“Trusting Instead of Testing” Mark 10:2-16
The 20th Sunday after Pentecost (B)
October 7, 2018
Grace, mercy and peace be unto you for God our Father, and from our Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ. Amen.
Dear Brothers and Sisters in Christ,
Testing Jesus. Testing the Lord God Almighty, He who is the Alpha and the Omega. Not a good idea on several fronts, wouldn’t you say?
And yet it happens… constantly. We know that it is far more prevalent than just what the Pharisees were doing in today’s Gospel text.
For sure… it is a quality, a characteristic of sinful man down throughout time to test God… to test His Word… to test His resolve… to test His holy will.
It is a quality, a characteristic of sinful man to always try and push the limits of God’s patience and forbearance. It is a quality, a characteristic of sinful man to see what he or she can get away with… to see what God might allow to slide by… slip by.
If we are honest with ourselves, we know that all this is a quality and characteristic that each of us has and that which we display at times… many times… in varying ways, testing God.
The Pharisees didn’t realize or recognize the divinity of our Lord… that the One standing before them truly was the Son of God. But they did realize and recognize that He, Jesus, was a person to be reckoned with for He spoke like no other… and then there were all of the miracles He performed… and the great following that He had among the people.
Their tactic was to try and trip this Rabbi up… to catch Him on a question or issue and have Him disgraced. That is exactly what they are trying to do in the interaction before us. And so they cunningly choose the contentious issue of divorce.
The Pharisees were aware of Moses being put in the situation of allowing for divorce in certain circumstances. The fact of the matter is, it is not only God who is tested by people, it is His called and ordained servants as well… His spokesmen… His ministers… including Moses as the Israelites forced his hand to speak about and establish specifics… establish laws… rules… as to what could… would… constitute a legitimate reason to divorce one’s spouse and what would not.
In just the same way, the Pharisees were seeking to force our Lord’s hand in commenting on what Moses said and did. You see how that turned out. It resulted in Christ acknowledging the action that Moses took, but taking the Pharisees, and us, back to a far greater and superseding action and this by the Lord God at the beginning of time as to how it was then… how He, God Almighty… established things then… set things then… and how these things remain so… in full force… throughout all time.
“Jesus said to them, ‘Because of your hardness of heart he wrote you this commandment. But from the beginning of creation, ‘God made them male and female.’ ‘Therefore a man shall leave his father and mother and hold fast to his wife, and they shall become one flesh.’ So they are no longer two but one flesh. What therefore God has joined together, let not man separate.’”
Did we catch all that? Do we remember all that my friends?
Male and female God made them… period. Two sexes… two genders, clearly distinguished… clearly established and each given their own divine vocations… their own divine roles and responsibilities as a male, as a husband and father… period. As a female, a wife, a mother… period.
So even though the world and the minds of sinful men and women would pervert this… HAVE and continue to pervert this… it doesn’t change a thing in terms of what God has established and ordained… what He has set in stone… what He has declared to be… period. Male and female… period.
And the same goes for the holy estate of matrimony… that which God has established… what He has set in stone… what He has declared to be… period. Husband and wife… period. Two becoming one flesh… period.
God’s Word definitively declares, “So they are no longer two but one flesh. What therefore God has joined together, let not man separate.”
Let not man separate and yet, man continues to do just that… he… she continue to do just that. We could talk for hours here how divorce is a convenience in the minds of many. How it is viewed as an easy solution to what is considered to be an untenable, unwanted situation. Much in the same way, are you ready for this, as abortion is a convenience and an easy solution.
The correlation between the two is an interesting one worth our considering. Both marriage and pregnancy involve two lives intricately connected to one another. In marriage and in pregnancy, nurturing is taking place and the relationship (be it husband to wife, or mother to baby) could not be a closer one or more intimate.
And that is why the ending of both relationships is traumatic… the separating of what should not be separated… the separating of flesh – the one flesh that comes to be in a marriage and the one flesh, a new life, that is procreated by the union of that marriage.
Ah, life born of God! He who is the author of life. And this in stark contrast to death born of man. Indeed, make no mistake about it. In both divorce and in abortion, death takes place. It is always the outcome of the severing of flesh, one flesh.
But we need to be careful as to who has blood on their hands. Yes, in some cases, it is both the man and the woman, the husband and the wife… the mother and the father, but not always.
And so we have divorce being permitted in cases of abandonment and abuse or where one person has broken the divinely established “one flesh” by joining flesh with someone other than his or her spouse.
In like manner… at times… the removing of a baby from the womb may be necessary to save the baby… or the mother… or both.
It gets complicated quickly, doesn’t it? And all complications are a result of sin entering into the world… the result of sin affecting our bodies and minds.
What isn’t complicated though… never has… never will be… is the Word of God and the truth found therein.
What isn’t complicated is the One who is the Word Incarnate… He who is the Way, the Truth and the Life… namely our Savior, Jesus Christ. He who lovingly shows us the way to go… the way for us to live out each and every day of our lives… in Him… in His Word… in the Sacraments… in this His Body, the Holy Christian Church wherein we find forgiveness, full and complete, for anything and everything that we may have done against His will.
Does that include forgiveness for having had an abortion? Yes. Does it include forgiveness for divorcing for reasons other than what God’s Word allows? Yes. Does it include forgiveness for all sins including those related to sex and gender? Yes… emphatically yes!
It is all forgiven. Every sin blotted out in the precious blood of Jesus Christ. Just like little Nathan, we have been washed clean in the blood of the Lamb and with repentant hearts, we go on… continue on… by no means testing Christ, but trusting Him. Walking with Him, serving Him… giving Him all praise… all glory, laud and honor now and throughout time. Amen.
May the peace of God that surpasses all understanding, guard your hearts and minds in Christ Jesus unto life everlasting. Amen.
“Trusting, not Testing” The Rev. Mark H. Hein, St. Paul’s Ev. Lutheran Church, Lockport, IL. October 7, 2018