Tuesday

"It was also said, “Whoever divorces his wife, let him give her a certificate of divorce.” But I say to you that anyone who divorces his wife, except on the ground of unchastity, causes her to commit adultery; and whoever marries a divorced woman commits adultery."

Matthew 5:31-32 Tuesday 2 August 2016

Psalm: Psalm 125

Background

(For those following this week's notes, you will notice thatsome of the material is repeated. This is intentional. So often weread a number of verses and do not have the opportunity to reflectmore closely on them. This week's passages offer the opportunityfor closer reflection, each following the same model and withsimilar questions.)

The verses preceding today's extract from theSermon on the Mount are the key to understanding it, with itsrepeated contrast between "you have heard that it said" and "but Isay". In each case - murder, adultery, divorce, oaths - Jesuscontrasts the way Old Testament teaching was traditionallyinterpreted by the religious leaders of the time, the scribes andPharisees, with his own more exacting requirement. The overallthrust is to go behind a literal approach, which could easily leadto people finding ways to evade the rule, to the spirit of the ruleand the need for a change in our inner attitude.

In verses 31-32 it is important to remember the context of thetime, which was very different from Western society today. Then, inJewish law the wife was the husband's property; only he couldinitiate a divorce, and according to some interpretations could doso for any reason however trivial. In that context verse 32 insiststhat unless the marriage bond has already been broken by adulteryit remains binding and marriage to a divorced woman constitutesadultery by both parties.

Note how the authority of Jesus comes out in all thesesayings.
 

To Ponder

  • To what extent is Jesus' teaching here practicable in today'sworld?
  • Does verse 32 state an absolute rule for today? If not, whynot?
  • In what other ways should a Christian's conduct should gobeyond conventional standards?
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