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Mark 10:2 Some Pharisees came and tested him by asking, "Is it lawful for a man to divorce his wife?" 3 "What did Moses command you?" he replied. 4 They said, "Moses permitted a man to write a certificate of divorce and send her away." 5 "It was because your hearts were hard that Moses wrote you this law," Jesus replied. 6 "But at the beginning of creation God `made them male and female.' 7 `For this reason a man will leave his father and mother and be united to his wife, 8 and the two will become one flesh.' So they are no longer two, but one. 9 Therefore what God has joined together, let man not separate." 10 When they were in the house again, the disciples asked Jesus about this. 11 He answered, "Anyone who divorces his wife and marries another woman commits adultery against her. 12 And if she divorces her husband and marries another man, she commits adultery." 13 People were bringing little children to Jesus to have him touch them, but the disciples rebuked them. 14 When Jesus saw this, he was indignant. He said to them, "Let the little children come to me, and do not hinder them, for the kingdom of God belongs to such as these. 15 I tell you the truth, anyone who will not receive the kingdom of God like a little child will never enter it." 16 And he took the children in his arms, put his hands on them and blessed them.


Trinity 19 - 10th October 2018

Mark 10:2 Some Pharisees came and tested him by asking, "Is it lawful for a man to divorce his wife?" 3 "What did Moses command you?" he replied. 4 They said, "Moses permitted a man to write a certificate of divorce and send her away." 5 "It was because your hearts were hard that Moses wrote you this law," Jesus replied. 6 "But at the beginning of creation God `made them male and female.' 7 `For this reason a man will leave his father and mother and be united to his wife, 8 and the two will become one flesh.' So they are no longer two, but one. 9 Therefore what God has joined together, let man not separate." 10 When they were in the house again, the disciples asked Jesus about this. 11 He answered, "Anyone who divorces his wife and marries another woman commits adultery against her. 12 And if she divorces her husband and marries another man, she commits adultery." 13 People were bringing little children to Jesus to have him touch them, but the disciples rebuked them. 14 When Jesus saw this, he was indignant. He said to them, "Let the little children come to me, and do not hinder them, for the kingdom of God belongs to such as these. 15 I tell you the truth, anyone who will not receive the kingdom of God like a little child will never enter it." 16 And he took the children in his arms, put his hands on them and blessed them.

This week the Prime Minister announced that heterosexual couples with be able to have a civil partnership.

Sexual relations have often been controversial. In Jesus’ day this centred on divorce. There were two opposing opinions at this time. The disciples of Hillel, the liberals, if you like. They allowed divorce for almost any reason, but the followers of Shammai, the conservatives, permitted divorce only for sexual impurity.

Jesus declared that divorce was a concession given by Moses due to the hardness of people’s heart and then focuses on God’s original intentions for sex and marriage as seen in Gen. 2:21–25. `For this reason a man will leave his father and mother and be united to his wife, 8 and the two will become one flesh.' So they are no longer two, but one.

Jesus gets his theology from the OT. Genesis 2:24 was seen as foundational by Jesus and it should be the starting point of Christian theology about marriage and sex. Note that it is given immediately after the creation of Adam and Eve by God. So marriage was not invented by man. It is not the norm for a particular culture or age, it is applicable for everyone for all time.

The two become one flesh, and this bond is comparable to, and supersedes that of, a blood relationship. They are one in God’s sight. The “becoming one flesh” alludes to sex. Sex is an expression of the giving to one another and the acceptance of one another that belongs within marriage. Some people seek sex because of the intimacy and acceptance that it promises. However, this promise is a lie if it is outside marriage and people can get hurt emotionally and physically.

In the marriage service a couple promise to unconditionally love and accept the other for the rest of their life. This is the safe environment, if you like, that God created for sex and family life. Indeed, sex expresses and symbolises the loving, giving, receiving and acceptance that should be in a marriage. That is why adultery is wrong because it goes to the root of the relationship.

The right environment for sex is within marriage which, by the Genesis definition, is heterosexual. “A man” and “his wife”, verse 7. Anything else is outside God’s plan and is, therefore, a misuse of a wonderful gift. It is a sin, contrary to God’s perfect will. This includes fornication, which includes a “one night stand” and also so called “partners”. It includes adultery, bestiality, and homosexual intercourse.

Many of you will know that there is pressure being brought to bear upon churches to accept practising homosexuals as ministers and to bless homosexual relationships. This is to ignore this core teaching of Jesus from Genesis 2 that is rooted in God’s providence immediately after creation. It also ignores how shockingly conservative Jesus' teaching was about human sexuality.

Jesus held children in high regard. Studies have shown that children who are born outside marriage are more likely to have emotional problems, more likely to be killed or abused, likely to have less money spent on them and less likely to succeed at school. These studies show that marriage is the best environment in which to bring up children. As the marriage service declares, marriage was given by God to “enrich society and strengthen community”.

9 (Jesus said) Therefore what God has joined together, let man not separate Jesus indicated that God’s original purpose for marriage was that the union should not be broken. He is very strict on divorce, the only grounds for divorce he permits is adultery and even then he is not saying divorce must follow adultery. Matthew 19:9 “I tell you that anyone who divorces his wife, except for marital unfaithfulness, and marries another woman commits adultery." The thinking behind this is that when a couple marry they become one in God’s sight. They have a union which, to God, is indissoluble except by death and, perhaps, adultery. Civil divorce papers cannot take away this life long union in God’s sight. Therefore, Jesus is saying, a subsequent civil marriage means that adultery is taking place in God's sight.

His disciples were so surprised at his strictness they said, Matthew 19:10, "If this is the situation between a husband and wife, it is better not to marry.” This was quite a statement for a first century Jew to make because marriage was the norm in that society! Jesus was very strict in what he said. I cannot see how sexual relationships outside marriage of a woman and man can, therefore, be considered “Christian”. This is still the official view of the Church of England.

Jesus teaching may seem very strict to us, too. Some say that the situation regarding divorce is very different in our society to that of Jesus’ day. Others will ask where is compassion, mercy and forgiveness towards people, many of whom have been hurt due to divorce?

Jesus said "Moses permitted a man to write a certificate of divorce and send her away." "It was because your hearts were hard that Moses wrote you this law,"

Jesus was making the point that Moses permitted divorce because of sin, hardness of heart. Divorce in Jesus' day actually provided protection for the woman from the husband in a culture which did not treat women as equal to men. Generally, only a man could instigate a divorce, and this could be for an insignificant or trivial matter. The husband had to give his wife a writ of divorce that was valid in every respect, written on durable material and with ink that did not fade, and once he had delivered the writ he could not retract it; the woman was free to remarry. This would stop a husband “divorcing” his wife and then demanding her back. In this culture marriage was, for many women, the only means of support.

Jesus was saying that divorce was an acknowledgement that sin can destroy a relationship and divorce could offer protection to vulnerable people. He is also saying that it is not God’s will. God’s solution is forgiveness, mercy, reconciliation, and continuing love which mirrors His faithfulness to an adulterous people.

Divorce and remarriage are sensitive issues today. Divorce can only be seen as second best, an acknowledgement that sin has affected a relationship. Yet those who have experienced the agony of marital breakup should not have this made worse by Pharisee-like condemnation. God has forgiveness for our sins and a mercy that can help those who are hurting.

I think it can be helpful to think of King David’s sin with Bathsheba to illustrate this. You may remember that he committed adultery with Bathsheba while her husband, Uriah the Hittite, a foreigner, was away fighting for God’s people. Bathsheba fell pregnant by David and he had her husband recalled from the fighting in the hope he would have sex with his wife and the adultery not discovered. Uriah was so devoted that he did not, so David had him placed in a dangerous position on the front line so he was killed. The prophet Nathan challenged David’s behaviour using a parable, and David repented. David received God’s forgiveness, but there were consequences. The baby died, one of David’s son killed another son and went on to rebel against David, and another son raped his half-sister. Yet, God redeemed the situation and Solomon was born to David and Bathsheba, and Solomon was one of Jesus’ ancestors.

So forgiveness is available to those who ask for it, and yet there may often be painful and difficult consequences when a marriage ends. Not only the hurt of the couple, but children may also be wounded.

Jesus then uses a child to illustrate the qualities that his followers should have. Trust and dependence are the qualities needed in those who will enter into his kingdom.

This kingdom is a gift to be received and a realm to enter in. When you enter a kingdom you realize that you have to abide by the laws and the customs of that land. When we enter into God’s kingdom we should accept all of his ways for our lives. This includes his ways regarding marriage and sex. Sex is a beautiful gift given by God to the human race in the context of marriage. It should be received in that way. We should imitate Jesus and look to the Bible for direction, not to the ways of the society in which we live.

Romans 12: 2 Do not conform any longer to the pattern of this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind. Then you will be able to test and approve what God's will is - his good, pleasing and perfect will.



4th October 2009 Year B Trinity 16 Mark 10:2-16

It was very encouraging during the "celebrations" last week that we had so many couples celebrating so many years of marriage. I think it was three couples and the total of their years was over 100.  That is fantastic and we need to keep praying for marriage and promoting it as God's way for couples.

In contrast, in 2007, there were 128,534 divorces, and 13,678 of them were for couples over the age of 60.  For the first time ever, married couples in Britain are now in the minority, with only 236,980 weddings in England and Wales in 2006 – the lowest number since 1895. Marriage is not being held in high honour. Many films and soap operas portray adulterous relationships as being representative of perfectly normal behaviour. But how many of those liaisons end happily? Hardly any. Adulterous relationships are destructive.

Sex has always led to problems. In Jesus' day it centred on divorce. There were two opposing opinions at this time. The disciples of Hillel allowed divorce for almost any reason, but the followers of Shammai permitted divorce only for sexual impurity.

Jesus declared that divorce was a concession given by Moses due to the hardness of people's heart and then turns the argument to God's original intentions for sex and marriage as seen in Gen. 2:21–25. `For this reason a man will leave his father and mother and be united to his wife, 8 and the two will become one flesh.' So they are no longer two, but one.

Genesis 2:24 was seen as foundational by Jesus and it should be the starting point of our theology about marriage and sex. Note that it is given after the creation of Adam and Eve by God. So it is not invented by man. It is not the norm for a particular culture or age, it is applicable for everyone for all time.

The two become one flesh, and this bond is comparable to, and supersedes that of, a blood relationship. They are one in God's sight. The "becoming one flesh" alludes to sex. Sex is an expression of the giving to one another and the acceptance of one another that belongs within marriage. Some people seek sex because of the intimacy and acceptance that it promises. However, this promise is a lie if it is outside marriage and people get hurt emotionally and physically.

In the marriage service a couple promise to unconditionally love and accept the other for the rest of their life.  This is the safe environment, if you like, that God created for sex and family life. Indeed, sex expresses and symbolises the loving, giving, receiving and acceptance that should be in a marriage. That is why adultery is wrong because it goes to the root of the relationship.  The right environment for sex is within marriage which, by definition, is heterosexual. "A man" and "his wife", verse 7. Anything else is outside God's plan and is, therefore, a misuse of a wonderful gift. It is a sin, contrary to God's perfect will.  Sex outside marriage is wrong in God's sight. This includes fornication, which includes a "one night stand" and so called "partners". It includes adultery, bestiality, and homosexual intercourse.

Many of you will know that there is pressure being brought to bear upon churches, including the Anglican church, to accept practicing homosexuals as ministers, even as Bishops.  This is to ignore this core teaching of Jesus from Genesis 2 that is rooted in God's providence immediately after creation.

Jesus held children in high regard. Children who are born outside marriage are more likely to have emotional problems, more likely to be killed or abused, likely to have less money spent on them and less likely to succeed at school. Marriage Is the best place in which to bring up children.  As the marriage service declares, marriage was given by God to "enrich society and strengthen community".

Despite the social and economic advantages of marriage successive Conservative and Labour governments have introduced tax changes that disadvantage couples who are married.

9 Therefore what God has joined together, let man not separate Jesus indicated that God's original purpose for marriage was that the union should not be broken.  He is very strict on divorce, the only grounds for divorce he permits is adultery and even then he is not saying divorce must follow adultery. Matthew 19:9 "I tell you that anyone who divorces his wife, except for marital unfaithfulness, and marries another woman commits adultery."  The thinking behind this is that when a couple marry they become one in God's sight. They have a union which, to God is indissoluble except by death and, perhaps adultery.  Civil divorce papers cannot take away this life long union in God's sight.  Therefore, Jesus is saying, a subsequent civil marriage means that adultery is taking place.

His disciples were so surprised they said, Matthew 19:10, "If this is the situation between a husband and wife, it is better not to marry." This was quite a statement for a first century Jew to make because marriage was the norm in that society!

Jesus teaching may seem very strict to us, too.  Some say that the situation regarding divorce is very different in our society to that of Jesus' day.  Others will ask where is compassion, mercy and forgiveness towards people who have been hurt due to divorce?

Jesus said "Moses permitted a man to write a certificate of divorce and send her away." "It was because your hearts were hard that Moses wrote you this law,"

Jesus was making the point that Moses permitted divorce because of sin, hardness of heart. Divorce then, actually provided protection for the woman from a husband in a culture which did not treat women as equal to men. Generally, only a man could instigate a divorce, and this could be for an insignificant or trivial matter. The husband had to give his wife a writ of divorce that was valid in every respect, written on durable material and with ink that did not fade, and once he had delivered the writ he could not retract it; the woman was free to remarry.  This would stop a husband "divorcing" his wife and then demanding her back

Jesus was saying that divorce was an acknowledgment that sin can destroy a relationship and divorce can offer protection to vulnerable people. He is also saying that it is not God's will. God's solution is forgiveness, mercy, and continuing love which mirrors His faithfulness to an adulterous people.

Divorce and remarriage are sensitive issues today.  Divorce can only be seen as second best, an acknowledgment that sin has affected a relationship.  Yet those who have experienced the agony of marital breakup should not have this made worse by Pharisee-like condemnation.  God has forgiveness for our sins and a mercy that can help those who are hurting.

I think it can be helpful to think of King David's sin with Bathsheba to illustrate this.  You may remeber he committed adultery with Bathsheba while her husband, Uriah the Hittite, a foreigner, was away fighting for God's people. Bathsheba fell pregnant by David and he had her husband recalled from the front in the hope he would have sex with his wife. Uriah was so devoted to fighting that he did not, so David had him placed in a dangerous position on the front line so he was killed. The prophet Nathan  challenged David's behaviour using a parable, and David repented.  David received God's forgiveness, but there were consequences. The baby died, one of David's son killed another son and went on to rebel against David, and another son raped his half-sister. Yet, God redeemed the situation and Solomon was born to David and Bathsheba, and Solomon was one of Jesus' ancestors.

So forgiveness is available to those who ask for it, and yet there may often be painful and difficult consequences when a marriage ends. Not only the hurt of the couple, but children and the parents of the couple may also be wounded.

Jesus then uses a child to illustrate the qualities that his followers should have. Trust and dependence are the qualities needed in those who will enter into his kingdom.

This kingdom is a gift to be received and a realm to enter in. When you enter a kingdom you realize that you have to abide by the laws and the customs of that land. When we enter into God's kingdom we should accept all of his ways for our lives. This includes his ways regarding marriage and sex. Sex is a beautiful gift given by God to the human race in the context of marriage. It should be received in that way.  We should imitate Jesus and look to the Bible for direction, not to the ways of he society in which we live.

Romans 12: 2 Do not conform any longer to the pattern of this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind. Then you will be able to test and approve what God's will is - his good, pleasing and perfect will.

 

8/10/06 Year B Trinity 16 Mark 10:2-16

The United Kingdom has the highest rate of teenage births in Western Europe. In 1998, the latest year for which comparable data is available, the UK rate was double that of Germany, three times that of France and five times the birth rate of the Netherlands.

One in every ten babies born in England is to a teenage mum.

3,514 abortions were carried out on girls under 16 years old in 2002.  

The Social Exclusion Unit report Teenage Pregnancy identified three major factors for the UK's failure to reduce its teenage conception rates alongside those of other European countries.

Low Expectations.   Teenage pregnancy is more common among young people who have been disadvantaged and have poor expectations of education or the job market.   The UK has more young people who see no prospect of a job and foresee a future on benefits.   As the report said 'put simply, they see no reason not to get pregnant.'

Ignorance.   Young people in the UK lack accurate knowledge about contraception and sexually transmitted infections, they are uncertain of what to expect from a relationship and have an unrealistic picture of parenthood.   Contraceptive use is low compared to countries like Denmark and the Netherlands and young people tend to have a rosy view of what being a parent is about.

Mixed messages.    Young people are surrounded by sexual images and messages which imply that sexual activity is the norm.   Yet some parents and many public institutions are at best embarrassed about dealing with young people's sexuality or try to ignore it completely.  This leads to the situation, described by one teenager quoted by the Teenage Pregnancy Report, where it seems as if sex is compulsory but contraception is illegal.

Sexually Transmitted Disease diagnoses at GUM (genitourinary medicine) clinics in the UK: 1996-2005 reported 495,644 cases in 1996, and 790,387 in 2005, a 59% rise. This excludes UK HIV diagnoses which rose from 2,706 in 1996 to 7,208 in 2005 a 166% rise.

In November 2004, UK Health Secretary John Reid announced proposals for a 300 million campaign to tackle the rapidly increasing rates of sexually transmitted infections. "Prevention messages are not getting through", he said, "We need to act now on sexual health - and make it a priority." Proposals included a TV campaign, but this is unlikely to be launched for several years. Politicians and healthcare officials are concerned that the general increase in Sexually Transmitted Infections awareness created by the advertising will cause more to seek testing, which will in turn put extra pressure on the already overwhelmed and under-funded GUM clinics.

The numbers of teenage pregnancies and the increase in sexually transmitted infections show that the government is failing in providing adequate sex education. However, the problem cannot just be blamed on the government.

Sex has always led to problems. In Jesus' day it centred on divorce. There were two opposing opinions at this time. The disciples of Hillel allowed divorce for almost any reason, but the followers of Shammai permitted divorce only for sexual impurity.

Jesus declared that divorce was a concession to the hardness of people's heart and then turns the argument to God's original intentions for marriage as seen in Gen. 2:21–25. God's design of male and female shows that He held each to be equal in value and worth, but that they fulfilled a different function and role in His design.

10:7, 8 A man is to leave his parents and be united to his wife. The two become one flesh, and this bond is comparable to that of a blood relationship. They are one in God's sight. The "becoming one flesh" alludes to sex. Sex is an expression of the giving to one another and the acceptance of one another that belongs within marriage. Some people seek sex because of the intimacy and acceptance that it promises. However, this promise is a lie if it is outside marriage and people get hurt emotionally and physically.

Jesus held children in high regard. Children who are born outside marriage are more likely to have emotional problems, more likely to be killed or abused, likely to have less spent on them and less likely to succeed at school. Marriage Is the best place in which to bring up children.  As the marriage service declares, marriage was given by God to "enrich society and strengthen community". Despite the social and economic advantages of marriage successive Conservative and Labour governments have introduced tax changes that disadvantage couples who are married.

Jesus quoted from the text of Gen. 2:24. `For this reason a man will leave his father and mother and be united to his wife, 8 and the two will become one flesh.' So they are no longer two, but one.

This should be the foundation of our theology about sex. Note it is given after the creation of Adam and Eve by God. So it is not invented by man. It is not the norm for a particular culture or age, it is applicable for everyone for all time.

It shows that the right environment for sex is within marriage which, by definition, is heterosexual. "A man" and "his wife", verse 7. Anything else is outside God's plan and is, therefore, a misuse of a wonderful gift. It is a sin, contrary to God's perfect will.

Sex outside marriage is wrong. This includes fornication, which includes a "one night stand" and so called "partners". It includes adultery, bestiality, and homosexual intercourse.

Many of you will know that there is pressure being brought to bear upon churches, including the Anglican church, to accept practicing homosexuals as ministers, even as Bishops.

Some people, including Jeffrey John, Dean at St. Albans' Cathedral try to justify their position by saying that Jesus never prohibited homosexual practice and that Old Testament prohibitions do not relate to stable, homosexual relationships.

This is to ignore this core teaching of Jesus from Genesis 2 that is rooted in God's providence immediately after creation.

9 Therefore what God has joined together, let man not separate Jesus indicated that God's original purpose for marriage was that the union should not be broken.  He is very strict on divorce, the only grounds for divorce he permits is adultery in Matthew 19:9 "I tell you that anyone who divorces his wife, except for marital unfaithfulness, and marries another woman commits adultery."  This is the test I would apply to couples coming to be married where one or more is divorced.

His disciples were so surprised they said, verse 10, "If this is the situation between a husband and wife, it is better not to marry." This was quite a statement for a first century Jew to make because marriage was the norm in that society!

Jesus then uses a child to illustrate the qualities that his followers should have. Trust and dependence are the qualities needed in those who will enter into his kingdom.

This kingdom is a gift to be received and a realm to enter in. When you enter a kingdom you realize that you have to abide by the laws and the customs of that land. When we enter into God's kingdom we should accept his ways for all of our lives. This includes his ways regarding sex. Sex is a beautiful gift given by God to the human race in the context of marriage. It should be received in that way. Where it is not it leads to the teenage conceptions, abortions, infections and diseases I mentioned in my introduction.

 

Trinity 16 year B - Mark 10:2-16

PRAY

The concept of the family in the Bible differs from today. The Hebrew family was larger than families today, including the father of the household, his parents, if living, his wife and children, his daughters and sons-in-law, slaves, guests, and foreigners under his protection. Marriage was arranged by the father of the groom, and the family of the bride, for whom a dowry or purchase money was paid to her father (Gen. 24). One of the main reasons for marriage was to provide a healthy, male heir. A wife and children had little or no status and were looked upon as possessions. A husband could divorce his wife, but she could not divorce him. In this culture there was little work for women and no social security system, so divorce protected women by releasing them to remarry which was the only practical means of survival for a woman.

The NT concept went further than that of the O.T. Wives and children were given more respect, perhaps reflecting Jesus' attitude to them. Husbands were commanded to love their wives as Christ loved the church. Fathers were warned not to exasperate their children. (Eph 5:22-6:9; Col 3:18-4:1).

The question of the Pharisees in verse 2, Is it lawful for a man to divorce his wife? was hostile. John the Baptist had denounced Herod Antipas and Herodias for unlawful divorce and remarriage because Herodias had divorced Philip, who was Herod Antipas' brother (see 6:17-18). This rebuke led to John's imprisonment and then the loss of his life.

Jesus was now within Herod's jurisdiction, and the Pharisees may have hoped that Jesus' reply would cause the ruler to seize him as he had John.

Jews of that day generally agreed that divorce was lawful, the only issue being the proper grounds for it.

The debate centred on the meaning of Deuteronomy 24,

1 If a man marries a woman who becomes displeasing to him because he finds something indecent about her, and he writes her a certificate of divorce, gives it to her and sends her from his house, 2 and if after she leaves his house she becomes the wife of another man, 3 and her second husband dislikes her and writes her a certificate of divorce, gives it to her and sends her from his house, or if he dies, 4 then her first husband, who divorced her, is not allowed to marry her again after she has been defiled. That would be detestable in the eyes of the LORD. Do not bring sin upon the land the LORD your God is giving you as an inheritance.

The debate was over the meaning of 'something indecent'. A famous rabbi named Hillel taught that a man could divorce his wife if she did anything at all to displease him, such as burning his food. A stricter school headed by Shammai limited grounds for divorce to marital unfaithfulness.

Jesus responded to the Pharisees question asking one of his own. 3 "What did Moses command you?" . 4 They said, "Moses permitted a man to write a certificate of divorce and send her away."

This law was given because your hearts were hard, verse 5. Divorce was an accommodation to human weakness and was used to bring order in a society that had disregarded God's will, but it was not the standard God had originally intended, as vv. 6-9 clearly indicate. The purpose of Dt 24:1 was not to make divorce acceptable, but to reduce the hardship of its consequences. It does not command people to divorce.

Billy Connolly said, 'Marriage is a wonderful invemtion; but then, so is the bicycle repair kit.' the difference being that God invented marriage.

Jesus goes back to the first marriage to see what was originally intended by God, at the beginning of creation verse 6. Marriage was given in this way before sin came into the world. God instituted marriage as a great blessing, uniting the male and female in his creation. It was given by God as a vehicle for giving and receiving love, for security, a safe environment in which children should grow up, and the only place for sexual activity.

7 `For this reason a man will leave his father and mother and be united to his wife, 8 and the two will become one flesh.' So they are no longer two, but one.

Marriage involves a public, exclusive commitment of a man and woman to one another. It is public in that the man is seen to leave his parental home to set up one with his new wife. There is a change of priorities, and the relationship with the parents has to come second to the marriage relationship. There is a unity with the husband and wife becoming one flesh. There is an allusion to sexual intercourse here, but there is also the idea that the lives of the couple become so involved with one another that they are one. This also affirms the ideal of the permanence of marriage.

9 Therefore what God has joined together, let man not separate." Jesus grounds the sanctity of marriage in the authority of God himself, and his "No" to divorce safeguards against human selfishness, which always threatens to destroy marriage.

11. Anyone who divorces his wife.

In Jewish practice divorce was brought about by the husband himself, not by a judicial authority or court.

and marries another woman commits adultery against her. Jesus is saying that a simple declaration of divorce on the part of a husband could not release him from the divine law of marriage and its moral obligations. Therefore, if he married another woman then, in God's eyes, he is actually committing adultery.

In Matthew's gospel we have recorded, 19: 9 I tell you that anyone who divorces his wife, except for marital unfaithfulness, and marries another woman commits adultery." This is the only grounds that Jesus allowed for divorce. He does not say that every case of adultery must result in divorce, but that this is the only way in which it can, showing that he sided with the Shammaites' stricter interpretation of the law.

Mark 10:12 And if she divorces her husband and marries another man, she commits adultery." We saw earlier that a Jewish woman could not instigate divorce. In this historical and geographical context, Jesus' pronouncements confirm the bold denunciation by John the Baptist and equally condemns Herod Antipas and Herodias.

Mark then records the incident of people bringing children for Jesus to bless. It was a common practice at this time to have children blessed by a religious teacher. The disciples rebuked them. We don't know why. Perhaps they thought Jesus was too busy or too important to be bothered with mere children.

But Jesus was indignant. He shows his love and acceptance of children by welcoming them, taking them in his arms, and blessing them.

He also uses them as a visual aid to show the qualities needed to enter God's kingdom. 15 I tell you the truth, anyone who will not receive the kingdom of God like a little child will never enter it."

After the church service a little boy told the pastor, "When I growup, I'm going to give you some money." "Well, thank you," the pastor replied, "but why?" "Because my daddy says you're one of the poorest preachers we've ever had."

What qualities was Jesus referring to ? He certainly did not mean that his followers have to be childish or as naive as that little boy! The quality that Jesus was referring to is the receptivity of children. The way that they are content to be dependent on others.

The only way that someone can receive the kingdom, or rule of God, is to accept it as a free, undeserved gift. It cannot be obtained through human effort. Only by recognising that, without his undeserved favour to us, we are helpless before God.

In today's reading we see Jesus revolutionary acceptance of women and children, and his support for the importance of marriage. How do we relate this to our culture, which is quite different from Jesus' day ?

We should we aware that marriage is under attack. The last two governments have removed the married couple's tax allowance, yet claimed that they supported marriage. The current government have stated that ' the growing acceptance of long-term cohabitation as a preliminary or alternative to marriage' means that it 'must be at least as stable as marriage'.

This raises a number of questions :

'Is cohabitation marriage ?'

No, because it does not involve a public, permanent, exclusive commitment. When couples who are cohabiting come to me asking to be married I ask them why they want to be married, what difference they think it will make. Their reply usually involves the need for a deeper commitment that is lacking in cohabitation.

'Is cohabitation a good preliminary to marriage, or as stable as it ?'

Those that cohabit before marriage are 50% more likely to be divorced than those who do not. This suggests that the right attitude, not practice is the best foundation for marriage.

Cohabitation lasts, on average, 19 months and is more likely to break down than marriage, concluded a recent report which criticized the government for it's stance. The report linked cohabitation to 'unemployment, ill-health, domestic violence and poor outcomes for children'. Children of cohabiting couples do less well at school, are more likely to suffer from mental illness, and are at significantly higher risk of physical abuse, sexual abuse and murder.

The Liberal Democrats have recently voted to accept so-called 'gay marriage'. The government are likely to introduce legislation on this soon. The Human Rights Act, which became law last Monday, will probably be used by 'gay rights' groups to press for equality in recognizing gay relationships, and in demanding equality for practicing homosexuals who want to be ordained.

Jesus affirmed that the right place for sex is only in a heterosexual marriage. The homosexual lobby say that they are entitled to follow their sexual urges. But the church doesn't allow it's clergy to follow their sexual urges, unless it is within their own marriage ! A married clergyman who committed adultery, or a single clergyman who had a string on 'one night stands' would, rightly, not be tolerated. This may be accepted in some parts of society but it is not the way of God.

In the parallel passage in Matthew 19, Jesus deals with the issue of singleness in response to the disciples shock at the strictness of his teaching.

10 The disciples said to him, "If this is the situation between a husband and wife, it is better not to marry." 11 Jesus replied, "Not everyone can accept this word, but only those to whom it has been given. 12 For some are eunuchs because they were born that way; others were made that way by men; and others have renounced marriage because of the kingdom of heaven. The one who can accept this should accept it."

Jesus is saying that there are those who have voluntarily adopted a celibate lifestyle in order to give themselves more completely to God's work. Under certain circumstances celibacy is recommended in Scripture (cf. 1 Cor. 7:25-38 ) but it is never presented as better, or worse, than marriage.

As a church we should be welcoming and sensitive to children and those who are married or single, bearing in mind that the singleness may be due to choice, not finding the right person, bereavement, divorce or separation.

As we look at the way Jesus esteemed and welcomed people who had little or no status, let us reflect his values. Values that also included upholding marriage as a permanent, public, exclusive commitment, and the only right place for sexual activity.

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