Lectionary Calendar
Friday, July 19th, 2024
the Week of Proper 10 / Ordinary 15
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Bible Commentaries
Matthew 19

Smith's Bible CommentarySmith's Commentary

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Verses 1-30

Chapter 19

Now it came to pass, when Jesus had finished these sayings, he departed from Galilee, and he came to the coast of Judea ( Matthew 19:1 );

Now that is the border of Judea, so He is moving south towards Jerusalem, for Jerusalem lies in the area of Judea, which is in the southern kingdom. So He has left the area of Naphtali and Psycar in the north, and has come down now to the area of Judea, there beyond Jordan.

And great multitudes followed him; and he healed them there. Then the Pharisees came unto him, [and notice this] they were tempting him ( Matthew 19:2-3 ),

This is a test question; it is a leading question. It is a question of entrapment. They are trying to trap Jesus in His words. And it is important that you realize that this is a trap question by the Pharisees. So they came unto Him, tempting Him, or trapping Him,

and saying unto him, Is it lawful for a man to put away his wife for every cause? ( Matthew 19:3 )

Now under the Mosaic law it says, if a man finds an uncleanness in his wife, and he is not content to remain with her, let him give her a writing of a bill of divorcement.

Now what is meant by finding an "uncleanness" in her? According to the liberal theologians of those days, an uncleanness could be her not fixing the kind of breakfast you enjoy. So if she boiled the egg too long, and the yoke was to hard, you could say, "That's it, I've had it. I divorce you". And you could hand her the paper and she had to leave. I mean she had no recourse. She was just out. And so they had applied a very liberal interpretation to this finding an uncleanness in her.

Other of the rabbis said that the uncleanness was a moral uncleanness. You discovered she was not a virgin when you married her, or if she would break the marriage vow, it was a moral uncleanness. And so there was the division among the Scribes and Pharisees, to which of the two schools they subscribed, whether Hallel, who took the very, narrow, moral uncleanness, or the other school that took a very much broader view.

So they were questioning Jesus, "Is it lawful for a man to put away his wife for every cause?"

And he answered and said unto them, Have you not read, that he which made them in the beginning [now notice, Jesus is going back not to the law, but He is going back to the beginning] he who made them in the beginning made them male and female ( Matthew 19:4 ),

Now there is quite a move on foot today to change what God has done. They'll never be successful. God help poor, sick humanity. I don't know if there is any transvestites here, but I cannot for the life of me understand that kind of a sickness, really.

God made them male and female,

And said, For this cause shall a man leave father and mother, and shall cleave to his wife: and they two shall be one flesh? Wherefore they are no more two, but they are one ( Matthew 19:5-6 ).

There is a unity that is brought about by marriage where the two become one flesh. Of course, that is literally true in your offspring. The two of you have become one flesh in your offspring. There is twenty-three of the chromosomes that come from each of you to begin that new life. How beautiful! You dads can't say, "That 's your kid, take care of him," because he is half yours too, twenty-three chromosomes from you. And so it is a perfect combination, the two shall become one flesh.

Wherefore they are no more two, but they are one. What therefore God hath joined together, let not man [by writing of divorcement or whatever] put asunder ( Matthew 19:6 ).

Now in those days women didn't have the power of divorce. And that's why God said, don't let man put it asunder, don't let man break it. God has made the two of you one, now don't let a man break that by writing out a divorcement for his wife.


They said unto Him ( Matthew 19:7 ),

Now picture the trap closing, ha, ha. He's fallen into it, because it was a trap question and He fell right into it. All right we've got Him now. And they said unto Him,

Why did Moses then command to give a writing of divorcement, and to put her away? ( Matthew 19:7 )

Now all of them recognized that the law that Moses gave came from God. If anything was inspired in the Bible, it was the law of Moses. And there were many of them that only believed that that part, and today still many only believe that the first five books of the Bible are inspired, but they all hold that that is the inspired Word. God gave us the law by Moses.

Now you are contradicting God. You see, this is the whole idea to put Him in contradicting what God said, and God said, "let him put her away." And you're saying, "you can't, you shouldn't if God has joined you together, you shouldn't break it by writing out an divorcement". So you're against God is the whole idea.

And Jesus said unto them, Moses because of the hardness of your hearts allowed you to put away your wives: [but again he is going back before Moses ever came on the scene] from the beginning it was not so ( Matthew 19:8 ).

You noticed in the first part He said, "in the beginning God made male and female." Now He is saying, "in the beginning it wasn't so. Moses, because of the hardness of your heart, gave the law for divorcing, but in the beginning this was not God's intention". In the beginning this is not what God desired or planned.

And I say unto you, [not Moses said, but I say] Whosoever shall put away his wife, except it be for fornication, [and notice He does make the exception] and shall marry another, commits adultery: and whoso marries her which is put away does commit adultery. His disciples said, Lord if that's the case, better that a guy not marry ( Matthew 19:9-10 ).

Now Jesus is being very straight. He is telling you what is God's original plan for man, one marriage of life. In the beginning this is what God intended when He made them male and female, that the two become one; so that the children will always have both parents and the security of a home, and a home environment in which to grow up. And wherever that breaks down, we find its effects throughout our entire social structure. And we see it today, the tremendous breakdown in our society, and the social order, because of the divided families and the children are always hurt, as a byproduct of this division.

Now Jesus did give the one cause, and that one cause is fornication. And in that case, the innocent party would be free to remarry, very plainly declares that if they put away their wife, except for fornication, and marry another, but the exception is there.

Now Jesus said unto His disciples when they were shocked at the straightness of His declaration.

All men cannot receive this saying, except to those to whom it is given ( Matthew 19:11 ).

Now this is the next saying that He is talking about.

For there are some who are eunuchs, which were so born from their mother's womb: there are others who are eunuchs, which were made eunuchs of men: and there be some eunuchs, which have made themselves eunuchs for the kingdom of heaven's sake. If you're able to receive it, let him receive it ( Matthew 19:12 ).

Am not able, so I just let it go. I am not an eunuch, nor do I desire to be.

Then were there brought unto him little children, that he should put his hands on them, and pray for them: and his disciples rebuked them. [That is the parents that were bringing them.] But Jesus said, Allow the little children, don't forbid them to come to me: for as such is the kingdom of heaven. And he laid his hands on them, and he departed from there ( Matthew 19:13-15 ).

Oh, I can get just such a beautiful picture of Jesus and the little children thronging around Him, and the love and the interest that He had in these little ones. And here the disciples thinking they were protecting Him, said, "Oh, don't bother the Lord with your little kids." Jesus said, "Wait a minute. Get out of the way, Peter, let that little one come to me. Don't forbid him, of such is the kingdom of heaven." He laid His hands on them and blessed them. Oh, I love it.

And, behold, one came and said unto him, Good Master, what good thing shall I do, that I may have eternal life? ( Matthew 19:16 )

Well, here is the moralist; we see them today, people who are looking for some work whereby they might obtain the gift of eternal life. There are always those who are wanting to work their way into God's favor, work their way into God's blessings. If you'll just pray, then God will bless you. If you'll just fast, then God will bless you. If you'll just give, then God will bless you.

How many want a blessing? Then dig deep and give tonight, you know. And there are always those who want to do some work to obtain God's blessing upon their lives. What good work must I do that I may inherit eternal life? There is not a single work that you can do. Jesus later said, "With man it's impossible, there is no way that you can do any kind of a work that will save you. Salvation, eternal life is the gift of God, and it's not of works, lest any man should boast. We are His workmanship"( Ephesians 2:8-10 ).

And Jesus said unto him, Why callest thou me good? there is none good but one, and that is God ( Matthew 19:17 ):

Now here he said, "good master," Jesus said, "Why did you call me good? There is only one that is good, and that is God". Now obviously Jesus is saying one of two things. He is saying, "I am no good, or He is saying, I am God." Which do you think He is saying? What He is doing is trying to awaken the consciousness of this man to the fact that he has received a divine revelation. He is getting close. "Why did you call me good?" The reason why you called me good, is because you, though you don't realize it, have recognized something about me. "Why did you call me good?"

You remember when Peter said, "Thou art the Christ the son of the living God". Jesus said, "Blessed art you Simon Barjona. Flesh and blood did not reveal this to you"( Matthew 16:16-17 ). Jesus is saying much the same, "Hey, why did you call me good? Flesh and blood did not reveal this". There is a divine revelation here. "You called me good, but there is only one that is good, and that is God. You called me good, because I am God. You have recognized something here". "What must I do to have this eternal life, this age-abiding life, this quality of life that you have, this quality that I am observing and I am drawn to?" And Jesus is beginning to point out the way. First of all, the recognition of "who I am. Why did you call me good? There is none good but God".

And Jesus said,

But if you will enter into life, keep the commandments. And he said unto him, Which? and Jesus said, Thou shalt do no murder, Thou shalt not commit adultery, Thou shalt not steal, Thou shalt not bear false witness, honor thy father and thy mother: and, Thou shalt love thy neighbor as thyself ( Matthew 19:17-19 ).

Notice now, nothing is said of the first table of the law. Nothing is said of man's relationship to God. He did not give him the first four commandments: Thou shalt have no other God's before me. Thou shalt not make any graven images, to bow down to them, to worship them. Thou shalt not take the name of the Lord thy God in vain. And remember the Sabbath day to keep it holy. He didn't bring out any of the first four, man's relationship with God. He only dealt with man's relationship with man because this man was a moralist. He was that typical man, who was looking for a good work that he might do in order to inherit eternal life. He was used to doing good works. His life was spent in doing good works. And so Jesus gave to him those commandments that dealt with his relationship with fellow man.

And as Jesus flashed these before his eyes,

He answered and said unto him, All of these have I kept from my youth: but what lack I yet? ( Matthew 19:20 )

Now here is a man who is rich, he is a moralist. He's kept his relationship with his fellow men all that it should be. Throughout his life he's tried to do the good thing, the right thing to his fellow man. And yet he is conscious that there is a lack in his life. "I don't yet have what you have. What lack I yet?" He was conscious that there was still a lack in his own life, that there must be something more than just living a good life and being wealthy.

"What lack I yet?"

And Jesus said unto him, If you will be complete [totally complete, perfect], then go and sell what you have, and give it to the poor, and thou shalt have treasure in heaven: and come and follow me ( Matthew 19:21 ).

Now I'd like to read to you what Jesus is essentially saying to him." If you will be perfect, or complete, come follow me. The rest is only incidental." With the rest there is no universal application. That was the individual commandment to that man. It is not a universal application. This was not a requirement to any person who is going to be complete, or to have eternal life. It doesn't mean that you've got to sell everything you have and distribute it to the poor.

Now in the early church there was a movement of this sort. It ended in financial disaster; it also ended in some personal calamities. When the church first started, people were very excited about what was happening. And they were anticipating the Lord to return immediately, and a lot of them began to sell their properties and bring the price and lay it at the apostles' feet.

And there was one couple Ananias and Sapphira, who sold their property and they brought in part of the money and put it at Peter's feet. And Peter said, "Hey, wait a minute. Why have you conspired in your heart to lie against the Holy Spirit? You've not lied against men, you've lied against God. As long as the property was yours, did anyone require you to sell it? And even after you sold it, no one required that you bring everything in. But yet, you are making this pretense of bringing everything. You're trying to deceive God"( Acts 5:1-4 )

And there was swift judgment upon Ananias and his wife Sapphira, not because they didn't bring everything, but Peter makes it very clear, that they weren't required to sell their possessions. They weren't required to bring the money in. It was something that people did out of their own volition and free will.

And so Jesus when He says, "Go and sell what you have and distribute to the poor", is not a making a universal demand for those who would have eternal life. What the universal demand is, "come and follow me". You cannot have eternal life apart from following Jesus Christ, but He will always put the finger on whatever it is in your life that's keeping you from following Him. And with the case of this rich young ruler, the thing that was keeping him from following Jesus Christ was his riches. That was his god.

Jesus said, "You cannot serve God and mammon, you can't have two masters"( Matthew 6:24 ). If you have a false god that is controlling your life, then you've got to go and get rid of it, whatever it be. And you've got to have the true God on the throne of your life. Jesus said, "Come follow me. Why did you call me good? There is only one good, that's God. You called me good because you recognized that I am God. Now follow me; get rid of the false gods. Get rid of the empty gods; follow me, the true and living God."

And it's important that you observe this, because a lot of people make a big deal over, well, you got to go and sell everything you have and distribute it to the poor and all; not so. That is not a universal application. The universal application is, "Come follow me". He is the way to completeness. He is the way to eternal life; there is not any real life apart from Him.

Now when the young man heard that saying, he went away sorrowful: for he had great possessions. [Sorry, because he was so rich.] Then said Jesus unto his disciples, Verily I say unto you, That a rich man shall hardly enter into the kingdom of heaven. And again I say, It is easier for a camel to go through an eye of a needle, than for a rich man to enter into the kingdom of God. And when his disciples heard it, they were exceedingly amazed, saying, Who then can be saved? And Jesus beheld them, and said unto them, With men it's impossible; but with God all things are possible ( Matthew 19:22-26 ).

Now when you go over to Israel today, the guides when you get to the Church of the Nativity, they will show you a little sub-gate under the gate into the church. And they tell you that that little sub-gate was called the eye of the needle, and that in the gates of the cities they always had this little sub-gate, which was called the eye of the needle. And in order to get the camel through it, they had to take all of the burden of the camel's back, and it had to get down on the ground. And a couple guys behind him pushing, and one guy in front of it pulling, to get it to squeeze through this eye of the needle in the gate. And they say that's what Jesus was talking about.

Isn't that interesting? They make it a possibility if you struggle hard enough, and if you grunt and groan enough you can actually save yourself. A lot of people would like to have you think that. But Jesus points out that that is entirely false. He is talking not about some little gate that you can, by a lot of effort, and grunts and groans squeeze and get through. He is talking about an eye of a needle, that a woman is sewing with, and you trying to get a camel through that? And that's why the disciples said, "Lord, who then can be saved?" and note, Jesus said what, "With man it is impossible." Remember that.

He didn't say, "You got to strain. You got to struggle. You got to grunt and groan, give it your best." He is saying, "It's impossible." Man cannot save himself. The moralist cannot save himself. No man by good works can save himself. No man by a good work can inherit age-abiding, eternal life. It is a gift of God, and it is only wrought by a miracle of God in our hearts and lives. For though it is impossible with men, with God all things are possible. It's even possible to save you.

And God has done the impossible in saving us tonight. And remember that. With man it is impossible. That eliminates the moralist completely. You cannot by your good works obtain for yourself a place in the kingdom of God. You've got to come as a little child and be converted and just simply trust in Jesus.

Then answered Peter and said unto him, Lord, we've forsaken all, and followed you; what are we going to have therefore? ( Matthew 19:27 )

Always looking for that, what do I got coming Lord? Am I going to be the greatest?

And Jesus said unto them, Verily I say unto you, That you which have followed me, in the regeneration [the re-creation, in making this new order] when the Son of man shall sit in the throne of his glory, ye also shall sit upon the twelve thrones, judging the twelve tribes of Israel ( Matthew 19:28 ).

Now in heaven John saw the throne of God, and there were twenty-four thrones around the throne of God, upon which were seated twenty-four elders. There are many who believe that those twenty-four elders are actually representative of the church. And of course if so, then twelve of them would be the apostles. There are some problems with that interpretation, but it is one of the interpretations that has been suggested for those twenty-four thrones, lesser thrones, about the throne of God. But nonetheless, Jesus said, "that they will be sitting upon twelve thrones judging the twelve tribes of Israel".

And everyone that hath forsaken, [now you've said you've forsaken all to follow me, but everyone who has forsaken,] his house, or his brothers, or sisters, or his father, or his mother, or his wife, or his children, or lands, for my name's sake ( Matthew 19:29 ),

If you have done it for His name's sake, that is, your wife will not follow you in your total commitment to Jesus Christ. And as Paul said, "if the unbelieving husband is not content to remain, let him depart"( 1 Corinthians 7:14 ). No one has left these things, forsaken these things for my sake,

but what he shall receive an hundredfold, and shall inherit everlasting life ( Matthew 19:29 ).

So not only does He give you a hundredfold now, but then eternal life.

But many that are first, shall be last ( Matthew 19:30 );

I think that He is here referring actually to the Jewish nation to whom the gospel was to be preached first. Paul said, "I am not ashamed of the gospel of Christ, upon our God of Salvation, to all that believe, to the Jew first, and also to the Greek"( Romans 1:16 ). But it was to go to the Jew first, and then to the Gentiles. Now they are going to be judging the twelve tribes. Why? Because the twelve tribes basically rejected the Messiah. "So those that were first shall be last."

and they that are last [that is the Gentiles] shall be first ( Matthew 19:30 ).

So in that kingdom that Jesus establishes, we shall be one with Him, joint heirs with the Son of the glorious kingdom of God throughout eternity. The gospel came to us last, but we have the first privileges in His glorious kingdom, who have believed on Jesus Christ. Were we who believe in Jesus Christ, are neither Jews nor Greeks, Barbarian, Scythian, bond or free, but Christ is everything.

We are a whole new nationality. We are new creatures in Christ Jesus. We are a new creation, a new race of people. So you really can't say, "Well, I am an Irishman, or an Englishman, or a Scotchman." You must say, "I am a Christian." You are a new race, you see, we're not related anymore to the whatever ethnic group we came from. We are all one in Jesus Christ. We now relate to a new source. "Well, that's my old Irish temper." Oh, no, no, that old Irish temper died when the old man died and you became a Christian. You can't pass it off now on the old Irish temper anymore. You're a new creature in Christ. You are a new creation. You are a new race of people in our Lord Jesus Christ. And so the last, "Many that are first shall be last, and the last shall be first".

Next week we'll continue in the next three chapters of Matthew's gospel. Shall we pray?

Father, again we thank you for your Word. Truly it is a lamp unto our feet and a light unto our path. May we walk in its light, be obedient unto its truth that we, Lord, would not seek to mold and shape your Word to our concepts but that we would have our concepts molded and shaped by Your Word. Help us, Father, that we might bend out necks to the authority of your truth rather than trying to bend the truth to fit our lose lifestyles. Jesus, let thy Word penetrate our hearts and give us O God a spirit of obedience and a spirit of forgiveness. In Jesus' name we pray. Amen. "

Bibliographical Information
Smith, Charles Ward. "Commentary on Matthew 19". "Smith's Bible Commentary". https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/eng/csc/matthew-19.html. 2014.
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