Dispatch Two Hundred Eighty-Four

Posted: March 8, 2018 in Fifty-Fourth Bundle
Tags: , ,

MARK 10:2-16

Some Pharisees came, and to test him they asked, “Is it lawful for a man to divorce his wife?” He answered them, “What did Moses command you?” They said, “Moses allowed a man to write a certificate of dismissal and to divorce her.” But Jesus said to them, “Because of your hardness of heart he wrote this commandment for you. But from the beginning of creation, ‘God made them male and female.’ ‘For this reason a man shall leave his father and mother and be joined to his wife, and the two shall become one flesh.’ So they are no longer two, but one flesh. Therefore what God has joined together, let no one separate.”

10 Then in the house the disciples asked him again about this matter. 11 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.”

13 People were bringing little children to him in order that he might touch them; and the disciples spoke sternly to them. 14 But when Jesus saw this, he was indignant and said to them, “Let the little children come to me; do not stop them; for it is to such as these that the kingdom of God belongs. 15 Truly I tell you, whoever does not receive the kingdom of God as a little child will never enter it.” 16 And he took them up in his arms, laid his hands on them, and blessed them.

There are few places in the New Testament that stand to cause such a fuss in the Christian world as what we find in these remarks of Jesus regarding marriage and divorce. Before we take on the challenge of weighing his words, we should note the thing that links this passage to some other recent Dispatches.

A major idea that we have found has to do with what we might call the world’s habit of falling short of our human ideals. Job’s contemporaries (as well as our own) needed to believe that suffering was capable of being explained away using the model of justice: in short, you suffer what you deserve. And even though the psalmist believes this with all his heart, or at least wants to believe it, life itself will eventually relieve him of this mistaken (because naive) view.

The writer of Hebrews, for his part, admits to the discrepancy between our intended humanity and our present humanity, between our created glory and our fallen (or not-yet-risen, unawakened) condition. In the full and complicated picture, we have things as they appear in the center, with the way we wish things were on one side, and the way things really are on the other. Our task is to embrace and become what we truly are, though this requires that we release our anxious attachment to outgrown beliefs, with is no easy thing.

In this Gospel story, Jesus once again draws a line, this time between the conventional view of marriage in Jewish society and another, one might almost say idealistic, image of what marriage ought to be. Is this mere wishful thinking on Jesus’ part, or is there a deeper truth to be discovered in his challenge?

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