We continue to work our way through Matthew’s gospel in this season of Epiphany. We have read some of these passages many times. Yet as we circle back to them, they continue to have power in our lives. This week, we come to another familiar passage. However, as we read these words, they are hard to digest.
The religious leaders in Jesus’ day thought they had it all figured out. If they could just follow the rules, they would earn God’s approval. They worked pretty hard at getting the externals right. Yet Jesus challenges their internal purity.
I hope you will take a few minutes to read this week’s passage as you prepare for worship. I have included the NTE version below.
(Matthew 5:21-37 NTE) “You heard that it was said to the ancient people, “You shall not murder”; and anyone who commits murder shall be liable to judgment. But I say to you that everyone who is angry with his brother shall be liable to judgment; anyone who uses foul and abusive language will be liable to the lawcourt; and anyone who says, “You fool”, will be liable to the fires of Gehenna. “So, if you are coming to the altar with your gift, and there you remember that your brother has a grievance against you, leave your gift right there in front of the altar, and go first and be reconciled to your brother. Then come back and offer your gift. Make friends with your opponent quickly, while you are with him in the street, in case your opponent hands you over to the judge, and the judge to the officer, and you find yourself being thrown into jail. I’m telling you the truth: you won’t get out until you’ve, paid every last copper coin.” “You heard”, Jesus continued, “that it was said, “You shall not commit adultery.” But I say to you: everyone who gazes at a woman in order to lust after her has already committed adultery with her in his heart. If your right eye trips you up, tear it out and throw it away. Yes: it’s better for you to have one part of your body destroyed than for the whole body to be thrown into Gehenna. And if your right hand trips you up, cut it off and throw it away. Yes: it’s better for you to have one part of your body destroyed than for your whole body to go into Gehenna. “It was also said, “If someone divorces his wife, he should give her a legal document to prove it.” But I say to you: everyone who divorces his wife, unless it’s in connection with immorality, makes her commit adultery; and anyone who marries a divorced woman commits adultery. “Again, you heard that it was said to the people long ago: “You shall not swear falsely, but you shall give to the Lord what you promised under oath.” But I say to you: don’t swear at all! Don’t swear by heaven (it’s God’s throne!); don’t swear by the earth (it’s God’s footstool!); don’t swear by Jerusalem (it’s the city of the great king!); don’t swear by your head (you can’t make one hair of it turn white or black!). When you’re, talking, say “Yes” when you mean Yes, and “No” when you mean No. Anything more than that comes from the evil one.”