When they were in the house again, the disciples asked Jesus about this. (Mark 10:10)
Their family reunions must have been awkward. She married her half uncle. Then she divorced him and married his brother, who’d divorced his first wife so he could marry her instead. Their behavior scandalized their subjects—did I mention they were a royal family?
No, they weren’t members of the British royal family (which has weathered its share of marital scandals from Henry VIII’s six wives to Charles and Diana’s divorce). These royals were contemporaries of Jesus: Herod Antipas and his second wife, Herodias. In fact, Jesus was in their jurisdiction when the Pharisees tested him by asking his view of divorce (see Mark 10:2). Jesus’ cousin, John the Baptist, lost his life for criticizing Herod’s marriage to Herodias (see Mark 6:16–29). No wonder Jesus saved his most explosive words on divorce for a private talk with his disciples, away from crowds and Pharisees!
That background is crucial for catching Jesus’ meaning. Dumping one spouse so you can marry another is simply adultery. Elsewhere marriage was permitted to end due to infidelity (see Matt. 19:9) or if an unbelieving partner wanted out (see 1 Cor. 7:15). And Jesus shared kindness plus truth to a woman with five husbands (see John 4:4–26). But he condemned treating a spouse like a monarch treats servants, dismissing and replacing them at will. Jesus, the true King, doesn’t treat people like that. Neither should we.
Treat your committed relationships as valuable, not disposable.
Jerome Van Kuiken is a missionary kid, a pastor’s kid, and dean of the school of ministry and Christian thought at Oklahoma Wesleyan University.
© 2020 Wesleyan Publishing House. Reprinted from Light from the Word. Used by permission. Scriptures taken from the Holy Bible, New International Version®, NIV®.