The Promise and Warning about Unity and Oneness

Notes for March 16-17
Matthew 19:1-12    

Biblical Background

  • Deuteronomy 24:1-4:  This was the Old Testament passage debated by the Jewish teachers of the law regarding divorce. There were differing points of view. The school of Shammai argued that only on grounds of infidelity could a man divorce his wife.  The school of Hillel was on the opposite side of the pendulum and argued that a man could divorce a woman for nearly any reason including burning the toast! Another commentator suggested that you divorce your wife if you found a more attractive woman.

  • Proof texting:  In Jewish debate, one would find a biblical text to back your argument and then build a case of proof texts upon one another.  Jesus does this in his response by going back to Genesis 2:24 as the grounding for his answer.  This also showed Jesus’ trust in the authority of Scripture as God’s Word.

  • Concession:  Jewish law allowed for “concessions,” areas of law in which something could be done as a way to control and regulate life, even if it wasn’t the ideal.  Jesus uses this idea of “concession” in his statement regarding divorce.  Divorce is never the ideal, however, in certain cases, due to the hardness of men’s hearts and sin, it is allowed in certain situations. 

  • Jesus’ defense of women:  The teachers of the law made it very difficult for a woman to divorce her husband, whereas it had become very easy for a husband to divorce his wife.  Jesus’ position on divorce protects women from men who took divorce for granted and would easily divorce their wife and leave her destitute. His position puts men and women on equal grounding in these cases.

  • Arranged Marriages: Just as it is in many parts of the Middle East and India today, marriages in the biblical world were typically arranged by the parents.

  • Jesus on singleness:  In the biblical world, marriage was the norm, however, Jesus upholds the value of singleness.  He describes those who are born without sexual organs (eunuchs by birth), and also the practice that was abhorrent to the Jews, but used by other Middle Eastern cultures in which they would castrate a man to make him a eunuch so that they could be trusted in the courts around the kings’ harems. Jesus describes another type of singleness in which someone commits themselves to the work of the God’s kingdom and doesn’t marry in order to devote themselves to that work.

Discussion Questions

  1. Is this question something that people ask today? Why? What was the motive behind the Pharisee’s question to Jesus? 

  2. How did Jesus respond to their question? Did he answer it directly? Why not?

  3. What is the central point of the OT passages that Jesus quoted? Then what was Jesus’ answer to the Pharisee’s question?

  4. Based on the Pharisee’s follow-up to Jesus’ response, what do you think was their position on divorce?

  5. How would it have benefited the Pharisees to trick Jesus in to opposing Moses’ teaching?

  6. How did Jesus reveal Moses’ real intention for allowing divorce?

  7. What did Jesus mean in verse 9? Is divorce always adultery? What exception is given?

  8. What is Jesus’ position on divorce and remarriage?

  9. Should a divorced person be forgiven? Why or why not?

  10. What do you think the disciples meant by their response “Then no one should marry.”?

  11. Why should some renounce marriage for the kingdom of God? What does this mean?

  12. How does this passage apply to singleness, marriage, divorce & remarriage today?

  13. What is the warning in this passage?

  14. What is the promise in this passage?