We said last time that a new heart DOES something different.
There are practical manifestations of this new heart toward sex, and Jesus gives us some idea of what we are to do as citizens of the Kingdom of Heaven. Take a look at verses 29-30.
29 If your right eye causes you to sin, gouge it out and throw it away. For it is better that you lose one of the parts of your body than for your whole body to be thrown into hell. 30 And if your right hand causes you to sin, cut it off and throw it away. For it is better that you lose one of the parts of your body than for your whole body to go into hell.
Now, when you first read this, it seems ridiculous on two levels. One, if we took Jesus literally, there’d be a lot of eye patches and prosthetics here this morning. But second, if Jesus is saying in the previous verses that the problem is our depraved heart, what’s the point in doing some “good work” to make it better? Wouldn’t someone without a right eye but with a lustful heart lust just as much as a person with two eyes? Absolutely! My guess is that your left eye would go wild making up for the loss. Same thing goes for your hands.
No … Jesus is not saying that there is a physical remedy for a heart problem. Others have missed this. Saint Anthony lived in the Egyptian desert for 35 years, but never dealt with his heart. Origen castrated himself, which took care of his ability to RESPOND to the problem, but it didn’t take care of the problem.
So, Jesus is not saying that there is a physical remedy for a heart problem. He’s speaking metaphorically. It’s a wonderful (and common) rhetorical device of the rabbis that Jesus uses here.
You see, to a Jew (and Jesus’ audience is Jewish), the right eye and right arm and right leg were symbols of the BEST facility that a man had. So Jesus is simply (yet powerfully) communicating this: Nothing is too precious to eliminate from your life if it causes your heart to lust.
If it’s a smartphone, don’t get one. If it’s an app, don’t download it. If it’s a movie or a show, don’t watch it. Nothing is too precious to eliminate from your life if it causes your heart to lust.
… Because to fall in its trap is (among other things) to live perpetually dissatisfied.
But what about the last part of v. 30? Take a look again.
For it is better that you lose one of the parts of your body than for your whole body to go into hell.
Is Jesus saying that if you DON’T take sexual sin seriously you’ll go to hell?
Does that make any sense with what we’ve seen so far? NO. That’s not what Jesus is saying.
Now, Jesus was teaching in Aramaic, and Matthew wrote this all down in Koine Greek. And Matthew chose one of many Greek words he could have used for “hell” in this passage, and it wasn’t an accident. He chose the word “Gehenna” … which was actually a place outside of Jerusalem. It was the DUMP. It was the place outside of the city where all the trash was burned. And as you might imagine, “Gehenna” was always on fire. It was huge, and it never stopped. The fire was never satisfied enough to end.
So when people in the Bible referred to “hell” as “Gehenna”, they were emphasizing the idea that hell is a place of unquenchable thirst and unfulfilled longing.
What Jesus is saying here is sex outside of marriage points toward that, does it not? Sex holds out the promise of such consolation, of such closure, of such affirmation, and yet, as we’ve seen, sex outside of marriage destroys your ability to really be yourself. It destroys your freedom. There’s a certain sense in which if you’re out there having sex, thinking, “Sex is going to give me what I really want,” you’re a little bit like a person dying of thirst on a raft in the ocean. “Water, water everywhere, nor any drop to drink.”
Jesus says, if sex outside of a covenant points toward hell, sex inside a covenant points to complete satisfaction in Him. … what? Why is it that in Romans 7? Why is it in Ephesians 5 the Bible says the most rapturous sexual love between a husband and a wife is just a dim foretaste and pointer to what it’s going to be like to fall into the arms of your true Spouse at the end of time?
Rob is Teaching Pastor at Blackman Baptist Church.