As we study the Sermon on the Mount, we’re learning how to be human by thinking God’s thoughts and taking on His ways. This includes His thoughts on marriage and covenantal commitment.
In this episode, Whit and Casey discuss interpreting difficult passages, covenantal commitment, and how marriage should look in the Kingdom of Jesus.
At first glance, passages where Jesus addresses marriage and divorce are confusing at best and harsh at worst. It’s important to remember that Jesus’ teachings on marriage were not delivered in a vacuum. He addressed a specific audience grappling with complex social, cultural, and ethical dilemmas. By examining the context in which Jesus spoke, we gain deeper insights and can apply the truth of Scripture with wisdom.
In Matthew 19, the Pharisees press Jesus on His interpretation of Deuteronomy 24 by asking, “Is it lawful for a man to divorce his wife for any and every reason?” (Matthew 19:3).
Jesus responds by quoting Genesis 2:24:
“Haven’t you read,” he replied, “that at the beginning the Creator ‘made them male and female,’ and said, ‘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 flesh. Therefore what God has joined together, let no one separate” (Matthew 19:4-6).
Jesus is elevating marriage to its full, complete form, pointing them back to what God had in mind from the very beginning––the ideal.
Let’s look at four key ways Jesus elevates our view of marriage.
Marriage is more than a legal contract, a tax status, or a social status – it’s God joining husband and wife together. There is a spiritual bond, a mystical union that we don’t fully understand.
The word sacred means holy, set apart, having a specific purpose. By embracing the sacredness of marriage, we acknowledge the spiritual dimension of this union. It’s a recognition that, in the eyes of God, marriage is not merely a human invention but a sacred reflection of His eternal love and grace.
In the Sermon on the Mount, Jesus is speaking to people who are a part of His kingdom. He’s saying, if you’re moving toward me, this is how you should live.
Marriage points to God’s commitment to His people. All throughout the Old Testament, God refers to himself as Israel’s husband and Israel as His unfaithful bride. He comes to the brink of divorce multiple times but stays committed, giving us the ultimate example of covenant commitment.
Paul amplifies this in Ephesians 5, drawing a parallel between the relationship of a husband and wife and the relationship between Christ and the church. Husbands are called to love their wives as Christ loved the church—selflessly, sacrificially, and unconditionally. Likewise, wives are called to respect and honor their husbands.
There is a deep hypocrisy in the church treating marriage as the world does. Living as a member of Jesus’ Kingdom often looks like living counter to the way of broader culture. Imagine what a witness it would be to God’s faithfulness if we could be a community that revered marriage as Jesus does.
In a world of romcoms and romance novels, we often look at society’s portrayal of love and think that’s the ideal. If our relationships fall short of these rose-colored portrayals, we think something must be wrong.
Our cultural idea of love is mutual attraction and a tool for self-actualization and happiness. This is not to say we shouldn’t have attraction and passion in our marriage, but if the emotions of love are the basis upon which a marriage rests, when the feelings go, there’s no choice but for the marriage to end.
That’s why we have to continually make sure we are looking to the truth of Scripture to remember what true, biblical love and commitment looks like.
Marriage calls us to embody “hesed”—a steadfast, sacrificial love that transcends fleeting emotions and selfish desires.
On our wedding day, we make a solemn vow—a vow to love, honor, and cherish our spouse for better or for worse, for richer or for poorer, in sickness and in health. It’s a covenantal commitment rooted in the profound understanding that true fulfillment lies not in the pursuit of happiness but in the selfless pursuit of God’s kingdom.
At the heart of the Gospel lies a message that is both scandalous and offensive. It is a message that declares that resurrection is always preceded by crucifixion—that true life emerges from the ashes of self-denial and sacrifice. In a culture that exalts personal happiness above all else, this truth strikes at the very core of our desires and aspirations.
If you’re a Jesus follower, the priority is not seeking happiness but seeking first the kingdom of God. Obedience is what truly brings a fullness of joy (see John 15). And this dedication to self-sacrificial love forms us into someone more like Christ.
The story of Scripture from Genesis to Revelation is one of God pursuing a bride who does not want Him. But God is so committed to the good of His people that He sent His son to go to the lowest possible place to make it possible for us to respond. God empowers us to respond to Him in love, and He can empower us to respond to others in love.
But it’s not the only way. In Matthew 19, Jesus acknowledges that marriage might not be for everyone. Marriage forms you in the way of Jesus if you’re follow Him in the same way singleness forms you in the way of Jesus if you’re following Him.
In whatever situation you find yourself in, you can become like Christ. We will inevitably fall short of the ideal Jesus presents. But we are still called to pursue it, and He promises to fill the gap with His grace. Lean into God’s grace and trust that He is meeting you right where you’re at.