In Matthew 5:27-32 Jesus deals with the issues of Adultery and Divorce. In reality; however, Jesus really deals primarily with the issue of Adultery. Thought the Pharisees of the day wanted to pin Jesus on his interpretation of Divorce (Matt. 19), Jesus did not fall into their trap. Here in Matt. 5 we have a very condensed version of the same issue Jesus coves in greater depth in Matthew 19 and Mark 10 (It’s also in Luke).
Jesus begins the conversation, as he does in the Sermon on the Mount with a quote from the Old Testament “Do not commit adultery.” Like most Pharisees, modern day believers are tempted to write this off. After all, how many of us are sleeping with someone else’s wife? We’re not like King Herod!
However, upon further inspection, Jesus challenges us to hold on for a minute. As Jesus explains it, the act is first committed in the heart (like murder/anger) and thus we all have probably broken this commandment as well. Even the Pharisees.
Now I can honestly say that there were times in my life where I was so strict on not looking at a woman that this didn’t seem to be a problem for me. At the same time I would have to admit that those days didn’t last.
Jesus then directs us to do whatever it takes to keep the thoughts from occurring (gouge out your eye!) and from acting on such thoughts (cut off your hand!).
At this point it seems like Jesus moves on to divorce, but if you look at verse 32 you’ll see that it actually ends on the issue of adultery, not divorce. Divorce is simply one catalyst that leads to adultery.
Now it is true that Jesus uses another quote from the OT, thus delineating a slight break with the previous paragraph; however, the topic flow and theme is still I would argue connected. The adulterous love that we are so prone to exhibit occurs in the mind, physically, and in our selfishness within marriage as well. Thus both paragraphs exhibit the selfish nature of lust and the tragic consequences thereof.
Even if Jesus’ fuller treatment of the divorce issue in Matt 19 He skirts the issue the Pharisees wanted answered to argue for a pure love based on God’s design.
Thus without digging into further details and controversy regarding aspects of divorce (another day!), it should be enough to note that the closing sentence pronounces the judgment of ‘adulterer’ on one who marries a divorced person. Again, leaving the full ramifications/interpretation of this for another day – the primary point is to have an unadulterated love; first for God and then for Man. The love for God and Man necessitates our love not be adulterous.