Matthew 19:1–15 ESV
1 Now when Jesus had finished these sayings, he went away from Galilee and entered the region of Judea beyond the Jordan. 2 And large crowds followed him, and he healed them there. 3 And Pharisees came up to him and tested him by asking, “Is it lawful to divorce one’s wife for any cause?” 4 He answered, “Have you not read that he who created them from the beginning made them male and female, 5 and said, ‘Therefore a man shall leave his father and his mother and hold fast to his wife, and the two shall become one flesh’? 6 So they are no longer two but one flesh. What therefore God has joined together, let not man separate.” 7 They said to him, “Why then did Moses command one to give a certificate of divorce and to send her away?” 8 He said to them, “Because of your hardness of heart Moses allowed you to divorce your wives, but from the beginning it was not so. 9 And I say to you: whoever divorces his wife, except for sexual immorality, and marries another, commits adultery.” 10 The disciples said to him, “If such is the case of a man with his wife, it is better not to marry.” 11 But he said to them, “Not everyone can receive this saying, but only those to whom it is given. 12 For there are eunuchs who have been so from birth, and there are eunuchs who have been made eunuchs by men, and there are eunuchs who have made themselves eunuchs for the sake of the kingdom of heaven. Let the one who is able to receive this receive it.” 13 Then children were brought to him that he might lay his hands on them and pray. The disciples rebuked the people, 14 but Jesus said, “Let the little children come to me and do not hinder them, for to such belongs the kingdom of heaven.” 15 And he laid his hands on them and went away.
When I began preparing this sermon, the first title that I had in mind was ‘Why men should marry and have children?’. But, through my preparation, that title has changed slightly to ‘Why a man should marry a woman and have children?’
This should give you a flavour of the devastating state of our human affairs in this generation.
There was a time when one could say that a man should get married, and almost everyone would have concluded that we’re talking about a man marrying a woman. Not a man marrying a man or a woman marrying a woman or a man marrying multiple women. These things were unnatural and rightly condemned by our society.
But things have changed and are continuing to change at a rapid rate.
Marriage is the holy union between one man and one woman, where God unites them till death does them apart.
So, as the title suggests, I want to convince all the men and women in this room that it is both a blessing and a command in Scripture that a man marries a woman and they have children.
This nuclear unit which we call the family is the fundamental unit of a civilization, the nuclear power of God’s intention and promises for the world. And so, this unit is the target of many of the devil’s schemes. Break this unit and you break civilization.
Here is the first commission:
Genesis 1:28 ESV
28 And God blessed them. And God said to them, “Be fruitful and multiply and fill the earth and subdue it, and have dominion over the fish of the sea and over the birds of the heavens and over every living thing that moves on the earth.”
This commission still stands.
Divorce is bad and God hates it, and so should we. Children are wonderful and God loves and receives them, and so should we. This is the summary of this passage before us. If you and I can accept and trust these truths in Scripture, it will bless our marriage and our parenting.
Too few a people trust God’s word in such a way that they are willing to take his word for it. The Bible is not an outdated book and it will not pass away even if heaven and earth were to pass away, until every syllable in it is fulfilled (Matthew 5:18).
Now, I’ve preached on this passage before, when we did the 4-part series on ‘Marriage, Divorce & Remarriage’ while studying Matthew 5. For those of you, who haven’t heard that series, I would encourage you to listen to it on YouTube. In it, we dive very deep into this subject and I make the case that there is no legitimate cause for a divorce. None!
Theologians broadly fall into one of three categories on the subject of divorce –
• Permissive – That divorce is allowed in the case of sexual misconduct and certain other exceptions.
• Semi-permanence – That divorce is allowed in the case of sexual misconduct but remarriage is prohibited.
• Permanence – That divorce and remarriage are forbidden under any circumstance.
I hold to the permanence view and that sermon series is a defence of why. Therefore, I will not be labouring on the subject of divorce here again though that is what the text specifically addresses. Instead, I want to address a specific issue that Jesus deals with here and make the case for why it is good for a man to pursue marriage and have children.
What about the women? Does this sermon not have any instruction for the women? It does. For it teaches the woman that it is not her place to venture out into the market place in search for a man. That’s the man’s job. As an author once wrote – It is the duty of the woman to hide herself in Christ, that a man must search him in order to find her.
So, this sermon specifically instructs the men but also prepares the women on how both are to expect, desire and wait to be married.
Why this issue?
We live in a world-culture where both masculinity and femininity are under constant attack. You are being attacked Christian, in ways you may recognise and in ways you may not.
But many things in this culture are structured to destroy biblical manhood and womanhood. And the church for far too long has been silent and that has left this generation defenceless.
Hosea 4:6 ESV
6 My people are destroyed for lack of knowledge; because you have rejected knowledge, I reject you from being a priest to me. And since you have forgotten the law of your God, I also will forget your children.
At the root of it, is a theological famine where boys and girls have no clue what it means to be a man or a woman. And the constant attack of this world has left men effeminate and women sore. We are under attack and you need to wake up and see that.
Here is a charge for you Christian men in this room who are not theologically astute. You are in a battlefield and in many ways in our context, many of these battles have been less intense, but the storm is headed in our direction. It is going to get much worse very soon, and when that storm hits us will you be ready to stand firm? Will you be rooted in the word? Will you take up the armour of God and stand alongside us and fight this good fight?
Mark my words, within the next 10 years, we will have parents in this country struggling to convince their sons that they are not women and their daughters that they are not men. And they will rebel and fight for the freedom to identify as they please.
Voices will be heard in every street and in every classroom, indoctrinating the young and the old to turn a blind eye, to be drawn into the absurdity of the depraved mind. Children will be given the right to mutilate their bodies, to perform horrendous sex change operations.
Most of the schools where you send your children to are already not safe, and it will get worse. If you are not prepared to be the primary educators of your children, you will regret it for the rest of your lives. If you will not take lead in educating and teaching and disciplining and training them, the world will take lead and the devil will train them. They will be sons of disobedience.
The First Attack
This attack on men and women, on masculinity and femininity began when the help created for man became the stumbling block. Eve was her husband’s help, his aid, his support, his right hand. She was supposed to have his back.
Genesis 3:4–5 ESV
4 But the serpent said to the woman, “You will not surely die. 5 For God knows that when you eat of it your eyes will be opened, and you will be like God, knowing good and evil.”
• The first temptation was to get the help to forsake her purpose. Submitted to her husband, and her husband to God, and here is the temptation that she can be God.
Genesis 3:6 ESV
6 So when the woman saw that the tree was good for food, and that it was a delight to the eyes, and that the tree was to be desired to make one wise, she took of its fruit and ate, and she also gave some to her husband who was with her, and he ate.
• The temptation pleased her and she is deceived because it was a lie. Eating of the fruit would not make her more like God but would separate her from every coming close to God.
1 Timothy 2:14 ESV
14 and Adam was not deceived, but the woman was deceived and became a transgressor.
• But Adam was not deceived. He knew full well what he was doing, and he chose to submit to his wife than to submit to God. This was his rebellion.
And with one encounter in the garden, Satan got the woman to forsake her femininity in desiring to be the head, and got the man to forsake his masculinity by submitting to the sinful leadership of his wife.
Over the millennia, this continues to be target of the enemy’s primary attack. And our generation is closest to the New Testament equivalent of Sodom and Gomorrah.
Let us now look to the text.
Matthew 19:1–2 ESV
1 Now when Jesus had finished these sayings, he went away from Galilee and entered the region of Judea beyond the Jordan. 2 And large crowds followed him, and he healed them there.
• Jesus continued his journey to Jerusalem, all the while preparing his disciples for his death. This has been a recurring thing since.
The time of his departure was drawing near, the main purpose for which he came, to take our sins upon the cross, and to break the curse of sin and death by rising from the grave.
If Satan’s intention is to corrupt and to destroy mankind by attacking them from birth to death, then Jesus is the Saviour who with power and might traversed the boundaries of space and time, and like a mighty wind made his way from infancy to death defeating this enemy at every front, winning every battle and then goes into the stronghold and subdues the enemy. He broke into the walls of the grave and wrenched death out from its guts.
Lazarus come out of the grave when Jesus called from the outside. Then at calvary Jesus went into the grave and came out raising a host of captives. Death is utterly defeated. Satan is a defeated foe.
Beloved, there is one safety for the masculine and the feminine, the person Jesus Christ. Listen to him.
• The crowds continued to be large, and as Jesus marched closer toward the grave, he kept healing all those that came to him.
Matthew 19:3 ESV
3 And Pharisees came up to him and tested him by asking, “Is it lawful to divorce one’s wife for any cause?”
• tested him – The Pharisees continued to put Jesus to the test. They wanted to kill him and their rage against him was growing and every chapter we’ve been seeing it getting worse. They were hard bent on finding ways to trap him and find a reason to kill him.
1 “When a man takes a wife and marries her, if then she finds no favor in his eyes because he has found some indecency in her, and he writes her a certificate of divorce and puts it in her hand and sends her out of his house, and she departs out of his house,
• lawful – Now, if you remember the sermon series I talked about initially, in it I talk about two Rabbi’s right before Jesus’ time – Hillel & Shammai. They both taught extensively on this subject and held to two opposing view points.
Hillel believed that divorce was permitted under any reason of displeasure, whereas Shammai was more conservative and taught that divorce must only be permitted in an extreme case of sexual immorality. And as is the case in most generations and cultures, the liberal Hillel was more popular.
And so, the question of the Pharisees here was to see whose side Jesus was going to take. The popular view of Hillel or that of Shammai.
• any cause – The use of the phrase ‘any cause’ was a way for them to open up the question. The question is not if a man can divorce his wife for a particular cause or under what condition should one divorce his wife. The word ‘any’ here actually means ‘every’. So, the question opens itself up for any cause, anything that man deems justifiable. Does the law permit this?
This was a good way to get the people to turn on Jesus. Because if he went with the less popular Shammai school, most people would turn on him. And if he prohibited it entirely then they could call him a law breaker.
Matthew 19:4–6 ESV
4 He answered, “Have you not read that he who created them from the beginning made them male and female, 5 and said, ‘Therefore a man shall leave his father and his mother and hold fast to his wife, and the two shall become one flesh’? 6 So they are no longer two but one flesh. What therefore God has joined together, let not man separate.”
• From Deuteronomy to Genesis : Jesus in response takes them even further back than Moses’ command in Deuteronomy, to God’s very purpose in creation. He looks at the union of man and woman in the account of creation, and prohibits divorce entirely.
• It is interesting to note that when Moses wrote the command, “Therefore, a man shall leave his father and his mother…”, he does so by referring to an account where there was no father or mother. Both Adam and Eve did not have parents.
But that is the biblical principle that God teaches us from the account of creation. That union that God does in making the man and the woman one flesh is the formation of a new nuclear unit, a family where the man is the masculine head and the woman is the feminine help. He leads and she submits.
• God joined – And that union is the work of God. It is his divine and sovereign plan.
• None separate – No one has the right to separate what God has joined.
The church has no business entertaining the world’s agenda in this regard.
• The legalistic attack on marriage by the Pharisees and the liberal attack on marriage by the culture are all the arms of Satan’s kingdom.
Matthew 19:7 ESV
7 They said to him, “Why then did Moses command one to give a certificate of divorce and to send her away?”
• They got him now right? Why then did Moses command? Here it is, they’ve cornered him. He has no place to go now but down.
• They are taking Jesus back to Deuteronomy
Matthew 19:8 ESV
8 He said to them, “Because of your hardness of heart Moses allowed you to divorce your wives, but from the beginning it was not so.
• Because of your hardness – The hardness of your heart! Your sin! Your rebellion! Your evil is the reason that Moses allowed you to divorce your wives. This was not supposed to be so since the beginning.
Again, in that previous sermon series I show how this was Moses mitigating sin because divorce was rampant and marriages were falling apart, this was the safeguard, to contain it as much as possible.
• Beloved, the permissibility of divorce is the desire of a hardened heart.
Matthew 19:9 ESV
9 And I say to you: whoever divorces his wife, except for sexual immorality, and marries another, commits adultery.”
• Now, here does Jesus reaffirm Moses’ command? Is Jesus giving one permissive condition for divorce? I don’t believe so but that is a debate I wage in the sermon series and don’t want to do it here.
• But I’ll say this much, the word for sexual immorality here is Pornia which is best translated as fornication. This, I believe, is referring to pre-marital sex, where a man is engaged to a woman and there is found a case of sexual immorality. In this case, he may divorce her.
• Now, you may ask me how can you call that ‘divorce’. For the same reason the Bible calls Joseph’s decision to break the engagement with Mary, a ‘divorce’.
Matthew 19:10 ESV
10 The disciples said to him, “If such is the case of a man with his wife, it is better not to marry.”
• Now this, this is where I want to grab your attention. Look at what the question of the Pharisees resulted in. It resulted in the disciples saying, “If this is so, it is better not to get married”
This is one of the fundamental fears that have plagued the youth of our generation. They see marriage as antithetical to freedom. It’s a prison. Jesus response did not leave them saying, “Oh at least there is one reason for divorce”. It left them afraid about every pursuing marriage.
Matthew 19:11–12 ESV
11 But he said to them, “Not everyone can receive this saying, but only those to whom it is given. 12 For there are eunuchs who have been so from birth, and there are eunuchs who have been made eunuchs by men, and there are eunuchs who have made themselves eunuchs for the sake of the kingdom of heaven. Let the one who is able to receive this receive it.”
• this saying – is not referring to what Jesus said about divorce, but about what the disciples just said about marriage that it is better not to marry.
• not everyone can receive this saying – though many of the apostles received such a call, this is not something that everyone can receive. In other words, ‘not marrying’ is not the norm.
• There are eunuch of different kinds, some born that way, some forcibly made that way by men, and some for the sake of the kingdom. The last type is what Paul calls for in 1 Corinthians 7:1
1 Corinthians 7:1 ESV
1 Now concerning the matters about which you wrote: “It is good for a man not to have sexual relations with a woman.”
and 1 Corinthians 7:6
1 Corinthians 7:6 ESV
6 Now as a concession, not a command, I say this.
• Let the one who is able receive it.
Matthew 19:13–15 ESV
13 Then children were brought to him that he might lay his hands on them and pray. The disciples rebuked the people, 14 but Jesus said, “Let the little children come to me and do not hinder them, for to such belongs the kingdom of heaven.” 15 And he laid his hands on them and went away.