Proper 22 – Year B

Job 1:1; 2:1-10; Psalm 26; (or Genesis 2:18-24; Psalm 8); Hebrews 1:1-4; 2:5-12; Mark 10:2-16

“When people get married because they think it’s a long-time love affair, they’ll be divorced very soon, because all love affairs end in disappointment.  But marriage is a recognition of a spiritual identity.” – Joseph Campbell

                This passage on divorce is not talking about what we mean by divorce in our day.  Jesus is not telling a battered woman that she and her children must risk physical and psychological torment every day just to avoid divorce.  Often the situation in our day is that the relationship is broken in the first place, long before legal proceedings.  The legal divorce by mutual consent is after the fact, and not the actual problem.  The Pharisees in today’s Gospel are questioning Jesus about divorce law not because they wanted to learn from him.  They already knew the legal answer.  They wanted to test him (Mark 10:2), trip him up, and embarrass him.   They ask a legal question, which he ignores.  Jesus gives a spiritual answer defending belittled women.  In those days under Jewish law only men could initiate divorce proceedings, and for any frivolous matter like burning dinner, or being boring.  There was no mutual consent.  The woman had no rights.  She was property. (see Greek below)  If she was dismissed her family would be embarrassed to take her back.  She probably had to live in dire poverty, or resort to prostitution to survive.  In those days there were certainly good marriages.  However, the law lacked any awareness that marriage is a spiritual identity, not a property business deal.  So Jesus by-steps the law and tells what God intends.  The deeper implications here go beyond marriage.  We each have a spiritual identity with all people.  How easily do we dismiss anyone for our small petty reasons?


                The word “divorce” used several times in this passage literally in Greek means to dismiss or send away.  The woman is expelled.  In Mark 10:4 the word literally means abandonment.  This was the man’s, not the woman’s prerogative.  Mark 10:12 suggest that the woman could divorce the man.  This was true in Roman law but not in Jewish law.  Mark 10:7 speaks of “his wife.”   In Greek it literally says “his woman,” expressing the situation in that culture of property rights.


Like air we breathe in,

two no longer but all one,

one God bonded we.