It’s a funny thing that in First Century Judea the hot topic was ‘Divorce’, when today it is ‘Marriage’! The Pharisees were engaged in debate about whether a person could legitimately get divorced for just about any reason, or only in the case of sexual immorality by one of the parties. This was literally known as the “Any and Every Reason” debate. Undoubtedly, the Pharisees were naturally curious what this influential young rabbi thought – given that he had such influence over the people and seemed to have a hot-line to God! Partly out of curiosity, and partly to test him and perhaps trip him up, they posed their ‘hot’ question to him in public.
Jesus did not answer it directly at first, but began by defining what true marriage is, by going back to first principles and explaining what God had first created it to be. “It is not good for man to be alone” – the first temporary fault that the Lord had found with his created order; “…so I will make a helper suitable for him”. Marriage is, first and foremost, God’s best cure for loneliness through deep companionship and sexual union. “For this reason, a man will leave his father and mother and be united to his wife, and the two will become one flash” – Jesus is quoting Genesis Chapter Two and affirming that this is all about marriage.
The other rather topical point is the context in which Jesus was speaking: “At the beginning, the Creator made them male and female… and said ‘For this reason a man will leave his father and mother…’” etc. Therefore, marriage was designed for this unique covenant of companionship between a man and a woman, and was never intended to be a same-sex relationship of the so-called ‘gay marriage’ genre. It must be said that Jesus never even contemplated the existence of ‘gay marriage’, and he certainly did not approve it anywhere in the Bible.
In the ‘Divorce’ debate, he sided with the stricter interpretation, of ‘only on the grounds of sexual sin’. Any other basis for divorce would lead those who re-married to commit adultery against their previous spouses. It also confirms that divorce in the case of sexual sin DOES permit re-marriage. One more exception was introduced by the Holy Spirit through the Apostle Paul in 1 Corinthians 7, which was that re-marriage is permitted after a divorce occasioned by the desertion of your previous spouse, against your will.
The final part of Matthew 19 looks at the Rich Young Ruler. He wanted eternal life, but wasn’t prepared to pay the price – literally in his case! Jesus quoted half the commandments, plus the ‘catch-all’ command to ‘Love your neighbour as yourself’. In reality these are not given in order to BE saved, but to prove that one IS saved. The rich man claimed that he had followed them to the letter. Then Jesus put his finger on the real weakness in the man’s character – greed and covetousness – which was the previously unmentioned Commandment Number Ten.
The only solution was to give away most of his great wealth and to follow Jesus. Generous giving is God’s cure for materialism – it cleanses our soul of it. The man refused, thereby refusing to make Jesus his Lord, and sadly missing out on salvation. It is NOT that every one of us needs to impoverish ourselves to get saved, but just that we need to repent of everything that is a barrier to our relationship with God and we need to make Jesus the ‘Boss’ of our lives. The Rich Young Ruler knew exactly what Jesus was getting at and he made a calculated decision – but the wrong one!
What is the ‘sin barrier’ in OUR lives?