Wednesday after the Second Sunday after Epiphany
Scripture: St. Matthew 5:27-48 (NKJV)
5:27 “You have heard that it was said to those of old, ‘You shall not commit adultery.’ 28 But I say to you that whoever looks at a woman to lust for her has already committed adultery with her in his heart. 29 If your right eye causes you to sin, pluck it out and cast it from you; for it is more profitable for you that one of your members perish, than for your whole body to be cast into hell. 30 And if your right hand causes you to sin, cut it off and cast it from you; for it is more profitable for you that one of your members perish, than for your whole body to be cast into hell.
31 “Furthermore it has been said, ‘Whoever divorces his wife, let him give her a certificate of divorce.’ 32 But I say to you that whoever divorces his wife for any reason except sexual immorality causes her to commit adultery; and whoever marries a woman who is divorced commits adultery.
33 “Again you have heard that it was said to those of old, ‘You shall not swear falsely, but shall perform your oaths to the Lord.’ 34 But I say to you, do not swear at all: neither by heaven, for it is God’s throne; 35 nor by the earth, for it is His footstool; nor by Jerusalem, for it is the city of the great King. 36 Nor shall you swear by your head, because you cannot make one hair white or black. 37 But let your ‘Yes’ be ‘Yes,’ and your ‘No,’ ‘No.’ For whatever is more than these is from the evil one.
38 “You have heard that it was said, ‘An eye for an eye and a tooth for a tooth.’ 39 But I tell you not to resist an evil person. But whoever slaps you on your right cheek, turn the other to him also. 40 If anyone wants to sue you and take away your tunic, let him have your cloak also. 41 And whoever compels you to go one mile, go with him two. 42 Give to him who asks you, and from him who wants to borrow from you do not turn away.
43 “You have heard that it was said, ‘You shall love your neighbor and hate your enemy.’ 44 But I say to you, love your enemies, bless those who curse you, do good to those who hate you, and pray for those who spitefully use you and persecute you, 45 that you may be sons of your Father in heaven; for He makes His sun rise on the evil and on the good, and sends rain on the just and on the unjust. 46 For if you love those who love you, what reward have you? Do not even the tax collectors do the same? 47 And if you greet your brethren only, what do you do more than others? Do not even the tax collectors do so? 48 Therefore you shall be perfect, just as your Father in heaven is perfect.”
In biblical thought the parts of the body are the instruments of man’s psyche and thus can represent the whole person in action. To pluck out the eye or to cut off the hand therefore signifies determined suppression of the sinful desire of the human heart, however painful the effort. In the discourse on divorce it is important to remember that many Jews had a very liberal opinion of what constituted legitimate grounds so Christ first points them to God’s Word in Genesis 2:24.
In the same character Jesus reminds us that while the Law prescribed the oath to remind man that he is speaking in the presence of his God, His disciple should speak his every yes and no as in the presence of God. Then God’s Suffering Servant goes on to point out that Christian agape love strives for mercy and forgiveness, even at the cost of its own claim for legitimate retribution according to the Law. The final six verses of our text present this perfect agape love of God as the goal for which each believer should strive in all of life. For God loved us with such a purposeful love and sent His Son to redeem us by fulfilling the Law, even while we were yet His enemy wallowing in our sin.
Almighty God, by the power of Your Spirit working Your will in us may we see the path You have so graciously laid, and joyfully take up our cross; through Jesus Christ, Your Son, our Lord, who lives and reigns with You and the Holy Spirit, one God now and forever. Amen.
Scripture taken from the New King James Version®. Copyright © 1982 by Thomas Nelson. Used by permission. All rights reserved.