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  • Writer's picturePastor Hans Fiene

Matins Devotion: October 26, 2023

Matthew 18:1-20

Hyperbole is a literary device where you seek to make a point by overstating your case. It’s something we do all the time. For example, when you tell people, “if I get one call about my car’s extended warranty, I’m going to throw my cell phone off a cliff.” This is not a promise. It’s a way of expressing how much you detest the relentlessness of scammers.

When it comes to these words from Matthew 18 about cutting off the hand or plucking out the eye that causes you to sin, I’ve been told a few times in my life that this is an example of Jesus using hyperbole. It’s an example of Jesus overstating His case and saying things He doesn’t literally mean in order to make a point. Jesus just wants you to take sin seriously. He’s not really saying that you need to chop yourself into pieces and throw away the sinful bits in order to enter eternal life.

But this is not quite right. Jesus isn’t using hyperbole here because He means what He says from a certain perspective. He wants you to live with Him forever. And if the only way to cleanse yourself from sin were to cut off the appendages and organs that lead you into temptation, then you should do it. But thanks be to God, that’s not the only way. If all you had were the law, if the only way to make yourself righteous were to obey the commandments, then you’d have no choice but to carve out the sinful chunks of yourself until you were nothing but a pile of viscera. But thanks be to God, you have the Gospel. Thanks be to God, you have the righteousness of Jesus Christ, the Great Physician, who removed the sin from your flesh with the scalpels pierced into His own. In Christ, you have the one who was disfigured and maimed, carved up in your place in order to make you worthy of eternal life.

Look to the law for your righteousness and you’ll need to carve yourself into a monster in order to enter the kingdom that would still be outside of your reach. Look to Christ, and you can keep your hands, your feet and your eyes because He has cleansed them all.

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