This Momentary Marriage. A Parable of Permanence. By John Piper.

This Momentary Marriage. A parable of permanence.

By John Piper.

Jesus draws three conclusions in Mark 10:8–9. He says (1) in verse 8, “So they are no longer two but one flesh.” In other words, since God said in Genesis 2:24, “They shall become one flesh,” therefore Jesus concludes for his day and ours: “So they are [now] no longer two but one flesh.” Marriage is that kind of union—very profound, just as Christ and the church are one body (Rom. 12:5).

Then (2) the second conclusion Jesus draws is that this union of one flesh is the creation—the work—of God, not man. He says in verse 9, “What therefore God has joined together . . .” So even though two humans decide to get married, and a human pastor or priest or justice of the peace or some other person solemnizes and legalizes the union, all of that is secondary to the main actor, namely, God. “What God has joined together . . .” God is the main actor in the event of marriage.

Then (3) Jesus draws the conclusion at the end of verse 9: “Let not man separate.” The word translated “man” here (“Let not man separate”) is not the word for male over against female, but the word for human over against divine. The contrast is: “If God joined the man and woman in marriage, then mere humans have no right to separate what he joined.” That’s Jesus’ third conclusion from Genesis 1–2. Since God created this sacred union with this sacred purpose to display the unbreakable firmness of his covenant love for his people, it simply does not lie within man’s rights to destroy what God created.

Jesus did not come simply to affirm the Mosaic law. He came to fulfill it in his own consuming, forgiving, justifying obedience and death, and then to take his ransomed and forgiven and justified followers into the higher standards that were really intended when all of Moses is properly understood.

Empty promises.

In the silence of harsh words unspoken
The air grows thick with empty noise,
Frozen smiles tell a lie, as little ones giggle on cue,

A house full of stuff that will never make a home,
Collecting dust and resentment.

A melancholic kind of joy breaks my heart, while it aches for a time gone by and one that may still be,

Caught between the past and the future, there’s no time for the present,

Meanwhile, the play goes on.

A pound of flesh.

A pound of flesh.

The pound of flesh, which I demand of him,
Is dearly bought; ’tis mine, and I will have it:
If you deny me, fie upon your law!
There is no force in the decrees of Venice:
I stand for judgment: answer, shall I have it? (Act 4, Scene 1. Merchant of Venice)

The courtroom scene in The Merchant of Venice gives a compelling account of the human condition as it highlights the hypocrisies of religion and the law. Although Shylock seems to be getting a fair trial, he’s already condemned, as the court makes a mockery of words like mercy and justice. Shakespeare’s courtroom scene vividly paints a picture of man’s pride, life’s injustices and the consequences of being unable to forgive.

Obviously, Shylock endured much persecution, pain and degradation at the hands of Antonio and the Christian Venetians and undoubtedly, we are able to empathise with his hurt and desire for justice and revenge. We see in Shylock a picture of a man who has been hard done by for much of his life. Despised by men and even by his own daughter, he’s marred with bitterness, pride and vengeance. Justifiable though he may be, he’s not entirely innocent.

As much as it’s possible to understand Shylock, we are torn between seeing him get his pound of flesh and waiting with bated breath for him to show some semblance of mercy. We want him to rise above his circumstances, forgive the Venetians and accept the offer from Antonio. We plead for him to prove himself better before the court and the audience, to extend the virtues of forgiveness, humility, kindness and mercy.

We often see this scene played out daily in our own lives. We’ve all seen people unable to forgive, hardened by anger and vengeance. Bitterness, pride and hatred are like scars on their faces. I’ve seen it in my children when they fight, in my family and amongst friends. We all want our day in court, revenge…. a pound of flesh. Alas! The reality is, life simply is not fair. The courts get it wrong many times; people make mistakes and accidents happen. I almost killed a boy today, or at least very nearly seriously injured him. Thank God, I was driving less than the speed required. Had I been going just 5km faster, instead of him bumping me, it could’ve been me running him down and over. I couldn’t even imagine what it would feel like to live with the guilt of taking someone’s life, let alone a child’s life. How could his family ever forgive me? How would I forgive myself? There are people who live with that kind of guilt for much of their lives. Forgiveness frees us of such unproductive and destructive emotions.

We have all been hurt and we have all at some point, caused pain in others. The fact is, no one is better than the other, there is no one innocent before God. Just like the Venetians who backed Shylock into a corner and Shylock who lashed out from his corner wielding a knife. We are all just a bunch of filthy, rotten sinners in need of a Savior. A Savior who will whisper, “Forgive them, for they know not what they do.” “Love your enemies and pray for those who use you and persecute you.” Liberating advice, loving advice, gracious, humble, life-giving advice.

Eventually, we see Shylock’s relentless pursuit of justice and revenge come to a bitter end. He is brought to an excruciatingly painful low, forced into submission and humiliated in the presence of his enemies. We walk away from this scene with genuine sorrow in our hearts for the man. But we walk away knowing that the day will soon come when we all shall see justice. A day when we all stand before the true judge to give an account for every word spoken and every dirty deed done in darkness. Until that day comes, do justly, love mercy and walk humbly with your God.

“He has showed you, O man, what is good; and what does the Lord require of you, but to do justly and to love mercy, and to walk humbly with your God?” (Micah 6:8)
Matthew 5:44 (NKJV)
Luke 23:34 (NKJV)