Psalm 106; Joel 3:1-2,9-17; 1 Pet. 1:1-12; Matt. 19:1-12
‘Not everyone can accept this teaching, but only those to whom it is given.’ What a weird statement, right? I mean, here’s Jesus talking to a Jewish crowd–which is to say, to a crowd who’ve been taught their entire lives that having children is spiritual requirement, necessary to get the proper prayers said at the grave, one boy + one girl + one extra (‘be fruitful and multiply’ being the very first commandment of Torah!). And as He’s talking, He basically turns that teaching on its head, saying that there are people who are eunuchs for the Kingdom of God’s sake, that there are people who can’t, or won’t, or don’t have children by choice and that this isn’t an aberration or a shame, but something spiritually awesome. Huh?
No wonder they’re confused.
Look, the Old Testament permits (doesn’t encourage, doesn’t applaud, but permits with sorrow and regulations) divorce. And as such, Jesus must agree that sorrow and regulation accompany some tragic and unlovely, but necessary and unavoidable, things. What He’s saying is that person who inaugurates the action needs to do everything possible to save the relationship (‘except only for unchastity’ means that ‘irreconcilable differences’ or ‘I fell out of love’ are not strong enough grounds). And what He’s also saying is that some of us need to question whether we’re built for marriage–something our society, until recently, would have thought aberrant and foolish, which no doubt led to myriad unhappy marriages because of people who got married just because it’s what you’re expected to do. And, for the record, this is the same Jesus Who consistently preaches that we get forgiven for making the wrong or inadequate choice, that we get second chances galore if only we’re willing to take them. His teaching on divorce and celibacy don’t wipe away His teaching on forgiveness and new life more abundant.
But yes, I can see why they’re confused. Because when someone (SomeOne) so radically overturns everything you’ve ever thought in a single throw-away line….