I was taught and, I think a lot of people were, essentially that this was Jesus making law. Jesus had his disciples around and said, “hey Matthew, jot this down, so people know what the rules are about divorce, and while we’re at it, people can infer what the law is surrounding the whole concept of marriage…”
But, that’s not what’s happening here. Jesus was busy healing people and the Pharisees interrupted him and started asking questions (probably with a tone of superiority).
Jesus explains what God’s intention was. God’s intention was that we live in the Garden and at peace with God and one another. In the Kingdom of God, there would be no divorce, no pain, no suffering. But, we don’t live there, because we are sinners who turned away from God. Our hearts are still hard.
If you’re going to live by the Law, then there are no loopholes. If you want to be legalistic, then you need to go all in. The Pharisees seem to be responding to the grace Jesus has shown people and asking, “so then, people can just do whatever they want?”
The problem was that men were dumping their wives for the next pretty girl, as happens today. No, that’s bad; don’t do that.
The last part… I really wish we could watch and listen with the tone and facial expressions that were present. I always imagine it rather irreverently… the disciples are unsure and essentially ask, “so what should we do; chop off…?”
And Jesus says, with an eye roll and a little sarcasm, “Yes. Clearly the only solution to this problem is to chop off your…”
And then, people show up again interrupting the conversation.
This is a good point to add a little note… I have felt called recently to be more assertive in proclaiming the centrist perspective on biblical interpretation. This is the historical, traditional viewpoint which can be summed up in Marcus Borg’s quote, “The Bible is all true, and some of it actually happened.” The centrist view is not the fundamentalist, literalist view, nor the other extreme “picking and choosing” view. It’s complicated and requires us to dig deep and talk to each other and learn from one another.