16 “The Law and the Prophets were proclaimed until John. Since that time, the good news of the kingdom of God is being preached, and everyone is forcing their way into it. 17 It is easier for heaven and earth to disappear than for the least stroke of a pen to drop out of the Law.
18 “Anyone who divorces his wife and marries another woman commits adultery, and the man who marries a divorced woman commits adultery.
Observations & Reflections
Luke did what he could to include as much of Jesus’ teaching as he could in this block of lessons, before Jesus goes into Jerusalem. It’s setup much like the book of Deuteronomy, where Moses delivers the law before entering the promised land. However, there are a few teachings that seem to be either misplaced or just randomly placed in this block. The verses above are those random teachings. They have nothing to do with the larger teaching block or theme that Jesus was delivering. They are also missing pieces that other gospel writers included. For example, the snippet about the law was part of larger paragraph found in Matthew’s sermon on the mount scene.
17 “Do not think that I have come to abolish the Law or the Prophets; I have not come to abolish them but to fulfill them. 18 For truly I tell you, until heaven and earth disappear, not the smallest letter, not the least stroke of a pen, will by any means disappear from the Law until everything is accomplished. 19 Therefore anyone who sets aside one of the least of these commands and teaches others accordingly will be called least in the kingdom of heaven, but whoever practices and teaches these commands will be called great in the kingdom of heaven. 20 For I tell you that unless your righteousness surpasses that of the Pharisees and the teachers of the law, you will certainly not enter the kingdom of heaven. (Matthew 5:17-20)
Additionally, verse 18 has nothing to do with the verses before or after it. Again, this was part of a larger paragraph that was in Matthew’s sermon on the mount. In Matthew, the teaching on divorce is sandwiched between teaching on adultery and oaths; both are related to marriage. Matthew’s version is also includes the reason why the passage, with the intro formula of “it has been said….”
31 “It has been said, ‘Anyone who divorces his wife must give her a certificate of divorce.’ 32 But I tell you that anyone who divorces his wife, except for sexual immorality, makes her the victim of adultery, and anyone who marries a divorced woman commits adultery. (Matthew 5:31-32)
Luke’s slop use of these verses aside, they are still the words of Jesus. In fact, many would argue that the most genuine parts of the gospels are the quotes of Jesus and especially the shorter sayings. Before the gospels were assembled it was likely that the first records of Jesus were lists of sayings, much like in the gospel of Thomas. Therefore, we should pay close attention to these words of our Lord.
We must also iron out the short phrase in verse 16 where Luke states of the gospel “everyone is forcing their way into it.” There are some alternate translations by the NLT and other dynamic equivalent translations. The underlying greek, βιάζεται εἰς, translates to “enter forcibly into.” However, it should be read as an idiom. We don’t have a direct English equivalent of this idiom but it should give the generic meaning of urgency. We could say that people are urgently entering into the kingdom or that they are desperately trying to enter. This would make more sense in English and it would also build a much better bridge into the next sentence, “it is easier…..”
But what is Jesus actually teaching here? I think the answer lies in Mathew’s version, where Jesus says “until everything is accomplished”. Most likely a reference to Jesus death on the cross and the giving of the Holy Spirit. However, it’s possible that alternate explanations exist that could be compelling. Either way, Acts 15 makes it clear that the law is only the yoke of the Jews, not the gentiles. However, we should still live each day in devotion to serving God and following the commands we were given by the Lord, Jesus.