Your Son, Your Only Son Whom You Love

Then God said, “Take your son, your only son, whom you love—Isaac—and go to the region of Moriah. Sacrifice him there as a burnt offering on a mountain I will show you.” Genesis 22:2


In the story line of the Bible, the sacrifice of Isaac represents a direct threat to God’s covenant promise to Abraham. God had promised Abraham, “It is through Isaac that your offspring will be reckoned.” How can God make Abraham’s descendants a great nation and a blessing to the world if Isaac is dead? I can think of no better answer than the one offered by the author of the New Testament epistle of Hebrews. “Abraham reasoned that God could even raise the dead, and so in a manner of speaking he did receive Isaac back from death.” But while that is how I approach this text theologically, it’s not how I approach it emotionally.

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From the Beginning of Creation

Mark 10 on Marriage and Divorce (Part 3 of 3)

Part 1: A Certificate of Divorce
Part 2: And Marries Another
Part 3: From the Beginning of Creation

We have not yet dealt with the heart of Jesus’ teaching, which is his appeal to the Genesis account of creation.

As I concluded yesterday, Jesus’ cultural situation was significantly different than our own. His words don’t fit a culture in which “no fault” divorce makes any sense. The legal mechanism of divorce will vary from culture to culture, but they only exist because people are tragically broken to begin with. WIth his appeal to the Genesis story of creation, Jesus points us to God’s intentions for humankind.

When Jesus asked his inquisitors about what Moses commanded, they pointed to Deuteronomy 24. A more central commandment, Jesus answered, is found at the beginning of the book of Genesis (also considered one of the Books of Moses).

At the beginning of creation God ‘made them male and female.’ ‘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 flesh. Therefore what God has joined together, let no one separate.

Jesus is quoting Genesis 1:27 and 2:24. Genesis is foundational to end-of-marriage discussions precisely because it is foundational to the beginning of marriage. Only when we know what marriage is can we speak intelligently about the end of a marriage.

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And Marries Another

Mark 10 on Marriage and Divorce (Part 2 of 3)

Part 1: A Certificate of Divorce
Part 2: And Marries Another
Part 3: From the Beginning of Creation

In Mark 10:11-12, Jesus declared that whoever sends his wife away and marries commits adultery against his first wife. A piece of paper did not justify what was otherwise unjustifiable. The sent-away wife is the victim of her husband’s decision to cast her aside in favor of another. He has harmed her economically, socially and personally. Jesus affirms the dignity of women by denying that they can be thrown away like yesterday’s stale bread.

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A Certificate of Divorce

Mark 10 on Marriage and Divorce (Part 1 of 3)

Part 1: A Certificate of Divorce
Part 2: And Marries Another
Part 3: From the Beginning of Creation

This is the first of three posts examining what Jesus had to say about marriage and divorce in the tenth chapter of Mark’s gospel.

Mark 10:2-12 consists of two related but distinct thought units related to marriage and divorce. Mark 10:2-9 is Jesus’ public response to some Pharisee’s question on the lawfulness of divorce. In Mark 10:10-12, Jesus responds privately to questions from his disciples on the same subject.

Divorce and Deuteronomy 24

When some Pharisees asked Jesus whether it was permissible for a man to divorce his wife, Jesus replied by asking them what Moses commanded. The Pharisees responded by pointing to their interpretation of Deuteronomy 24:1-4: Moses permitted a man to write a certificate of divorce and send her away.

Jesus asked what Moses commanded; the Pharisees responded with what Moses permitted. That’s not quite the same thing, so perhaps Jesus had something else in mind with his question. We’ll get to that in a later post.

Before Jesus points the Pharisees to a different commandment, he critiques their response. Deuteronomy 24:1-4 is a strange passage that really isn’t about divorce; it’s about a man remarrying a woman he’s previously divorced after she’s been married to somebody else. Jesus, however, accepts the Pharisee’s inference: if a man is going to send his wife away, he must give her a certificate of divorce.

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United Methodist Marriage Rituals

For Valentine’s day, here is what my church’s ritual says about the institution of marriage. First, from the contemporary language service.

Friends, we are gathered together in the sight of God to witness and bless the joining together of [Name] and [Name] in Christian marriage. The covenant of marriage was established by God, who created us male and female for each other. With his presence and power Jesus graced a wedding in Cana of Galilee, and in his sacrificial love gave us the example for the love of husband and wife. – Rite I

And then from the older service, inherited from our predecessor denominations and based more closely on the Book of Common Prayer.

Dearly beloved, we are gathered together here in the sight of God, and in the presence of these witnesses, to join together this man and this woman in holy matrimony, which is an honorable estate, instituted of God, and signifying unto us the mystical union which exists between Christ and his Church; which holy estate Christ adorned and beautified with his presence at a wedding in Cana of Galilee. It is therefore not to be entered into unadvisedly, but reverently, discreetly, and in the fear of God.
– Rite II