These two chapters cover more or less the same material, as many parallel chapters in the gospels do. I have often thought about how Jesus was “counter cultural” in his teaching and how he lived his life. But I had a clergy friend say to me, just yesterday, “Is it that Jesus was counter-cultural or that he presented truth that challenged culture.” I think that perhaps my friend’s perspective is more correct. It is not that Jesus engaged in culture with the intention of being a rebel, I think that he simply held up a lens that allows us to see where culture is in fact wrong.
This can be a very difficult lesson for us to learn and manage as Christians, especially evangelicals. For many of the truths that Jesus held up as lenses that showed his own culture to be skewed apply to our own day and age. These chapters reflect this. His insistence that divorce is not in God’s plan for husbands and wives echoes in our culture today. His insistence that religion (following the rules) is not the measure of salvation, but the state of one’s heart and what rules one’s heart is the right measure. How many “rich young rulers” walk away today with a heavy heart when they hear this message? Even his insistence that service and humility are the road to success in the Kingdom of God shows how skewed our quest for power and prestige is.
For many people, it is this, more than anything, that makes Christianity a challenging faith to adopt. But that is the very basic truth of Christianity: it is a life-transforming faith. I have said in sermons many times that Jesus loves us to much to leave us where he finds us. As Jesus proclaimed to the Pharisees “It is not the healthy who need a doctor, but the sick.” The key role of the doctor is to take the sick from poor to good health. That is Jesus’ desire for us. The only way to do that is to expose the sources of our illness and prescribe treatment.
If any of Jesus’ words challenge you about something in your life, instead of responding that Jesus’ teachings are antiquated and irrelevant to our day and age, consider the possibility that the master healer is simply identifying an illness in your life that he has the treatment for.
- What was familiar from this passage of scripture? What was something I already knew?
- What was new from this piece of scripture? What was something that really stood out for me that I have never paid attention to before?
- Does Jesus appear in this passage of scripture?
- How does this passage apply to my life, here and now? Do I need to do anything about it?
- What prayer would I offer up to God after reading this piece of scripture?
Tomorrow’s Reading: Matthew 20-21