Our Lord Jesus was an itinerant Preacher, did not continue long in a place, for the whole land of Canaan was his parish, or diocese, and therefore he would visit every part of it, and give instructions to those in the remotest corners of it. Here we have him in the coasts of Judea, by the further side of Jordan eastward, as we found him, not long since, in the utmost borders westward, near Tyre and Sidon. Thus was his circuit like that of the sun, from whose light and heat nothing is hid. Now here we have him,
I. Resorted to by the people, Mark 10:1. Wherever he was, they flocked after him in crowds; they came to him again, as they had done when he had formerly been in these parts, and, as he was wont, he taught them again. Note, Preaching was Christ’s constant practice; it was what he was used to, and, wherever he came, he did as he was wont. In Matthew it is said, He healed them; here it is said, He taught them: his cures were to confirm his doctrine, and to recommend it, and his doctrine was to explain his cures, and illustrate them. He taught them again. Note, Even those whom Christ hath taught, have need to be taught again. Such is the fulness of the Christian doctrine, that there is still more to be learned; and such our forgetfulness, that we need to be reminded of what we do know.
II. We have him disputed with by the Pharisees, who envied the progress of his spiritual arms, and did all they could to obstruct and oppose it; to divert him, to perplex him, and to prejudice the people against him.
Here is, 1. A question they started concerning divorce (Mark 10:2); Isa. it lawful for a man to put away his wife? This was a good question, if it had been well put, and with a humble desire to know the mind of God in this matter; but they proposed it, tempting him, seeking an occasion against him, and an opportunity to expose him, which side soever he should take of the question. Ministers must stand upon their guard, lest, under pretence of being advised with, they be ensnared.
2. Christ’s reply to them with a question (Mark 10:3); What did Moses command you? This he asked them, to testify his respect to the law of Moses, and to show that he came not to destroy it; and to engage them to a universal impartial respect for Moses’s writings and to compare one part of them with another.
3. The fair account they gave of what they found in the law of Moses, expressly concerning divorce, Mark 10:4. Christ asked, What did Moses command you? They own that Moses only suffered, or permitted, a man to write his wife a bill of divorce, and to put her away, Deut. 24:1. “If you will do it, you must do it in writing, delivered into her own hand, and so put her away, and never return to her again.”
4. The answer that Christ gave to their question, in which he abides by the doctrine he had formerly laid down in this case (Matt. 5:32), That whosoever puts away his wife, except for fornication, causeth her to commit adultery. And to clear this he here shows,
(1.) That the reason why Moses, in his law, permitted divorce, was such, as that they ought not to make use of that permission; for it was only for the hardness of their hearts (Mark 10:5), lest, if they were not permitted to divorce their wives, they should murder them; so that none must put away their wives but such as are willing to own that their hearts were so hard as to need this permission.
(2.) That the account which Moses, in this history, gives of the institution of marriage, affords such a reason against divorce, as amounts to a prohibition of it. So that if the question be, What did Moses command? (Mark 10:3), it must be answered, “Though by a temporary proviso he allowed divorce to the Jews, yet by an eternal reason he forbade it to all the children of Adam and Eve, and that is it which we must abide by.”
Moses tells us, [1.] That God made man male and female, one male, and one female; so that Adam could not put away his wife and take another, for there was no other to take, which was an intimation to all his sons, that they must not. [2.] When this male and this female were, by the ordinance of God, joined together in holy marriage, the law was, That a man must leave his father and mother, and cleave to his wife (Mark 10:7); which intimates not only the nearness of the relation, but the perpetuity of it; he shall so cleave to his wife as not to be separated from her. [3.] The result of the relation is, That, though they are two, yet they are one, they are one flesh, Mark 10:8. The union between them is the most intimate that can be, and, as Dr. Hammond expresses it, a sacred thing that must not be violated. [4.] God himself was joined them together; he has not only, as Creator, fitted them to be comforts and helps meet for each other, but he has, in wisdom and goodness, appointed them who are thus joined together, to live together in love till death parts them. Marriage is not an invention of men, but a divine institution, and therefore is to be religiously observed, and the more, because it is a figure of the mystical inseparable union between Christ and his church.
Now from all this he infers, that men ought not to put their wives asunder from them, whom God has put so near them. The bond which God himself has tied, is not to be lightly untied. They who are divorcing their wives for every offence, would do well to consider what would become of them, if God should in like manner deal with them. See Isa. 50:1; Jer. 3:1.
5. Christ’s discourse with his disciples, in private, about this matter, Mark 10:10-12. It was an advantage to them, that they had opportunity of personal converse with Christ, not only about gospel mysteries, but about moral duties, for further satisfaction. No more is here related of this private conference, that the law Christ laid down in this case—That it is adultery for a man to put away his wife, and marry another; it is adultery against the wife he puts away, it is a wrong to her, a breach of his contract with her, Mark 10:11. He adds, If a woman shall put away her husband, that is, elope from him, leave him by consent, and be married to another, she commits adultery (Mark 10:12), and it will be no excuse at all for her to say that it was with the consent of her husband. Wisdom and grace, holiness and love, reigning in the heart, will make those commands easy which to the carnal mind may be as a heavy yoke.