Some Pharisees came to him, and to test him they asked, 'Is it lawful for a man to divorce his wife for any cause?' He answered, 'Have you not read that the one who made them at the beginning "made them male and female", and said, "For this reason a man shall leave his father and mother and be joined to his wife, and the two shall become one flesh"? So they are no longer two, but one flesh. Therefore what God has joined together, let no one separate.' They said to him, 'Why then did Moses command us to give a certificate of dismissal and to divorce her?' He said to them, 'It was because you were so hard-hearted that Moses allowed you to divorce your wives, but at the beginning it was not so. And I say to you, whoever divorces his wife, except for unchastity, and marries another commits adultery.' His disciples said to him, 'If such is the case of a man with his wife, it is better not to marry.' But he said to them, 'Not everyone can accept this teaching, but only those to whom it is given. For there are eunuchs who have been so from birth, and there are eunuchs who have been made eunuchs by others, and there are eunuchs who have made themselves eunuchs for the sake of the kingdom of heaven. Let anyone accept this who can.'The Pharisees were trying to test Jesus to see which side of an ongoing argument he would take. One school of Rabbis (those who followed a Rabbi named Hillel) said that divorce was allowed for any and every reason. Another school (that of a Rabbi named Shammai) said it was allowed only in the case of infidelity. By asking this question, the Pharisees were trying to trick Jesus into disagreeing with Moses.
Jesus sides with the school of Shammai, but in doing so he takes the Pharisees back to the book of Genesis. So like a good Rabbi, Jesus gives a Scriptural justification for his position. Jesus' comment on Genesis is simply this: "Therefore what God has joined together, let no one separate." It has become a phrase often repeated in wedding ceremonies.
The Pharisees then ask Jesus why Moses allowed for divorce. And Jesus tells them it was because of their hard heartedness. "But," Jesus says, "In the beginning it was not so." In fact, according to the story of Adam and Eve, divorce was not even possible in the beginning. All Adam and Eve had was each other. I suppose that they could have run away from each other, but the Genesis story does not entertain that possibility.
Jesus' disciples realize that he has just uttered a very difficult ideal to live up to. They conclude that if there is no way out of marriage except in the case of infidelity then it is better not to marry!
Jesus responds to this by saying that he recognises not everyone can accept this statement. Some people are born eunuchs, without the physical capacity to enter into marriage. Some in Jesus' day were made into eunuchs, sometimes to be sold as sexual slaves. Others choose to be eunuchs, choose the single life, so that they can better serve the kingdom of God.
Jesus ends by saying, "Let anyone accept this who can." This suggests to me that the ability to be faithful in marriage is a gift. It is a gift we need to seek from God.
I think we preachers sometimes make some mistakes in preaching on this passage. I know I have in the past.
Sometimes preachers make it out like Jesus is giving a definition of marriage here. I don't view this passage that way anymore. Rather, Jesus is responding to a question about divorce. It is important to keep that in mind.
I don't think this passage answers the question of whether same-sex marriage is compatible with the Bible. That is not even the question being entertained here. Oftentimes the Bible does not answer questions we would like to ask of God. And we simply have to accept that.
Secondly, some preachers treat this passage as though Jesus is enunciating a law about marriage and divorce. I don't think he is doing that either. Rather, Jesus is expressing a divine ideal.
For those who are not able to live up to Jesus' ideal of marriage, for those who do go through divorce, for whatever reason, I believe there is the possibility of forgiveness, if that forgiveness is asked of God. And even better, there is the possibility of a fresh start in life.
Thank God, his mercies are new every morning! If they weren't, none of us would have a chance.