Matthew 19:1-12   

Immanuel Baptist Church – Sunday, June 16, 2019





According to the U.S. Census Bureau,

around 20 million children in America,

more than 1 in 4,

live without a father in the home.


Additional statistics show

that children without a father in the home are

* at 2 times greater risk of infant mortality

* at 4 times greater risk of poverty

* 2 times more likely to drop out of high school

* more likely to have behavioral problems

* more likely to go to prison

* 7 times more likely to become pregnant as a teen


Part of the reason for that

is explained in the Bible

in Hebrews, Chapter 12, beginning with Verse 7.


The writer of the Letter to the Hebrews

outlines there

how God disciplines Christians

in much the same way

that a human father disciplines his children.


Beginning with Hebrews 12:7, it says,


7 Endure hardship as discipline;


God is treating you as sons.


For what son is not disciplined by his father?


8 If you are not disciplined

(and everyone undergoes discipline),

then you are illegitimate children

and not true sons.


9 Moreover, we have all had human fathers

who disciplined us

and we respected them for it.


How much more should we submit

to the Father of our spirits and live!


10 Our fathers disciplined us for a little while

as they thought best;

but God disciplines us for our good,

that we may share in his holiness.


That discipline from our human fathers

helped form our personalities

for the good.


Back then, the writer of Hebrews could say

we have all had human fathers

who disciplined us

but in America today

around 20 million children,

more than 1 in 4,

live without a father in the home.


Children born out of wedlock

account for some of these,

but many are children of broken marriages.


No wonder Malachi 2:16 tells us that God hates divorce.



I’ve never met a pastor who

wanted to give a sermon on divorce.


In fact, over the years since I became a believer as a young man

I can count on one hand

the number of times

I heard a pastor preach a sermon on divorce.


Never mind one hand—

make that one finger.


I can recall hearing a sermon on divorce

only once since I accepted Christ back in 1982.


And that pastor told me

he didn’t want to give the sermon,

and he postponed it for a month or two

before finally giving it.


The reason he felt obligated

to speak on this topic

was because he was doing the same thing we are:

going through the Gospels chronologically,

covering everything Jesus did and said.


But, it’s a touchy subject.


That’s because 60%

of people identifying as Christians

have gone through a divorce

at some point in their lives,

according to published statistics.


When we talk in church about divorce,

we’re calling back to mind

painful memories for a majority

of the people in attendance.


And if you add to the 60%

who’ve gone through a divorce themselves

the additional number of people

whose parents’ marriage broke up—

either while they were kids at home,

or even in the later years—

—and you add those

who shared the pain

of a child, or a close friend, or a brother or sister,

as that relative’s marriage dissolved—

—you end up realizing

that you’re bringing up a subject

that is painful

for just about everybody in the church.


And that’s why pastors

don’t want to address this topic,

and seldom do.


But, for some time now

we’ve been going through the Gospels

in chronological order,

looking at everything our Lord Jesus said and did

in the order in which those events occurred.


And, since we’re taking a close look

at everything our Lord Jesus ever said,

we can’t just skip over this, or ignore it.


Our reading for today begins with Matthew 19, Verse 1,

so let’s be brave and jump into it.


As often happened, Jesus was on the move.


He didn’t have a radio ministry,

or preach on TV,

or live-stream over the internet,

so he had to go from village to village,

preaching to the people where they lived.


So, we begin reading at Matthew 19:1,

where Jesus had just finished

teaching through parables in the territory of Galilee.


1 When Jesus had finished saying these things,

he left Galilee

and went into the region of Judea

to the other side of the Jordan.


2 Large crowds followed him,

and he healed them there.


3 Some Pharisees came to him to test him.


They asked, "Is it lawful

for a man to divorce his wife

for any and every reason?"


They asked Jesus this question

to test him.


Why would a question about divorce

put Jesus to the test?


Well, for one thing,

the Lord’s ministry was based mainly in Galilee,

and Galilee was a part of the Roman Empire

that was ruled at that time by Herod Antipas.


You may remember that Herod Antipas

took a shine to his brother’s wife.


He liked her better than his own wife.


So, Herod divorced his wife

and married his brother’s wife.


When John the Baptist condemned such conduct,

he was tossed into jail

and then executed.


The Pharisees were Jesus’ enemies,

and wanted him killed,

so they may have asked Jesus this question about divorce,

in the hope that he would say

something like what John said,

and so bring down the wrath of Herod on him, too.


Asking Jesus this question

would also put him to the test

as to whether he would go against public opinion.


Would he say something that would turn the crowds against him?


Would he give an answer

that would turn even his own disciples against him?


The Pharisees may have been hoping for

any or all of these outcomes

when they asked Jesus,


"Is it lawful

for a man to divorce his wife

for any and every reason?"


They must have been surprised

when the Lord simply reminded them

of the account in the Bible’s first book, Genesis,

where God created the first humans,

Adam and Eve.


4 "Haven't you read," he replied,


"that at the beginning the Creator

'made them male and female,'


5 and said,


'For this reason a man

will leave his father and mother

and be united to his wife,

and the two will become one flesh'?


6 So they are no longer two, but one.


Therefore, what God has joined together,

let man not separate."


Who could argue with that?


Well, the Pharisees did argue with that.


They threw back at Jesus

another reference to Scripture.


7 "Why then," they asked,

"did Moses command


that a man give his wife a certificate of divorce

and send her away?"


Well, as they often did,

the Pharisees actually twisted

the passages of Scripture they referred to.


Moses did notcommand


that a man give his wife a certificate of divorce

and send her away.


The Law God gave through Moses recognized

that men were already divorcing their wives,

and placed certain restrictions on that practice.


It didn’t command them to divorce.


Rather, it put limitations on what they could do in that regard.


So, in essence, God allowed them

to continue what they were already in the habit of doing,

but he put limits on it

to prevent excesses and abuses.


In various laws in Leviticus, Numbers and Deuteronomy

God told the Jews

they could not divorce a wife

and then marry her again

after another man married her and divorced her.


That was one restriction.


He told them

that a man who was found guilty

of slandering his wife

by falsely claiming she wasn’t a virgin

when he married her

was prohibited from ever divorcing her.


But there is no place in the Old Testament

where the Law of Moses commanded divorce,

as the Pharisees seemed to imply.


In fact, in Verse 8, we read,


8 Jesus replied,


"Moses permitted you to divorce your wives

because your hearts were hard.


But it was not this way from the beginning.


9 I tell you

that anyone who divorces his wife,

except for marital unfaithfulness,

and marries another woman commits adultery."


So, Jesus made clear

that only “marital unfaithfulness

by husband or wife

constitutes grounds for dissolving a marriage.


Aside from that, most translations say in Verse 8

that Moses merely “permitted” or “allowed” divorce.


But Jesus made clear

that was not God’s intention from the beginning.


God doesn’t change his mind.


He is the same in the Old Testament and the New Testament.


In the last book of the Old Testament

at Malachi 2:16, God says,

“I hate divorce.”


And anyone who has gone through a marriage break-up

knows why God hates divorce:

it is so painful and hurtful to everyone involved.


God hates divorce,

but sin complicates the issue.


When either husband or wife is unfaithful and sins

by having sexual relations

with someone else, not their mate,

God views that as a valid reason

for the innocent mate to leave the marriage.


The Lord said in Verse 9,


9 I tell you

that anyone who divorces his wife,

except for marital unfaithfulness,

and marries another woman commits adultery."


So, Jesus acknowledged “marital unfaithfulness”

as valid grounds for divorce.


But not the “any and every reason” the Pharisees suggested.


Grounds in the coffee

isn’t grounds for divorce.


The Twelve Apostles were shocked when they heard this.


According to Verse 10,


10 The disciples said to him,

"If this is the situation

between a husband and wife,

it is better not to marry."


Who would commit themselves to marriage,

if there is no easy way out?


The disciples were shocked

at the Lord’s teaching,

because they grew up

in a society much like our world today.


Our secular laws today

allow for divorce on any grounds,

or no grounds at all:    No fault divorce,” they call it.


But that’s not God’s standard.


The Apostles grew up in a world

where marriages failed left and right,

and couples split up

for any and every reason

as the Pharisees said.


They couldn’t imagine

committing to marriage with no way out.


11 Jesus replied,


"Not everyone can accept this word,

but only those to whom it has been given.


12 For some are eunuchs

because they were born that way;

others were made that way by men;


and others have renounced marriage

because of the kingdom of heaven.


The one who can accept this should accept it."


The Lord acknowledged

that not everyone

would be prepared

for that kind of a marriage commitment.


He acknowledged that some

are unable to marry,

either physically or circumstantially,

and that some choose not to marry

perhaps even so that

they can devote themselves to God’s kingdom.


But, for those who do marry,

his teaching remains

and they should accept it.



The Apostles talk about marriage and divorce in their letters

and they help us

get a fuller understanding

of what our Lord Jesus taught.


Paul devotes the whole 7th Chapter of 1st Corinthians

to a discussion of Christian marriage.







He was speaking from experience,

as well as speaking for the Lord.


Beginning in 1 Corinthians 7:10, he says,


10 To the married I give this command

(not I, but the Lord):


A wife must not separate from her husband.


11 But if she does,

she must remain unmarried

or else be reconciled to her husband.


And a husband must not divorce his wife.


And that’s essentially the same

as we read in Jesus’ words in the Gospels.


But then Paul goes on

to address something Jesus didn’t speak about.


12 To the rest I say this

(I, not the Lord):


If any brother has a wife

who is not a believer and

she is willing to live with him,

he must not divorce her.


13 And if a woman has a husband

who is not a believer

and he is willing to live with her,

she must not divorce him.


15 But if the unbeliever leaves,

let him do so.


A believing man or woman is not bound

in such circumstances;


God has called us to live in peace.


Analyzing Paul’s words,

many commentators see

willing to live with her”


“God has called us to live in peace

as indications that physical abuse

would also be biblically acceptable grounds

for leaving an abusive mate.


But, in any case,

Scripture makes plain

that God does not approve of

breaking up a marriage

on account of burnt toast

or simple loss of interest,

or “any and every reason”

as the Pharisees said—

--and certainly not

because someone else has come along

more to one’s liking than one’s mate.


Jesus said,


“what God has joined together,

let man not separate."


Now, Jesus didn’t say that

to put a noose around the neck

of anyone who has gone through a divorce.


John 3:17 tells us that


“God did not send his Son into the world

to condemn the world,

but to save the world through him.”


Jesus didn’t say that about divorce to condemn us,

but rather to show us the best way forward.


God meets us where we are.


And that could be in a divorced state,

or even in the middle of divorce proceedings.


And then God helps us

to find the best way forward.





And John’s Gospel tells us

that Jesus welcomed a Samaritan woman at a well,

who had gone through six previous marriages.


We have all committed many sins in our lives,

and have made many mistakes

and have had many failures.


But the Lord Jesus is greater

than all our sins, mistakes and failures.


And, no matter how far we have fallen,

he picks us up,

dusts us off,

and puts us back on our feet.


His aim is,

not to condemn us for our past,

but rather to bless us with his guidance for the future.


He wants only the best for us, his children.


At Isaiah 48:17 he says,


"I am the LORD your God,

who teaches you

what is best for you,

who directs you in the way you should go.



As God said to others at Jeremiah 29:11,

he says to us:


“For I know the plans I have for you . . .


plans to prosper you

and not to harm you,

plans to give you hope and a future.”