We are still on this mountain retreat, along with the early disciples and Jesus. He continues to take us beyond the reach of the Mosaic Law and its traditions, into the realm of fulfillment–the righteousness of the kingdom of heaven. This kind of fulfillment is no esoteric bubble. Rather this One who comes to fulfill the Law begins speaking into the very weave of our life and relationships: about anger, adultery, divorce, and swearing oaths. Here an epiphany happens, as Jesus shines his light into the far reaches of our lives.
As Jesus approaches each thread of our life weave, he begins with the Law and its traditions: “You have heard that it was said to those of ancient times, . . .
‘You shall not murder’; and ‘whoever murders shall be liable to
judgment.’. . .
‘You shall not commit adultery.’. . .
‘Whoever divorces his wife, let him give her a certificate of divorce.’. . .
‘You shall not swear falsely, but carry out the vows you have made
to the Lord.’. . .
In an aural society where few persons knew how to read, women and men and children knew the commandments. They would be recited in the synagogue, spoken at home, included in conversation.
But now Jesus speaks something more:
‘You have heard that it was said . . . But I say to you . . .’
John the apostle would later write: “The law indeed was given by Moses; grace and truth came through Jesus Christ” (John 1:17). As Jesus leads us into the interior of our being, shining light and truth on what is there, we are met with grace. This is the realm of the greater righteousness.
Jesus calls us to pay attention to the stuff of relationships, how we respond to each other. He exposes the root of murder as he names the anger that arises within us. He reveals our attitudes which give rise to name-calling, insults, writing another person off with a four-letter word. Jesus walks behind the commandment concerning adultery, and undresses the hidden but alluring practice of how men look at women and lust after them. He cuts through the casual, but legal, practice of divorcing one’s wife, simply by announcing that one was divorcing her (for whatever reason—even for burning the soup!) and by writing a certificate of divorce. He then draws our attention towards the plight of the woman, and what damage this self-serving manipulation of the law does to women.
Our speech is also drawn into the orb of this epiphany. What is hidden comes to light.
It is these habits of the heart to which Jesus calls our attention. Not to condemn us, but to reveal how captive we are this side of Eden to what destroys us. This is why he came: to set us free from captivity, to set prisoners free. Here we are met with the wonder and kind light of grace.
Prayer before reading:
Lord Jesus Christ,
You come to us.
Help me to see as you see,
To recognize your presence,
And your call
To follow you.
Guide me, us as I learn to walk in your way.
Read slowly. Listen deeply. Indwell the scripture.
Season of Epiphany: Week Six
- 2/7 Monday: Matthew 5:21-26
- 2/8 Tuesday: Matthew 5:27-37
- 2/9 Wednesday: Psalm 119:1-8
- 2/10 Thursday: Deuteronomy 30:15-20
- 2/11 Friday: I Corinthians 3:1-9
- 2/12 Saturday: Matthew 5:21-26
- 2/13 Sunday: Matthew 5:27-37