The gospel we have heard from Mark does not make for comfortable reading, especially by the time Jesus is alone with the disciples and doesn’t hold back.
I would be amazed if there was anyone in this place who was not, in some way, affected by divorce; in their own lives, in the lives of family members or friends, colleagues or neighbours.
The impact of broken relationships and divorce is far reaching.
Divorce in dire circumstances can reestablish security and a sense of self, but much more often, and even in such cases, is devastating for all involved.
Indeed, divorce is so prevalent in our experience that this passage can feel out of touch – an impossible standard.
What might we gain from it today?
I believe that what we have here is a clash of realities.
It is not that Jesus is ignoring the reality of broken relationships and human struggles.
Rather he is showing a different, brighter reality.
He knows, as Moses had, that we struggle and we have to find ways to contain and control our brokenness, but that is not the reality that Jesus came to bring.
Those struggles and brokenness are the second best reality that we so often experience.
The commandment Moses gave was to accommodate this second best reality,
the hard hearts and the brokenness.
However, Jesus came to bring in a new reality –
the Kingdom of God.
A Kingdom of reconciliation, wholeness and peace.
The new reality of soft, open, healed hearts.
Jesus’ is a challenge to not settle for the second best reality, but to lift our eyes to see God’s reality, revealed to us through Christ.
We accommodate brokenness, but strive for wholeness.
We could summarise this in the phrase from Hebrews:
‘we do not yet see everything in subjection
(our second best reality)
but we do see Jesus’
(God’s reality – the Kingdom of God)
Sometimes the damage and pain of our relationships can feel overwhelming.
This new reality can feel like a pipe dream.
But we are assured that it is done.
It is not always our experience, but the Kingdom of God has been inaugurated through and in Jesus Christ. Again, as we heard in Hebrews, Jesus sat down.
The job is done.
The Kingdom of God, the Kingdom of wholeness, healing and reconciliation is, yes, a future hope,
but more than that, it is a present reality worth striving for.
So, how do we shift our focus from our second best reality to this new reality?
Well, Jesus gives us a visual aid.
A child looks upon the world with wonder.
They are less likely to have been damaged by their relationships.
They are not yet cynical.
Their hearts are not hardened in order to protect themselves.
They tend to think that they, and those around them are brilliant.
They are creative, imaginative and open.
I could go on, and I encourage you, throughout this week, to consider what it is that we can learn from children about living in the Kingdom of God.
The question of the Pharisees to Jesus is actually secondary.
Jesus gets to the crux of the question;
Are you settling for your second best reality, or do you have your eyes on the new reality – the Kingdom of God?
I pray that we would all have the humility and courage to learn from little children some of the wonder and simplicity of life in the reality of God.