Anyone who has watched any police programme on the television, will be familiar with the phrase,
Anything you do say may be given in evidence
Jesus is again asked a question, not because the Pharisees particularly want to know what he thinks, not because they are trying to gain a deeper understand of his teaching, but because they are trying to trick him into saying something that they can use to undermine him, discredit him, and generally have something to use as evidence that he is up to no good.
Teaching about Divorce
1After Jesus left, he went to Judea and then on to the other side of the Jordan River. Once again large crowds came to him, and as usual, he taught them.
2Some Pharisees wanted to test Jesus. So they came up to him and asked if it was right for a man to divorce his wife. 3Jesus asked them, “What does the Law of Moses say about that?”
4They answered, “Moses allows a man to write out divorce papers and send his wife away.”
5Jesus replied, “Moses gave you this law because you are so heartless. 6But in the beginning God made a man and a woman. 7That’s why a man leaves his father and mother and gets married. 8He becomes like one person with his wife. Then they are no longer two people, but one. 9And no one should separate a couple that God has joined together.”
10When Jesus and his disciples were back in the house, they asked him about what he had said. 11He told them, “A man who divorces his wife and marries someone else is unfaithful to his wife. 12A woman who divorces her husband and marries again is also unfaithful.”
Tom Wright reminds us (p 95) of the situation of the man whose territory they are in, Herod Antipas, whose marriage to his brother’s wife involved divorce. They knew that John the Baptists challenging of that had got him into trouble – perhaps they are hoping that the same might happen to Jesus if they can get him to say something that could be construed as condemnation of Herod – thus their dirty work would be done for them. Herod would get rid of Jesus and the challenge he posed to them as the accepted religious leaders would be gone.
As ever, Jesus cleverly gets them to answer their own question – the words come from their own mouths. They cannot deny their own teaching, but Jesus teaches into their understanding. This is what you think… this is what God really meant.
I suppose the challenge for us, is do we get caught up in what we think God means and wants? Do we half-remember things, try to put words into God’s mouth? Do we proffer personal opinion as God’s word? Do we get on our high horse about what we believe – without always checking that out with God? I know I do…
Forgive me Lord
for the times when I confuse my opinion with yours;
when I focus on what I think,
not what you say.
May my thoughts and my words
always find their foundation in you