Supposedly a reporter once caught president Calvin Coolidge on the way out of church. He shouted a question: Mr. President, what did the preacher talk about? The president was famously a man of few words. “Sin” was the monosyllabic response. The reporter followed up, “What did he say about sin?” “He’s against it,” was the only reply.
Jesus has been talking a great deal about sin the last few weeks and this week is no different. Jesus is clearly against sin. Yet, we need to remember that Jesus’ opposition to sin means not hellfire alone but first a cross and forgiveness. If you read this whole section of Mark, you can see why Mark might have bunched these sayings of Jesus about sin together. Starting in chapter 8, again in 9 and again in 10, three times, Jesus predicts his betrayal, death, and resurrection. As many have noted, these predictions and their fulfillment are the core, the central pillar of Mark’s Gospel.
Jesus hates sin. He hates it so much he went to a cross to die for it, to make it right. We make this into a moral question at our peril. He is death on divorce because of what divorce does to people, not because it violates some moral precept. The precept is there to protect people. How often we get this upside down and end up looking like those disciples who would keep the children from the master, rebuking when we should be consoling and pushing away when we should be welcoming. Jesus’ problem with divorce it that destroys lives, breaks hearts, and makes a complete mess of us. The people broken by sin, all sorts of sins, find a welcome in his loving and forgiving arms. He died for them.