31 “It has been said, ‘Anyone who divorces his wife must give her a certificate of divorce.’ 32 But I tell you that anyone who divorces his wife, except for sexual immorality, makes her the victim of adultery, and anyone who marries a divorced woman commits adultery.
It is important to understand the context when Jesus gives this teaching on divorce. As one commentator puts it, “The divorce debate in Jewish circles in Jesus' day pitted the followers of Hillel against those of his rival, Shammai. Hillel took a more liberal view, permitting divorce in a variety of circumstances, even if the wife spoiled a meal! Shammai permitted it, only in the case of adultery.” So, when Jesus makes these statements, he is protecting women from the prevailing practices justified by a distortion of the Jewish law, while also uplifting the sanctity of marriage. It seems as though Jesus makes an exception for divorce in the case of sexual immorality. Note, Matthew’s gospel is the only one that makes this exception, Mark and Luke don’t! Bottom line: Jesus saw that divorce had become a convenience, and the covenant of marriage subsequently had become trivialized. Do you think we see the same issue today? Marriages are under terrible pressure today. Take time during Lent if you are married to spend time praying and sharing your heart with your spouse.
Jesus, thank you for the gift of marriage for those who you have called to marry. Help us to commit to our marriages knowing that marriage is similar to our covenant relationship with you. Amen.