Asking whether or not Jesus ever talked about homosexuality is somewhat analogous to asking whether or not Jesus ever talked about elder abuse.
But not exactly.
Jesus never used the specific words “elder abuse” but he did rebuke the Pharisees for not properly honouring their parents (Mark 7:12-13) and he did cite approvingly the 5th commandment, which states:
“Honor your father and your mother, that your days may be long in the land that the LORD your God is giving you.” (Exodus 20:12 ESV)
So yes, Jesus would disapprove of elder abuse but no, he never addressed the topic directly using that particular term.
Much the same would have to be said with respect to the question about homosexuality.
Jesus did rebuke the Pharisees for having a low regard for the Biblical ideal of covenantal marriage. He said to them:
“Have you not read that he who created them from the beginning made them male and female, 5 and said, ‘Therefore a man shall leave his father and his mother and hold fast to his wife, and the two shall become one flesh’? 6 So they are no longer two but one flesh. What therefore God has joined together, let not man separate.” (Matthew 19:4–6 ESV)
Clearly Jesus affirmed the Biblical vision of marriage as a life long union between one man and one woman. He affirmed sexuality within that particular context when he said, approvingly, “the two shall become one flesh”. And he did so by referring authoritatively to a passage from the Old Testament.
Furthermore, Jesus referred negatively and disapprovingly to all forms of sexual immorality. He said in Matthew 15:19-20:
For out of the heart come evil thoughts, murder, adultery, sexual immorality, theft, false witness, slander. These are what defile a person. (Matthew 15:19–20 ESV)
To “defile” means to make unclean. In the Old Testament it referred to what put one outside the worshipping community; the term is used in a similar sense in Revelation 21:27:
But nothing unclean will ever enter it, nor anyone who does what is detestable or false, but only those who are written in the Lamb’s book of life. (Revelation 21:27 ESV)
Therefore, Jesus is saying that evil thoughts, murder, adultery, sexual immorality, theft, false witness and slander are defiling sins that would exclude us from the everlasting Kingdom of God – presumably if not confessed and forgiven through his atoning work on the cross.
But what did Jesus mean, precisely, when he referred to “sexual immorality” as one of those defiling and excluding sins?
The Greek-English Lexicon Of The New Testament And Other Early Christian Literature (BDAG) defines the word porneia, translated in most Bibles as “sexual immorality”, as involving “unlawful sexual intercourse”. The Jewish law provides a long list of what constitutes unlawful sexual intercourse in Leviticus 18-20. According to those statutes, a man was forbidden to have sex with the following:
1. His neighbour’s wife (Leviticus 18:21)
2. Another man (Leviticus 18:22)
3. An animal (Leviticus 18:23)
4. His mother in law (Leviticus 20:11)
5. His daughter in law (Leviticus 20:12)
6. His sister (Leviticus 20:17)
Sex with any of these would be considered porneia – unlawful.
According to Jesus sex of this sort defiles a person and thus places them outside the worshipping community and outside the eternal kingdom of God.
Therefore it certainly cannot be argued that Jesus affirmed or was indifferent toward the issue of homosexual sex. Jesus clearly endorsed the Old Testament vision of marriage as an inviolable covenant between one man and one woman and he clearly viewed unlawful sex as being the sort of thing that defiled a person and placed them outside the kingdom of God. Jesus did not use the word “homosexuality” but neither did he use the word “incest” or “bestiality”. He did not need to. In using the Greek word porneia he identified with how the Jewish law delineated lawful and unlawful sex.
According to Jesus, unlawful sex is sin.
Sin separates us from God.
But thanks be to God, Jesus came to offer his life as a sacrifice of atonement and is therefore able to offer forgiveness to all lawbreakers and sinners.
And including me.
Jesus said that he was going to the cross in order to secure forgiveness for broken men and women just like us. At the Last Supper he passed a cup to his disciples and said:
this is my blood of the covenant, which is poured out for many for the forgiveness of sins. (Matthew 26:28 ESV)
Unlawful sex is sin.
Theft is sin.
Murder, adultery, false witness and slander are sin.
But thanks be to God – all such sins can be forgiven and forever washed away through the shed blood of Jesus on the cross.
Pastor Paul Carter
To listen to Pastor Paul’s Into The Word devotional podcast visit the TGC Canada website; you can also find it on iTunes.