The Rev. Paul J Cain
Matthew 5: 21-37
Five, Six, Eight
Sixth Sunday after the Epiphany, 13 February 2011
Immanuel Lutheran Church, Sheridan, WY
In the Name of the Father and of the + Son and of the Holy Spirit. Amen.
Five. Six. Eight. This isn’t math class and I do know how to count. In today’s appointed Holy Gospel for the Sixth Sunday after the Epiphany, this section of Jesus’ Sermon on the Mount gives His teachings on Commandments Five, Six, and Eight.
The Fifth Commandment
[God's Gift of Life]
You shall not murder.
What does this mean? We should fear and love God so that we do not hurt or harm our neighbor in his body, but help and support him in every physical need.
21 “You have heard that it was said to those of old, ‘You shall not murder; and whoever murders will be liable to judgment.’ 22 But I say to you that everyone who is angry with his brother2 will be liable to judgment; whoever insults3 his brother will be liable to the council; and whoever says, ‘You fool!’ will be liable to the hell4 of fire. 23 So if you are offering your gift at the altar and there remember that your brother has something against you, 24 leave your gift there before the altar and go. First be reconciled to your brother, and then come and offer your gift. 25 Come to terms quickly with your accuser while you are going with him to court, lest your accuser hand you over to the judge, and the judge to the guard, and you be put in prison. 26 Truly, I say to you, you will never get out until you have paid the last penny.5
Who is responsible for beginning a process of reconciliation? You are. I am. To put it briefly, the first person who recognizes that there is a need for reconciliation.
If you…remember that your brother has something against you…go. First be reconciled to your brother…
Matthew 18 tells the other side of the story, when you have been sinned against.: 15 “If your brother sins against you, go and tell him his fault, between you and him alone. If he listens to you, you have gained your brother. 16 But if he does not listen, take one or two others along with you, that every charge may be established by the evidence of two or three witnesses. 17 If he refuses to listen to them, tell it to the church. And if he refuses to listen even to the church, let him be to you as a Gentile and a tax collector. 18 Truly, I say to you, whatever you bind on earth shall be bound in heaven, and whatever you loose on earth shall be loosed in heaven. 19 Again I say to you, if two of you agree on earth about anything they ask, it will be done for them by my Father in heaven. 20 For where two or three are gathered in my name, there am I among them.” 
If you realize you have sinned, go and be reconciled. If someone has sinned against you, seek reconciliation. The goal is always forgiveness and reconciliation.
The Sixth Commandment
[God's Gift of Marriage]
You shall not commit adultery.
What does this mean? We should fear and love God so that we lead a sexually pure and decent life in what we say and do, and husband and wife love and honor each other.
27 “You have heard that it was said, ‘You shall not commit adultery.’ 28 But I say to you that everyone who looks at a woman with lustful intent has already committed adultery with her in his heart. 29 If your right eye causes you to sin, tear it out and throw it away. For it is better that you lose one of your members than that your whole body 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 your members than that your whole body go into hell.
31 “It was also said, ‘Whoever divorces his wife, let him give her a certificate of divorce.’ 32 But I say to you that everyone who divorces his wife, except on the ground of sexual immorality, makes her commit adultery, and whoever marries a divorced woman commits adultery.
In his explanation of the Sixth Commandment, Luther violates his own common pattern. We’re used to hearing, “We should fear and love God so that we do not…” followed by a list of things we are not to do. Luther was pretty smart here. When it comes to sexual sins, he didn’t want to give anyone any ideas! After all, boys are gross and girls are complicated.
How does it go today? Just like in Jesus’ day. There are those who say, “This is a difficult saying. Who can stand it? Who can keep it?” People have not change. And neither should Christian theology. Faithful practice needs to remain in this regard.
Matthew 19 gives more of Jesus’ teaching: 19 Now when Jesus had finished these sayings, he went away from Galilee and entered the region of Judea beyond the Jordan. 2 And large crowds followed him, and he healed them there.
3 And Pharisees came up to him and tested him by asking, “Is it lawful to divorce one’s wife for any cause?” 4 He answered, “Have you not read that he who created them from the beginning made them male and female, 5 and said, ‘Therefore a man shall leave his father and his mother and hold fast to his wife, and the two shall become one flesh’? 6 So they are no longer two but one flesh. What therefore God has joined together, let not man separate.” 7 They said to him, “Why then did Moses command one to give a certificate of divorce and to send her away?” 8 He said to them, “Because of your hardness of heart Moses allowed you to divorce your wives, but from the beginning it was not so. 9 And I say to you: whoever divorces his wife, except for sexual immorality, and marries another, commits adultery.”
10 The disciples said to him, “If such is the case of a man with his wife, it is better not to marry.” 11 But he said to them, “Not everyone can receive this saying, but only those to whom it is given. 12 For there are eunuchs who have been so from birth, and there are eunuchs who have been made eunuchs by men, and there are eunuchs who have made themselves eunuchs for the sake of the kingdom of heaven. Let the one who is able to receive this receive it.” 
1 Corinthians 7 is another helpful chapter on Holy Matrimony. Desertion is another reason for divorce, including its modern manifestation, abuse.
But MUST a person who MAY Biblically divorce for reasons of unfaithfulness or desertion divorce? Must divorce happen in those cases? No. Reconciliation is possible. Some marriages are stronger if trust can be rebuilt. Falling back in love is possible. And even there we must remember that the promise at a marriage is to love. That promise may be initially based on emotional love, but commitment love is what is promised, hence, “What God has joined together, let not man [or woman] separate.”
The Eighth Commandment
[God's Gift of a Good Reputation]
You shall not give false testimony against your neighbor.
What does this mean? We should fear and love God so that we do not tell lies about our neighbor, betray him, slander him, or hurt his reputation, but defend him, speak well of him, and explain everything in the kindest way.
33 “Again you have heard that it was said to those of old, ‘You shall not swear falsely, but shall perform to the Lord what you have sworn.’ 34 But I say to you, Do not take an oath at all, either by heaven, for it is the throne of God, 35 or by the earth, for it is his footstool, or by Jerusalem, for it is the city of the great King. 36 And do not take an oath by your head, for you cannot make one hair white or black. 37 Let what you say be simply ‘Yes’ or ‘No’; anything more than this comes from evil.6 
Swearing is not taking the Lord’s name in vain nor saying crass words about bodily functions. The former is cursing, breaking the Second Commandment. The latter is…rude at best. Remember, boys are gross.
Swearing should be avoided in most circumstances. At a celebration of the Holy Matrimony, the vows are oaths before God and man for the sake of the benefit of all involved, particularly man and wife and witnesses. An American President swears or affirms to be faithful to the U. S. Constitution. Oaths are also used to prevent perjury in courts of law. Christians may swear in these cases without sin based on Jesus’ oath in His own trial in Matthew 26: 63 But Jesus remained silent. And the high priest said to him, “I adjure you by the living God, tell us if you are the Christ, the Son of God.” 64 Jesus said to him, “You have said so. But I tell you, from now on you will see the Son of Man seated at the right hand of Power and coming on the clouds of heaven.” 65 Then the high priest tore his robes and said, “He has uttered blasphemy. What further witnesses do we need? You have now heard his blasphemy. 66 What is your judgment?” They answered, “He deserves death.” 67 Then they spit in his face and struck him. And some slapped him, 68 saying, “Prophesy to us, you Christ! Who is it that struck you?” 
“You are the Christ, the Son of God.” Yes, the high priest said these words. Jesus turned them into a confession: “You have said so.” And then He elaborated. All this took place because of the oath-making invocation: “I adjure you by the living God…” And this is why civil courts use the question, “Do you promise to tell the truth, the whole truth, and nothing but the truth, so help you God?”
Let your yes and no stand on their own. If can help your neighbor by swearing, as Jesus did, you are not sinning to do so.
Matthew 22 sums up today’s teaching from Jesus’ Sermon on the Mount:
37 And he said to him, “You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind. 38 This is the great and first commandment. 39 And a second is like it: You shall love your neighbor as yourself. 40 On these two commandments depend all the Law and the Prophets.” 
Christ came to fulfill the Law and the Prophets and did so perfectly.
Jesus gives clear teaching on Commandments Five, Six, and Eight.
In Christ Jesus, you have forgiveness, life, and salvation. Amen.
In the Name of the Father and of the + Son and of the Holy Spirit. Amen.
 The Holy Bible : English standard version. 2001 (Mt 18:15–20). Wheaton: Standard Bible Society.
 The Holy Bible : English standard version. 2001 (Mt 19:1–12). Wheaton: Standard Bible Society.
 Lutheran Service Book Three Year Lectionary. 2009. Bellingham, WA: Logos Research Systems, Inc.
 The Holy Bible : English standard version. 2001 (Mt 26:62–68). Wheaton: Standard Bible Society.
 The Holy Bible : English standard version. 2001 (Mt 22:37–40). Wheaton: Standard Bible Society.