It's a tough gospel this morning.
If Jesus were to give out those Valentine Heart Candies in church this morning, instead of "Be Mine" or "Hot Stuff" or "True Love", His Gospel Valentines would say, "Anger", "Adultery", "Divorce", "Do No Murder","Oath" "Yes=Yes," "No=No".
Jesus is making it pretty clear that if you are going to follow Him, you are not only going to have to follow all the laws and the commandments, you are going to have to put your heart and soul into it.
It's not just about following the commandment that says, "You shall not commit adultery." If you are married and you even look at another person with lust in your heart, well, says Jesus, you have committed adultery in your heart and you are just as guilty as if you acted on it.
Former President Jimmy Carter made that one passage of scripture almost as well known as the story of the Nativity.
Jesus went even further. It not about having a legal divorce. When you married, your vows were for life. Even if you get a legal divorce, you are still married in the eyes of God. If you remarry, you are committing adultery.
And, if you're going to make a vow of any kind then make sure you can keep it before you make it. Otherwise, you are simply consorting with the Evil One.
Not exactly the warm-fuzzy messages about "Love and Marriage" which the media is putting out for Valentine's Day tomorrow.
Life, as Forrest Gump says, may be like a box of chocolates, but Jesus says that the commitments of the heart are not. Understand, he says, that the vows you make on earth are sealed in heaven.
"Blessed are the pure in heart," said Jesus "for they shall see God." (Mt. 5:8).
In criticizing the quest for material wealth, Jesus says that "where our treasure is, there will our heart be also" (Mt. 6:21 and Lk. 12:34).
In lambasting the religious elite for their hypocrisy, he demands, "How can you speak good things, when you are evil? For out of the abundance of the heart the mouth speaks" (Mt.12:34-5; Lk. 6:45).
If you want to be a follower of Jesus, the first thing is that you gotta have heart - as that old song from "Damn Yankees" goes - "miles and miles and miles of heart".
Oh, it's fine to be a genius of courseI suspect if there are any "young lovers" in the pews this morning, they probably won't hear these words of Jesus applied to them in any way. Romantic love is not only blind, it's often deaf as a doornail.
But keep that old horse
Before the cart
First, you gotta have heart.
Usually, when Jesus teaches to his disciples like this, it often means that the Pharisees are somewhere nearby, within hearing range, primed for a conflict.
These words of Jesus come right after "The Beatitudes" - from The Sermon on the Mount". He certainly had a large audience.
I suspect these words were not only meant for those who followed Jesus, but also for any who might consider following him, as well as those - like the Pharisees and Sadducees - who may have doubted his commitment to his mission.
One can hear these words from Jesus as being about Jesus, too.
What's in his heart.
And, it's this: Love.
He's not playin'. He's in this for real. For life. For ever. And, ever.
And, so should those who follow Him or profess to love God.
In the ancient words of the Shema (Deuteronomy 6:4):
"Hear O Israel, the Lord our God, the Lord is One" (Shema Yisrael, Adonai eloheinu, Adonai echad).In Mark's Gospel it is reported that one of the teachers of the law came and heard them debating. Noticing that Jesus had given them a good answer, he asked him, “Of all the commandments, which is the most important?”
"Blessed be the Name of His glorious kingdom for ever and ever."
"And thou shalt love the LORD thy God with all thine heart, and with all thy soul, and with all thy might."
"And thou shalt teach them diligently unto thy children, and shalt talk of them when thou sittest in thine house, and when thou walkest by the way, and when thou liest down, and when thou risest up."
"And thou shalt bind them for a sign upon thine hand, and they shall be as frontlets between thine eyes."
"And thou shalt write them upon the posts of thy house, and on thy gates."
Jesus responded by reciting a portion of the Shema and then ended with these words, "The second is this: ‘Love your neighbor as yourself.’ There is no commandment greater than these.”
For Jesus, it's all about Love - the commitment of love. The embodiment of love.
Because, God is love.
And, for those who have eyes to see and ears to hear, that's the best Valentine's Day message anyone could get.