Why Marriage Demands Discipleship (Mark 10:1-10)

Mark 10:1-10 | October 13, 2019


More than a decree against divorce, Mark 10 is a plea for the kind of heart-felt followership that affects our closest relationship—to our spouse. Find out why every marriage demands deep discipleship in this message from Mark 10:1-12.


What do you think makes a marriage strong and lasting?

How do the people you work with view people with struggling or failed marriages?

Looking back at your notes from this week’s sermon, was there anything that particularly caught your attention, challenged or confused you?

Make sure you ask this question this week. It gives people the opportunity to discuss questions or issues that come up beyond the written questions. People’s responses can often lead to one of the questions in the “Digging Deeper” section. Also, some weeks this question will result in a lot of discussion, other weeks, not so much.

Read the Text

Mark 10:1–12 (ESV)

Teaching About Divorce

1 And he left there and went to the region of Judea and beyond the Jordan, and crowds gathered to him again. And again, as was his custom, he taught them.

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.” 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 the two shall become one flesh.’ So they are no longer two but one flesh. 9 What therefore God has joined together, let not man separate.”

10 And in the house the disciples asked him again about this matter. 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.”

Digging Deeper

In this section, feel free to develop your own questions to help guide your group’s discussion. Below are some suggestions. Remember, if you are hearing from everyone in your group, chances are you won’t have time to discuss every question. You may start with one that catches your attention, so you don’t run out of time. For example, it’s not odd to start with Question #6, then go to Question #5 and if you have time come back to Question #4.

What is the context for this week’s text?

As we noted in the beginning, Mark’s gospel hits the highlights of Jesus’ ministry. Rather than provide a step-by-step chronology of Jesus’ life and ministry like Matthew and Luke provide, Mark makes his point by showing us individual scenes or vignettes. This is obvious from this week’s text.

Starting in Mark 10, the gospel takes us into Judea with Jerusalem as the destination. The Cross is beginning to loom large on the horizon from this point forward. It can appear that the end of Mark 9 and the beginning of Mark 10 immediately follow one another, but this is not the case. Luke provides a complete travel narrative of Jesus’ ministry in chapters 9-16 of the gospel of Luke. Mark omits this all together and goes directly into the Judean ministry.

Judea is different from Galilee in every way. To understand the culture of Israel at this time, it is helpful to think of the Southern US and the Northeastern US only inverse. Within the United States, there is a distinct culture in the South. While there are big cities, much of the region is rural. The Northeast, on the other hand, is the center of commerce and media. The elites live in the Northeast and the culture possesses a certain snobbery that looks down on the rest of the country. This gives you a picture of the cultural dynamics in Israel.

The south, represented by Judea and Jerusalem, is similar to the Northeast in the United States. Judea was dominated by Jerusalem and Jerusalem was dominated by the temple. It is the center of commerce and government. The people from this region have a sense of superiority that looks down upon the other regions, especially those from Galilee, which is considered backward and uncouth.

One of the sad realities about Galilee is the hard-heartedness of the people. Jesus spent a considerable amount of his time in Galilee. He was raised in the region and started his public ministry there. The people of Galilee experienced perhaps the greatest opportunity for revival of any in history. They had the opportunity to witness the miracles performed by the hand of the Son of God. They saw the lame healed, the blind could see, the lepers cleansed, and even the dead raised, yet they rejected Him.

We, too, live in a land where the gospel light shines bright. We live in a country where the Word of God was foundational for almost two centuries and where the culture was defined by a commitment to be “one nation under God.” Yet, many have rejected Him today. May it not be so with us. Many will reject Him, and few will follow. Have you set your eyes on the Narrow Gate? Have you determined to follow Jesus regardless of the cost? If not, now is the time. Like the Galileans, you have “seen a great light” (Isaiah 9:1-2) and that Light is showing you the path out of the land of the shadow of death. Follow the light and you will be free.

How do you think the Pharisees expected to trick Jesus?

We see in verse two the loaded question the Pharisees asked Jesus. Mark even notes that their intention was to test Him.

“Is it lawful for a man to divorce his wife?”

Obviously, the Pharisees know the answer to this question, but they were hoping to put Jesus in a place where He would compromise Himself. If He stated something that did not hold exactly to the letter of the Law, then they could accuse Him of either contradicting the Law of Moses or misinterpreting it.

This is politics 101—make your opponent look bad.

This context is important for us to understand. Jesus is answering a trick question designed to entrap Him. The Pharisees are not asking for guidance or direction concerning this issue. Seen in this light, the passage is not Jesus’ full teaching on the issue of divorce.

Keep in mind the opinion of the Pharisees concerning Jesus. They already view Him as a renegade rabbi who teaches a lax view on issues such as the Sabbath and many of the Jewish Ceremonial Laws. Perhaps He is lax on His teaching concerning marriage and divorce? After all, isn’t this the same Jesus who looked at a known adulteress (caught in the very act) and issued her a pardon (John 8:1-11)? Is this not the same “rabbi” who is friendly with sinners and tax collectors?

The thinking here is that by asking Him a simple black and white question, the Pharisees can catch Him on the record breaking or misinterpreting the Law of Moses.

Jesus didn’t fall for it for one second.

Why do you think Jesus referred back to the “beginning of creation” in this debate?

It is clear from the way the Pharisees posed their question to Jesus that they were thinking of the Law written by Moses, yet, as any good Pharisee should know, the Torah consisted of more than just the Law of Moses…it included all of the first five books of the Scriptures (Genesis–Deuteronomy).

Paul makes this point clear when he states, “And this I say, that the covenant, that was confirmed before of God in Christ, the law, which was four hundred and thirty years after, cannot disannul, that it should make the promise of none effect” (Galatians 3:17).

In other words, the Law of Moses did not annul the Covenants of God established before the Law.

How could a person separate “what God has joined together”?

Jesus points to this initial act of marriage performed by God Himself when He created them male and female (Genesis 1:27) that they might leave their father and mother and become one flesh (Genesis 2:24). Therefore, what God has joined together, let not man separate.

Marriage was instituted by God and is never designed to become a point of conflict or division, but, because of the sinfulness of mankind and the hardness of our hearts, the Law of Moses included a provision for divorce. This was man’s answer to man’s sins, but it was never God’s intentions. Jesus draws a hard line and states plainly that what God joined together, no man (or law) should separate. There are no ifs, ands, or buts. God never intended for divorce to be an option.

Why do you think the disciples asked Jesus about their question privately?

If you find yourself scratching your head concerning this hard line Jesus drew, you are not alone. Mark tells us in verses 10-12 that the disciples, too, didn’t quite understand what Jesus had said.

“You mean there is no provision for divorce?” the disciples seem to ask.

Jesus states, “Whoever divorces his wife and marries another commits adultery against her, and if she divorces her husband and marries another, she commits adultery.”

Now remember, adultery is a sin punishable by death. Is Jesus saying that if anyone divorces they have committed a sin worthy of death? That seems to be the case.

Remember, we stated at the beginning of this week’s discussion that Jesus was answering a “gotcha” question with a political stinger behind it, and that we should not consider his response here to be his full teaching on divorce.

Matthew gives us a more complete description of Jesus’ answer to the Pharisees’ question in Matthew 19:3-12. Let’s look at His response in this parallel text:

Matthew 19:3–9 (ESV)

3 And Pharisees came up to him and tested him by asking, “Is it lawful to divorce one’s wife for any cause?” 4 He answered, “Have you not read that he who created them from the beginning made them male and female, 5 and said, ‘Therefore a man shall leave his father and his mother and hold fast to his wife, and the two shall become one flesh’? 6 So they are no longer two but one flesh. What therefore God has joined together, let not man separate.”

7 They said to him, “Why then did Moses command one to give a certificate of divorce and to send her away?” 8 He said to them, “Because of your hardness of heart Moses allowed you to divorce your wives, but from the beginning it was not so. 9 And I say to you: whoever divorces his wife, except for sexual immorality, and marries another, commits adultery.”

Notice that Matthew includes the words, “except for sexual immorality,” in Jesus’ answer. What he mans by this is that in the matter of divorce, one is free to remarry without sin if there has been sexual immorality.

To this permission for divorce, the Apostle Paul adds one other: in the case of abandonment by an unbelieving spouse (1 Cor. 7:15).

Personal Reflection Questions

  1. How should we view people with struggling or failed marriages?
  2. How can the church help people with struggling or failed marriages?
  3. How can the church help its members strengthen and even save their marriages?
  4. Why do you think so many marriages fail?
  5. What can you do to strengthen your own marriage or encourage a couple who is experiencing difficulty in this area?
  6. How should a Christian’s understanding of marriage differ from that of the popular image?

Becoming A House of Prayer

“Even them I will bring to My holy mountain, and make them joyful in My house of prayer. Their burnt offerings and their sacrifices; Will be accepted on My altar; For My house shall be called a house of prayer for all nations.” – Isaiah 56:7.

Prayer is an important part of being in a small group. Group prayer goes better when we follow three simple guidelines.

  • WE PRAY FOR ONE TOPIC AT A TIME – Anyone in the group is free to introduce a prayer request either before prayer begins or during the prayer time. Once a topic is introduced, the group focuses on that request alone. Once it’s covered, the group moves on to the next topic.
  • PRAY MORE THAN ONCE – Because the group is focusing on one topic at a time, each person is encouraged to pray several times during the prayer time for those topics they feel most led to pray about. No one is required to pray.
  • WE KEEP OUR PRAYERS SHORT AND SIMPLE – Group prayer goes better when members keep their prayers short and to the point. When someone prays for a long time, it’s hard for the other members to stay focused and long prayers tend to intimidate those who are just learning to pray out loud in a group. No one is required to pray out loud.

Leave a Comment