Non-sequiturs are responses to a previous comment that does not seem to follow logically to the topic being discussed. They are often both illogical and nonsensical. As Christians, we know that every word from Christ, seeing that He is God, is pure, Proverbs 30:5. Jesus Christ – unlike us – never gave random responses.
Yet we have several statements from Christ that do indeed seem – and to His enemies were in fact treated as – non-sequiturs. Those of us, however, who know and reverence our Lord know that every word from Jesus Christ certainly has purpose. That is why we can call these mysterious responses or actions crypto-sequiturs; there is a connection, but not one that is immediately apparent. Other statements of Christ did seem to be logically connected but were actually, as far as His intended application, still hidden from His hearers. So Crypto-sequitur refers to responses that either seemed unconnected, or that were connected, but applied in a spiritual and totally unforeseen way.
Below are three of these crypto-sequiturs of Christ. The first two are fairly easy to understand, but the last one requires more careful examination to get to the application:
1. “Destroy this temple, and in three days I will raise it up.“
John 2:15-21 (We backtrack a bit in order to pick up the context):
15. When He had made a whip of cords, He drove them all out of the temple, with the sheep and the oxen, and poured out the changers’ money and overturned the tables.
16. And He said to those who sold doves, “Take these things away! Do not make My Father’s house a house of merchandise!”
17. Then His disciples remembered that it was written, “Zeal for Your house has eaten Me up.”
18. So the Jews answered and said to Him, “What sign do You show to us, since You do these things?”
19. Jesus answered and said to them, “Destroy this temple, and in three days I will raise it up.”
20. Then the Jews said, “It has taken forty-six years to build this temple, and will You raise it up in three days?”
21. But He was speaking of the temple of His body.
This is an obvious example to start with, seeing that the text itself unlocks for us Christ’s intended application. The hostile Jews in this confrontation, having just seen Him (from their viewpoint) violate the sanctity of their temple, when they heard Christ’s words in verse 19 thought naturally of the physical temple. But He intended to draw their attention to the real and spiritual temple, His own Body – the Church of the Living God, a spiritual house of which this earlier structure was mere preparation.
To the Jews, Christ’s answer was a non-sequitur, as their hostile response clearly shows.
2. “Beware of the leaven of the Pharisees and the Sadducees.”
Matthew 16:5-12. Here is another fairly straightforward example, seeing that the key to understanding it is given at the very end.
5. Now when His disciples had come to the other side, they had forgotten to take bread.
6. Then Jesus said to them, “Take heed and beware of the leaven of the Pharisees and the Sadducees.”
7. And they reasoned among themselves, saying, “It is because we have taken no bread.”
8. But Jesus, being aware of it, said to them, “O you of little faith, why do you reason among yourselves because you have brought no bread?
9. Do you not yet understand, or remember the five loaves of the five thousand and how many baskets you took up?
10. Nor the seven loaves of the four thousand and how many large baskets you took up?
11. How is it you do not understand that I did not speak to you concerning bread?—but to beware of the leaven of the Pharisees and Sadducees.”
12. Then they understood that He did not tell them to beware of the leaven of bread, but of the doctrine of the Pharisees and Sadducees.
We tend to be hard on the disciples for their slowness in understanding what Christ meant here, but we have the benefit of the explanation. We most certainly would have made our own share of blunders in understanding that all pupils make on their way to becoming actual students of the things of God.
Luke 16:14-18. This verse 18 in itself seems very clear, but what is odd – at first sight, at least – is the place we find this verse. Consider the whole context:
14. Now the Pharisees, who were lovers of money, also heard all these things, and they derided Him.
15. And He said to them, “You are those who justify yourselves before men, but God knows your hearts. For what is highly esteemed among men is an abomination in the sight of God.
16. “The law and the prophets were until John. Since that time the kingdom of God has been preached, and everyone is pressing into it.
17. And it is easier for heaven and earth to pass away than for one tittle of the law to fail.
18. “Whoever divorces his wife and marries another commits adultery; and whoever marries her who is divorced from her husband commits adultery.
Does verse 18 have any connection to the previous passage? For that matter, does it have any connection to the verses that follow afterward? Either way, it seems to be an orphan; the idea of divorce and remarriage not fitting anywhere else in the context of which this verse is in the middle. Many commentators have picked up on this incongruity – and then proceeded to find some way to make the fit. A few even suggest that the verse has no place here, but was added by an unskillful later redactor.
It is true that God’s commands and restrictions concerning verse are an example of the law mentioned in verse 17, yet the incongruity and question remains: Why just single this one command out?
I believe that Christ, once again, is speaking spiritually – just as He did of the temple and of leaven in the previous examples. I believe that He is speaking of spiritual divorce in this passage, not a physical, personal one. A good cross-reference, I believe, is Romans 7:1-6:
1. Or do you not know, brethren (for I speak to those who know the law), that the law has dominion over a man as long as he lives?
2. For the woman who has a husband is bound by the law to her husband as long as he lives. But if the husband dies, she is released from the law of her husband.
3. So then if, while her husband lives, she marries another man, she will be called an adulteress; but if her husband dies, she is free from that law, so that she is no adulteress, though she has married another man.
4. Therefore, my brethren, you also have become dead to the law through the body of Christ, that you may be married to another—to Him who was raised from the dead, that we should bear fruit to God.
5. For when we were in the flesh, the sinful passions which were aroused by the law were at work in our members to bear fruit to death.
6. But now we have been delivered from the law, having died to what we were held by, so that we should serve in the newness of the Spirit and not in the oldness of the letter.
Don’t live your New Life with your Old Wife
In these last two passages, Romans and Luke, we have identical terms: Law, divorce, wife, adultery. I believe that the application is the same in both, both referring to spiritual adultery.
Paul told the Roman Jews that they were married to the Law, and that their marriage was for life. We have been set free from the law by death. It was literally “till death do us part”. That is exactly what happened; death – Christ’s death on the cross – is what killed the believing Jews – and us. New life in Christ means first that the old life – as the old wife – died. That first marriage was a tough, exacting one. There was no satisfying the requirements of that marriage. Thank God that all things are new and old things are passed away!
Now, both Jesus and Paul warn against the absolute sin of living the new life with the old wife: Law. According to Jesus every “jot and tittle” of the Law must be followed. According to Paul we are “adulteresses” if we try to live as if we were married to Christ yet still serving under the “dominion” of that old slave-driving first wife.
But once the demands of the Law are past, through death, Hebrews 9:16-17, the new life of the New Covenant come into effect. To try to live the new life the old way is adultery – and futile. To recognize the death of all that is the key to wholeheartedly living the new life.
There are several passages like the above, which do not seem to neatly follow from the previous context. I believe too many run too readily to commentaries and study Bibles. There is a place for these, but they should not be the first thing we consult. A better course would be to first study out the passages yourself, mixing prayer with perseverance, knowing that, just as God is one, so is His Word. It is in these seeming discrepancies that we often find most welcome and encouraging treasures.