In Matthew 19, we see Jesus on the move. Since chapter 4, Jesus has been ministering mostly in the region of Galilee, north of Jerusalem about 100 miles. However, in chapters 19 and 20, we find Jesus moving south and east as he approaches Jerusalem. When we get to chapter 21, we will find Jesus arriving in Jerusalem. But right here in Matthew 19, we pick up the story at the point where Jesus has completed His ministry in Galilee. Jesus is on His way to die in Jerusalem, as He told his disciples in Matthew 16:21. Along the way, He makes a stop in "the region of Judea beyond the Jordan." We see this geographical movement described in verse 1,
"And it came about that when Jesus had finished these words, He departed from Galilee, and came into the region of Judea beyond the Jordan;" (Matt. 19:1)
The geographical area just beyond the Jordan river, east of Jerusalem, was often called Perea, which simply means, "beyond." Because of this, Matthew 19-20 is sometimes referred to as "The Perean Ministry," as Jesus spends his time in this region during these chapters. Verse 2 describes the ministry of Jesus in that place,
"and great multitudes followed Him, and He healed them there" (Matt. 19:2).
This was always the pattern of Jesus’ ministry. Jesus was a magnet that attracted many people. Some came to be healed of their diseases. Some came to learn about the kingdom of heaven. Some came because they were simply curious about this man, Jesus, who gathered such large crowds around Him all the time. Some came because they hated Him. Among those who hated Jesus were the Pharisees. They were the religious leaders of the day. And Jesus was threatening their turf.
As Jesus ministered to the crowds, it was clearly apparent that his teachings did not support the Pharisees. In the Sermon on the Mount, Jesus taught several things that exposed the Pharisees. Jesus denied the traditional teaching of the Pharisees (Matt. 5:21-48). On six occasions, Jesus said, "You have heard that it was said, ... But I say to You." Jesus revealed the hypocrisy of the Pharisees, who loved to give and pray and fast for the world to see! (Matt. 6:1-18). Jesus called them hypocrites, who have already received their reward in full. Jesus taught that there are many people, who think themselves to be righteous, when in fact, God will reject them (Matt. 7:21-23). The Pharisees must have known that Jesus was talking about them. The Pharisees hated the fact that Jesus was willing to eat with tax-gatherers and sinners, for they wouldn’t ever consider doing such a thing! (Matt. 9:10-12). Furthermore, Jesus opposed their teaching concerning the Sabbath (Matthew 12:1-14) by defending the right to pick grain on the Sabbath. He also opposed it by healing a withered hand on the Sabbath. As a result of all of this, the Pharisees "counseled together against Him, as to how they might destroy Him" (Matt. 12:14). Even when they saw the righteous acts of Jesus, they opposed Him all the way. Perhaps you remember when Jesus cast out demons from people, the Pharisees claimed that Jesus cast out demons by Beelzebul, the ruler of the demons (Matt. 12:24).
The ministry of Jesus reminds me of the life of William Tyndale. On vacation, I had the opportunity to read a biography about him. William Tyndale lived in England in the early 1500’s, when the Roman Catholic Church ruled the day. In fact, the religious establishment had it pretty good. The priests had incredible power over the people, as they were all bound to their superstitions, taught by the church. The church held the key to entrance into the kingdom of heaven. Because the people were ignorant of the truths of the Bible, the people had to do whatever the church told them to do. Incredible amounts of money were required for the purchase of indulgences, which the church said would help their relatives flee from the punishment of purgatory. The priests, as a result of the money given to them, lived in their own comfort and pleasure. Furthermore, the wickedness of the priests was great. Many of them lived in open immorality and drunkenness.
When William Tyndale came along, he was hated and despised. Why? Because he wanted to translate the Bible into English, so that the common people could read the Word of God for themselves. If they could read the Word for themselves, they would not have to rely upon the priests who were the only ones able to read Latin. His desire was for the boy that drives the plow behind the oxen to know the Bible as well as any priest. And the Roman Catholic Church knew that if the Bible was in the hand of the common people in their own tongue, the church would be in trouble. Her corruptions would be exposed. Her wealth would slip. As a result, Tyndale was hated and hunted. He spent the last 10 years of his life as a fugitive, seeking to elude the hands of the church authorities who hated him so much. He found refuge with his friends in places that were open to the truths coming forth in the Reformation.
It took the hand of a traitor, Henry Phillips, to finally capture Tyndale. Once captured, William Tyndale spent the next year in a dark and cold, dark, miserable prison cell. He was later burned as a heretic for his belief that faith alone justifies. And the remarkable testimony of this man is that he was gentle, humble, kind and loving. All who spoke to him were impressed with his great love for Christ. And yet, he was hated by the religious establishment of the day because he exposed them for what they were. The same happened with Jesus. Though Jesus was humble, meek, gentle, and kind, He was hated by the Pharisees, because of the truth that He spoke. Once the Pharisees discerned what Jesus was all about, they sought to trap him in whatever ways they could (see Matt. 12:14). In our text today, we see Jesus again, put to the test. Look at verse 3,
"And Pharisees came to Him, testing Him, and saying, ‘Is it lawful for a man to divorce his wife for any cause at all?’" (Matt. 19:3)
Matthew tells us why these Pharisees asked this question. It was to test Him. This question didn’t come from nowhere. It was carefully planned and calculated. Let me explain. John the Baptist had ministered in this area of Perea, where Jesus just recently entered. John had a conflict with Herod the tetrarch, who, who had seduced his half-brother’s wife, Herodias, and took her as his own wife. John said, "It is not lawful for you to have her" (Matthew 14:4). As a result of his boldness, John was imprisoned, and later beheaded for his stance on divorce.
These Pharisees knew that Jesus was equally as bold as His cousin John. They were hoping that Jesus would trap Himself in much the same way that John had been entrapped. Perhaps Jesus would also go after Herod’s immoral relationship with his brother’s wife as John had done. Perhaps they could even get Jesus to say something that would cause Herod to destroy Jesus. Perhaps Jesus, too, would have His head cut off, which wouldn't require the Pharisees to do the job. This was their hope.
So, the question concerning divorce was an attempt to destroy Jesus. Jesus answers the question by defining what marriage is. This is so important. When you seek to find out what the Bible says about divorce, you ought to first discover what the Bible says about marriage.
My message this morning is entitled, "Jesus Defines Marriage." We find His definition of marriage in verses 4-6,
And He answered and said, "Have you not read, that He who created them from the beginning made them male and female, and said, 'For this cause a man shall leave his father and mother, and shall cleave to his wife, and the two shall become one flesh' Consequently they are no longer two, but one flesh. What therefore God has joined together, let no man separate" (Matt. 19:4-6).
Jesus asks these Pharisees, "Have you not read? ..." Jesus said that the answers to their questions were in the Scriptures. You simply need to read them. These first few words of Jesus came as a rebuke to these Pharisees, who prided themselves on their knowledge of the Scriptures and how closely they followed them. Of course they had read these things. But Jesus rebuked them for not understanding them as they relate to marriage.
In this statement, Jesus goes back to the beginning of the Bible where marriage was established. When God created man, He also instituted marriage. In so doing, Jesus models for us what we ought to do. The answers to life’s questions are in the Bible. We need to read and understand what the Bible says.
If you aren’t going to allow the Bible to define marriage, who are you going to let define marriage for you? Will you let our society define it? Will you let Gavin Newsom, the mayor of San Francisco, define marriage. He will tell you that marriage is between two people, regardless of gender. If you let the Massachusetts Supreme Judicial Court define marriage, then you get the same thing. Our society is quite confused and divided on the issue. Representative Marilyn Musgrave recently proposed an amendment to the Constitution of the United States which would define marriage as "the union of a man and a woman." Just this past month, this amendment was stopped in the United States Senate before it could be brought to a vote. Our society is confused as to what constitutes marriage. We must go back to the Bible, not our society, to understand what marriage is. That’s exactly what we are going to do this morning, because that is what Jesus does.
In verses 4-6, Jesus tells these cold Pharisees how it is that God originally established marriage to be. In these three verses, we find three statements about marriage.
a) Marriage should be one man with one woman
It's really not so difficult. In fact, it's downright easy. God plan for marriage is one man with one woman. This is what Jesus said in verse 4, "He who created them from the beginning made them male and female." This is a quote from Genesis 1:27 which gives the account of how the world was created. Let's take a look at Genesis 1. There, we have God creating the world. Different things are created on different days. On the first day (which I believe was a 24 hour day) God created the heavens and the earth. On the second day, God created an expanse in the heavens. On the third day, God created the vegetation (i.e. plants, trees, and grass). On the fourth day, God created the Sun, the moon and the stars. On the fifth day, God created swarm of living creatures in the waters and in the sky. On the sixth day, God created beasts and everything that creeps on the ground. Let’s pick it up in verse 26, ...
Then God said, "Let Us make man in Our image, according to Our likeness; and let them rule over the fish of the sea and over the birds of the sky and over the cattle and over all the earth, and over every creeping thing that creeps on the earth." God created man in His own image, in the image of God he created him; male and female He created them." (Gen. 1:26-27)
The last phrase of verse 27 is the verse that Jesus quotes, "male and female He created them." Now, the contrast of verse 27 and the rest of the creation account is startling. When God created the animals, he created swarms of them. He created them in mass. But, when God created Man, He created only two, Adam and Eve. God didn’t create swarms of people. He didn’t create men and women. He didn’t create a colony. God only created two. They were a male and a female. God didn’t create one man and five women, from which Adam might choose. It wasn’t Adam and Eve and Martha and Julie and Theresa and Phyllis. It wasn’t polygamy. It wasn't "try one and see whether or not you like it. If you don't there's always another one for you." It wasn't serial marriage. It was Adam and Eve. Furthermore, God didn’t create two men. It wasn’t Adam and Steve. God didn’t create two women, Madam and Eve. It wasn’t homosexuality. It was a man and a woman. If you keep reading, you'll find that none of the beasts were a sufficient partner for him. It wasn't Adam and Lassie. It wasn’t bestiality. God chose to populate the planet from the offspring of one man and one woman. Jesus thought that this was significant to mention.
Our culture today has much to learn regarding the basics of marriage. And when you have opportunities to speak with people about drift of our country concerning its standards of marriage, I would encourage you to quote these verse from Genesis. You may very well speak with some people who will oppose the marriage amendment on the basis that they don’t want to impose their morality on anyone else, saying "who are you to say that marriage is between a man and a woman?" To that, I urge you to reply that God established marriage as one man for one woman and quote from Genesis 1:27, "male and female He created them." Even if someone isn't convinced with your argument, know that this verse was sufficient for Jesus to define marriage. This verse ought to be sufficient for you to define marriage as well. This verse ought to be sufficient for anyone to define marriage as one man with one woman.
So marriage should be one man with one woman. The next verse that Jesus quotes in Matthew 19 is from Genesis 2:24, which gets to the heart of marriage. "For this cause a man shall leave his father and mother, and shall cleave to his wife; and the two shall become one flesh." Here we learn that ...
b) Marriage should form a strong union.
It's two people becoming one. It's a man and a woman joining together. So, let's add this to our definition of marriage. God's plan for marriage is one man with one woman forming a strong union. The picture of cleaving is complete oneness. It means, "glue." When you glue two things together, the idea is that you want them to bond and become one. Jesus picks up on this in Matthew 19:6, "consequently, they are no longer two, but one." He emphasizes how married people become "one flesh." That's the nature of marriage. And this union ought to be a strong union.
It is interesting to note that Genesis 2:24 doesn’t apply to Adam and Eve. It can’t. Adam had no father and mother to leave. So why is it here? It is placed in here as divine commentary of the significance of the first marriage. This first marriage has become an example for us to follow. The man shall leave the home in which he was raised and shall "cleave to his wife" becoming one flesh with her.
Perhaps the first thing we think about here is the physical union. Certainly, this does speak of the physical union, as a man and a woman cleave to one another physically. In fact, this physical union was necessary to fulfill God’s plan for Adam and Eve. In Genesis 1:28, they were told, "Be fruitful and multiply, and fill the earth." You can’t fill the earth without a sexual union. It is when the husband and wife come together, that they produce offspring after their kind and fill the earth. But the sexual union is for more than mere procreation. The physical union of a man and a woman is a deterrent to sexual immorality. Listen to 1 Corinthians 7:2, "Because of immoralities, let each man have his own wife, and let each woman have her own husband." In other words, if you want to fight pornography and adultery? You do it with sexual activity in marriage. (This is what one flesh speaks about).
Paul continues in 1 Corinthians by telling you that it is your duty to please your spouse sexually. "Let the husband fulfill his duty to his wife, and likewise also the wife to her husband. The wife does not have authority over her own body, but the husband does; and likewise also the husband does not have authority over his own body, but the wife does." Paul continues by saying, "[So] stop depriving one another" (1 Cor. 7:5). So, husbands, are you seeking to please your wives? Wives, are you seeking to please your husbands? If you are seeking your sexual satisfaction outside of the bounds of your marriage, you are on the path of marriage difficulties, because you are taking this one flesh and ripping it apart.
But, this one flesh concept goes beyond the mere sexual union. It also speaks about a union of relationship. Before Eve was created, Adam had a problem: he was alone, and it wasn’t good (Genesis 2:18). Look at Genesis 2:18, "Then the LORD God said, ‘It is not good for the man to be alone....’" The solution to this problem was to make "a helper suitable for him." One of the purposes of marriage is to help solve the problem of loneliness. This will only take place when a husband and wife form a strong companionship. They are to be best friends. If fact, did you know that the Bible sometimes uses the word "companions" to describe those who are married? In Proverbs 2:17, Solomon speaks of the adulterous woman, who "leaves the companion of her youth." In Malachi 2:14, Malachi describes "the wife of your youth" as "your companion."
Married couples, how is your relationship with each other? I want for you to think of your absolute best friend in the world. When times get difficult, to whom do you turn? When times are joyous, who is the first to hear the good news? This person should be your spouse. Husbands, is your best friend in this entire world, your wife? Wives, is your best friend in this entire world, your husband? It should be this way. Your spouse is given to you to as a companion. And when you seek a more intimate companionship with your mother or your sister or your co-worker, than you do with your spouse, you are headed for trouble in your marriage. When you seek intimacy with any one else, rather than your spouse, it’s disaster. When your bowling buddy is your best friend, you are on slippery ground.
Recently, a woman was referred to me through a friend of a friend of a friend. She called me one day on the phone and asked me if I would do marriage counseling for her and her husband. Through a series of questions, I found out that her husband has been going without her to a "Christian Counselor," who happens to be another woman. On the phone, I told this woman that this isn’t a good situation. Her husband was sharing intimate details about his marriage problems with another woman, alone. An intimacy will be created there. Even if this woman remains completely professional in her counseling, this man can’t help, but to feel some intimacy with her as she sympathizes with him. You need to be intimate with your spouse, and not with others.
I told this woman on the phone that I was certainly open to doing marriage counseling with her and her husband, but that I certainly wasn’t the best person to do so, because I didn’t know either her or her husband. I directed her back to her church where she ought to get help. She has been regularly attending a church for years. Recently, her husband has stopped going. First, I asked her if she has spoken to her pastor. She hadn’t, because her husband didn’t respect this man at all. And so, I asked her whether or not there were other married couples at her church who she and her husband respected. She said that there was one. And so I said, "Go to them. Their marriage is strong. They have demonstrated their love for you over the years, surely they can help."
And so, I say to you, if you are experiencing marriage difficulties, the best thing to do is to look around this church for a couple that you respect as being godly and mature and having a good marriage themselves. Go to them together, and seek help for your marriage difficulties. Also, if you want to be a help to Rock Valley Bible Church in cultivating strong marriages, then have a strong marriage yourself. Furthermore, be open with other families in this church. Get to know other married couples. So that when troubles begin to brew in a marriage, a struggling husband and wife just might turn to you for help.
It all begins by cultivating a one-flesh relationship with your spouse. This is done through the sexual union, the union of relationship, and thirdly, the union of purpose. In Genesis 1:28, the man and woman are to work together to subdue the earth. It isn’t to be the man doing his thing over here, and the woman doing her thing over there. It is both of them achieving the same goals together. The way in which God has established their roles in this is with the man leading and the woman helping. This was the purpose of Eve: to help Adam. Look at Genesis 2:18, "It is not good for the man to be alone; I will make him a helper suitable for him." That is, a helper, who would complement the man. It isn’t a helper who competes with the man. This is the pattern that God has given to us. If you search the rest of the Scripture, you will find that this is entirely consistent. It is the husband who lovingly leads. It is the wife who respectfully helps.
Married couples, what about your union of purpose? Is your household unified? Are you driving after the same purposes and goals? Is Christ your all? Are you seeking to live in love with one another? Are you in agreement with your roles of what you do and what you don’t do? Are you unified in the decisions that you make? Is your household running in harmony? Paul gives us one great purpose for every marriage: spiritual purity of husband and wife. In Ephesians 5. Husbands ought to be seeking the spiritual purity of their wives so that they can present her as "holy and blameless" before the Lord (Eph. 5:27). Is this taking place in your home?
Or, is your household divided? Are there things in which you disagree? Is the allocation of your financial resources causing friction? Are you satisfied with your God-given roles? Are there activities that your spouse does that you disagree with? Men, are you running your house, much like a dictator would run his country? Or, are you living "with your wives in an understanding way"? Are you granting her honor as a fellow heir of the grace of life"? (1 Pet. 3:7). Wives, are you resisting the leadership of your husband, much like terrorist rebels, looking for power? Or, are you being "submissive to your own husbands" as Peter instructs (1 Pet. 3:1)?
When your marriage is going in different directions, with different purposes and goals, you are headed for trouble. You are tearing down the one flesh that ought to be there in a marriage. A divided house will not stand!
This is what marriage has been from the beginning. It has been a one flesh union: physically, including relationship and purpose. My heart’s desire is for the marriages of Rock Valley Bible Church to be this way. Please understand that this doesn't give us a complete definition of marriage. Marriage is also sealed with a covenant. It's also a picture of the church. There are other things that a marriage ought to be. However, these items that Jesus has given us are pertinent to understand when you understand Jesus' words about divorce.
Back in Matthew 19, Jesus gives one more statement about marriage. It comes in Matthew 19:6, as Jesus comments on Genesis 1:27, "He who created them from the beginning made them male and female" and on Genesis 2:24, "For this cause, a man shall leave his father and mother, and shall cleave to his wife; and the two shall become one flesh." Jesus says, ...
"Consequently they are no longer two, but one flesh. What therefore God has joined together, let no man separate" (Matt. 19:6).
c) Marriage should not be broken.
With this verse in mind, let's extend our definition of marriage to this: God's plan for marriage is one man with one woman forming a strong union for life! Jesus said that when a marriage has been formed, it ought to be for life. When God joins a man and a woman together, in sexual union, in union of relationship, in union of purpose, it shouldn’t be taken apart. When something is put together so tightly as a marriage ought to be, it should never be unraveled. It is better to chop off your hand, than it is to take apart a marriage. It is better to poke out your eye, that it is to take apart a marriage. Jesus said that these are fair game in your fight against sin if they will help you. With marriage, Jesus says the opposite. He says, "What God has joined together, let no man separate." You shouldn't separate it.
If you stick your tongue on a cold piece of metal, you might just rip a portion of your tongue off when you pull your head away. If you are working with super glue and stick your fingers together, you can easily rip a portion of your skin off your fingers. When you separate a marriage, the result is pain and anguish. Many of us in this room are aware of the pain caused by divorce. Perhaps you have experienced it yourself, or you have seen it take place in the life of others. When a man and a woman separate from one another, the results are devastating. There is often great financial hardship involved, as now there are two households to support. There is often a tremendous amount of guilt attached to those who have been divorced. They think, "If only, this." Or, "if only, that." It continues to haunt them for years. Even the children of divorced parents experience guilt, as they often think that they were the cause of their parents splitting up. There is often a sense of failure. They have let themselves down. They have let their families down. They are ashamed to associate with older friends. Relationships beyond the married couple are ripped apart. The families that have come to know and love spouses are placed in very awkward situations. You have memories together, but the divorced party is no longer part of your family. If there are any children involved, it affect their lives greatly. I read an article  this week that spoke of the effects of divorce on children. Here are some effects divorce can have on children:
- an increased likelihood of dropping out of school
- suffering depression and other mental and emotional problems
- engaging in precocious sexuality
- getting hooked on alcohol or drugs
- procreating out of wedlock
- slipping economically below the poverty line
- committing suicide
- and, last but not least, getting divorced.
If you think that it only affects children when they are young, think again. I have heard of marriages that have continued to exist, "for the sake of the children." But, once the children were gone, then the parents were divorced. his will still affect the kids. I read an article this week of a man who was 26 years old when his parents divorced. Twenty years later, this guy is still dealing with the anger that it has caused in his life. 
I’m simply telling you that divorce is devastating. Jesus tells us not to take a marriage apart. If you do, you will suffer for it. Next week, we will see what Jesus says about divorce. The teaching of Jesus here about marriage is for our good. God created marriage to be for one man with one woman forming a strong union for life.
I'm reminded of a page I read from a cookbook magazine. It gives a recipe for a happy marriage:
Take two happy people -- one male and one female --
Mix together, then thoroughly sift in daily life. Strain
May God have His favor upon our marriages at Rock Valley Bible Church. May they be one-flesh unions that are pleasing to Him.
This sermon was delivered to Rock Valley Bible Church on
August 1, 2004 by Steve Brandon.
For more information see www.rvbc.cc.
 "Deadly Divorce," by John J. DiIulio, National Review, April 7, 1977, p. 39.
 "Adrift after my parents' divorce," by Mark Morrison, USA Weekend, Sept. 20-22, 1996, p. 20.