Ps. 119:153-160; Jeremiah 28:5-9; Romans 7:1-13; Matthew 10:34-42.
Sword, “Do not think that I have come to bring peace on earth; I have not come to bring peace, but a sword… and a man’s foes will be those of his own household… and he who does not take up his cross and follow me is not worthy of me.” (vv. 34, 36, 38).
Jeremiah in his day confronted false “prophets of peace”; today Jesus teaches us the cost of peace, the radical separation from the family of men into the family of God. He invites us to join in his separation by way of the cross, where the law of God is fully satisfied creating for men a new kinship, brothers and sisters in Christ.
St. Paul by analogy to the “law of marriage” (Rom. 7:2) puts a fine point on our new kinships in Christ, that ends the power of law to condemn the woman, who is the church. The end of her espousal under law releases the woman to accept another free from guilt.
When Jesus said in his Sermon on the Mount, “everyone who divorces his wife, except on the ground of infidelity makes her an adulteress” (Mt. 5:32a), he applies the OT strictures to himself and his NT betrothed, whom he will not divorce but for the sole cause of unbelief.
In fashioning Eve from the side of sleeping Adam and returning to him a woman (Gen. 2:21, 22) God gifted each to the other, two still one flesh. Adam sings his joy for the woman (v. 23); and she, being of the man, received him as her lord; by their union for fruitful multiplication she would be “mother of all living” (3:20).
Sin insinuated into the relation; what began as creation’s procreative love, turned to law, the “law of marriage” under which women have since bridled.
The woman attended the serpent’s words delivering to Adam false/forbidden fruit he accepted; both the man and woman acting outside their ordained relational order. She usurped the man’s office for provisioning and delivery from God. The consequence of sin from that time on would be the woman’s frustration with the man described by God as, “desire for [her] husband” (v. 16b), a covetousness for the man’s office, mediator of God’s word and provision.
God affirmed Adam’s lordship in he relation; only now the woman’s obeisance would no longer from the joy of a lover’s submission but legal obligation and man’s rule; that reflects the eternal Son’s begotten-ness of his Father and resulting in the fruitful procession of the HS (cf. 1:26a; Ps. 110:1).
Now the woman’s obedience was contractual, “Wilt thou have this man to be thy wedded husband… Wilt thou obey him, and serve him, love, honor, and keep him in sickness and health; and forsaking all other, keep thee only unto him, so long as ye both shall live?” (Book of Common Prayer)
In the course of time the “law of marriage” would impose even greater obligations on the woman. By gracious baptism through the Red Sea, she was now national Israel, freed from Egyptian bondage, and brought to God.
At Sinai a marriage ceremony between God and his Israel ensued with a “peace offering” of a slaughtered bull; half the blood thrown against the altar of Presence. Moses then read from the Book of the Covenant what would be required of Israel; the people agreed, “All that the LORD has spoken we will do, and we will be obedient” (Ex. 19:8; 24:3, 7, 8). With consent, the remaining blood was thrown on the people, sealing the Covenant.
God and Israel were bonded under agreed terms an indissoluble union in the blood, except for the one cause of infidelity, Moses announced, “Behold the blood of the covenant…in accordance with all these words” (24:8). According to the “law of marriage” a dalliance by Israel with other gods was adulterous punishable by death (cf. Ex. 20:2, 3, 14; Lev. 20:10).
Freed from slavery, Israel entered the Lord’s household under the word of Torah; the implication St. Paul explains, Israel would not be free to marry another absent the death of her Lord (Rom. 7:2). Over the centuries, by multiple liaisons with the world, Israel proved herself adulteress worthy of death under law. Nevertheless, for love’s sake, God was longsuffering in the matter of inevitable righteousness and judgment.
In the fullness of time God’s only Son took into himself our humanity; to receive Israel’s death sentence, the full blast of God’s anger for infidelity. Jesus’ baptism in the HS ordained him into his office, God’s new Israel; one man faithful to God’s will in place of failed corporate Israel.
On the cross Jesus was God’s consenting and obedient “peace offering” for sin. With Jesus’ blood splashed on the earth and demise, the former marital covenant ceased to exist; the Lord had indeed died bearing the sin of the world, releasing our condemnation under the law. St. Paul put it this way: “[A]part from the law, sin lies dead” (Rom. 7:8b).
On Jesus’ death all men have been freed to accept a new spouse without accusation. But freedom comes with a warning in attending proposals for our favor, “Do not think that I have come to bring peace to the earth. I have not come to bring peace, but a sword” (Mt. 10:34); which is to say:
“If you receive me as your betrothed and Lord, you have forgiveness before God; and must eschew all others that compete for your devotion, even those of your households. These are the terms of My proposal in the Resurrection; I have decided for you and given My life for you; if you will but accept my love in faith apart from legal obligation.”
We are free to receive Jesus’ proposal without guilt. On Jesus’ death the HS was handed-over to God for the church; water and blood issued from his side, the stuff of Christian Baptism incorporating us into his body.
As with the woman from Adam’s sleep, our Baptism into Jesus’ death brings the church out of his risen flesh. We who are drawn and gathered by the HS to our new Adam acknowledge him sole mediator of God’s word and provision.
We approach Jesus’ crucified humility, not in fear and trembling as the people at Sinai, but freely in his gracious offer of forgiveness and feeding, source of eternal life on our Way to the Father’s household separating us from the household of men.
Jesus’ shed blood makes his church spotless bride. This is the New Covenant of marriage not ordered in law but solely in the obedient sacrificial blood of our new Adam in whom God wills our Life.
Our relation with God in Jesus’ body implies that the Christian church repent of all sinful “desire” to preside over the office belonging to the Lord, the man Jesus alone. In word and sacrament, he is present as sole teacher, interpreter, deliverer of God’s word and fruit. In this way the church is exalted “mother of all living”.
Faith believes God’s word in Christ over against the apostacy of Adam and Eve who believed serpent words. By faith we abandon man’s certainty apart from God’s word. By faith the Woman-Bride puts aside sin’s fallen desire to mediate the Lord’s office; rather she “Listen[s] to him” alone (Mt. 17:5b).
As for relations between husbands and wives being baptismally separated from worldly households into the household of God, St. Paul presciently observes, “This mystery is profound, and I am saying that it refers to Christ and the church. However, let each one of you love his wife as himself, and let the wife see that she respects her husband” (Eph. 5:32). Amen.