Wednesday after the Second Sunday after Epiphany
Scripture: St. Matthew 5:27-48 (NKJV)
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.”
“You have heard that is was said,” do not commit adultery, do not swear falsely, retaliation is acceptable, love your neighbor but hate those who hate you. Jesus teaches that these ideas are about far more than external actions. They involve the impulses of the heart. So, do not use your eyes for lust. Do not use your mouth for falsehood. Do not retaliate, but endure hatred from your neighbor. In fact, love your neighbor and love your enemy. The commandments are more about what goes on in the heart than what goes on with your bodily members.
But we fail so miserably and grievously at these things. Eyes wander. The truth is stretched. Retaliation comes naturally. Enemies are hated in the heart while we speak politely to them. By showing us the true extent of the Law, Jesus shows us how impossible it is for us and how inescapable are its demands. There is not one among us who can love his neighbors in such a way all of the time.
There is only Jesus. Jesus loves sinners as He loves Himself, and He loves us perfectly. He lived life under Mosaic Law perfectly, from the heart. We receive that merit by faith in Christ so that Christ’s merits are applied to us before God the Father in Heaven. Faith changes the heart, making it righteous so that it now wants to love neighbor as it loves itself. By faith we begin to love our neighbors and live chastely towards ourselves. That love and chastity will never be perfect in this life, so we rely solely on Christ’s merits for our righteousness.