Mark 10:2-16 - Jesus teaches against divorce and welcomes the children.
Background on the Gospel Reading
Today we continue to read from the Gospel according to Mark. For the past three Sundays, we have been hearing Mark’s reports of conversations between Jesus and his disciples. Recall that in Mark’s Gospel, Jesus uses these private moments to teach his disciples in greater detail about the Kingdom of God. Beginning with today’s Gospel, Jesus returns to Judea, Jewish territory, and resumes his public ministry. The first verse of chapter 10 of Mark’s Gospel tells us that crowds gathered around Jesus, and he taught them, as was his custom. Immediately, the Pharisees approach Jesus to test him.
The Pharisees question Jesus about the lawfulness of divorce. Under specific conditions, divorce was an accepted practice among the Jewish people during the time of Jesus. It was regulated by the Law of Moses, as found in Deuteronomy 24:1-5. This law only permits that a husband may divorce his wife if he finds her to be indecent. This is the justification that the Pharisees reference when Jesus inquires about the commandment of Moses. In reply, Jesus quotes from the Book of Genesis and counters that God’s original intention was that men and women would become one flesh in marriage. Jesus describes the teaching of Moses as a concession made to God's original intention because of human stubbornness.
In private, Jesus’ disciples question him further about this teaching on divorce. It is to his disciples that Jesus lays out the implications of his teaching by explaining that remarriage after divorce is adultery. Jesus’ teaching was more restrictive than the teaching of the Pharisees, which permitted remarriage. Jesus further distinguished his teaching from the cultural norms of his time by applying his words equally to men and women. Jewish culture permitted only that a husband may divorce his wife. Wives were not permitted to divorce their husband for any reason, including adultery.
At first glance, the final part of today’s Gospel seems unconnected to the previous teaching about divorce. When read together, however, these passages present a strong picture of Jesus’ emphasis on the importance of family. God intended for women and men to be joined together in marriage. Among the purposes of marriage is the raising of children. By welcoming children and fostering their relationship with God, parents and families bear witness to the Kingdom of God.
At the end of today’s Gospel, the people were bringing their children to Jesus, and again Jesus’ disciples show that they just don’t get it. Recall that in the Gospel for each of the past two Sundays, Jesus has taught his disciples the value and importance of these “little ones” in the Kingdom of God. Yet in today’s Gospel, the disciples try to prevent people from bringing their children to Jesus. Jesus reprimands his disciples and welcomes these children. Again, Jesus offers these children as an example of the kind of complete trust and dependence upon God that ought to be the attitude of all believers.
Sunday Connections © Loyola Press