Some Pharisees came and tested him by asking, "Is it lawful for a man to divorce his wife?" "What did Moses command you?" he replied. They said, "Moses permitted a man to write a certificate of divorce and send her away." "It was because your hearts were hard that Moses wrote you this law," Jesus replied. "But at the beginning of creation God `made them male and female.' `For this reason a man will leave his father and mother and be united to his wife, and the two will become one flesh.' So they are no longer two, but one. Therefore what God has joined together, let man not separate." When they were in the house again, the disciples asked Jesus about this. He answered, "Anyone who divorces his wife and marries another woman commits adultery against her. And if she divorces her husband and marries another man, she commits adultery."
It isn't easy being Jesus' student. Remember what He taught about following Him? Anyone coming after me must deny himself and take up his cross (8:34). This is no "easy peesy" school. The test of whether we are members of this school is in whether we are willing to follow Our Teacher all the way! That is also the test of whether we understand how to find a happy life.
There were many in the crowds who thought that Jesus might be their leader. Those who wanted to fight saw Jesus as their man. The open-air crowds that followed Him were convincing proof that He should be on their side. Some, I guess, hated the Romans so much that they would have been almost glad about John's death - after all, it strengthened their campaign. There were also spies reporting to the priests and the religious leaders. They noted who was there and what Jesus taught. They looked for evidence. A group of women in support of Jesus and His disciples were also there, quietly going about their work. And there were also other disciples. Jesus taught all who came to hear Him.
My hunch is that the religious leaders and teachers noticed all the women and children coming to hear Rabbi Jesus and they were jealous. They decided to test Him. They tried to enforce many of their rules about family life, marriage and what we would call love. Today we might say that they wanted to test Jesus about SEX. Some Pharisees came and tested him by asking, "Is it lawful for a man to divorce his wife?" "What did Moses command you?" he replied. It was God who forbade adultery and that was why John the Baptist spoke out against Herod who had taken his brother's wife to his palace to share his bed. The religious rulers hadn't spoken out about this, and they seem to have remained silent when John was imprisoned. But that didn't stop them now from testing Jesus on this about divorce. They wanted to prove to the people that they had Moses on their side. Maybe also they could get Jesus to say something that would get Him into trouble, just like John. Jesus knew they were fakes. He answered with a question of His own. What did Moses say on this matter? They replied that Moses allowed a man to write a certificate of divorce and send her away.
The way the religious leaders tested Jesus left open the possibility that God's law would have been satisfied if certificates of divorce had been written when Phillip let his wife, Herodias, go and live with Herod. But in that case John would have protested all the more! Phillip, Herod and Herodias, were all involved in flouting God's law. In God's eyes Phillip was just as guilty as the frantic couple.
The interesting thing of course is that Jesus makes this quite plain even though He does not utter a word about the events that led to John's imprisonment, and He doesn't mention Herod, Herodias or even John the Baptist on this occasion. Even though He was in Judea, He understood the situation and avoided the traps set by these devious questions of the religious leaders. They wanted to prove they could trap Him, but they failed.
Jesus turned their argument completely around. His answer assumes that God's law is for God's people, helping parents and children experience God's goodness. He helped those listening to face the problems they were having in their families and in their marriages. He encouraged His disciples because He taught the "don'ts" of the law in a way that helped them see God's purposes; the negatives were placed in the context of the positives. He did this for the religious leaders, reminding them of God's goodness and love, if they had ears to hear. Their questions had made God's law for family life a matter of "don't do this" and "don't do that". They completely forgot that God the Father gives children to their parents, and parents to their children because He delights in us being happy with each other.