Sermon on February 28, 2021

KaB Frankenberg, Andreas Latossek

Standards that challenge – The Sermon on the Mount

purity and fidelity Mt. 5, 27-32

This sermon is translated from German into English. You can find the original video here


Standards that challenge.

We have been on the road for a few weeks with what is probably Jesus’ most famous sermon, the Sermon on the Mount. And two weeks ago we looked at the central text for understanding this Sermon on the Mount, which dealt with Jesus’ understanding and handling of God’s speeches in the Old Testament. That was what the Jews had back then, so for us that means not only the Old Testament but also the new way of dealing with it.
Following these words, Jesus then cites some subjects as examples that were very central and controversial among the Jews, how they should deal with them, and that is also very topical for us.
One of these issues was the command not to kill. We looked at each other last week. Let’s look at another commandment today. It’s about marriage and sexuality.
We noticed last week how much what Jesus said challenges us.
And so that we can understand the topic correctly today, I would like to briefly look back. Because otherwise it can happen to us that we are overwhelmed by the Sermon on the Mount and either push it away and view God’s speech as arbitrary,
  • get tough with ourselves and others,
  • bury your head in the sand or
  • act hypocritically only superficially very piously, and
  • Jesus doesn’t want any of that.

We see God’s standard and nature in what Jesus says:

  • God is perfect.
  • And with this standard Jesus also goes to the commandments and explains how God actually thought them and what the meaning behind them is.
  • And this sense is always to enable a successful life.
  • We have to keep that in mind !!!
  • And for this successful life we ​​need guard rails that protect us and give us orientation.
  • Not to restrict us but to give us freedom to lead a successful life.
But we have also seen that we as humans cannot meet this standard.
The commandments are like a mirror that shows us where something is wrong. And we realized that we are changing our hearts and that we need Jesus. Jesus speaks of a better righteousness than that of the Pharisees, who tried hard, but it is not enough. For them it was about keeping the rule and thus earning heaven. God is about relationship and about changing us from within. Therefore Jesus comes and fulfills the law through his life and he dies on the cross to buy us free from the consequences of the law, the eternal separation from God.
He wants to give us God’s love, that is our new identity, God’s beloved sons and daughters, if we accept it and change ourselves from within through his Holy Spirit. This does not release us from our responsibility to take God seriously and to fight for some of the things in our lives that Jesus says. Jesus also fought for this new life for us, remember the garden of Gethsemane and Jesus’ inner struggle. But with this new identity we are completely different and we can ask the Holy Spirit for help. And we can claim God’s grace where we fail. And so it may be that this morning with the topics we are talking about, one or the other here or on the livestream notices that they have not lived like that, old things may come up, we must not lose sight of this grace of Jesus lose, and that he wants to give healing. And do not lose sight of the grace of Jesus with the other, because Jesus warns us not to condemn the other and tells us that we should take care for ourselves to take the right path with him.
And one last preliminary remark: The topic today is so complex, there are so many individual situations that I cannot go into in detail in a sermon, where you have to look in conversation to see what God’s thoughts are.
I would like to point out the guidelines that God gives us for a successful life. And with these ears we must hear what Jesus now says to his disciples in the Sermon on the Mount. Because that is not up to date, that is not trendy, that is not politically correct, that is uncompromising, that is different, just salt and light:
Mt. 5, 27-32 Ye have heard that it was said by them of old time, Thou shalt not commit adultery: 28 But I say unto you, That whosoever looketh on a woman to lust after her hath committed adultery with her already in his heart. 29 And if thy right eye offend thee, pluck it out, and cast it from thee: for it is profitable for thee that one of thy members should perish, and not that thy whole body should be cast into hell. 30 And if thy right hand offend thee, cut if off, and cast it from thee: for it is profitable for thee that one of thy members should perish, and not that thy whole body should be cast into hell. 31 It hath been said, Whosoever shall put away his wife, let him give her a writing of divorcement: 32 But I say unto you, That whosoever shall put away his wife, saving for the cause of fornication, causeth her to commit adultery: and whosoever shall marry her that is divorced committeth adultery.
Jesus talks about marriage and sexuality.
Two very hot irons. And maybe we wonder what that is doing in a church service. Jesus does not ignore these issues just because we may be embarrassed about them. God created us in this way and that is why He gives us instructions on these topics as well.
What is Jesus talking about here?
To show this, I would like to read a second text from the Bible, which I will come back to later:
Mt. 19: 3-9 The Pharisees also came unto him, tempting him, and saying unto him, Is it lawful for a man to put away his wife for every cause? 4 And he answered and said unto them, Have ye not read, that he which made them at the beginning made them male and female, 5 And said, For this cause shall a man leave father and mother, and shall cleave to his wife: and they twain shall be one flesh? 6 Wherefore they are no more twain, but one flesh. What therefore God hath joined together, let not man put asunder. 7 They say unto him, Why did Moses then command to give a writing of divorcement, and to put her away? 8 He saith unto them, Moses because of the hardness of your hearts suffered you to put away your wives: but from the beginning it was not so. 9 And I say unto you, Whosoever shall put away his wife, except it be for fornication, and shall marry another, committeth adultery: and whoso marrieth her which is put away doth commit adultery.
So the Pharisees come and they want to know from Jesus when you can get a divorce.
And do you notice what Jesus is doing here?
  • At first he doesn’t even answer your question, but shifts the perspective.
  • He tells them you are asking the wrong question.
  • You want to test the limits, but God cares about the value and protection of marriage. It’s not about where I don’t commit adultery, when can I part, but about the fact that there is a unity of a man and a woman who have made a lifelong covenant with each other.
  • God thought it that way from the point of view of creation, and this covenant is not some social convention that people have come up with, but it is instituted by God.
  • Marriage goes back to God and that is a wonderful gift.
  • What God has put together, man should not separate.
  • So we notice: a completely different focus, a successful life that needs to be protected.

1. God gives and protects marriage and sexuality

And I want us to see that positive focus behind Jesus’ speeches this morning.

  • God describes in the Bible how he creates man and woman,
  • how he sees them as complementary to one another is described at the very beginning.
  • What a joy Adam feels when he sees Eve.
  • So a wonderful gift what God makes us.

And this wonderful gift should reflect something of God himself.

Paul compares the love in a marriage with the love of Jesus for his church and with the love for us.

  • God in himself, three in one, who have very close fellowship with one another, that’s how God imagined marriage.
  • As a reflection of his close unity and his love for us.
That we humans often fail to do this is another matter, it is due to the fall of man, and this is also where we notice how much we need a change in our hearts. But God does not break his loyalty and his love for us!
God has good ideas about marriage and God himself is also the inventor of sex.
There was a school of thought among the Greeks that said anything related to our body is not good, and some have adopted that to this day. And because God also creates a framework for sexuality, namely marriage: Father and mother leave to become independent, cling to his wife, this is how the public act of marriage was designated among the Jews and then becoming one flesh, sexuality just because God creates this framework doesn’t mean that Christians need to have an uptight view of sexuality. Here is an example from the Book of Proverbs of what God thinks about sexuality:
Let thy fountain be blessed: and rejoice with the wife of thy youth. 19 Let her be as the loving hind and pleasant roe; let her breasts satisfy thee at all times; and be thou ravished always with her love. (Proverbs 5.18-19)
So God gives and protects marriage and sexuality.
And that’s why Jesus now addresses two topics in the Sermon on the Mount: purity and fidelity. First the subject

2. Purity

Jesus always begins the same way: You heard, but I tell you. In Jesus’ day, adultery was understood to mean that one could go to extremes. The main thing is that you don’t end up in bed with another partner. Jesus corrects the real meaning of the commandment, and we have just talked about the value of marriage, and
Jesus makes it clear that the commandment is meant to mean that adultery begins much earlier, namely where I am someone else with a covetous Look at.
And then Jesus gets pretty radical and says, tear out your eye, chop off your hand before they seduce you into committing adultery and going to hell.
Now at the latest we hope that there is a good interpretation and that we don’t have to take it literally. 
  • Jesus is here in the picture of the Pharisees.
  • Sin leads to hell, as was mentioned the last time Jesus talked about dealing with one another.
  • Hell is the place of distance from God after our life. We sometimes smile at that, probably also because we have strange images in our heads of hell that the Bible doesn’t know, but Jesus says that this place will exist.
  • And to stay in the Pharisee image for now, sin leads to hell, so it is better to do whatever you can to avoid this place.
  • You Pharisees with your righteousness, if you take it seriously, then you’d have to tear your eyes out and check off your hands. But we notice that if I do that with one eye, then I still have another eye and I can look quite well with that too.
  • Some rabbis have tried to implement the words of Jesus and it was considered by them to have a bloody forehead as a mark of special holiness.
  • Why? Well they always ran around with their heads down and then just ran into something.
But that’s not what Jesus means.
Jesus says it goes deeper, we commit adultery in our hearts. So it’s not just about doing something outwardly, we need a changed heart.
  • And we need someone to bear our guilt, because if we see this standard of Jesus, then probably most of them have already committed adultery.

What exactly does Jesus mean by the looks?

First of all, Jesus is addressing us men here. Society at that time was dominated by men, which is why Jesus also addresses men in their responsibility. We’ll see again afterwards with the subject of divorce that Jesus only addresses men there, because at that time only they had the right to divorce.
But it affects women in a different way, precisely because our society is set up completely differently. And the singles are not excluded at the point when it comes to lustful looks, to romantic fantasies, when it comes to a sexuality where we are at the center, where it is about our lust, because God has chosen for lived sexuality Place of marriage devised and he wants us to be pure because it is good for us and for the other.
Many men tick very visually. When a woman speaks to us visually, we are quick to introduce ourselves. It’s not about a look where we find: The woman is beautiful and praise God for making her wonderful, but about a look that we also encounter in the 10th commandment, which says, I want to have it. Where we reduce the other person to something. And where, when we are married, we take something away from our wife that is actually reserved for her.
It may look a little different with women, although a lot is changing because our society has already shaped our image of sexuality quite nicely and women and men are becoming more and more similar.
  • But with many, it is perhaps more of a man’s interest when someone listens to me and gives me recognition, which makes a longing for more security and closeness grow in this person instead of my partner.
  • That I imagine what it would be like to be able to share some things in life with this very person.
  • Adultery begins in the heart, and each of us is challenged in different ways.

What helps?

  • The first is for the married to invest in a good marriage.
  • When a marriage is stable we are less at risk.
  • The second is, Jesus says, it is not a problem of external influences first, but of our heart, that we keep our hearts out to God and ask him for change.
  • Self-control is a fruit of the Holy Spirit that he gives.
  • Perhaps you feel that God is addressing you this morning on exactly this topic, then hold your heart out to him and ask him for a change.

And then it is so, I said earlier, that we also have a responsibility.

  • Jesus is pretty radical on this subject.
  • And even if it is with the eye and the hand in the image of the Pharisees, I believe that we too have to be quite radical in this area in order to maintain or fight for purity. Because we are confronted with this topic everywhere in our society.
  • Whether it’s the conversations over coffee
  • or in the latest soap or series on Netflix, which want to make it clear to us that a little foreign flirting and much more is not that bad.
  • Whether it’s the half-naked women in every advertisement
  • or the pornography that’s just a click away.

All of this is so damaging to our relationships, or when you are single it creates an unrealistic and unpleasant image of relationship and sexuality, which may mean that you cannot have a good relationship and experience fulfilled sexuality because your image is so distorted is.

If we believe that God’s standard is good for our life, then it is not easy for us in our society and we need something like an escape strategy, as with Joseph, who breaks away from Potifar’s wife, very different from David, his Look at Bathsheba.

Job says he made a covenant with his eyes, and Paul says we should focus our thoughts on what is good and what is pleasing to God, what promotes life.

This is self-control that we encourage through our own decisions, but it is also challenging and we do not always succeed. Maybe that’s not enough for you either and you need someone else to whom you can be honest because you are more challenged in this area.

  • Sin that comes to light loses its power.
  • Someone who can ask, who helps to fight together.
  • Perhaps for you it is about avoiding stimuli, not watching some films, not going to certain places, putting your computer in a place where you do not run the risk of installing software that protects you.

I want to encourage you: take up the fight for this measure of purity, no matter whether you are man or woman, married or single. And when you have fallen, do not lie where you are, but let the love and grace of Jesus speak to you again and take up the fight again.

This is another reason why it is good that we can celebrate the Lord’s Supper afterwards and have it spoken to us.

As if that weren’t challenging enough, now comes the second issue that Jesus brings up to protect marriage and sexuality, and that is the issue

3. Loyalty

It was customary among the Jews at the time to issue a divorce certificate to the woman when they got divorced. With this certificate, the woman could then remarry and was often forced to do so in the society of that time because without a husband she had no provider and no legal counsel. This practice goes back to Deuteronomy chapter 24.
It said, if the man has found something shameful in the woman, then he can do it that way.
The Pharisees have now discussed what that means And there were essentially two directions:
  • the strict ones around a Rabbi Schamai and those around Rabbi Hilel. They said that it is shameful when a woman lets the food burn or simply when she gets older and wrinkles and you like another woman better. And this second view, which was widespread at the time and was lived that way.
What does our society say about this?
If you google divorce, the first three meetings are:
  • Divorce without a lawyer.
  • Divorce quick and cheap.
  • Lightning divorce made easy Cheap, fast and convenient.
So we are completely on the same line.
Jesus, on the other hand, makes it clear here that divorce was actually not intended by God.
The Pharisees want to discuss why it is possible to divorce And Jesus wants to talk about why you shouldn’t get divorced. We have already talked about the value of marriage in God’s eyes. Divorce, in Jesus’ words, is in some ways like an amputation.
  • Something that belongs together is torn apart.
  • A piece of meat, I once brought two sheets of paper that were stuck together and what happens when you part?
  • It leaves wounds, pain, fractures and turmoil.
  • Psychology today confirms that, and Jesus knew it.

And therefore what Jesus is actually saying here is: Ask the right question: not when can I get a divorce, but what do I have to do to make my marriage heal again? Put all your strength, your love and your heart’s blood into your marriage. Don’t just give up on them, no matter how complicated your situation is.

The point is that new beginnings are possible through the power of the gospel.

Jesus says: Come unto me, all ye that labour and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest. 29 Take my yoke upon you, and learn of me; for I am meek and lowly in heart: and ye shall find rest unto your souls.

God can and wants to change your heart and that of your partner if you are ready to do so. As church leaders, we cannot talk to you about divorce before we have talked to you about the path to God, his love, a new love for the other and reconciliation. But we are happy to help and are also happy to refer you to external consultants if you need help. And if your relationship is good right now, invest in your marriage before the trouble even comes. Learn to treat each other with respect and love, to argue fairly, to listen to and talk to each other, to live forgiveness and have fun together!

But now Jesus is asked about this passage from the Bible in Deuteronomy and he says:

But because of the hardness of people’s hearts, same subject as just now, because of your sinfulness, God has created an exception, a concession. Because God knows that where we humans relate, relationships can fail because of our hard hearts. It can get so broken that it can no longer be cemented. That’s why God made an exception. And this exception should not serve to push it to the limit again, to make it a right rather than investing in our marriages.

There are several reasons we read in the Bible for divorce.

  • Paul writes, 1 Cor. 7, when one of the two partners gets to know Jesus and the other cannot do anything with it. The common basis is therefore no longer available and the unbelieving partner wants to separate from the other, then the believing partner can consent.
  • Jesus says another reason is porneia. So the word means all extramarital intercourse.
  • And from the overall context of the Bible it becomes clear that constant psychological cruelty and physical violence also call the continuation of a marriage into question.

It is important that there can be reasons, but it does not have to lead to a divorce, because God can create restoration in these cases too, and we know such cases where this has happened and a marriage has blossomed all over again.

All of this brings us to the controversial question of what about people who are divorced.

Jesus says that what God has put together, man should not separate and in this sense, if someone divorces for a reason other than the above-mentioned and remarries, then, says Jesus, he breaks the marriage, because before God still endured the old marriage.

These are the great general biblical principles on these difficult questions.

The perfect standard of God. How do we deal with it now?

Our federation, the Christ Forum Germany writes the following:

First of all, exactly these things that I have just tried to show with the help of the Bible, and then we read there in excerpts:

  • We are convinced that God’s word bears witness to marriage as a lifelong and indissoluble relationship, which only allows divorce in irrevocably failed relationships as a way out and allows it in narrow exceptional cases.
  • In this sense, divorce is only the last resort when all attempts at salvation have failed. For this reason, couples shouldn’t give up fighting for their marriage too quickly and should seek help early on in their relationship crisis.
  • Divorced people should take responsibility for the failure of their relationship. (So ​​acknowledge my part of the guilt and come to terms with it. This is often only possible with a distance when I can see more clearly and my injuries and my hatred, which may have been there, have settled down)
  • They should also keep an eye on the well-being of their children and do everything to ensure that they are well taken care of. While remarriage was specifically regulated in the Old Testament (Deuteronomy 24: 1-4), it is fundamentally rejected by Jesus and the apostles.
  • After a divorce, Christians are advised to either reconcile with their partner or to forego another marriage (Mt 19: 9; 1 Cor. 7: 10f).
  • According to Jesus’ words, remarriage is to be equated with adultery (Mt 5, 32; 19, 9; Lk 16, 18). Through this unconditionality, the NT wants to protect marriage as the inviolable and holy order of God.
  • We want to support church members who are divorced with pastoral care and encourage them to forego another marriage.
  • If brothers and sisters are unable to follow this path, they cannot refer to an explicit word from Jesus about remarriage. A remarriage is therefore always fraught with guilt.
  • Nevertheless, such a path should not be ruled out from the outset and for all time in order to prevent worse things from happening.
  • Refused remarriage can add an extra burden and temptation to people who do not have the charism of celibacy (1 Corinthians 7: 7) (1 Corinthians 7: 5.9). There is a risk of double standards and secret illegitimate relationships.
  • When divorced people have worked through the breakup of the marriage in in-depth pastoral discussions, a reasonable period of time has passed, and they decide to remarry, they should speak to the elders about it.
  • If a church wedding is being considered, it must address the failure of the marriage, God’s forgiveness, and the special grace of a new beginning.
I really wrestled with myself.
Not because of the opinion on it.
  • But because Jesus did not open a door in his teaching, and that is because he wants to emphasize and protect the sanctity of marriage and because he knows what causes a broken marriage and divorce.
  • According to research after one’s own death and the death of a close relative and perhaps an experience of abuse, this is the greatest crisis in a person’s life.
  • Jesus says: invest everything you can in your marriage.
The danger is, that when we open a door, like with the Pharisees with this passage in the Old Testament, we then start not to be too specific, because there is a supposed way out. And that’s what Jesus doesn’t want.
At the same time, we see that we humans are sinners and that marriages fail.
  • And this sin, like others, can also be forgiven.
  • And then we see in Jesus’ life how he deals with such situations. For example with the woman who is caught in adultery, whom the men all want to stone, and Jesus then says: Whoever is without sin, throw the first stone.
  • This is exactly the line in the Sermon on the Mount that Jesus says at the end that we should not judge others but pay attention to our own path.
  • Jesus says I am not judging you.
  • At the same time, Jesus addresses sin as sin and he says to this woman: Go there and don’t do it again!
  • Grace also changes behavior and we don’t want to turn it into cheap grace that we just take lightly as it suits us.
So grace is possible with God, even if we fall and have fallen in these places.
And God would like there too and can give a new beginning there too. Even if we destroy things with our hard heart that God actually intended differently in his order. When we are divorced, when we have entered into a new relationship, then we can come to terms with the old, confess guilt, find grace with God and let Him change our hearts and experience His blessings despite our guilt. A good example is the family tree of Jesus, because it contains a person who emerged as a child from the later marriage between David and Bathsheba, with whom David committed adultery.
With these words in the Sermon on the Mount, Jesus emphasizes the value of marriage and sexuality and he protects them and says: Therefore invest everything in your relationship, and in purity and faithfulness in the situation in which you are right now.
And at the same time we can know that
  • with Jesus there is grace for sinners.
  • With Jesus there is forgiveness for guilt.
  • With Jesus there is a new beginning that is possible.

And before we celebrate the Lord’s Supper right now, I invite us to come to God during the next songs.

Regardless of whether you are dealing with this area that we heard about this morning or a completely different area where this applies to you,

  • we are allowed to celebrate the Lord’s Supper, where Jesus promises us God’s love, where he promises us his forgiveness, where he promises us his grace.
  • And we can come with our guilt and let Jesus forgive us, also this morning.
  • We can come to him and tell him: what you did for us, Jesus, that you paid for our debt on the cross and they forgive us, we need exactly that again and again and we need your Holy Spirit, who changes our hearts.

Thank you Jesus