When Jesus Speaks Hard Words

In my Friday morning Men’s Bible Class I told of a phone call from our second oldest son Aaron who is a Minister of Music in a church in Maryland.  He was working on the service for Sunday and was thinking about those hard harsh statements Jesus made in last week’s gospel and for this week.

Last week Jesus said, “Whoever divorces his wife and marries another commits adultery against her and if she divorces her husband and marries another, she commits adultery.”  This week Jesus says, “You lack one thing: go, sell all that you have and give it to the poor, and you will have treasure in heaven and come, follow me.”

One of the members of the Friday morning class related that his sister, who is divorced and is Catholic, was angry with the priest for saying such harsh words about divorce. Her brother said the priest was reading words from the Bible.  He was reading Jesus’ words.  He asked his sister whether her husband had been unfaithful to her.  She said, “Yes,” he had been.  Her brother said that in that case divorce is permitted.

But Jesus words regarding marriage and possessions are still hard law.  Many people are divorced without a spouse being unfaithful sexually.  How many of us can really emulate the disciples and leave everything and traipse after Jesus.  So Jesus statements leave us with impossible expectations and guilt or even rejection of what he says and perhaps rejection of Jesus as being unrealistic. But that’s the thing about the law.  It is unrealistic.

Between these two statements is the account Jesus and the children.  Parents bring him children and the clueless disciples try to shoo them away.  But Jesus says, “Let the children come to me; do not hinder them, for to such belongs the kingdom of God…whoever does not receive the kingdom of God like a child shall not enter it.” Entry into the Kingdom of God is not dependent on us meeting the hard harsh law.  It does not depend on meeting God’s expectations.  Entry into the kingdom is being welcomed by Christ and despite all our failings to meet the law, we are able to trust him.  The kingdom is built on God’s grace and our trust in that grace.  Thus while the children were still children, that is immature, “He took them in his arms and blessed them, laying his hands on them.”  The parents had just wanted Jesus to touch their children.  Jesus envelopes them in his arms.

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