Lesson 86: Prayer / Humility / Marriage / Divorce
Matt. 19:1-12, Mark 10:1-12, Luke 18:1-14
A Blending of The Four Gospel Records. This is lesson # 86. Welcome again to our study. At the end of Luke ch. 17, Jesus gave a lesson about the coming of the kingdom. The Pharisees had demanded to know WHEN the kingdom of God should come. But, Jesus directed most of his remarks to his disciples. At the beginning of Luke ch. 18, there are 14 verses that make up two parables that Jesus gave to his disciples on that same occasion. Both of these parables are unique to Luke's account. The first parable is about a widow and a judge. Let's read Luke 18:1-8. Are you ready, beginning in Luke 18:1. Let's read! "And he spake a parable unto them to this end, that men ought always to pray, and not to faint; saying, There was in a city a judge, which feared not God, neither regarded man: and there was a widow in that city; and she came unto him, saying, Avenge me of mine adversary. And he would not for a while: but afterward he said within himself, Though I fear not God, nor regard man; yet because this widow troubleth me, I will avenge her, lest by her continual coming she weary me. And the Lord said, Hear what the unjust judge saith. And shall not God avenge his own elect, which cry day and night unto him, though he bear long with them? I tell you that he will avenge them speedily. Nevertheless, when the Son of man cometh, shall he find faith on the earth?"
Alright, "men ought always to pray, and not to faint..." That's the lesson in this parable. That's the thought in v.1 when Luke said, Jesus spake a parable to THIS END. "Not to faint" means to not give up, i.e. be persistent, or to continue to ask (in this case). The judge was an unjust judge according to v.6. A widow in the N.T. is almost always a symbol for one who is defenseless, needy and worthy. The judge would not avenge the widow, i.e. give her justice, at first. But, by the widow's persistence the case was finally resolved. The point is this: if such be the case with an unjust judge; how much more would a JUST and ALL WISE God speedily give justice to his own elect which ask him day and night (v.7). But, don't miss the last part of v.7, "though [God] bear long 'with them?" Our God is merciful and long suffering, yes. But, we must remember that, WHILE WE are praying for rain; that farmer across the fence may be needing sunshine to make hay. Thus, God is merciful and long suffering toward others also. In v. 8 Jesus said, "I tell you that he will avenge them speedily." This verse affirms that God answers prayers and gives providential assistance to those that ask him. The problem in this case is not with the patience of God; the problem is with men. Thus, Jesus asked an interesting question to emphasize this point, "Nevertheless, when the Son of man cometh, shall he find faith on the earth?" The question implies; that even if Jesus should NOT find faith on the earth when he comes; yet God will still be acting speedily.
The next parable, the Pharisee and the Publican, begins in v.9. Let's read v.9-14. Are you ready? Beginning in Luke 18:9. "And he spake this parable unto certain which trusted in themselves that they were righteous, and despised others: Two men went up into the temple to pray; and the one a Pharisee, and the other a publican. The Pharisee stood and prayed thus with himself, “God, I thank thee, that I am not as other men are, extortioners, unjust, adulterers”, or even as this publican. I fast twice in the week, I give tithes of all that I possess. And the publican, standing afar off, would not lift up so much as his eyes unto heaven, but smote upon his breast, saying God be merciful to me a sinner. I tell you, this man went down to his house justified rather than the other: for every one that exalteth himself shall be abased; and he that humbleth himself shall be exalted."
What does this parable teach? It teaches the difference between self-righteousness and humility. Let's examine the conclusion first, in v.14. Two points, (#1), "every man that exalteth himself shall be abased" and (#2) "he that humbleth himself shall be
exalted." The Pharisee in this parable is an example of the first, i.e. one exalting himself. The Publican in Jesus' parable is an example of the second, i.e. humbling one's self before God. Self-righteousness and humility are the antithesis of each other. The principle is much broader than prayer. Prayer is simply the subject of Jesus' parable to demonstrate these two characteristics. Jesus could not have picked two people more unlike socially and religiously. And, I don't have to tell you that the Pharisees thought of the publicans as dogs and sinners. Re-check the details! The Pharisee and the Publican went to the temple. What for? To pray! O.K.! Look at the two prayers. The Pharisee's prayer sounds like an entry in the local boaster's club. He had "I" trouble! He used "I" five times in two verses. "I...am not as other men are, extortioners, unjust, adulterers, or even as this publican." "I fast twice in a week." "I give tithes of all that I possess." His first thought is built on a list of things that he abstained from. One cannot abstain from enough things to get to heaven. Lord I don't cuss, swear, smoke, drink, and you can add a thousand more things to that list; then go down to a clothing store and look a mannequin right in the eye and repeat that same list of virtues and that mannequin can qualify for everything on the list. That mannequin doesn't cuss, swear, smoke, and on and on. The Jews were required by the law of Moses to fast once a year. When you have obeyed God, you are an unprofitable servant; remember that? (Luke 17:10)? So far as tithing is concerned, Jesus talked about the Pharisees tithing in Matt. 23:23. He said they give tithes of mint, anise and cumin, i.e. all their little garden spices, etc., and left undone the weightier matters of the law. But, now look at the publican's prayer, seven words: "God be merciful to me a sinner." (v.13). He confessed that he was a sinner and ask forgiveness for his sins. He was a humble man. Humble in prayer, yes; but, humility goes a lot further than just prayer. Notice what Jesus said in v.14, "I tell you, this man went down to his house justified rather than the other..."
O.K. back at the ranch, let's blend back into Matthew and Mark at this point. In Luke 16:18, I promised you we would get back to that verse which was on divorce and marriage. Please turn back to that verse, Luke 16:18, and we are going to re-read that verse again. Then, we'll read the first 12 verses in Matt. ch. 19; so get your markers set. Then after Matthew 19:1-12; we'll read the first 12 verses in Mark ch. 10. Let's read Luke 16:18 first. Here we go! Jesus speaking, "Whosoever putteth away his wife, and marrieth another, committeth adultery: and whosoever marrieth her that is put away from her husband commiteth adultery." O.K. bade to Matthew. Matt. 19:1-12. Ready? "And it came to pass, that when Jesus had finished these saying, he departed from Galilee, and came into the coasts of Judea beyond Jordan; and great multitudes followed him; and he healed them there. The Pharisees also came unto him, tempting him, and saying unto him, Is it lawful for a man to put away his wife for every cause? And he answered and said unto them. Have ye not read, that he which made them at the beginning made them male and female, and said, For this cause shall a man leave father and mother, and shall cleave to his wife: and they twain shall be one flesh? Wherefore they are no more twain, but one flesh. What therefore God hath joined together, let not man put asunder. They say unto him, Why did Moses then command to give a writing of divorcement, and to put her away? He saith unto them, Moses because of the hardness of your hearts suffered you to put away your wives: but from the beginning it was not so. And I say unto you, Whosoever shall put away his wife, except it be for fornication, and shall marry another, committeth adultery: and whoso marrieth her which is put away doth commit adultery. His disciples say unto him, If the case of the man be so with his wife, it is not good to marry. But he said unto them, All men cannot receive this saying, save they to whom it is given. For there are some eunuchs, which were so born from their mother's womb: and there are some eunuchs, which were made eunuchs of men: and there be eunuchs, which have made themselves eunuchs for the kingdom of heaven's sake. He that is able to receive it, let him receive it." O.K., before we discuss that let's read 12 more verses in Mark ch. 10. We'll read Mark 10:1-12. Beginning in Mark 10:1, let's read. "And he arose from thence, and cometh into the coasts of Judea by the farther side of Jordan: and the people resorted unto him again; and, as he was wont, he taught them again. And the Pharisees came to him, and asked him, Is it lawful for a man to put away his wife? tempting him. And he answered and said unto them, What did Moses command you? And they said, Moses suffered to write a bill of divorcement, and to put her away. And Jesus answered and said unto them, For the hardness of your heart he wrote you this precept. But from the beginning of the creation God made them male and female. For this cause shall a man leave his father and mother, and cleave to his wife; and they twain shall be one flesh: so then they are no more twain, but one flesh. What therefore God hath joined together, let not man put asunder. And in the house his disciples asked ; him again of the same matter. And he saith unto them Whosoever shall put away his wife, and marry another, committeth adultery against her. And if a woman shall put away her husband, and be married to another, she committeth adultery."
Alright, the first verse in both Matt. ch. 19 and Mark ch. 10, indicate that Jesus came into what we have called Perea on your map. Perea was at that time under the administration of Herod Antipater; though it was a separate province from Galilee. According to our chronology, the things that happened in the chapters before, i.e.Matt. ch. 18 and Mark ch. 9, took place before September in the year of AD 32, i.e. before the time of the feast of tabernacles. Notice that Matthew and Mark both omit the feast of tabernacles AND the Judean ministry in the fall of AD 32, i.e the sending out of the seventy disciples two by two, etc. So, Matthew and Mark skip from Jesus' ministry in and around the sea of Galilee, to the final trip of Jesus down the Jordan valley when he came from the city of Ephraim headed for Jerusalem. That is an omission of about 4-6 months. We are dependent upon John and Luke in learning what happened during those 4-6 months. Luke tosses in one verse (Luke 16:18) we just re-read indicating that the subject of marriage and divorce came to be an issue with the Pharisees in Perea. But, Matthew and Mark, give us more details. Now, what was the controversy? Notice how Matthew and Mark introduce this; "The Pharisees came to him...tempting him." (Mark 10:2) and Matthew in 19:3 uses almost the same exact wording. So, you must realize; the Pharisees did not come to Jesus to get information on this subject. They came with a well thought out plan of entrapment; using this subject as bait to ensnare Jesus. It is IMPORTANT that you keep what Jesus says here in that context. O.K. their premeditated, ensnaring question was: "Is it lawful for man to put away his wife?" and Matthew adds the words, "for every cause", i.e. for any cause the husband deemed appropriate. That was THEIR interpretation of the first few verses of Deut. ch. 24. But, it all goes back to the sermon on the mount; that Jesus gave on the mountain in Galilee, Matt. 5:31-32. Now, get a good grip on this! Remember, Jesus gave HIS LAW in the sermon on the mount. Jesus' law involved the same general areas of human conduct as the LAW OF MOSES; but, Jesus' law was based upon that inner man principle. In Matt 5:31, Jesus had said, "It hath been said, Whosoever shall put away his wife, let him give her a writing of divorcement", i.e. that's what the Jews understood the Old Law to say and obviously that was what was being practiced. But, the next verse, Matt. 5:32, Jesus said, "But I say unto you, That whosoever shall put away his wife, saving for the cause of fornication, causeth her to commit adultery: and whosoever shall marry her that is divorced committeth adultery." Take a minute to read and re-read this! O.K., now! What was the Pharisee's entrapment scheme? What did they ask Jesus in Perea, "Is it lawful for a man to put away his wife for every cause?" Well, if Jesus said "yes", they would say: that is not what you taught on the mountain in Galilee. Thus, you are inconsistent in your answers and not worthy to be followed, you see. However, if Jesus answered "NO" to that question; then they would say: but Moses said in Deut. 24, 1-4, that we can put away a wife for any cause and give her a writing of divorcement; and therefore, Jesus, you are desecrating Moses1 Law. So, you see, they were going to use the occasion to put Jesus down and disdain him if he answered "yes" and they would discredit him as ignoring Moses if he answered "no." Now, it is my understanding that the Jews, i.e. the scribes were already divided on that question; so, that gave them the basis for this approach. These two parties of the Jews were known as the school of Hillel and the school of Shammai. So, they thought that HOWEVER Jesus answered he would lose respect of one party or the other. That was the idea of tempting Jesus, you see. Now, how did Jesus answer? Jesus went back into scripture, far beyond Moses1 time and quoted from the creation (Gen. ch. 2). Jesus said, "Have you not read, that he which made them at the beginning made them male and female, and said, For this cause shall a man leave father and mother, and shall cleave to his wife: and they twain shall be one flesh?" Now, here is Jesus' conclusion, "Wherefore they are no more twain, but one flesh." Then the last sentence in Matt. 19:6 is a restatement of Jesus' law. You see, it really didn't matter what the law of Moses said! Jesus gave his law, and WE live under Jesus' law which he stated back in the sermon on the mount, Matt. 5:32. But, here Jesus restates HIS LAW, "What therefore God hath joined together, let not man put asunder." Thus, Jesus' law went back to the original intent in the creation. Although, Moses had permitted a change, it was a matter of laxity, it was not a command; even as the Pharisees were interpreting it. So, what would you expect the Pharisees to say, "YES, BUT, MOSES SAID..." You got it! Look at v.7 in Matthew's account. Mark recorded Jesus' statement in the form of a question. Jesus asked them, "What did Moses command you?" (v.3). They did not say that Moses commanded (v.4); they said Moses "suffered to write a bill of divorcement, and to put her away." They used the word "suffered" to mean PERMITTED. Then, Jesus shows in v.5-8 that it even THEN was not a commandment but as they had said, a sufferage, or permission. Then in v.9, Jesus arrived at the same conclusion as in v.6 of Matthew's account, i.e. a restatement of Jesus' law, "What therefore God, hath joined together, let not man put assunder." Jesus gave one exception; the marriage vow COULD BE broken if the other partner committed adultery. That's the only exception discussed here. Death and desertion are discussed other places, I Cor. ch. 7 and Rom. ch. 7. Even Jesus' disciples thought this was a hard rule, Matt. 19:10. Until our next lesson, have a good day.