PASSING THE TEST(ers)
When Jesus had finished saying these things, he left Galilee and went down to the region of Judea east of the Jordan River. Large crowds followed him there, and he healed their sick.
Some Pharisees came and tried to trap him with this question: “Should a man be allowed to divorce his wife for just any reason?”
“Haven’t you read the Scriptures?” Jesus replied. “They record that from the beginning ‘God made them male and female.’ And he said, ‘This explains why a man leaves his father and mother and is joined to his wife, and the two are united into one.’ Since they are no longer two but one, let no one split apart what God has joined together.”
“Then why did Moses say in the law that a man could give his wife a written notice of divorce and send her away?” they asked.
Jesus replied, “Moses permitted divorce only as a concession to your hard hearts, but it was not what God had originally intended. And I tell you this, whoever divorces his wife and marries someone else commits adultery—unless his wife has been unfaithful.”
The Pharisees were always brewing tests for Jesus. They don’t seem to be too bright though. They just keep doing it even though He shreds them every time. If it weren’t so pitiful it would be great comedy (ala Roadrunner vs. Coyote)!
Ready for an even more mind-blowing perspective on this phenomena? Two questions:
1. Who is behind the tests? (Hint: see Matthew 4:1-11)
2. What if they were actually designed, scripted?
Too strange a thought? What if all tests, yes, all tests, were created and scheduled by God? For what purpose? Why would God do such a thing? I’m glad you asked. What if all tests were for the purpose of exposing the incurable stupidity of the devil?
I don’t mean to trivialize Lucifer and the rest of his bright-beings-turned-dark. On the other hand, it is just possible that our (humans) whole existence in this physical, tangible, time/space world is, at least in part, to show the whole world what an idiot this “Star of the Morning” is for his rejection of God’s goodness. And if that is possible, then it would be safe to say that Lucifer’s deepest suffering is inflicted when a human being resolutely turns away from his foolish deceptions and looks with complete surrender into the eyes of Jesus.
The devil’s tests at the beginning of Jesus’ public ministry were focused on his best illusion. It is called “the three pillars of a human being’s felt needs.” They are alleged to be the appetites of the body, of the eyes and of the ego.
Now, in this scene, the religious elite present a test that is focused on the laws of human conduct. These are the laws that Jesus condensed into two for us: 1. Love God 2. Love each other. By this Jesus establishes priority and foundation for all relationship. Relationship is another word for the Nature of God living and working in a redeemed human being.
There had been a compromise in the law relating to marriage. Moses, secondary lawgiver, had relaxed the statement of purpose from God, the primary Lawgiver. If this test was indeed scripted by God, the purpose was surely to restore the original concept. In fact back in Matthew 5, Jesus points out several of these issues in such terms as, “You’ve heard it said…, but I tell you…“ The one all encompassing purpose for His coming was to restore all things to their original definitions and relational function, especially human beings.
In this passage it is clear that what had been seen as an authorized revision (those are especially “sacred” which facilitate our convenience) could no longer be tolerated. This deplorable cultural practice had been going on since the time of Moses! Why? “Because of the hardness of their hearts.“ What exactly does that mean? Plainly, it means that they refused to let love rule their hearts and actions.
Let me suggest something that seems so rudimentary that we miss it. It’s the original, therefore the still current, purpose for marriage. It is the lab in which we learn to love. God is love, so marriage is the primary arena in which man’s transformation is to be practiced and mastered. That is, his transformation from being dominated by his fallen disposition to the dominance of God’s disposition.
It is not necessary to go into the integral part the Holy Spirit has to play in that process. The fruit of God’s Spirit which reconstitutes us is LOVE (joy, peace, long-suffering, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness & self-control) Galatians 5. The TEST designed for that is MARRIAGE.
Clearly, in Jesus’ mind divorce is not rational (verse 9). It is totally out of context unless of course that context has been destroyed by moral rebellion. He who initiates the divorce or the fornication, destroys that context and fails the test.
Marriage is the only relational arena in which the domination of the nature of God can be tangibly tested. Are you passing? If you are, you are passing the tester, too.
Now, there’s a good source of joy. Don’t you think?