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I and Thou
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Text: Mark 10:1-16

Main Idea: Divorce and neglect of children are two ways we demonstrate our inhumanity. Jesus invites us to the kingdom practice of embracing the least of these – children, women, our spouses, our closest friends, strangers with godly compassion.

Introduction
  1. So, I was reading the news this week
    a. Another agonizing week in our beautiful and fragile world.
  2. Foley scandal – victimizing children while working to protect them
    a. One of the foremost opponents of child pornography and served at the chairman of the House Caucus on Missing and Exploited Children.
    b. Ironic, to say the least.
  3. Ten Amish children shot (ages 6-10) - five killed
    a. Sign inside the one room school house read, “Visitors bring joy to our school”
Read the text - Mark 10:1-16
  1. We’re going to start at the end and work backwards today.
    a. That is, we’re going to work from Jesus’ statement about children back to his statements about divorce.
    b. These two sections are variations on a theme and by starting with the stuff on children we can get past some of our defensiveness about marriage and divorce.
    c. There is something more going on here than just a new legalism about marriage.
    d. We need to ask ourselves, “What’s going on here?”
Embracing the Kingdom
  1. These words of Jesus come only a few verses after some very similar statements back in chapter 9 (v 36-37).
He took a little child and had him stand among them. Taking him in his arms, he said to them, ‘Whoever welcomes one of these little children in my name welcomes me; and whoever welcomes me does not welcome me but the one who sent me.’
  2. This comment from Jesus was in response to the fact that the disciples were arguing on the road about who was the greatest.
  3. The prior statement of Jesus is this:
If anyone wants to be first, he must be the very last, and the servant of all.”
  4. Then the demonstration of what he means by “very last,” he embraces a little child.
  5. And teaches the disciples, when you embrace a child, you embrace NOT JUST ME – you embrace God.
  6. Think of it!
    a. For all our sentimental notions of what it would mean to reach out to God and touch him.
    b. To feel the touch of God in our lives.
    c. To embrace God like a loving father.
  7. All these statements evoke warm feelings of deep connection with a God who loves us.
    a. But…Jesus makes concrete what too often remains an sentimental ideal.
  8. The way to embrace God is to embrace “the least” in society.
    a. In this case, Jesus holds us a child.
  9. Now we come to our passage today, in verses 13-15 of chapter 10.
    a. Children are being brought to Jesus – presumably for his blessing or maybe healing.
    b. The disciples are trying to stop the people (parents?) from doing this.
      1) I imagine the disciples reasoned that all these children being brought to Jesus was interrupting the gospel work of Jesus.
      2) Jesus is a busy man and there is no way he needs to be playing catch and ‘house’ with the children.
  10. What Jesus is saying in this passage is possibly more profound than anything he has ever said about the kingdom of God.
    a. Unless you receive the kingdom like you receive a little child, you cannot enter it.
    b. Jesus welcoming and receiving the little child epitomizes the welcome all broken and needy and marginalized people receive from God..
    c. On the other hand, Jesus is also saying, “Receive the kingdom of God when it approaches in the form of a little child.
    d. Since this is the main point Jesus is making, the children are not a distraction from the work Jesus is doing for the gospel.
      1) His receiving them and touching them IS the gospel.
Teaching About Divorce
  1. Okay, now let’s back up and take a very quick look at the divorce passage.
  2. Let’s do a quick rundown of what’s happening here.
    a. Pharisees were testing him – trying to trap him in a contradiction, most likely.
      1) Remember, by this time Jesus is persona non grata in Judea.
      2) They’d love an excuse to kill him.
    b. And who are the Pharisees again?
      1) Those for whom purity is the top priority.
      2) Through their ritual purity they will bring in the kingdom of God.
        a) This is crucial to remember.
        b Any violation of the cultic laws puts a barrier between themselves and the coming of God’s kingdom.
    c. This is why the start with the question, “Is it lawful?”
      1) This is always their question.
      2) It doesn’t matter what comes next. The key point is their question, “Is it lawful?”
    d. This time the issue is divorce, but not just divorce.
      1) Let’s let the Pharisee’s speak for themselves.
      2) Is it lawful for a man to divorce his wife?
    e. As a good rabbi, Jesus replies, “What did Moses say?”
      1) He said we could “send her away” provided we gave a certificate of divorce.
      2) Moses was actually making an improvement on the usual course of things in which a man could send his wife away for no reason.
        a) She is marked (like Scarlet Letter), can’t work, no social status.
        b) Basically homeless and in poverty.
      3) Of course, a woman could never send her husband away.
      4) That was their world.
    f. Jesus turns it back on them and says, “Because of your hard hearts Moses made an exception, but in the beginning, Moses wrote something else… (v. 6-9)
      1) Back to Genesis – man shall leave his father and mother and become one flesh with is wife.
      2) Again, focus is on man leaving his father and mother.
      3) More appropriate, perhaps, for the parents of the groom to give the groom way to the bride!
    g. Finally in the end, Jesus makes sure the disciples know that the same teaching applies to woman who would divorce her husband, but that is so rare in the ancient world as to be nearly irrelevant.
  3. The focus here is on the practice that was common in the ancient world, of the man throwing away his wife for virtually no reason.
    a. Mark makes no exceptions – the sin of adultery is laid at the feet of all who divorce and remarry
    b. But realize that the target of this is the “throw way wives” that were so common in Jesus’ world.
  4. This is not at all to say – like a new legalism – that there is never a time to walk away from a relationship that, through other forms of dehumanizing behavior, has already been decimated.
  5. But it is a serious injunction against what some have called, in our society, serial polygamy.
  6. The sacred union of husband and wife is sealed in heaven and nothing can separate them.
I and Thou
  1. These two issues are part of a larger issue in the kingdom of God.
    a. The gospel is relational, not propositional.
    b. So, we receive the kingdom or enter the kingdom as we receive or enter the friendship of God.
  2. This is both symbolized by Jesus when he embraces and welcomes the little children – the weakest members of society;
    a. It also becomes a doorway for all who would enter the kingdom.
    b. We receive the gospel by embracing/welcoming/receiving the least of these – like little children.
  3. Women were only a few steps ahead of children in the society.
  4. In contrast to the society at large, Jesus taught his disciples to enter into different relationships in His kingdom.
  5. Centuries later the Jewish philosopher, Martin Buber, would say that all existence is in relationships.
    a. Basically two types of relationships: I - It and  I - Thou.
      1) I-It describes relationships with objects and information – things I can control and manipulate
      2) I-Thou is a sacred relationship with the other.
      3) It is the way God encounters us and we encounter God.
  6. It is the basis of truly human relationships.
    a. In contrast to “sending away your wife” or driving away the little children.
  7. When we turn human relationships into an I-It relationship we strip people of their humanity and open the way to violence and abuse.
    a. These kind of relationships are prevalent in our society as well.
    b. We objectify people, treat them as objects and instruments of our goals and objectives.
    c. The moment we do this we have lost the ability to be in real relationship with people.
  8. This is why welcoming the stranger is such a central theme in Jesus teaching.
  9. Talk about making major issue out of marginal things and totally missing one of the major issues Jesus spoke about – this is one of them
    a. Welcoming the stranger – hospitality – is a central Christian practice because in this simple act of grace and humanity, the kingdom of God “happens.”
    b. We welcome God when we welcome a little child.
    c. When we refuse to cast people aside when they are no longer “useful” to us, we are beginning to understand the kingdom.
Conclusion
  1. Our world is full of pain and suffering.
    a. Violence – we must objectify people before we can do violence to them – we must see them as an “it”
  2. In the kingdom of God we are called to relate to people as “the other.”
    a. Gap cannot be closed.
    b. It is integral to our nature – our humanity – that we are always the other to each other.
    c. Even realize that we ourselves are the other to ourselves.
  3. When we try to close that gap – we try to make someone else like us – to reduce the irreducible distance between ourselves – we open the way to dehumanizing abuse and violence.
  4. Jesus invites us to this kingdom practice of embracing the least of these – children, women, our spouses, our closest friends, strangers.
    a. Imagine a church, as a space that we hold for others to be the other in our midst.
    b. To welcome the other, the stranger, the children
    c. And as people experience our welcome – the space we hold for them – they experience the welcome of God.

Submitted by Ryan J. Bell. Better Sermons © 2005-2007. Click here for usage guidelines.



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