Sunday, June 09, 2019

"The Lord of Marriage" [Matt's Messages]

“The Lord of Marriage”
Following Jesus - The Gospel of Matthew
June 9, 2019 :: Matthew 19:1-12

Matthew 19 marks the beginning of a new section in the Gospel of Matthew. Jesus has finished his 4th major block of teaching and is now headed towards Jerusalem.

And on His way, He runs into several different people and has some significant interactions with them, which we might call “teachable moments.”

Today, it’s some Pharisees, and they have a test for Him on His theology of marriage.

How do you think that’s going to go?

Here’s a life-hack for you. A pro-tip for living:

Never try to lay a trap for Jesus.

Unless you like falling into your own traps!

“When Jesus had finished saying these things, he left Galilee and went into the region of Judea to the other side of the Jordan. Large crowds followed him, and he healed them there.”

Here is Jesus marching towards Jerusalem.

You and I know what is going to happen there.

And Jesus knows what’s going to happen there.

But everybody else is still kind of in the dark.

In verse 1, Jesus finishes His teaching on humility and being great in the kingdom and God’s love for the little ones and the importance of resolving our conflicts and forgiving one another. And then He leaves the North and heads South towards Jerusalem.

And the crowds begin to form.

And, as He has done throughout this book, Jesus heals the sick in those crowds.

And then in verse 3, some Pharisees come, and they see the good work that Jesus is doing, and they see how the crowds are following Him, and they are convinced by His words that He is the Messiah, and they bow before Him and lead the nation to follow Him themselves.

Just kidding. LOL. That’s not at all what they do!

That’s what they should do, but it’s not what they do.

No, they come to Jesus and try to trap Him. V.3

“Some Pharisees came to him to test him. They asked, ‘Is it lawful for a man to divorce his wife for any and every reason?’”

“Let’s give Jesus a test and see if He passes.”

They are not sincere.

They are not asking this question to find out the truth.

They have an agenda with this question.

They want to trap Jesus.

How does that work?

Well, there was a big debate during this time about the theology of divorce.

There were two major schools of thought. The school of Rabbi Shammai and the school of Rabbi Hillel.

Rabbi Shammai said that God requires divorce only in the case of adultery. But Rabbi Hillel said that God allows divorce any time a man is unhappy with his wife. Even if she burns dinner or her eyebrows get too bushy.

And the Pharisees think that they can trap Jesus with this question.

“Which side are you on?”

“If you side with Rabbi Hillel, and anything goes, doesn’t that contradict what you said at the Sermon on the Mount? And where does it all end?

But if you side with Rabbi Shammai (and I think that’s what they hope He will do), then you might get into trouble with Herod Antipas.”

Remember Him? Remember what happened to John the Baptist when He made a pronouncement about some divorce being against God’s law?

Prison first. And then off with his head.

They think they’ve got Him.

Maybe they’ve even stumped Him.

Can Jesus answer this stumper of a question?

What do you think?

I entitled this message, “The Lord of Marriage.”

Because Jesus is not just the Lord of the Sabbath or the Lord of all of the other things we’ve seen Him master in this book.

He is also the Lord over marriage.

Not only does Jesus have a theology of marriage, His theology flows from His own authority.

The Pharisees obviously don’t recognize this or they wouldn’t be asking the question this way, but that’s their mistake.

Jesus pushes back. V.4

“‘Haven't you read,’ he replied, ‘that at the beginning the Creator 'made them male and female,' and said, 'For this reason a man will leave his father and mother and be united to his wife, and the two will become one flesh'? So they are no longer two, but one. Therefore what God has joined together, let man not separate.’”

It’s always a sick burn when Jesus says, “Haven’t you read your Bibles?”

They think they have Him stumped, and He says, “I think the answer to that one is on the first page of your Bible. Haven’t you read it?”

“I think you’re missing the point. Let’s go back and look.”

And Jesus leads them on a Bible study of Genesis 1 and 2.

Jesus is saying that they are starting in the wrong place with their questions.

We’ll see that they are starting with Deuteronomy 24, but the Jesus says, “You’ve got to go back further than that or you’ll be missing the point.”

And speaking of points, I have three points of application for today’s message.

Here’s the first:


V.4 again.

“‘Haven't you read,’ he replied, ‘that at the beginning the Creator 'made them male and female,' and said, 'For this reason a man will leave his father and mother and be united to his wife, and the two will become one flesh'? So they are no longer two, but one.

Marriage is God’s idea.

He designed it.

It’s not something that we came up with.

It came from (v.4), “the Creator.”

The Designer.

The Original Lord of Marriage.

Marriage is God’s idea, and so we should get our ideas of what marriage should be from Him.  Make sense?

Obviously, this flies in the face of so much of our modern culture, including among Christians.

We want to define marriage our own way.

We want to do what we want to do with it.

And we figure that God (if He exists) just has to be okay with that.

But that’s exactly wrong.

He is the Lord of Marriage. We need to listen to Him.

This passage (vv.4-6) is very relevant to a whole host of contemporary issues and questions.

It addresses marriage and also divorce.

It also addresses same-sex marriage and transgenderism, doesn’t it?

It has implications for those.

Because Jesus says Genesis 1 says that humans are made male and female. Remember when we talked about that back in February? 

Two biological sexes. Different and complementary. Male and female, not interchangeable. Not changeable. And it was “tov” It was good.

And here’s what marriage is:

Jesus says that Genesis 2 says that a man (1 man, this passage addresses bigamy and polygamy, too, a man) will leave his father and mother and be united to his wife (1 biological woman), and the two will become one flesh. So they are no longer two, but one.

So here’s God’s math:

One plus one equals one.

One man and one woman come together to be one flesh.

That’s the design.

Don’t believe it if people tell you that Jesus never said anything about same-sex marriage.

Jesus said, “I agree with Genesis.”

The Creator has designed marriage, and it is good.

By the way, this passage also addresses co-habitation, doesn’t it?

Living together as if you are married when you aren’t.

That is not how God designed the one flesh relationship.

The one flesh relationship is for a husband and a wife.

Two people who have de-prioritized all other loyalties and then re-prioritized each other as their number one loyalty on earth so that they have actually formed a new entity, a new family, a new unity.

“So they are no longer two, but one.”

That’s what marriage, and it’s where sex belongs.

“One flesh” means more than just sex, but it doesn’t mean less.

Two bodies coming together in sexual intimacy is for marriage, by God’s design.

I say, “Trust the Designer” because I want to emphasize that when we obey the Lord of Marriage, we are trusting that He knows best.

Because it doesn’t always seem that way.

I know that some people have same-sex attraction, persistent same-sex attraction. And they want to marry somebody of the same sex, and it seems like that would be really good to them.

But that’s not how the Creator designed marriage. That’s not what marriage is.

And the Lord of Marriage is calling us to trust Him to do things His way and be blessed.

I know that some people suffer from gender dysphoria. They feel great unease about their own bodies. They would rather be the other sex than they were born.

I empathize with that pain. It must be very great, and I don’t pretend to know the half of it.

But I do know that my Creator is good and His design for creation is good.

And I know that I can trust Him.

And I know that some people are wary of marriage. They think it’s just a piece of paper. They have seen the ravages of divorce. They want to make sure that this person they want to be with is the right person, and so they want to test drive the relationship and live like they’re married before they are married just to make sure. And there are, unfortunately in some cases, financial benefits to living together instead of getting married.

But that’s not how God designed it.

That’s going against the grain of the universe.

As is polygamy. And, as we’ll see, as is divorce.

Jesus is asking us to trust the Lord of Marriage and do it His way.

You see his application? V.6

“Therefore what God has joined together, let man not separate.”

Application point number two:


“[W]hat God has joined together, let man not separate.’”

What has God joined together?

He calls it “one flesh.”

Now, it’s just a metaphor, but what a picture that is!

It’s like one man surgically sewn together with one woman to form a new unity.

And after the surgery heals, there’s just one entity there.

And Who is the surgeon?

“What GOD has joined together.”

Marriage is not just something that two people do to themselves.

It’s not even just something that the state does to two people.

Jesus says that God puts people together into marriages.

So we should be very careful about pulling them apart!

Do you see how this answers the Pharisees’ question?

They wanted to know when it was okay to divorce.

Jesus says, “Divorce?! Uh. That’s never ‘okay.’ That’s never best. That’s never good, never ‘tov.’ Divorce wasn’t the idea. Divorce wasn’t the design, the intention.”

Don’t do that if you can at all help it.

Don’t just amputate what the Lord has stitched together.

Now, I know that this is a painful subject for many us here.

We have all been touched by divorce in our families, and many of you have experienced divorces personally.

I know this painful.

For some of you, it’s painful because you didn’t want it, but it happened to you anyway.

For some of you, it’s painful because you know you did it wrong, and you feel the weight of that.

For some of you, it's painful because you're going through it right now.

For some of you, most of you, you feel some degree of shame. Even if you didn’t do anything shameful in the whole process, you still feel shame put on you by others. Even what I’ve said so far this morning might seem to pile it on further.

There is confusion and hurt. When you let someone into your life so that they get all the way to one-flesh, and then that relationship breaks and becomes jagged, it’s got to hurt. Being in conflict and estranged and eventually divided from the person who was the closest person to you has got to hurt and have lingering effects.

I know that divorces are painful.

And so does the Lord.

And divorce, even sinful divorce, is not the unforgivable sin.

And not all divorces are sinful (at least on one side) as we’ll see in verse 9.

But Jesus is saying that divorce should be avoided if at all possible.

We should be extremely reluctant to divorce.

Because what God has joined together is something we should not separate.

That’s not how it was designed.

Marriage wasn’t designed to be temporary.

It was to be dissolved only by death.

So the Pharisees have a comeback.

They don’t realize that they have already lost.

They whip out Deuteronomy 24:1, and think they have answered Him. V.7

“‘Why then,’ they asked, ‘did Moses command that a man give his wife a certificate of divorce and send her away?’ [Huh, Jesus? Riddle me that! Answer that one!]

Jesus replied, [You numbskulls] ‘Moses permitted you to divorce your wives because your hearts were hard. But it was not this way from the beginning.”

Notice that word “permitted.”

Here’s where Jesus differs from Rabbi Shammai.

He thought that if there was adultery, then God required a divorce.

“No,” Jesus says, “God through Moses permitted a divorce in those cases because of hard hearts, but He didn’t command them.”

You don’t have to divorce even when there has been sexual immorality.

That’s not the way it was is in the beginning.

The design was for permanence.

Marriage was built to last.

Yes, we messed it all up. Hard hearts. Lots of sin. Lots of covenant breaking.

Yes, divorce got allowed. (Even polygamy gets allowed for a time.)

But that wasn’t the design.

Don’t rush out and get a divorce!

Make every effort.
Make every effort.
Make every effort you can to salvage that thing.

I know that’s not what the world says.

The world rushes to divorce.

And so do many professing Christians.

And again, there are solid reasons to divorce, as we’ll see in verse 9.

And if you have divorced for the wrong reasons, there is plenty grace at the Cross for all repentant sinners.

But the Lord of Marriage says, “Don’t rush to amputate what I have sewn together.”

Make every effort.

Divorce should be a last resort.

Remember the last chapter.

Remember the amazing grace of forgiveness.

How much we have been forgiven, which gives us the power to unleash much forgiveness into our relationships.

Make every effort.

Because, verse 9:

“I tell you that anyone who divorces his wife, except for marital unfaithfulness, and marries another woman commits adultery.”

Now, you hear the exception there. And there is at least one other exception that Paul lays out in 1 Corinthians 7, abandonment by an unbelieving spouse.

But the emphasis here isn’t on the exception of sexual immorality, the Greek is “porneia” from which we get our word “porn” and it means various kinds of covenant breaking marital sexual unfaithfulness.

The emphasis isn’t on the exception.

It’s on the fact that if you divorce and remarry for the wrong reasons, you are committing adultery, breaking the 7th commandment.

You’re badly amputating what the Lord has sewn together.

And notice by Whose word this is. V.9

“I tell you...”

Don’t miss that! That’s super important.

Remember, this is the Gospel of Matthew. Keep your eye on the ball!

Who does this guy think He is?

He thinks He’s the Lord of Marriage!

It’s like the Sermon on the Mount.

“Moses said this, but I tell you...”

Don’t do it.

Don’t divorce for the wrong reasons.

“What God has joined together, let man not separate.”

Now, there is an exception here.

And it’s a true one. If one spouse falls into marital unfaithfulness (porneia), they are in that moment ripping up the surgery themselves and defacing the one-flesh relationship.

If your spouse has done that to you, you are permitted by the Lord of Marriage to divorce them.

Permitted, not commanded!

I’d still say, “Make every effort.”

“Make every effort.”

Even when it doesn’t feel like it.

Because we know that our marriages are pictures of Christ and the Church.

And if we can salvage them, they can still be wonderfully beautiful pictures of Christ and the Church.

We should be extremely reluctant to throw away any pictures of Christ and the Church.

But it is permitted, especially if they are unrepentant.

If they are amputating what the Lord has stitched together, you certainly don’t have to pretend that all is well.

But the Lord of Marriage wants us to do everything we can to uphold it.

Now, the disciples overreact to what Jesus has just taught. V.10

“The disciples said to him, ‘If this is the situation between a husband and wife, it is better not to marry.’”

I’m pretty sure that was Peter!

Sounds like him, doesn’t it?

He was married already. He knew that marriage was a lot of work.

And now Jesus says that it’s for better, for worse, and for keeps.

You might feel trapped in a marriage if it’s for life. A life sentence.

What’s fascinating is that even though that’s a rash overreaction, Jesus basically says, “Yeah, that’s right for some people.”

For some people it is better to not marry. V.11

“Jesus replied, ‘Not everyone can accept this word, but only those to whom it has been given. [There’s three kinds.] For some are eunuchs because they were born that way; others were made that way by men; and others have renounced marriage [or became eunuchs] because of the kingdom of heaven. The one who can accept this should accept it.’”

So, surprisingly, our last application point is:


Ironically, the Lord of Marriage says that marriage is not for everyone.

Some people are (at least for a time and some for a lifetime) called to celibate singleness.

And that’s not strange.

We think that’s so strange.

We think that’s so hard.

“Celibacy is so hard!”

But Jesus says, “Marriage is hard. Celibacy is just a different kind of hard.”

You know what’s hard?

Being born a eunuch. Being celibate because your body came out that way.

Being celibate because somebody did that to you.

It’s actually much easier to choose to live the celibate lifestyle than to have forced on you.

And what if you choose it for the kingdom?

Isn’t that quite a phrase in verse 12, “because of the kingdom of heaven.”

I read a quote yesterday from Douglas O’Donnell that really struck me.

He said, “The kingdom of heaven is so important that it should seem perfectly normal if someone would want to give up marriage for it.”

There are a bunch of reasons why it can be advantageous for the kingdom for you to stay single, at least for a time, and for some a life-time.

And if you are called to that, embrace it. “The one who can accept this should accept this.”

And those of us who are married should celebrate those who are single right now for the kingdom.

I think, all too often, we’ve treated singles as second-class kingdom citizens.

But that’s totally wrong. The Apostle Paul talks about this in 1 Corinthians 7, as well.

Single Christians are first-class kingdom citizens if they are living for the Lord.

And this church has an awesome history of having wonderful single people in it serving the Lord.

And there are many right here in this room today.

If you are single right now and serving the Lord, thank you.

Thank you for being celibate.

Thank you for being devoted.

Thank you for using your singleness for the Kingdom.

You know who you are like?

You’re like the Apostle Paul.

And you’re like the Lord Jesus Christ.

Because ironically, the Lord of Marriage never got married Himself.

Or perhaps better to say, He’s still engaged to be married to the Church His Bride, and we await the Wedding Supper of the Lamb when all earthly marriages will be o over and we all will have in full what they all pointed to in part, the relationship between the Lord of Marriage and His Church.

What a glorious day that will be!


Previous Messages in This Series:
01. The Genealogy of Jesus
02. The Birth of Jesus Christ
03. The Search for Jesus Christ
04. The Baptism of Jesus
05. The Temptation of Jesus
06. Following Jesus
07. Jesus' Sermon on the Mount
08. The Good Life (Part One)
09. The Good Life (Part Two)
10. You Are The...
11. Jesus and the First 2/3 of the Bible
12. But I Tell You
13. But I Tell You (2)
14. But I Tell You (3)
15. In Secret
16. Choose Wisely
17. Seek First His Kingdom
18. Generous
19. These Words of Mine
20. When He Saw the Crowds
21. When He Came Down from the Mountainside
22. Follow Me
23. Our Greatest Problem
24. Who Does He Think He Is?
25. Special Agents
26. Sheep Among Wolves
27. What To Expect On Your Mission
28. Are You the One?
29. Come to Me
30. The King of Rest
31. So Thankful!
32. Overflow
33. This Wicked Generation
34. Get It?
35. What Is Really Going On Here?
36. Baptizing the Disciples
37. The Treasure of the Kingdom
38. Living the Last Beatitude
39. Five Loaves, Two Fish, and Jesus
40. It Is I.
41. Worthless Worship
42. Great Faith in a Great God
43. The Pharisees and Sadducees
44. The Question and the Promise
45. Take Up His Cross
46. Like the Sun
47. Seed-Sized Faith
48. These Little Ones