21 November 2011

Matthew 19:1-12

"Not everyone can accept this teaching, but only those to whom it is given." (v. 11)


These verses are a reminder to us that it isn't God's law, or God's way of working that is flawed, but humanity that fails and gets things wrong. While this passage doesn't take into account the issues of abusive and unhealthy relationships, it actually does much more. The question here isn't really about divorce, but a much wider issue, and that is our failure to grasp what we should be striving towards as a people. Jesus tells those who question him here that they are so much like those who forced Moses' hand on rules and regulations, that they are essentially the same people.

Jesus' strong insinuation is that these Pharisees are wasting their time even considering the laws which Moses had to enact, because there is something much more important to consider, and that is God's will, which existed before Moses' laws, and will exist long after, too! When we hear the words that appear in the marriage service "God so join you together that none shall ever part you", we inevitably think of the joining of that particular pair of people as the inseparable combination, but what if what Jesus is decrying is all that goes against God's vision for the world? Is Jesus saying that our own human solutions for problems are always going to cause further issues, and therefore, there always needs to be an appeal to return to God and God's way? Ever since Abraham first agreed to a divine plan, as recorded in Genesis 12, the Jewish people have known of God's route; sometimes walking as God wished, sometimes struggling to do so.

Jesus gives a certain impression with his response to this Pharisaic questioning. As frustrating as their approach to any kind of theological questioning might be, when what they are so intent upon pulling apart is already a deviation from God's actual hopes, then these Pharisees are barking up the wrong tree. Jesus' frustrations are with the way that Yahweh's followers have moved on from the covenants that they were once given, but this problem does not seem to concern them.

Imagine if your water pipes burst at home, and you had to sit under an umbrella to watch the TV in order to not get wet. And when you called the plumber, instead of them fixing your pipes, they commented on how you should have bought a better brolly. How would you feel? When Jesus hears questions about the minutiae of Mosaic law, you can't help but feel his frustration about the point being missed.

To Ponder

Is there anything within your beliefs that need reassessing? What might this be? Perhaps your faith has shifted but your old beliefs have not.

If Moses' law is a deviation from God's plan, what do you think God's plan for the world might be?

Bible notes author

Jon Curtis

Jon Curtis is a Venture FX pioneer minister in Exeter, Devon. He lives with his exceptional wife Beth, and beautiful baby Freddie.