What God has joined together, we humans make a habit of casting asunder. Faith and action, doctrine and practice, Sunday mornings and the rest of our lives. Today, there may even be the temptation for some of us to look at the readings and say “That’s for someone else … I guess pastor won’t be speaking to me today!” But young or old, married or single, already divorced or not even contemplating it, these words of Jesus are for you and no one else. They are yours, not because of your marital status but because God has joined the institution of marriage together with a very powerful picture of God’s relationship with all mankind! What God has joined together, let not man separate.
2 And Pharisees came up and in order to test him asked, “Is it lawful for a man to divorce his wife?” 3 He answered them, “What did Moses command you?” 4 They said, “Moses allowed a man to write a certificate of divorce and to send her away.” The Pharisees didn’t really care what the answer to their question would be, just what they could do with that answer to get Jesus in trouble. They really didn’t care about divorce or marriage, they were simply using it as means to an end. It was a convenient pretext to getting what they wanted. You think they would have figured out by now that Jesus is never fooled by such shallow displays. He’s seen this kind of self-serving ploy before.
I suppose you could say that it is a strange and sad coincidence that the very same attitude with which the Pharisees use marriage and divorce as a tool for something more important, is the very same self-serving attitude that dismisses marriage and brings on divorces in the lives of people today. You see most people, whether they are in one or not, view marriage simply as a means to an end. And that end is all about being happy. It doesn’t matter who your partner is as long as they bring you that happiness. And as long as one or both of the partners is happy it can work. And if they aren’t, then the union has served its purpose … fill out the forms and send them on their way.
This self-serving view shows itself not just in the 38% of all marriages that will end in divorce, but in the increasingly common notions of having family without marriage, or with alternative partnering arrangements. Over 31% of Canadian families now consist of some arrangement other than what would be defined as a nuclear family. It can also be seen outside of marriage in the total disregard for the sanctity of marriage bed, with multiple partners before marriage, the majority of young people (and now even many older people) living together first, and the prominence of sexual vices readily at hand for one and for all. If it makes you happy great … if not, send it away. It’s what we’ve come to expect … and sadly, sometimes even condone.
5 And Jesus said to them, “Because of your hardness of heart he wrote you this commandment. 6 But from the beginning of creation, ‘God made them male and female.’ 7 ‘Therefore a man shall leave his father and mother and hold fast to his wife, 8 and they shall become one flesh.’ So they are no longer two but one flesh. 9 What therefore God has joined together, let not man separate.” 11 And he said to them, “Whoever divorces his wife and marries another commits adultery against her, 12 and if she divorces her husband and marries another, she commits adultery.”
Let me be blunt dear Christians. In Christ there is no such thing as irreconcilable differences. As the marriage relationship of a man and woman points to the eternal relationship of Christ and the Church, divorce confesses our utter hypocrisy. Marriage is not about serving our selfish ends, but is a primer for love in forgiveness, and life-long service to another. The estate of marriage points one and all to the never-ending love and sacrifice of Christ, for His Holy Bride. Thus, Jesus uses “because of the hardness of their heart.” Divorce for “Biblical reasons?” Hardly. It is never right, never good, never God-pleasing. Ever. Jesus does not allow any form of self-justification in the matter. What God has joined together, let not man separate.
But, In Christ there is no such thing as irreconcilable differences. This is not just the strongest Law, but also the sweetest Gospel. Christ is that faithful husband, even to His wantonly unfaithful bride. Jesus left His Father in heaven to cleave unto us! In His conception within the Virgin Mary He became bone of our bone and flesh of our flesh. Why? In all the world, no suitable helper could be found for us. Not one of us is strong enough or worthy enough to pull ourselves out of this life of sin, much less a marriage partner. And God saw that it was not good for us to be alone because left alone, we all deserve only what sin begets. So God sent us a helper – His Son – of human flesh and God-head in blessed union.
In the incarnate Christ both diety and humanity are joined together (not 50 / 50) but 100 percent. Before Bethlehem Christ was 100 percent God. After Bethlehem Christ was 100 percent God and 100 percent man. Two natures in one person. It is imperative, not just for the sake of true doctrine, but for the sake of our very salvation to keep both natures of Christ ever in mind. He needed to be man to live and die in our place, fulfilling the Law and paying the debt of that Law. He equally needed to be God so those sacrifices would be perfect and have infinite value … enough payment for all creation and every person in it! What God has joined together, let not man separate.
Hebrews 2:14 Since therefore the children share in flesh and blood, he himself likewise partook of the same things, that through death he might destroy the one who has the power of death, that is, the devil, 15 and deliver all those who through fear of death were subject to lifelong slavery. 16 For surely it is not angels that he helps, but he helps the offspring of Abraham. 17 Therefore he had to be made like his brothers in every respect, so that he might become a merciful and faithful high priest in the service of God, to make propitiation for the sins of the people. 18 For because he himself has suffered when tempted, he is able to help those who are being tempted.
God doesn’t have a hard heart. In spite of our sin and our own idolatries – in spite of our unfaithfulness to Him, God didn’t “send us away” – He redeems us. We are not given a writ of divorce, instead, he signs the papers that pays our debt of self-serving sin. Signs it with Jesus’ blood on the cross – our guilt and our punishment are “written off” – marked “paid in full” – because of the Cross.
On the cross God performed a mysterious marriage. He wedded our sin to Christ’s innocence. (2 Cor. 5:21a) For our sake he made him to be sin who knew no sin, The blessed result is another marriage: this time God wedded Christ’s righteousness to our sinfulness. (2 Cor 5:21b) so that in him we might become the righteousness of God. Though we can never fully understand or appreciate this remarkable exchange on the cross, through the Holy Spirit we can accept it, cling to it and find comfort in it for our salvation whether married or single, young or old, divorced or not even thinking of it. What God has joined together, let not man separate.