Friday, Octoboer 2, 2015
People have a way of focusing in a little too narrowly on the scripture.
Just look at this passage. A very simple reading leaves us with the following conclusions:
Divorced people are sinners.
Divorced/Remarried people are adulterers.
And on a lighter note… Jesus likes kids.
But what happens if we take a step back and look at this lesson in context? What happens if we read it as part of the bigger story in Mark?
Jesus is again in Judea, where John the Baptist recently lost his head for speaking against King Herod’s marriage to his brother’s former wife, Herodias (6:14-29). With the crowd all gathered around them, everyone listening, it seems too much of a coincidence that this is the question the Pharisees choose to ask. Is it possible that instead of seeking knowledge…they are truly after Jesus’ head?
Jesus goes ahead and answers their question with a question, putting it back on them. Yes, for thousands of years the law has allowed divorce. But then Jesus makes it clear that one cannot claim to be righteous based on the law. Just look back in this gospel to the legal back and forth between Jesus and the Pharisees over ritual washing (7:1-23), Sabbath observance (2:23-28, 3:1-6), and fasting (2:18-20). One may follow the letter of the law and still have a heart as hard as stone…is God is pleased by that?
The shift from divorce-talk to children may seem a jarring contrast---but only if you haven’t been paying attention. Throughout the gospel Jesus has been calling us to notice the least and the lowest. When the disciples were jockeying for position, Jesus brought a child into their midst, instructing, “whoever wants to be first must be last of all” (9:33-37). When the disciples took it upon themselves to decide who is “in” and who is “out” of Jesus’ group, he sternly warned them against causing “these little ones” to stumble (9: 38-42). Now as the disciples try to keep the unworthy away from the messiah, Jesus is indignant and says, “let the little children come to me…whoever does not receive the kingdom of God as a little child will never enter it.”
How can a child teach us adults about how we are to live according to the law? Even laws like divorce?
While the adults are using the law as a weapon against one another, using the scripture as a way to save themselves and condemn others, using Jesus as a way to divide and reject…
It is the child, in need of constant guidance and correction from others, prone to mistakes and seeking forgiveness, utterly dependent on the mercy and love of a more powerful one, who shows us the way into the kingdom.