201. God’s Will

Short Meditations in Mark’s Gospel: 201. God’s Will

Mk 10:3,4   “What did Moses command you?” he replied.  They said, “Moses permitted a man to write a certificate of divorce and send her away.”

For the Jews of Jesus’ day, God’s will was encapsulated in the Law given by God through Moses, so if you wanted to know what God’s will is, you referred to the Law. So when the Pharisees come and ask Jesus about divorce, his immediate response is, well what is God’s will on it, what does the Law say about it?  Do you remember when Jesus was being tempted in the wilderness by Satan? How did Jesus deal with Satan? By referring him to God’s Law again and again as it came in different forms in the Old Testament.

Which raises the question, when we want to know right and wrong, to what do we refer? Is it, indeed, to God’s word? I am of the impression that for many Christians today God’s word does not carry the authority it used to – it should! Maybe it is the work of the crusading atheists attacking the Bible, and modern Christians’ inability to bring good answers, that this is so.  I am sure most churches hold Bible Studies and preach from the Bible on Sundays, but I am still left with the impression that the modern Christian is not well equipped to answer the challenges that come, and don’t, therefore, see the Bible as the ultimate authority of what is right and wrong, what God’s will is.

So Jesus refers them to God’s Law and like well taught Pharisees that they were, they were able to come up with what the Law said. Now bear in mind what we said previously: these Pharisees were here to put Jesus in an awkward position. They were, the text says, out to test him. They have not come to learn. In fact, if you asked them, they would almost certainly have viewed Jesus as inferior to them on knowledge of the Law, which is perhaps why they have come to ‘test’ him as well as get him into trouble with Herod. Just a reminder, in passing therefore, that not everyone who comes asking questions, comes with the heart of a learner. There are a lot of varying motives for asking questions!

So, they come up with a correct answer. Yes, in the Law we find, a man marries a woman who becomes displeasing to him because he finds something indecent about her, and he writes her a certificate of divorce…” (Deut 24:1). The points of dispute were over the meaning of ‘something indecent’. One school took it to mean marital unfaithfulness and the other referred to the earlier part of the verse and made it anything that displeased the man, a much more liberal approach. But what was God’s intent behind it? That is the big question which Jesus is going to point them towards.

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