In today’s gospel passage from Matthew, Jesus tells his disciples that whoever calls his brother “Raqa” (pronounced rock-uh) will be answerable to the Sanhedrin. Without having an understanding of the meaning of that word we cannot appreciate Jesus’ message, nor can we appreciate the theological lesson that he was sharing with his disciples.
Jesus said to his disciples:
“I tell you, unless your righteousness surpasses that
of the scribes and Pharisees,
you will not enter into the Kingdom of heaven.
“You have heard that it was said to your ancestors,
You shall not kill; and whoever kills will be liable to judgment.
But I say to you, whoever is angry with his brother
will be liable to judgment,
and whoever says to his brother,
‘Raqa,’ will be answerable to the Sanhedrin,
and whoever says, ‘You fool,’ will be liable to fiery Gehenna.
Therefore, if you bring your gift to the altar,
and there recall that your brother
has anything against you,
leave your gift there at the altar,
go first and be reconciled with your brother,
and then come and offer your gift.
Settle with your opponent quickly while on the way to court with him.
Otherwise your opponent will hand you over to the judge,
and the judge will hand you over to the guard,
and you will be thrown into prison.
Amen, I say to you,
you will not be released until you have paid the last penny.”
Raqa means that someone is worthless, a fool. To say such a thing to a brother or sister in anger is to spit in the face of God. He created all of us in his image and likeness, saints and sinners alike. No one in the kingdom of God is worthless. That is why Jesus tells his followers that they will be answerable to the Sanhedrin, for such a statement requires public repentance.
Have we ever said (or even believed) that someone in our lives is worthless? I know that I have. Thank you, Lord for teaching me this lesson today.