+27 83 629-7690 henrypool7@gmail.com

3 Some Pharisees came to him to test him. They asked, “Is it lawful for a man to divorce his wife for any and every reason?”

4 “Haven’t you read,” he replied, “that at the beginning the Creator ‘made them male and female,’

5 and said, ‘For this reason a man will leave his father and mother and be united to his wife, and the two will become one flesh’?

6 So they are no longer two, but one. Therefore what God has joined together, let man not separate.”

7 “Why then,” they asked, “did Moses command that a man give his wife a certificate of divorce and send her away?”

8 Jesus replied, “Moses permitted you to divorce your wives because your hearts were hard. But it was not this way from the beginning.

9 I tell you that anyone who divorces his wife, except for marital unfaithfulness, and marries another woman commits adultery.”

10 The disciples said to him, “If this is the situation between a husband and wife, it is better not to marry.”

11 Jesus replied, “Not everyone can accept this word, but only those to whom it has been given.

  Matt 19:3-11 (NIV)

In the days that Jesus spoke these words divorce was a major social injustice, resulting in many a woman ending up in the gutter, becoming either a beggar or a prostitute. For the husband it was easy. He could give her a letter of divorce and put her on the street. But there were no laws protecting the woman. And there was little hope for such a woman of ever finding a job. Her family would not always want her back, as she was considered just an additional burden. Women were not allowed in educational institutions so there was no way that she could have learned a trade or anything like that. A woman, like a slave, was merely one of a man’s possessions. Suffer the poor woman that could not bear her husband a child….

What Jesus says here was quite revolutionary for that particular time. Proving Moses wrong was considered almost equal to blasphemy and one can imagine that Jesus’ exposure of this injustice was met with little enthusiasm from the predominantly male-orientated society in which He found Himself. Small wonder that Jesus had many female friends. He was the only man who would defend the woman caught in adultery against her male-accusers (John 8:3-11). During this incident Jesus wrote something on the ground. He then said: “He that is without sin, let him throw the first stone.” It is often thought that Jesus wrote down the sins or some of the sins of the accusers. For fear of exposure they did not start throwing the stones, as they had most certainly intended to do. Each of them then turned away, tails between the legs so to speak.

Jesus makes no mistake when He exposes the root cause of the problem on hand: “It was not this way from the beginning” (vs. 8), the “beginning” meaning Paradise off course. Very wisely He chooses to quote Gen 2:24 (vs. 5) to illustrate the argument. One flesh made up of two (equal) parts. That was indeed how it was in the Garden of Eden. It was only after man had sinned that we see the balance of equality being disturbed by a curse of God, positioning the man to “rule” over the woman. (See Gen 3:16). When referring to this passage, many of the subsequent writers of the Bible have thought that this meant that the husband must be the boss of his family and that a man must always be the head of a church. For some strange reason people thought that this particular curse could not be broken. A typical example of this can be found in 1 Tim 2:14 where the apostle Paul argues that a woman may not teach in the church because it was Eve who was deceived, not Adam.

But Jesus clearly wants marriage restored to how it was in the beginning, that is: before the fall of man! (vs. 8). He knew exactly what had happened as a result of sin. (Gen 3:16-19). But He also knew that He Himself would become sin for us so that we could be free of all curses that had resulted from sin (e.g. Gal 3:13, Deut 21:23). This we may claim, every time. That is His promise to us – that is why we believe in Him. We are free from the curse of sin! We do not have to accept anything that happened as a result of sin; not even death. (John 10:28).

So, in effect, Jesus was indeed the first man who stood up for the rights of women. No wonder that the women of those days liked to listen to Him. And that He was at home with women. They remained loyal to Him, even after His death, and this is most probably the reason why they got to see Him first after His resurrection. But mankind still took more than nineteen centuries to lay claim to the equality of male and female. It was only fairly recently that most churches have adopted the principle of equality for the sexes. Why did it take us so long? It’s a long story. In fact, it is another two chapters. Looking back now, one could argue that most of the confusion was caused by the otherwise very honest – and very truthful apostle Paul.  I think we must forgive him this oversight. One must not forget that there is a big cultural difference between the people then and modern man. Also, traditions are not easily broken and Paul was strongly influenced by the Jewish traditions.

Anyway, let us forget about the old arguments. There is light in the tunnel at last. I cannot help but get excited whenever I notice one of Jesus’ teachings finally becoming the accepted norm.