Damariscotta Baptist Church
Wednesday, September 19, 2018
Growing personal relationships with God and community

04/12/15 Sermon - Defense of the Vulnerable

“Defense of the Vulnerable”

Mark 10:1-16

 

Upon studying today’s passage, one of the words that kept coming to my mind was: Ouu – Eee!

Don’t you think so too?

The topic of divorce and how the church thinks and deals with it has so much baggage attached to it. If you look at the statistics, you can’t help but realize why.

Roughly 50% of the marriages in the United States end in divorce. That is including Christian marriages.

Ouch!

But I’m here today to let you know that God doesn’t deal in statistics.

God deals in relationships.  Relationships with individuals, who then develop relationships with each other, and God also wants to be a part of those relationships too.

So before I begin with my exegesis of what this passage is saying, I want to declare right up front, that:

God does not like divorce

God does not like a proud look.

God does not like a lying tongue.

God does not like a heart that devises wicked things.

In fact, if you go to Proverbs 6:16-19 you can read that

16 There are six things the Lord hates,
    seven that are detestable to him:
17         haughty eyes,
        a lying tongue,
        hands that shed innocent blood,
18         a heart that devises wicked schemes,
        feet that are quick to rush into evil,
19         a false witness who pours out lies
        and a person who stirs up conflict in the community.


And if you noticed, in this list of some of the things God does not like, there is a common denominator.

The one thing they all have in common is each behavior involves at least one vulnerable person.

Often more than one.

The two topics Jesus addresses in today’s Scripture, the topic of divorce and the topic of blessing children, have the same purpose.

Jesus defends the vulnerable.

Those people in society that are not being taken care of, for whatever reason, and need to be given dignity and hope, because they are created in the image of God, to love and to relate, and God loves them.

Now, before we look at what Mark has written here in Chapter 10, I would like to remind you of the best way to exegete and understand Scripture.

Context.  Context.  Context.

Mark is writing and commenting on what is happening to him and the disciples and Jesus, in real time.

1st Century time.

That means, we cannot put our 21st Century understanding of divorce into the reading of this Scripture and expect it to be the same. It is not.

Let me give you some reasons why.

If we were to take a time machine back to 1st Century Judea, we would not see one woman doing something outside the home, unless her husband demanded or allowed her to.

Not only were woman not free to do what they would like, they were dealt with as a commodity. They were bargained for, paid for, and regarded as property of some male in their society. And if there was not a male in the society who would “own” her, she became the town harlot or was left to die.

To make the situation a bit more complicated. The Jewish culture in itself, had two different schools of thought when it came to divorce. And it is the basis of these two differences that the Pharisee’s ask Jesus the question, “Is it lawful for a man to divorce his wife?”

With that back ground, let’s take a look at Mark Chapter 10.

We begin with Jesus, having left Capernaum and  making his way through Judea, on his way to Jerusalem. Everywhere he goes, the crowds appear, and he takes time to teach them. The Pharisees, inevitably show up to test him and try to put Jesus in a box. And their question on divorce was designed to do just that.

You see, if Jesus answered, “Yes.” It is lawful, than He would be siding with the school of Shammai, which interprets the verses Jesus quoted,

Deuteronomy 24:1-4, to mean that a man may divorce his wife only in the case of adultery.

However, if Jesus answered, “No.” It is not lawful, than He would be siding with the School of Hillel, which interpreted the same passage to mean that a man may divorce his wife for nearly any fault that he might find in her, and divorce for trivial reasons, was common.

Now before we go any further, let’s read Deuteronomy 24:1-4.

Deuteronomy 24:1-4New International Version (NIV)

 

24 If 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, gives it to her and sends her from his house, and if after she leaves his house she becomes the wife of another man, and her second husband dislikes her and writes her a certificate of divorce, gives it to her and sends her from his house, or if he dies, then her first husband, who divorced her, is not allowed to marry her again after she has been defiled. That would be detestable in the eyes of the Lord. Do not bring sin upon the land the Lord your God is giving you as an inheritance.

 

Did you notice, there was nothing in this passage that granted a man permission to divorce his wife, but simply describes, without condemnation a situation where the man has already done so.  It is also interesting to note, that this passage in no way condemns the divorced wife’s second marriage.  If we return back to Mark 10, verse 5, we read that Jesus goes on to state, that divorce was allowed, by Moses, because of another worse condition, the condition of a “hard-heart”.

 

Divorce becomes the lesser of two evils.

 

Let’s face it, God’s design is always better.

 

God wants people to stay married.

 

But due to humanness, hard-heartedness, God’s design does not always get to be paramount.

 

When Jesus tells men that they should not separate from their wives, on a foundational level, he is working within the culture of his time, to protect women from an unjust fate that is beyond their control. Jesus’ point is not on divorce.

 

His point is to protect the vulnerable. Given the parameters in which He finds himself, He focus’ on what needs to be done to make sure women are given a place of greater equality in the marriage relationship, rather than being seen as passive objects.

 

Jesus’ teaching was intended to protect the least in the society of his day, from the worst of his society, from those who allowed women to be discarded for the slightest provocation.

 

In the patriarchal society in which Jesus lived, women were completely powerless when it came to marriage, and when it came to divorce, they were always the victims. You see, in 1st Century Israel, women had no right to seek a divorce.

 

It is this injustice that Jesus is speaking against in his teachings on divorce. Women often found themselves caught in a legal contract where they had NO rights. Jesus steps in and claims the rights for women, the rights for all humans to be treated equally, because women, just like men, have been created in the image of God.

 

As far as that goes, children are also created in the image of God, which takes us to our second topic of today’s Scripture.

 

The disciples have cultural baggage to get rid of as well. This time it is the disciples Jesus becomes indignant with. This time we find people bringing their children to Jesus to be touched by him, or to be blessed.

 

The disciples start rebuking the people. Can’t you see it? The disciples are part of Jesus’ “in crowd” and have this sense to “protect” Jesus. They keep their eyes on things and make sure things are in order. The idea of allowing children to take up valuable time of the Master, the Teacher, the Messiah, was preposterous! Why children were not to be in the center of things, they were to be kept in the background, where they belonged.

 

Another member of the family with no rights.

 

Vulnerable.

 

Jesus has established a ministry centered on meeting with those who were the most vulnerable in his society.

 

Let’s review, what we have learned from Mark chapters 1-9.

 

Jesus healed:

a leper,                       

a paralytic,                 

a man with a withered hand,

 

a demoniac,               

a little girl and a woman,      

 

a Gentile woman’s daughter,            

a deaf man,

 

a blind man,               

a little boy.

 

 

The disciples still don’t get it.

 

So Jesus explains that the Kingdom of God belongs to such as these. Not only that, but whoever will not receive the kingdom of God like a child, will in no way enter into it.

 

Whoa! That is not the same kingdom the disciples are thinking about. What is there about children that fit them for the kingdom of God?

 

It is not the concept of sweet images of cherubic innocence.

 

No, it is the manner in which children accept the kingdom. They know how to receive a gift. They come with empty hands and trusting hearts, totally dependent on God’s grace.

 

It’s that willingness to be vulnerable, to accept the fact that we don’t have it all together, that we are in need of grace, and with a contrite heart, seek the Kingdom of God.

 

For us today, marriage, divorce and children look quite different than they did in the first century.

 

Regardless, we still have those who are vulnerable.

 

I believe the Church, is meant to be God incarnate, and the church is the people, you and me, and the message Jesus gave to the Pharisees and the disciples is still the same.

 

Protect the powerless and abused person.

 

Take care of the vulnerable.

 

In God’s eyes, we are all persons of worth, created in the image of God, to love and to relate.

May we go forth feeling that way and doing our best to make sure those around us feel that way too.      LET’S PRAY.