To read the texts click on the texts: Jos 24:1-13; Mt 19:3-12
The context of today’s reading is immediately after Jesus has finished instructing his disciples (19:1-2) in the “Community Discourse” (18:1-35). The text is found also in Mark 10:1-12, but Matthew has made some changes to suit his purpose.
In Matthew, Jesus begins his response to the Pharisees question about the legality of divorce by going back to Genesis 1:27 and 2:24 (in Mark the quotations from Genesis come later). In Matthew, the Pharisees respond to Jesus’ quotation by citing Deut. 24:1, which allowed divorce, and this prompts Jesus to move to the situational application. The union of husband and wife is the creation of God and must be regarded as such (in Mark, they respond in this manner after a question from Jesus about what Moses commanded them).
Matthew omits 10:12 of Mark, which reflects the Gentile provision for a woman’s initiating a divorce, since this is not applicable from his Jewish perspective. Matthew adds an exception clause; “except for unchastity” as he did earlier in 5:32, and in doing so makes the teaching of Jesus, a situational application rather than a legalistic code.
19:10-12 is exclusive to Matthew, and in them Jesus responds to the comment of the disciples that it is better not to marry. Those “who are made eunuchs by men” seems to refer to the pagan practice of literal castration as a religious practice, and this is rejected by Jesus. Those “who have made themselves eunuchs for the sake of the kingdom” seems to refer to those who choose to remain celibate in order to concentrate more fully on the kingdom, rather than get weighed down by family cares.
No matter what state of life one chooses, one must remain faithful to one’s commitment in that state of life. The grass seems greener on the other side, but only till we go to the other side.
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