Now, if you don't know me, let me tell you that I am a daughter of a preacher, the wife of one, and a frequent church-goer since I was in my mother's womb. And still - maybe I wasn't always paying attention - but I had never seen or heard explained what my husband explained from the Scriptures Sunday night. I don't think I can do it as well as he did, but allow me to try to explain his take on things. I am too excited about this not to share it, and can only pray that it be taken for what it's worth and not misunderstood.
Matthew 19. The topic is divorce. Not a popular one for pastors to take on from the pulpit - easier to avoid. Well, the Pharisees knew that too. You see, if you look at Matthew chapter 19 you will see that there was a whole multitude of people surrounding Jesus. He was healing them. Then the Pharisees came along and thought they'd hit him with a usually avoided subject. Divorce for any reason, what did Jesus think of that?
Jesus of course responds with his "two become one" statement. In my wedding, my father, who performed the ceremony, even used Jesus' words from verse 6 "What God hath joined together, let not man put asunder." I can almost hear him saying the words.
Man should not divorce, in other words. Ha! The Pharisees got him, then, right? They asked why Moses would have then given the whole idea of divorce if it wasn't allowed? What did he have to say about that?
Jesus then replied by saying that it wasn't meant to be that way in the beginning, but Moses saw the hardness of their hearts, and implemented the practice of divorce. Then he says something that most people will use as a reason for divorce. Sexual immorality, as some translations will say. But if you study the words used by Jesus, he calls it "fornication". Sexual sin of one not married.
There is something essential that we must remember here. Jesus had not yet been crucified. These people knew nothing but the law. So, Jesus refers to the law. In Deuteronomy 22, the law talks about how a newly married woman is accused of not being a virgin on her wedding night. If she is found guilty of fornication before marriage, the practice was that she would be stoned. Woah. Extreme.
Jesus was starting to get his point across. He knew that divorce for any reason was common. He knew that the practice of stoning had long been forgotten. He was essentially saying, "Wanna talk law? Let's talk law!" The man who marries a woman who fornicated becomes a widower upon proof of his accusation. And actually, since you don't practice stoning any more, you all become adulterers since you marry, divorce and remarry! It's been said that he's giving them at least one excuse, but he actually leaves room for none, according to the law. No grace in that.
And the next reply comes from the disciples. "Well, then, it's just better if no one marries," they said. And Jesus told them that it's hard to receive this teaching - the letter of the law. Here come the parts I had never understood.
He starts talking about eunuchs. What? Maybe I never even thought enough to delve into the meaning before, but once explained, I saw it so clearly.
Eunuchs were those who were castrated, impotent, or in this case, celibate. What Jesus says in the next verse (#12) is that some will divorce, that is true. And it will be natural for them to remain alone(eunuchs), make that choice of celibacy and not struggle with it. There will be some who divorce and are made eunuchs of men - people will tell them they must remain alone forever because of their transgression, and they will never remarry. There will be some who decide to remain single because they want to pour their lives into the ministry they feel God has called them to do. And then he reiterates the fact that this is for those who are able to receive it. Knowing that, in fact, most weren't.
Jesus understood. There was a multitude there. Surely, there were "divorcees for any and every reason" around him. There were fornicators. There were married and remarried people and their children. Each and every person had heard a staunch and hard interpretation of the law. No excuses. I believe the people felt so dejected and guilty at this point that they cried in despair, because the scenario doesn't end there.
In my Bible, and even in the passage I looked up on line, there is a division between verses. But the next two verses are included in the whole scene. Jesus doesn't leave until the the end of those verses! So what happened?
The people, realizing they were guilty of breaking the Judaic law, cried out and asked Jesus to at least bless their children. The fruit of their immorality in many cases.
What did the disciples do? What we do so many times. They rebuked them.
Maybe they said something to the effect of "Hello!? Did you not hear what Jesus just said?! Step back, adulterer!"
But what does Jesus say?
Suffer the little children, and forbid them not to come unto me: for of such is the kingdom of heaven. And he laid his hands on them and departed.
Jesus was saying that this is what the kingdom of heaven is about, guys! Don't you understand by now that no one can keep the whole law? You need a Savior; you need my grace! This is what the kingdom of heaven looks like! The fruit of sin - redeemed - covered in my love and grace!
Oh to be filled with the grace of Jesus!
Oh to say from the pulpit to the casual conversation, "Grace covers all"! All is such a big little word, isn't it?
All is grace.
When rebuked and reviled by others, come to Jesus - nothing is too big a wrong for him to handle.
Come to his amazing grace!