Rosemary Theobald, a member of St Mary’s R C Church, comments on Mark 10 v 2 – 16:

We have to imagine Jesus, in the company of his close followers, standing in the Market Place with the Pharisees (religious leaders) not far away.

We have already gathered that they are never very far away because they are always on the lookout for some words or actions of Jesus which they can pick on to discredit him. They feel threatened because the ordinary people are seeing sense and feeling a welcome sensitivity in what he says and does, and they want more of this. They are tired of living threatened by laws and punishments and are attracted to Jesus’ compassionate approach.

The first part of today’s passage, therefore comes as a bit of a shock to us because when asked by the Pharisees whether it can ever be right for a man to divorce his wife, Jesus takes a hard line and upholds the strict interpretation of the Law that no, it is not right, and what God has joined man must not unjoin.

A second look may give us a deeper insight into why Jesus says this.

We have to remember that for a woman to be cast aside by her husband meant destitution and danger. Hardliners will always want to stick to the hard line, but could it be that Jesus is not seeing this situation according to the patriarchal view of the day i.e. it’s a man’s world,

but wants justice for a woman made homeless and destitute.

When in the second part of these verses Jesus welcomes the children and blesses them he is upholding their dignity and worth in a society where women and children had no status.

We don’t have to go back far in our own history to see similar attitudes which make it all the more important for us to question and critique accepted norms in the light of the teaching and actions of Jesus.