As seems to so often be the case, amidst a time of Christ teaching as to the Kingdom of God and bringing God’s redemption to a broken world, others (in this case the Pharisees) turn up.
Not to learn, watch and experience the good that is happening.
Rather to trick and catch out the Messiah.
And they go about their malevolent work by asking Christ a very technical question, based on their understanding of the law of Moses.
“Is it legal for a man to divorce his wife?” (Mark 10 v 2).
The God of love, being examined on the rights and wrongs of human relationships with all their complexities…when they come off the rails.
The Gospel reading.
10 1-2 From there he went to the area of Judea across the Jordan. A crowd of people, as was so often the case, went along, and he, as he so often did, taught them. Pharisees came up, intending to give him a hard time. They asked, “Is it legal for a man to divorce his wife?”
3 Jesus said, “What did Moses command?”
4 They answered, “Moses gave permission to fill out a certificate of dismissal and divorce her.”
5-9 Jesus said, “Moses wrote this command only as a concession to your hardhearted ways. In the original creation, God made male and female to be together. Because of this, a man leaves father and mother, and in marriage he becomes one flesh with a woman—no longer two individuals, but forming a new unity. Because God created this organic union of the two sexes, no one should desecrate his art by cutting them apart.”
10-12 When they were back home, the disciples brought it up again. Jesus gave it to them straight: “A man who divorces his wife so he can marry someone else commits adultery against her. And a woman who divorces her husband so she can marry someone else commits adultery.”
13-16 The people brought children to Jesus, hoping he might touch them. The disciples shooed them off. But Jesus was irate and let them know it: “Don’t push these children away. Don’t ever get between them and me. These children are at the very center of life in the kingdom. Mark this: Unless you accept God’s kingdom in the simplicity of a child, you’ll never get in.” Then, gathering the children up in his arms, he laid his hands of blessing on them.
The above passage with the Pharisees (and indeed the disciples) drilling down on Christ’s view on divorce (albeit in the case of adultery) sees a lot of what we might say “technical exchanges” emerge.
“If…then…” type stuff about relationships that have (or are about to breakdown) due to one partner acting/being unfaithful to their original best intentions and marriage vows. Messy stuff for sure and one that this writer speaks about with fear and trepidation.
“He…said… she said…” stuff. “If…then…” stuff. Technical, legal terminology being used both by the Pharisees and Christ in terms of His response to the disciples quest for understanding.
Messy stuff, as, at the core of our being…married, single, recently bereaved, divorced, in or out of a relationship, “never really been too bothered frankly in having a relationship”, is the need for most of us to…
Messy stuff…in that once our bodily needs are being met and our safety needs are being met, what really matters, what lasts, are the relationships that provide intimacy, touch, love in all its forms. In a word belonging. (If one subscribes fully to one Abraham Mazlow’s “Hierarchy of Need” construct).
And of course separation and divorce destroys belonging between those caught in the eye of the storm when marital matters do not work, can not work.
And, as in the case of last week’s reading from the Gospel of Mark, (when the disciples argue amongst themselves as to who is the greatest), Christ in his encounter with children in this story puts a new perspective on human relationships…even if broken.
“The people” (Mark 10 v 13) bring their children to Jesus for His touch…of love, acceptance, healing. And despite the disciples best efforts to prevent these children receiving God’s love, Christ rebukes them for their lack of understanding.
The Kingdom of God, the love of God…is best understood…when like a child (a “wee un” as we say here in Northern Ireland)…we come to it and experience it with…
vulnerability (like a child),
some confusion (like a child),
awe and wonder (like a child),
trust and out stretched arms (like a child).
A childlike attitude, which, I do wonder, is not too shabby a perspective to (try) and take when encountering God amidst life’s brokenness, breakdowns in “belonging” and “technical stuff”.
Amidst your very personal circumstances, may St. Julian’s of Norwich’s maxim hold you in safety…
“All shall be well, and all shall be well. And all manner of thing shall be well”
Revelations of Divine Love.
May you know “The look of Love”.
Picture. “Isaac”. The Taize Community.