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."
These religious leaders were very sure of themselves. But Jesus told them plainly that they weren't helping people find happiness; not in marriage, not in the rest of their lives. I know it sounds cool that Jesus was teaching about S - E - X but we do have to take His teaching about S - E - X seriously. At that time He was teaching the religious leaders to read God's law as the way to happiness, instead of trying to find ways to undo marriages and allow people to get divorced. This missed what God wants - happiness for married people. He wasn't denying that marriages can be miserable. But you don't help people when you only see the negatives, the don'ts. The don'ts help us see God's purpose. The don'ts are not that purpose. Maybe the Jewish religious leaders who came to Jesus were feeling just a twinge guilty - but Jesus suggested that their focus was wrong.
It was because of your hardness of heart that Moses wrote this law, Jesus replied, but from the beginning God made them male and female. For this reason a man leaves his father and mother and is united to his wife, so the two become one flesh. So they are no longer two, but one. So what God joins together as one, let man not separate.
Jesus says divorce is a disaster but He did not stop at focusing on disasters. He realised that people in disasters need God's help if they are ever to get over it. Put it this way: marriage can only go terribly wrong because it is such a wonderful gift to begin with. Jesus encouraged them to think about God's purposes; He made us male and female. God wants men and women to be happy in the life God gives. Marriage is given to enrich our lives. But He doesn't give it to a man and a woman separately; He gives it to them together. Marriage is about a woman and a man being together.
The Pharisees referred to Moses as if divorce was something men did to their wives, something a man does when his marriage hits rock bottom; when his marriage has become a disaster. I have a hunch that in the crowd listening on that day were many women who had been divorced, and I think that Jesus' answer on that day was clear to them as it has been to divorced men and women disciples ever since. Divorce is a disaster for marriage; yes, but in God's eyes it is as much a break between the wife and her husband as it is between the husband and his wife. And God is still there with His purposes unchanged helping us to get over such disasters when they hit.
Marriage is God's gift. But Jesus' reply means that the Pharisees' view of divorce had turned marriage into a curse. These religious leaders saw many women following Jesus. He was teaching them then that God's Kingdom brings healing and forgiveness. This made the religious leaders jealous. As professionals they saw Jesus as a threat to their control over Israel's women. But when Jesus taught it became clear that women have an important role in God's Kingdom. The law is not there so men can organise women or women men. It is God's purpose that men serve women and women serve men. The law is there to show us how that can be done.
The Pharisees tried to test Jesus - by the end of that discussion the crowd knew that the religious leaders had been tested. And for that test they hadn't got a very high score. Jesus' explanation of the law helped His disciples see that the law can be broken by women, just as much by men. As much by Herodias as by Phillip and Herod.
But that also means that when a man and a woman get married they are committing themselves to work together to enjoy their marriage. Together.