Family Matters in Christ

Sermon 1765 Mark 10.2-16 October 10, 2021

What does it matter? A lot of people are thinking that nowadays. What does it matter? Elections. Public health advisories. Saving for the future. Applying for jobs. Whether we go home after work Friday or not. How the local sports heroes did this week. What does it matter? Even for people who really get into any or all of this stuff, every so often the thought crosses their minds. What does it matter? They often don’t have an answer.

Without an answer, we are very close to “Nothing matters.” Far from being a brave new world, that is a dark and dangerous place.

As a Christian, I believe many things matter. If you look at it a certain way, everything matters. But every week I promise you that I will explain and apply the appointed words our Lord spoke to us. I must narrow my focus. Instead of looking at every aspect of human existence, I confidently give you the Lord’s take on this.

Family Matters in Christ

1. Jesus opens hearts (2-6, 13-14a).

2. Hold on to marriage (7-12).

3. Uphold children (14b-16).

Family matters in Christ. Jesus opens hearts.

“Some Pharisees came and tested him by asking, ‘Is it lawful for a man to divorce his wife?’ ‘What did Moses command you?’ he replied. They said, ‘Moses permitted a man to write a certificate of divorce and send her away.’ ‘It was because your hearts were hard that Moses wrote you this law,’ Jesus replied. ‘But at the beginning of creation God “made them male and female (2-5).””

We are going to see hardness of heart in this text. As expected, the Pharisees will be one group. Dirty, rotten Pharisees! It’s always nice to have them around, because we can feel so superior to them! But the other group to display hardness of heart is God’s people, the good people, the heroes, the followers of Jesus—the disciples! Maybe instead of immediately turning to someone else and telling them, “God is speaking to you—I hope you are listening!” we should sit down at Jesus’ feet and hear his words directed toward us!

The Pharisees want to make Jesus look bad with a “gotcha” question. They are not interested in an answer, because they are perfectly happy with the warped answers they have come up with. They view marriage simply as a contractual situation and are interested in telling people how to get out of it. Many pastors have a sneaky suspicion that the person sitting in their office has already made up their mind when they ask, “What does the Bible say about divorce?” The pastor would rather answer the question, “What does the Bible say about marriage?”

We would all agree the Pharisees show a callousness in their question and their practice. Divorce was common and simple among them. Give her a memo, copy the rabbi and the husband keeps everything, kids, house and joint checking account. You are all that matters.

Now let’s skip over to something which happened later that day.

“People were bringing little children to Jesus to have him touch them, but the disciples rebuked them. When Jesus saw this, he was indignant. “Let the little children come to me (13-14a).’”

People were bringing their little ones to Jesus. What could be more heart-warming? The disciples did not see it that way. The have some hard hearts as they shoo the parents and little children away. Their Jesus must be too important for such “kid stuff.” Bring them back when they are old enough to know what’s going on.

There are so many times we display equally hard hearts. We look for ways to extricate ourselves from sticky situations, as if a marriage or a family reunion is an airplane trip and we have to locate the exits before we get started. Friendships fail because they were just too much work. Spouses drowning under the stress have to learn to hold their breath longer because we just don’t want to be bothered by their downer attitudes. The kids—they are so needy! How much do nannies cost? Or better yet, is there a boarding elementary school we can send them to?

Look what Jesus does. He counters the sinful human nature’s fickle complaints with the loving and enduring will of God. “God created them male and female.” “Let the little children come to me.” Jesus opens hardened hearts with God’s word and will.

What makes us less selfish? What makes us more compassionate? Some will say being a parent or the passage of time takes off our rough edges. Reexamine those assumptions. Time turns innocent four year olds into downright awful college sophomores. We have people trained to protect children from their parents. We are only as good as we are forced to be. We are as a bad as we can get away with. Time and being a parent have nothing to do with it.

The Gospel opens our hearts so we think of others and care for others. Snotty Cain challenged God, “Am I my brother’s keeper?” “Yes! Yes! A million times yes!” we respond. And not only our brother. God’s Law guides our forgiven hearts to “love your neighbor as yourself.” That’s where it starts. That’s where it always must start, as the heart is opened by God’s love to respond to God’s love. If it doesn’t start there, it is only another owner’s manual we are forced to read in a jam.

With that said, we can turn to what matters. What matters? Family matters in Christ. Hold on to marriage.

“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 (7-9).”

It cannot be simpler. Hold on to marriage. That is God’s will. God created Adam and Eve specifically for each other. That was the whole point of bringing Adam and Eve together. Two equally matched individuals sharing a life together. Hold on to it. Keep it. Don’t let anyone (from inside the marriage or outside the marriage) break a married couple apart. Do this and you will avoid a world of heartache and heartbreak. Do this and you will find a life of challenge and excitement, honor and accomplishment.

It really doesn’t seem that earth-shaking. I almost feel guilty taking a paycheck for this sermon.

But something is happening back where the disciples are sitting. “When they were in the house again, the disciples asked Jesus about this. He answered, ‘Anyone who divorces his wife and marries another woman commits adultery against her. And if she divorces her husband and marries another man, she commits adultery (10).”

Now, remember what I said last week about the devil trying to make God sound so extreme and unrealistic that no should even listen to him? Remember that and look at the context. Jesus has already opened our hearts to faith. We are committed to caring and sacrificing for others. For a person living that sort of life, the Christian life, they are not going to get a divorce, “because its’ no fun any longer.” They are not going to act so selfishly as to seek their own pleasure outside their marriage, thus breaking it. Jesus will talk about those situations elsewhere, but this ain’t the place.

So if someone (male or female) is so hard-hearted and their hearts are so closed to the Word of God that they willfully and recklessly dissolve their marriage without a second thought about what God thinks of their actions, without a desire to put in the effort to seek repentant forgiveness both from God who brought you together and from the soon-to-be-ex-spouse you are hurting so badly, well, then, you might as well call it what it is. From now on this heartless, closed person will be living in adultery, open violation of God’s will because they have thrown away the spouse God has provided for them. And whoever agrees to couple with them becomes an accomplice in their sin of adultery, just as surely as someone who shares in the robber’s loot becomes an accessory to the crime.

Yes, there are valid reasons in God’s eyes to seek a divorce, but Jesus isn’t treating that here. He is telling people who despise marriage and are looking in advance for all sorts of exit ramps to hold on to marriage. And because we have a sinful human nature as hard-hearted as the one the Pharisees and disciples had, Jesus’ words are directed to us when our sinful human nature tries to confuse us as to what God’s will is.

And no, divorce is not the unforgivable sin. Forgiveness is always available and the fruit of forgiveness is the desire to make your last marriage last and not get the returning customer discount from the divorce attorney. Jesus isn’t treating that here, either. He is telling us to hold on to marriage.

And no, the innocent party in a divorce bears no guilt before God, no matter how much they may be stigmatized by hard-hearted and cruel society. Again, Jesus is not addressing that here. He is telling us to hold on to marriage.

Are we done? This is starting to feel like work!

Family matters in Christ. Don’t only hold on to marriage, uphold children.

“People were bringing little children to Jesus to have him touch them, but the disciples rebuked them. When Jesus saw this, he was indignant. He said to them, ‘Let the little children come to me, and do not hinder them, for the kingdom of God belongs to such as these. I tell you the truth, anyone who will not receive the kingdom of God like a little child will never enter it.’ And he took the children in his arms, put his hands on them and blessed them (13-16).”

It is so easy to overlook children, or, more pointedly, to exclude them. Theaters won’t let children under the age of six in, that is, until Disney took over Broadway. Fine restaurants do not have Children’s Menus. Even some churches have squads of self-appointed blue-haired grandmas to give young mothers the stink eye if their young ones get squirmy. “Don’t you love the Lord enough to restrain your child?”

The disciples had that attitude. They were shooing little ones away.

Far from being bothered by little children, however, Jesus holds them up as the example. You have to have the faith of a child to get to heaven!

There’s one thing little ones do so well they deserve to be in the Hall of Fame. They trust. Put that little bundle of joy into the arms of one of Dad’s college football buddies and the baby will cry its head off. The baby thinks Big Man on Campus is going to commit a fumble! As soon as the child is returned to mother’s arms, it is like a switch is turned off. Mom will hold on. The child trusts her.

Children trust what we tell them. That’s why they get so upset when promises to go to the playground don’t materialize. We promised! They we counting on it. Tell them the sky is green and the grass is blue and their kindergarten teacher has six weeks of deprogramming on your child, because “That’s what Momma told me.” “That’s what Daddy said.” Children take their parents at their word.

Faith is taking our heavenly Father at his Word. Haven’t seen travel brochures for heaven. Haven’t seen any slightly used burial plots at Palm for sale because the previous occupant rose from the dead. Haven’t seen clear photographic evidence of God passing through. Sasquatch, yes, saw that. Loch Ness monster? Probably a black sock puppet. But no trace of God. Yet childlike faith believers with all its heart that God exists, he lives in heaven and he will take us there to be with him forever. If we die before he can fulfill that promise, he will raise us from the dead.

So don’t keep these little ones who can believe in Jesus away from him! Bring them to Jesus when you read them Bible stories—Bible stories are even more popular than Thomas the Train or Barn Yard Dance. Bring them to Jesus by bringing them to church and Sunday School. Recognize them as fellow believers, co-heirs of heaven with you and me. Then we will accord them the rest of the honor due any human being, adult or child.

Family Matters in Christ

1. Jesus opens hearts (2-6, 13-14a).

2. Hold on to marriage (7-12).

3. Uphold children (14b-16).

Family matters in Christ. Family matters to Jesus. Family matters to all who follow Jesus. There’s lots of other things that matter, but we’ll take care of them some other day, as they come up in the appointed texts and as we walk in the green, green pastures of our Lord.

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