Here are some thoughts that Paul Palumbo and I came up with this afternoon:
This is only a test....
Maybe it means something that this is a test for Jesus (verse 2). Is the real conversation that the Pharisees want to have about divorce, or about something else?
A man shall leave...
Paul wondered if humans beings got this wrong from the get go. That is, maybe a man is supposed to leave his family (as it says in Genesis and here), so if we give anyone "away" at weddings, it should be the groom rather than the bride. Maybe there was a word here to help us break apart patriarchy (or alleviate testosterone poisoning--Paul's words, not mine), and we missed it.
We agreed that this really happens, hence the great pain around the end of a marriage, no matter what the circumstances. There's a gaping hole, a lot of blood lost, and a big scar--which pop psychologists might prefer to call "baggage" but which is probably more accurately referred to as scar tissue.
All the talk of tearing flesh from flesh made me think about what Jesus has done in relationship to disfigured people so far in the gospel:
- He cleanses a leper (1:40-45).
- He forgives the sins of a paralytic and gives him back his legs (2:1-12).
- He restores the man with the whithered hand (3:1-5).
- He feels power go forth from him when a woman with a hemorrhage touches him for healing, and
- He takes hold of a corpse's hand to raise a dead little girl to life again (5:21-43).
- He heals the Syrophoenician woman's daughter from a distance.
- He puts his fingers in a deaf man's ears and on the man's tongue to give him hearing and speech (7:31-37).
- He puts spit on the eyes of a blind man, then tries again in order to get the healing right (8:22-26).
- He takes a boy with an unclean spirit by the hand and heals him (9:14-28)
I'm struck by how "in the flesh" all of these activities are. Jesus is a body, healing other bodies. If Jesus can do all these things, surely he can also heal the flesh-from-flesh wound that divorce is.
Private teaching to the disciples...
I don't have any idea what to make of vv. 10-12. We have probably all heard sermons that tell us how "radically egalitarian" this is, since traditionally only men could be the victims of a woman's adultery, not the other way around. Ho hum. I take no comfort in an even-handed statement of all remarriage as adultery. And frankly, the New Testament witness elsewhere offers no similar blanket statements, but seems instead interested in working out exceptions to the rule (cf. the parallel text in Matthew, and Paul's thoughts on the topic in 1 Cor. 7).