Short Meditations in Mark’s Gospel: 200. Dubious Questioning
Mk 10:2 Some Pharisees came and tested him by asking, “Is it lawful for a man to divorce his wife?”
We pondered in the first verse of this new chapter the motivation of the people who came to Jesus. A significant point that we did not pick up previously is that Jesus has moved down into Judea and what is now taking place in Herod’s jurisdiction. Now we know that Herod had had John the Baptist beheaded and it was mainly because John had denounced Herod for wrong marriage practice: “Herod himself had given orders to have John arrested, and he had him bound and put in prison. He did this because of Herodias, his brother Philip’s wife, whom he had married. For John had been saying to Herod, “It is not lawful for you to have your brother’s wife.” (Mk 6:17,18)
It is probably therefore that these Pharisees came asking this question because they wanted to stir up trouble for if Jesus also denounced Herod’s activities either directly or by implication, it might cause Herod to seize Jesus in the same way.
Thus when we read they “came and tested him,” it is probable that it had more behind it than just checking to see if Jesus conformed to the Law, although would surely have been part of it. So if indeed the people came with mixed motives how much more were the motives mixed of these legalistic Pharisees who came seeking trouble for Jesus.
Divorce was not a contentious matter as such for the Jews for, as we shall see, Moses had regulated it. The only areas of dispute, which the Pharisees would have been aware of, were the grounds permitting divorce and different schools taught different things. In many ways this was a minefield, and whatever way you look at it they were seeking to put Jesus in an awkward position.
In this we observe the same sort of reaction or response to Jesus that we so often find in the world. Questions are asked about Jesus or God or the Bible or the Christian Faith, not simply to genuinely find answers, but to sow discord and disharmony and to try and reveal each of these subjects in a bad light. The enemy’s tactic is to ridicule or scorn these things and thus turn the unbeliever even further away, and concrete them even more securely in their unbelief, while sowing doubts in the mind of the believer.
Never be afraid of questions about the faith because there are always good answers but check the motivation for such questions. What is the heart of the questioner? Are they genuine seekers or do they come, like these Pharisees, to bring discord, disharmony and doubt? Questions in themselves are not wrong, but it is what is behind them which is important.