Saturday, October 18, 2008

Christ's Love for His Bride

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.

Mark’s account of Jesus’ teaching on divorce brings to light the controversies surrounding marriage in the Qumran community (and certainly our own). It is the goal of the Pharisees to trap Jesus by asking about the lawfulness of divorce (10:2). They are not appealing for theological debate, but rather fishing for an utterance from Jesus that might cause a scandal. There was not a consensus among the Pharisees and scribes at this time regarding the laws of marriage, and it was likely thought that this would be an easy trap for Jesus. Jesus, perfectly knowing the law, does not appeal solely to Mosaic law for the prescriptive answer. He instead highlights the concessive nature of the law, which was the consequence of sin and a fallen creation. He uses both Genesis 1:27 and 3:17, showing both the creation of man and woman as companions for one another, and the latter passage for the more specific uniting of flesh and marital union. This was likely a profound and astounding answer for it does not appeal to a long winded debate about Mosaic Law but rather the very creation and intention of God. Jesus’ exegesis is therefore in the pre-fall cosmos in which all was well with God, where the uniting of man and woman was perfect with the whole of creation. Nevertheless, Jesus refers to the Law of Moses as a concessive law in light of their hardness of hearts. Here Jesus forbids the Pharisees to accuse him of any sort of heterodoxy for the law still stands. His teaching however, supersedes the law for it hearkens to God’s plan for “one flesh.” Marriage, as laid out by creation or by Christ in his Gospel is ever so important to the church. It is such a close spiritual bond that Saint Paul uses it to describe the relationship between Christ and His church. The “becoming of one flesh” is a mystery that Paul describes as profound, referring to Christ and His church. In light of baptism and the sacraments, Lutherans have done well of catechizing married couples based upon Christ’s love for His Bride.

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