Nineteenth Sunday after Pentecost, Year B
October 4, 2015
But Jesus said to them, “Because of your hardness of heart he wrote this commandment for you.” Mark 10:5
God intends good for us. I don’t think any one of us would dispute that statement. This week’s gospel lesson, however, shows how we humans are able through our broken, sinful nature to distort and manipulate a beautiful, grace-full gift. In relationships–be they marriage, community, or family–the lure of power, control, and selfishness can easily create stumbling blocks to the goodness we should and could experience. But God is good!
Look at how the gospel passage opens. “Some Pharisees came, and to test Jesus they asked, ‘Is it lawful for a man to divorce his wife?’” The Pharisees knew the law. Their question was not about settling a legal question, but rather about entrapping this thorn-in-their-flesh rabbi who was raising such a holy ruckus and rocking the ol’ status quo boat. Jesus, refusing to play along, reminds them of the “why” behind the law–the hardness of the human heart. Relationship is about much more than the folly of an unpleasing dinner or greener pastures, and it’s far more than a series of lines that should not be crossed or rules to be followed. For Jesus, relationship is about unity, about being “all-in” and about not letting the outside forces of the world rip the goodness to shreds.
Of course he has to spell out this matter of divorce more plainly for his disciples, who seem to have a tough time grasping anything, especially when it comes to the Reign of God, which Jesus has been trying in vain to explain to them. Segueing back into his teaching on the Reign of God, Jesus employs an object lesson. When the disciples try to shoo away the children like flies from the dinner table, Jesus takes them in his arms, blesses them, and shows his followers exactly what he means.
The Reign of God belongs to the marginalized, to the weak, to the overlooked, to the ones who come with open minds, hearts, and hands rather than to those who mince every word, watch every movement, and judge every action. The reign is entered through accepting weakness, acknowledging brokenness, and fixing one’s entire sight on Jesus through whom grace and mercy and love are freely given.
I don’t know about you, but I think this week’s news is a catalog of human brokenness: From the refugee crisis to continued fighting in Afghanistan and Syria to tensions in Liberia and the Central African Republic, to executions and stays of execution, and to ongoing issues of poverty, racial tensions, and spatting politicians in D.C., it’s enough to make me weep. And there’s plenty of brokenness closer to home and in our congregations, where, folks may be suffering the aftershocks of failed marriages, illness or financial woes. And even congregations may be experiencing the pain of broken relationships, worship wars, and fear of decline.
Because of the hardness of our hearts, Jesus said, Moses gave the people of Israel a legal code that dealt with their brokenness and kept order. And because our hearts remained hard, God came to us. Through Jesus, we are invited to enter the Reign of God in spite of the mental, emotional, and spiritual plaque that clogs our arteries and hardens our hearts. His open arms receive us just as we are: the uncool, the imperfect, the weak, the lame, the blind, and despised. In our weakness we are loved and saved by completely underserved and totally amazing grace and mercy.
This, dear friends, is very good news. We can stop counting the beans, justifying our existence, and judging others in hopes of finding ourselves more worthy. The child inside of each one of us longs to come to Jesus whether or not we realize it. With our Lord there is always hope, always a welcome, and always blessing. Jesus is not ashamed of us. Thanks be to God! Praise the Lord, and share the news.
(Photo: hannes.a.schwetz, David Goehring, and Brandon Atkinson, Creative Commons. Thanks!)