October 07, 2018

Rev. Mark F. Bartels


Old Testament Lesson; Genesis 2:18-24

Epistle Lesson; Hebrews 2:9-11                             

Sermon Text; Mark 10:2-16


We all come from a wide range of households, here.  Some are single.  Some are widowed, or widowers.  Some are from broken homes.  Some are from married homes.  It is so important for all of us to hear what God has to say about the basic building block of society. That is the gift of marriage. 

Let's read from Mark, chapter ten, verses two through sixteen.  This is in Jesus' name.


Some Pharisees came to test Him and asked, “Is it lawful for a man to divorce his wife?”

He replied, 'What did Moses command you?”
They said, “Moses permitted a man to write a certificate of divorce and send her away.”
But Jesus told them, “He wrote this command for you because of your hard hearts.  But from the beginning of creation, God made them male and female.  For this reason a man will leave his father and mother and be joined to his wife, and the two will become one flesh.  So they are no longer two but one flesh.  Therefore, what God has joined together, let no one separate.”'

In the house His disciples asked Him about this again.  He said to them, “Whoever divorces his wife and marries another commits adultery against her.  If she divorces her husband and marries another, she commits adultery.”


(I am going to end our text there, because then Jesus goes on to a different subject.)


These are your words Heavenly Father.  Lead us in the way of truth.  Your Word is truth.



Several years ago, my oldest son, Matt, was planning his wedding.  His wife-to-be lived in the area of Mankato, MN.  And so, they decided they were going to get married at Bethany Lutheran College Chapel.  It is a beautiful chapel.  Sherri and I were very excited for them. 

And then, Matt asked me if I would officiate at the wedding.  That is such a joy to be the father, and officiate at your own son's wedding! 

Finally, Matt asked me, “Dad, could you help me pick out some hymns we could sing at the wedding?”
I said, “Sure, I would love to do that.”  So, I got out the red hymnbook that we use in our worship service.  I found some hymns I thought would be very appropriate for a wedding.  I wrote down the hymn numbers, and sent them to him in an email.  I told him what the titles were, and what they were about.

He sent an email back, with which hymn numbers he had picked.  They were some great hymns. 

Next, I put together the service guide. 

And then came the night of the rehearsal.  We all showed up at Bethany Chapel, and had this wonderful rehearsal. 

When the rehearsal was over, the organist yelled down from the top of the Choir Chamber, Are you sure you want to sing hymn number 332, as the last hymn?” 

Now, in our red hymnbook, hymn number 332's title is, Go My Children, with My Blessing.  What a great way to end a wedding, and begin a marriage, where God says, “Go my children with my blessing.” 

However, I forgot they had a different hymnbook in that chapel, with different hymn numbers.  We opened up the hymnbook, to hymn number 332, which was the last hymn that was going to be sung at the wedding.  It is entitled, Oh Darkest Woes.  It goes on, and says, “Ye tears forth flow”. 

We all laughed, just like you laughed.  But, sometimes we laugh at things humorously, because there is some subtle truth to them.  You know, weddings can begin as wonderful occasions.  But, some time in a marriage it can turn from this wonderful blessing to a man and woman looking at each other, and saying, “Oh darkest woe.”  Things have gotten hard, and difficult, “And now, what do we do?” 

Pastors have this book called, Sermon Texts.  Here is what it does.  It takes you through what the sermon texts are for every Sunday of the church year.  It will list the Bible reading, and then it will have a brief summary of what that Bible reading is about.  Those Bible readings are all supposed to tie together, somehow.

A couple weeks ago, I wanted to know, “What am I going to be preaching on, for what is called Pentecost 20?  What are the sermon texts?”  

So, I looked at the Bible reading from Genesis two.  It says beside that, “God institutes marriage.” 

I thought, “Oh, I bet all of these readings are going to be about marriage.”

The second reading, from The Gospel, Mark ten, says, “Marriage and divorce.” 

So, I thought, “OK, they are all going to be about marriage.” 

Then came the third reading, The Epistle Lesson from Hebrews two.  Here is the heading behind that one.  “Made perfect through suffering.” 

Again, there is this thought that marriage can be a great blessing, but we can get to the point in marriage, where we do feel like, “Oh this is darkest woe.  I am going through suffering.  I don't know if I made a mistake.  Did I marry the right person?  Is it worth hanging in there?  Should I think about calling this quits?” 

Christians go through those thoughts, too.  Somebody once came to Jesus, and they addressed that very topic.  I want you to see how Jesus talks about it.  It says in our text, “Some Pharisees came to Him to test Him...”  Now, when they tested Jesus, they were trying to trap Him.  They were trying to trip Him up, so they could expose Him as a fraud.  They came to Him with a question.  The question was a simple question. 

“Is it lawful for a man to divorce his wife?” 

These Pharisees thought there would be one of two answers.  In their day, there was a debate.  Some Rabbis taught it is legal to divorce your wife, if and only if she has done something indecent. 

Other Rabbis’ interpretation was it is legal to divorce your wife for any reason.  If she looks at you funny in the morning, you can divorce her. 

So, now they come to Jesus and they want to find out, “Where do you stand on this Jesus?”  They thought, “No matter what He says, we are going to trip Him up, somehow.”  

Jesus, knowing what they were thinking, wanted to take them back to scripture.  It says,

“He replied, 'What did Moses command you?” 

He knew their thoughts were based on something Moses had said in Deuteronomy, chapter twenty seven. 

And so, they respond,

“Moses permitted a man to write a certificate of divorce and send her away.” 

And, in Deuteronomy, chapter twenty seven, in fact, that is what Moses does. 

Then, listen to how Jesus responds. 

“But Jesus told them, 'He wrote this command for you because of your hard hearts.'” 

Jesus is there saying, “When God originally created marriage, He created this wonderful blessing.  Something happened.  That is sin entered the world.” 

Sin can destroy, and devastate relationships.  Some people, in marriage relationships, are so destroyed, so devastated, and at times so unwilling to listen to the Will of God, that Moses made a concession.  The concession was that there could be times when it was permissible to get a divorce. 

But now, Jesus says, “If we really want to understand God's Will for marriage, and married couples, we need to go back to the beginning.”

Jesus is going to take us back to Genesis, chapter two.  He says, “But from the beginning of creation, God made them male and female.  For this reason a man will leave his father and mother and be joined to his wife, and the two will become one flesh.  So they are no longer two but one flesh.” 

And then, listen.  Here is Jesus' answer to the question:  “Is it ok to get a divorce?” 

“Therefore, what God has joined together,

let no one separate.” 

So, He is saying marriage is for life, because God joins us together. 

Then, His disciples ask Him more about it, when they got into a house.  He said,

“Whoever divorces his wife and marries another

commits adultery against her. 

If she divorces her husband and marries another,

she commits adultery.” 

So, Jesus is saying it is God's intent that when a man and woman get married, they stay married the rest of their lives. 

Now, in Matthew, chapter five, Jesus does give an exception to that.  The exception is, if a spouse commits adultery, then God permits divorce.  And, in 1 Corinthians, chapter seven, The Bible gives another exception to that.  That is, if an unbelieving spouse leaves, or deserts (we also call the malicious desertion), it is permissible to get a divorce.  But, other than that, Jesus says when you are married, it is for life. 

Which then gets back to those Oh Darkest Woe moments.  So, what are you to do, if you are married, and you don't have a legitimate reason for divorce, according to scripture, and you are asking yourself the questions: “Did I make a big mistake?  Do I want to stay married to this person the rest of my life?  They have all kinds of idiosyncrasies I never knew they were going to have.  They have all kinds of bizarre character flaws.  They hurt my feelings.  This is going to be hard, with suffering.  What am I going to do for the rest of my life?” 

I am going to tell you something.  I believe God always loves us, and wants to protect us.  If there is any place where you really find what it means to not just 'talk the talk' about Christianity, but 'walk the walk', it is when you get married, and marriage gets hard.  'Talking the talk' of Christianity is this.  “God loves us.”  “God is merciful to us.”  “God forgives us.”  “God wants us to love one another.”  “God wants us to forgive one another.”  That is 'talking the talk'. 

'Walking the walk' is putting that in to practice. 

-'Walking the walk' is when it is hard to love somebody, but you do it, anyway. 

-'Walking the walk' is when it is hard to forgive somebody, you forgive, anyway. 

-'Walking the walk' is being merciful to somebody who doesn't deserve your mercy. 

And, I believe one of the beautiful things about a Christian marriage is that it is one of the most powerful places where Christians get to not just 'talk the talk', but really 'walk the walk'.  This is what it means to be a Christian.  This is how it unfolds in real life.  Spouses can grow closer and closer, because of that.

Let's just walk through, again, what Jesus says.  He says, “At the beginning, The Creator made them male and female.”  So, here Jesus is telling us that, number one, there is no such thing as evolution. 

-God created us. 

-We are made by intelligent design. 

This intelligent designer, who is all loving, all powerful, and all knowing created us differently.  At the beginning, He made male and female, all out of His loving, masterful design.  We are made differently.  We are anatomically different, and there are other differences about us.  God did that, because He loves us, and He wanted to create companionship, this beautiful unity of companionship between a man and a woman.  If anybody ever tells you Jesus never said anything about homosexuality, here He makes it clear marriage is between a man and a woman. 

Then, Jesus goes on and says,

“For this reason a man will leave his father and his mother

and be joined to his wife...”  

I am going to tell you one of the most thought provoking moments in a wedding for me.  (I have done a number of weddings, a lot of weddings.)  It is when the dad walks his daughter down the aisle.  And, when they get right to this spot where the groom is waiting for his bride, I can see this in the look of Dad's eyes, often.  This is the moment when Dad takes his daughter's hand, and puts it into somebody else's hand.  Do you know what is happening right then?  Without saying any words, that dad is saying, “Honey, I have loved you, cared for you, prayed for you, and done whatever I could for you.  I have spent sleepless nights for you, to take care of you, watch over you, and provide for you, whether it was emotionally, physically, or spiritually.  I have done that all of these years, and now Honey, I am turning that over to somebody else.  And, I am trusting.  I am trusting the hand that I just put yours into, he is going to do a good job.  He is going to love you.  He is going to provide for you.  He is going to care for you.  He is going to watch over you physically, emotionally, spiritually.” 

At that point, there is a changing of the guard.  That young man, all of a sudden, takes on a new vocation, a new calling in life.  He becomes a husband. 

She also takes on a new vocation.  She becomes a wife. 

And so, Jesus says,

“...a man will leave his father and mother

and be joined to his wife...” 

And so now, primary relationships change.  Now the primary relationship is between that man and that woman.  They are to care for, watch over, and provide for one another physically, spiritually, and emotionally.

Jesus goes on and says,

“But from the beginning of creation, God made them male and the female.  For this reason a man will leave his father and mother and be joined to his wife...” 

And then Jesus said,

“...and the two, the two become one flesh.”

I am going to read a simple, little, summary from Martin Luther, because he says it so plainly here about “two becoming one”.  “Everything the husband has also now belongs to his wife.  Not only do they share their assets, but they share their children.  They share their income.  They share their food.  They share their drink.  They share their bed.  They share their home.  Besides that, there could be one in mind, and one in spirit.  The only difference between a husband and a wife is in their anatomy, otherwise than that, they are the same.  Because of this, whatever the husband has, or owns also belongs to his wife.  Whatever the wife has, or owns also belongs to her husband.  The two become one flesh.” 

Then, Jesus says,

“Therefore, what God has joined together,

let no one separate.”  

This is that awesome moment in a wedding ceremony, because Jesus says this is for life.  God joins you together.  This is His institution, His estate of marriage. 

And so, we begin a wedding service this way. 

“Marriage is not to be entered in to inadvisably, or lightly, but deliberately, reverently, and in accordance with the purposes for which God has instituted it.” 

We talk about God's purposes in marriage.  Then, at a certain point in that wedding service, we will say,

“Repeat after me, 'I, so and so take you, so and so to be my husband, or my wife.  To have and to hold from this day forward, for better for worse, for richer for poorer, in sickness and in health, to love and to cherish, until death parts us.” 

That is the Christian picture of marriage.

Which gets us back to those Oh Darkest Woe days, when you are married to somebody, and it is hard.  This is where Christianity is not just 'talking the talk', but it becomes 'walking the walk'.  I want to talk about four aspects of love that are so critical in a Christian marriage.  This is all because Jesus loves us this way.  Did you know the Bible says we are “the bride of Christ”?  He is like the groom, and we are like His bride.  Because Jesus loves us this way, we want to model this in our marriages - these four things.

        -His love for us is unmistakable.

        -It is sacrificial.

        -It is knowledgeable.

        -It is consistently unconditional.

Jesus' love for us is unmistakable.  We can be a very unlovable bride to Jesus, can't we?  We make lots of mistakes.  We do lots of stupid things.  We have lots of character flaws.  If you ever wonder if Jesus loves you, His love for you is unmistakable. 

How do you know that?  All you have to do is look at the blood stained cross.  You know, in no uncertain terms that Jesus loves you unmistakably.  Look at what He did for you.  That is what we strive for, then, in our marriages, this unmistakable love, where my spouse knows I love them unmistakably. 

How does that happen? 

Love is sacrificial.  (That takes us to the second thing.)  Jesus' love for us is sacrificial.  Look at all of the needs we have.  We are fallen, broken creatures.   We sin against Him, again, and again.  We make all kinds of mistakes, and we have all kinds of problems in our lives.  But, Jesus' love for us is sacrificial.  That means He puts our best interests in our heart.  And, His actions are in accordance with our best interests.  So, Jesus was willing to suffer, even suffer the torments of Hell, in our best interest.  He paid for our sins, and every day He forgives our sins.  His love for us is sacrificial.  Our best interest is always at heart, no matter what. 

That is what Christian husbands, and wives strive for in marriage.  When it is tough, love becomes sacrificial, and it puts the other person's best interest at heart. 

Love is knowledgeable.  Jesus' love for us is knowledgeable.  We are sheep of His flock.  And, Jesus knows every one of His sheep.  We are not faceless sheep.  He says, “I call them by name.”  He knows us by name.  When Jesus hung on the cross, He didn't just die for faceless sheep, and lambs.  He looked down through the corridors of time, and He saw your face.  There on the cross, He died for you.  He knew all of your needs, all of your pains, all of your hurts, and everything that would happen to you.  His love for you is knowledgeable. 

Christian spouses strive for that love in their marriage, to know and understand their own spouse, so we can sacrificially love them.

Christ's love for us is committed and is unconditional.  Committed and unconditional.  Jesus doesn't say to you, “I will love you if... you are fun to be around, you follow me, you do the right things, you don't have any crazy character flaws, and you don't have any weird idiosyncrasies.”  If that is what Jesus said, and it was based on how we are, and how we act, He would not love us for a second.  But, that is not Jesus' love. 

Jesus' love is committed and unconditional

no matter what we do,

what we say,

how we act,

what our issues may be. 

It is unconditional.  Even if we totally stray away from Him, totally sin against Him, He is the One who leaves the ninety nine sheep, looking for that one lost sheep until He finds it.  That is the unconditional, committed love Jesus has. 

That is what we so benefit from that, and that is what we strive for.  Not just to 'talk the talk', but 'walk the walk' in Christian living, and love our spouse with total commitment, and unconditionally. 

I want you to hear this from Martin Luther.  “To recognize the estate of marriage (So, by an estate of marriage, he means you understand this is a God given role God has placed you in.) is something quite different from merely being married.  He who is married, but does not recognize the estate of marriage, cannot continue in wedlock without bitterness, drudgery and anguish.  He will inevitably complain, and blaspheme like the pagans, blind, irrational men.  But, he who recognizes the estate of marriage will find there in delight, love, and joy without end.”

So we believe when those times of Oh Darkest Woe come in a marriage, Christian husband and wife, devoted to Jesus, knowing the love of Jesus, strive for that sacrificial, knowledgeable, unconditional love.  God can take those marriages, and make them stronger, and stronger, and bring great powerful blessings in families.

If you are in one of those Oh Darkest Woe moments in your marriage, and you have tried, but you are wondering, “What do I do?”  Please remember the Lord gives you resources.  He gives you a Christian church, and Christian pastors for a reason.  And, please know, if you need to talk to a pastor, Pastor Tweit and I are always open and available.  We are not therapists, but we can show you what the Bible says about Christian love, Christian commitment,  Christian forgiveness, and roles of husband and wife.  God can use those things to take struggling marriages, and turn them into blessed marriages. 

We all come from many different backgrounds here. 

-Some from broken homes.  And maybe, they were broken for wrong reasons, but thank God we have a Savior who dearly loves us, and forgives us. 

-Some from broken homes for legitimate reasons.  Thank God we have a Savior, who restores, and builds up. 

-Some are single.  The Bible tells us you can commit to the work of the Lord.  And certainly, if you long to be married, pray that God will lead you to a Christian spouse. 

-Some are married.  The Lord loves you.

Our prayer is that all of us hear the Word of our Lord say, “Go my children, with my blessing”, because He is here to bless us.