Jesus vs. marriage

I had the same thought about the Gospel reading this Sunday that Derek did. I don’t know why it never struck me this way before – maybe it was the translation I was reading/hearing it in. But it sounds for all the world like Jesus is saying that his followers–“those who are considered worthy of a place in that age and in the resurrection from the dead”–don’t (shouldn’t?) marry. Although Jesus’ words elsewhere in the NT (not to mention his presence at/wine catering for the wedding at Cana) suggest a more positive view of marriage.

We’re familiar enough with the idea that Paul seems to give marriage only a grudging thumbs up. I wonder if this represents a wrestling with an earlier more stringent apocalyptic ethic in light of a delayed parousia?

Lutheranism has usually seen the institutions of the world as ordered toward human flourishing but also as provisional. Marriage would seem then to be part of the kingdom of the left and of the world that is passing away. This seems to me to argue for a more flexible approach to marriage – to being willing to tinker with the institution in light of new experiences. This would be in line with Paul’s seeming pragmatism (“it is better to marry than burn” etc.).

4 thoughts on “Jesus vs. marriage

  1. I’ve always understood it to mean only that marriage is not a phenomenon that persists beyond this age. That seems to harmonize with Jesus’ intention in this passage: he refers to three men as children of the resurrection, and each of them was married, sometimes more than once.

    I see what you’re getting at; I just think it’s far too literal an emphasis on a term he used. Sort of like cutting off your hand, or plucking out your eye, when you commit sin.

  2. That’s how I always read it too. But I had this moment of seeing it differently for some reason – like a gestalt shift. I really don’t know what to make of it. Maybe it’s the way Jesus contrasts “those who belong to this age” and “those who are considered worthy of a place in that age.” It seems like this can be read as simple chronology (now vs. then) or a kind of distinction between two types of people. Dunno.

  3. Adam

    Try thinking of it this way–Jesus is saying something truly radical about the law (that is, not just levirate marriage, but marriage itself, understood as legal contract, and therefore a commandment of God): it’s not eternal. Yes, this is apocalyptic, but boy oh boy what does it say about the age to come–the law does not apply in the resurrection, because it comes to an end. He doesn’t say no love, he doesn’t even say no sex–he says no marriage. What belongs to the new age is therefore not under the law. Now that’s fun to consider.

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