A New Verse to an Old Song

July 30, 2021

Now it came to pass, when Jesus had finished these sayings, that He departed from Galilee and came to the region of Judea beyond the Jordan. And great multitudes followed Him, and He healed them there. The Pharisees also came to Him, testing Him, and saying to Him, "Is it lawful for a man to divorce his wife for just any reason?" (Matthew 19:1-3).

It was time for Jesus to make His last trip from Galilee to Jerusalem to attend His last Passover on this earth. Time had elapsed since the final words of Matthew in chapter 18 and these first words in chapter 19. Luke and John recorded several events that took place during that time. They include:

1.    Jesus’ encounter with the adulteress (John 8:2-11).
2.    The Pharisees declare Jesus ‘demon possessed’ and attempted to kill Him (John 8:48-59).
3.    Seventy witnesses are sent out to declare the Gospel (Luke 10:1-24).
4.    Jesus settled a dispute between Mary and Martha (Luke 10:38-42).
5.    A Pharisee invited Jesus to dinner (Luke 11:37-54).
6.    Jesus raised Lazarus from death (John 11:1-34).

Jesus left Galilee and walked through the country beyond the Jordan River, a region commonly called Perea or the Trans-Jordan. This territory once belonged to the Old Testament tribes of Reuben, Gad, and Manasseh. This route circumvented Samaritan territory, indicating Jesus’ ministry to the Samaritans had come to an end.

Jesus was still very popular among the Jews. Some sought Him out of curiosity, some for healing, some for teaching, and some to condemn Him. The Pharisees are in the crowd for the purpose of finding fault with Jesus. They are desperate to get rid of Him. This time their bait is the issue of divorce (Matthew 19:1-13; Mark 10:1-12).

The Pharisees also came to Him, testing Him. The word ‘test’ here means ‘to tempt’. The Pharisees were there as instruments of Satan. Their motive was evil. Earlier John the Baptist raised the issue with Herod Antipas and Herodias. No doubt the Pharisees hoped Jesus would get the same treatment John got when he addressed the matter of divorce.

Is it lawful for a man to divorce his wife for just any reason? The trap here is the Mosaic Law versus Hillel’s interpretation of the Law versus Shammai’s interpretation of the Law. In their mind, whatever Jesus’ answer will be, He will be guilty of breaking 1, 2, or all 3 - or will He?

“Lord Jesus, You told us to be wise as serpents, yet gentle as doves in dealing with people. Sometimes it’s difficult to see the traps Satan sets for us in our encounter with others. I ask Your Holy Spirit’s discernment in helping me remain faithful to Your Word, even if it conflicts with the words of men. To Your praise and glory I ask, Amen.”  


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