Hearts of Stone


The issues at the center of today’s passage have affected every person reading this in some way. More than half of all marriages in the Western world end in divorce. In Mark 10, Jesus addressed the subject strongly and boldly in the face of a trap set by some of the Pharisees. Divorce had already been an issue in the book of Mark. Herod, the King, had married his brother’s wife, Herodias. According to the historian Josephus, Herodias had issued a certificate of divorce to her husband in order to be free to marry her husband’s brother. John the Baptist spoke against their actions and was beheaded because of the controversy (Mark 6:17-20). So, here’s the trap: Will Jesus speak against Herod, and will Herod seek to kill Jesus like he did John?

  • In what ways has divorce affected your life?
  • Ask God for wisdom and understanding as you read his Word today.


1And he left there and went to the region of Judea and beyond the Jordan, and crowds gathered to him again. And again, as was his custom, he taught them.

And Pharisees came up and in order to test him asked, “Is it lawful for a man to divorce his wife?” He answered them, “What did Moses command you?” They said, “Moses allowed a man to write a certificate of divorce and to send her away.” And Jesus said to them, “Because of your hardness of heart he wrote you this commandment. But from the beginning of creation, ‘God made them male and female.’ 7‘Therefore a man shall leave his father and mother and hold fast to his wife, and the two shall become one flesh.’ So they are no longer two but one flesh. What therefore God has joined together, let not man separate.”

10 And in the house the disciples asked him again about this matter. 11 And he said to them, “Whoever divorces his wife and marries another commits adultery against her, 12 and if she divorces her husband and marries another, she commits adultery.”

English Standard Version, copyright 2001 by Crossway Bibles. Used by permission. All rights reserved.


  1. According to Jesus, what are God’s intentions for marriage? What is God’s role in that intention (vss. 6, 8)? What are our roles in fulfilling God’s intention (vss. 7, 8)?
  2. How can you separate one part of your flesh from another part? What happens to flesh when that occurs, and how does that represent what happens in divorce?
  3. What is the reason Jesus gave for Moses’ allowance of divorce? (Note: Moses’ commandment is outlined in Deuteronomy 24:1-4).
  4. What are the characteristics of a hardened heart? Are there any issues in your life where you are struggling with hard-heartedness?


Jesus did not overturn Moses’ allowance for divorce in the case of “indecency” (Deut. 24:1). He pointed instead to the intention of God from the beginning—at creation, before our sin and hard-heartedness. Jesus would have us live as the creation he intended us to be. He loves marriage. It was his idea from the beginning—a man and a woman made for one another to become beautifully and uniquely one flesh. Jesus has no trouble calling our hard-hearted actions “sin” and “adultery” when that is what they are. And it was for that very sin, our hard-hearted bent in going our own way, that Jesus gave his life, as the means of grace, forgiveness, and new hope.

  • Is there any hard-heartedness in you? Talk to God about that, and ask him to soften your heart and show you mercy.
  • Talk to God about how divorce has affected your life.
  • Pray for the marriages that surround you today.


We recognize that this is a difficult and personally sensitive subject for many of you. We acknowledge that Jesus’ words in Mark 10 do not represent all of what Jesus has said about divorce in the Bible. For a more complete picture, please read Matthew 5:31-32 and Matthew 19:1-12, which is the parallel story of the Mark 10 narrative. In both cases, Jesus allowed for divorce in the case of sexual immorality—the “indecency” mentioned by Moses in Deuteronomy 24. Further, Paul commented on divorce in 1 Corinthians 7:12-16, allowing for divorce in the case of an unbelieving partner who leaves the marriage.

Jesus allows for divorce because he knows the human heart is dark and hard. He knows that certain situations, while not requiring divorce, allow for its potential. These situations include cases of “indecency—sexual immorality—and if an unbelieving spouse walks away. Again, divorce is not the only or preferred outcome in these situations, but sometimes it is an outcome or consequence to sin that proceeds from a hard and darkened heart.

For further study of Mark 10:1-12, consider the following commentaries. They can be downloaded in PDF form.