony is rich, because some Pharisees were asking for a clobber text. To me it sound as if Pharisees wanted to legitimize divorce, or delegitimize Jesus by getting him to endorse divorce. Also, all my alarm bells are ringing because what they ask is Is it legal for a man to divorce his wife? I really wish I knew more about the context of this situation, because I know a political query when I see one. This is definitely not about who can marry or not, but about the law, judging one another, and playing gotcha.
As is so often in these texts, Jesus points out that to judge is human and to love divine. I say this because, I am human and I find myself judging people all the time. I try not to condemn myself too harshly for it, but remember that judging people is a very, very human reaction to situations.
Some Pharisees come to check out Jesus, and say “Is it ok for a man to leave his wife?” (because you know, men know about these things)
Jesus “What did Moses say?”
Pharisees “Well, we only do it because Moses said its ok
Jesus: Let me put it this way–Moses did what he did, because y’all are human. God is more worried about the realities of love than the legalese of marriage. Really its important that when people love each other, humans not get in the way of God
Jesus goes away to be by himself:
Disciples: What did you mean when you were talking about divorce Jesus.
Jesus: Divorcing each other to marry someone else is adultery (but remember I came not to fulfill the law)
Disciples: Don’t bring the kiddos in folks, please Jesus is tired.
Jesus: “rolls eyes” of course I’m not too tired to touch the children, I came to get away from the Pharisees’ legalistic questions.
Disciples: Jesus your tired, you don’t need to waste time on these children
Jesus: Ha! That’s where your wrong, the Kingdom of God belongs to children, let them come.
To have these texts about love, marriage and children one right after another is interesting. Often Jesus talks about food or farming or invitations, but this is one of the places where Jesus addresses the ordinary concerns of family. Perhaps that is why this text has received so much attention over the years.
((This is almost another post or another sermon, but I wanted to address the importance of children in this passage. Its one of the few places in the Bible children (other than Jesus) appear and are addressed, so we hang onto this text. We try to believe as Christians that “we can’t not love children.” Actions, of course, speak louder than words and I’ve seen lots of instances where children are not welcomed and valued for who they are, and others where they are. One of my favorite examples is a Korean American Church I worked at where the rambunctious children were allowed to be free and unhindered until about age 10, so that they could know that they are loved.))
Artwork from Alix Beaujour: https://www.blackartdepot.com/products/bless-the-children-by-alix-beaujour?variant=362161841
To conclude, I have a lot more thinking to do about the text “Therefore what God has joined together, let no one separate.” However, I do know that it is these words, and the “Let the children come” that serve to unweaponize the reading for today.
Where are you today? Are you focusing on the creation of man and woman in Genesis? Are you wrestling with humans being a little less than God in Psalm 8? Let us know how your sermon is going.
Katy Stenta has been a solo pastor at a tiny church that is bigger on the inside for eight years in Albany, NY. When she is not dreaming up projects and ideas, some of which creep into the church, she plays with her three boys-boys or goes and visits her husband at the library, while he works, to read.
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