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Bible Commentaries

Contending for the Faith

Matthew 19

Verse 1

And it came to pass, that when Jesus had finished these sayings, he departed from Galilee, and came into the coasts of Judaea beyond Jordan;

he departed from Galilee: Jesus spends most of His ministry in Galilee; McGarvey estimates He spends about twenty-two months there (Commentary on Matthew 163). This, however, is the last time that He departs from Galilee. From here He begins to travel the long road toward His death in Jerusalem. He does not return to Galilee until after His resurrection (28:16–17; John 21:1).

and came into the coasts of Judaea beyond Jordan: This region refers to the eastern territory known as Perea, which is recognized as a province of Israel. During Jesus’ ministry, both Galilee and Perea are under the dominion of Herod Antipas. This region is often described as being "beyond Jordan" (4:15, 25; Mark 3:8; John 1:28; John 3:26; John 10:40). It is the same area that the Old Testament calls the "land of Gilead."

Verse 2

And great multitudes followed him; and he healed them there.

And great multitudes followed him: This is a common scene; our Lord is never far from an audience. This group is probably comprised of people bound for Jerusalem and the Passover feast.

and he healed them there: When Jesus looks at those who throng Him, He sees more than fellow Jews. He sees people whose lives are beset with physical and spiritual problems. Jesus lovingly ministers to both needs (Mark 10:1).

Verse 3

The Pharisees also came unto him, tempting him, and saying unto him, Is it lawful for a man to put away his wife for every cause?

The Pharisees also came unto him, tempting him: The Pharisees have infiltrated the crowd and await a chance to ensnare Jesus. Perhaps they hope to sabotage His Perean campaign. The same Herod who rules this territory is the one who murdered John the Baptist for preaching on divorce (14:3–12). It may be the Pharisees desire a repeat of the scene and seek to entrap Jesus by raising the divorce issue.

By this time in Jesus’ ministry, His strict teaching on divorce is well known. He has made it abundantly clear in His mountain sermon that "Mosaic laxity" will be not be accepted any longer (5:31–32). This position surely goads the liberal Pharisees whose views make marriage little more than a disposable social custom.

Is it lawful for a man to put away his wife for every cause: Because of differences in legal interpretation, two major schools of thought on divorce exist in Jesus’ day. Disagreement arises over the meaning of "some uncleanness" (Hebrew: ervath dabar) (Deuteronomy 24:1-4).

The school of Shammai takes the most conservative view, placing emphasis on the term ervath (nakedness). While they are not specific about what behavior is involved, this group defines the word to mean wantonness, lasciviousness, lewdness, or some sexual immorality. This school, however, has a problem since the Law actually says that the adulterous woman is to be stoned (see notes on 5:31–32).

The school of Hillel focuses on the word dabhar (thing). These Jews maintain that divorce can occur for almost any trivial reason, even for burning the bagels (Broadus 396). Barclay indicates this school finds reasonable cause in a wife going with unbound hair, speaking with other men in the streets, or speaking disrespectfully of her husband’s parents (198). The influential and liberal Rabbi Akiba loosens the rule even more by focusing on the phrase "find no favor in his eyes." He maintains that finding a more desirable or beautiful woman is a just cause for divorce.

Because society, like water, often follows the path of least resistance, it is not difficult to imagine which philosophy gains greater acceptance. The Pharisees’ question reveals their evil hearts, for they seem to think a man might indeed divorce his wife for "every cause." The Pharisees probably want to engage Jesus in conflict with one or both of the schools. "So, if Jesus opposed Hillel, He would lose disciples who sympathized with that great rabbi on this issue. But if He took Hillel’s view, the stricter conscience of others would condemn His laxity. From the Pharisees’ standpoint, He lost either way" (Fowler, Vol. 3, 796).

Jesus is not interested in earning a political victory with His opponents. His reply does not bring Him into conflict with the Pharisees, Moses’ law, or His own previous teaching. Jesus masterfully avoids all snares by returning to God’s original plan for marriage. It is only coincidence that Jesus’ position more closely parallels the school of Shammai.

Verse 4

And he answered and said unto them, Have ye not read, that he which made them at the beginning made them male and female,

And he answered and said unto them: Jesus cuts through all hypothetical situations, all traditions, and all misinterpretations and takes the issue back to the basics of creation (Genesis 1:27; Genesis 2:24). God’s Word is the manual for all human relationships from the beginning. In essence, Jesus defuses the controversy by saying that if the Pharisees want to argue, they must do so with God.

Have ye not read: This question undoubtedly stings the Pharisees who pride themselves on their theological prowess. While they seek to squabble over their beloved liberty about divorce, Jesus points them to God’s law of commitment.

that he which made them at the beginning made them male and female: By appealing to Genesis, Jesus forever settles two of the most controversial topics of our modern age. First, He unequivocally attests to the veracity of the creation and the falsity of evolution. To profess Christianity is to accept that "in the beginning God." Second, He defines the family as consisting of the husband/wife union. Homosexual relationships are forever condemned.

Verse 5

And said, For this cause shall a man leave father and mother, and shall cleave to his wife: and they twain shall be one flesh?

And said, For this cause: Because God creates them male and female, a natural order exists. Jesus now quotes Genesis 2:24 verbatim.

shall a man leave father and mother, and shall cleave to his wife: It is the divine plan that a man and woman leave their families and bond themselves together into a new family unit. By following this plan, the individuals experience both "wings" to fly and "roots" to grow. The Hebrew word behind "cleave" is dabaq and carries the idea of gluing or cementing. This same term is used by Job to describe his bones clinging to his skin and flesh (19:20). The picture is one of inseparableness.

and they twain shall be one flesh: As one’s body functions as a single unit, so man and wife function together. As Eve is taken from Adam and is bone of his bones and flesh of his flesh, marriage makes man and wife one flesh again. As one (Adam) becomes two (Adam and Eve), now two (husband and wife) become one. This unity is so important Paul uses it to describe the relationship between Christ and the church (Ephesians 5:32). As only death dissolves the body, death alone should dissolve a marriage (Romans 7:2). MacArthur observes, "In God’s eyes they become the total possession of each other: one in mind and spirit, in goals and direction, in emotion and will. When they have a child, it becomes the perfect emblem and demonstration of their oneness because that child is a unique product of the fusion of two people into one flesh and carries the combined traits of both parents" (167).

Verse 6

Wherefore they are no more twain, but one flesh. What therefore God hath joined together, let not man put asunder.

Wherefore they are no more twain, but one flesh: It is God who joins the two in marriage. He is the Craftsman who glues a man and woman together. Any violation of this work is an affront against Him.

What therefore God hath joined together, let not man put asunder: The term Jesus uses for "put asunder" is chorizo and has reference to divorce. Even though civil law looses a man from a marriage, God does not necessarily loose them. If a divorce is not for scriptural reasons, the marriage still exists in God’s eyes. Man should not assume to divide what God has joined, without express written consent from His word.

Verse 7

They say unto him, Why did Moses then command to give a writing of divorcement, and to put her away?

They say unto him: The Pharisees try to minimize Jesus’ teaching with a supposed "loophole" in the Law of Moses.

Why did Moses then command to give a writing of divorcement, and to put her away: The Pharisees insinuate that Moses contradicts himself. They want to know how Moses can command both a "cleaving" (Genesis 2:24) and a "putting away" (Deuteronomy 24:1-4). Their question, however, rests on the false assumption that Moses’ "command" is a statement that sanctions divorce rather than a regulation of the practice. They fail to acknowledge that the rule of Genesis 2 does not suggest divorce. Their habitual and ingrained blindness causes them to miss the point of Jesus’ teaching. They esteem what they think to be a "liberty" more highly than the "law." Fowler says their corrupt hearts are exposed by their over-attention to a justifiable concession only to eliminate grosser inhumanity (805).

Various conclusions have come from the Pharisees’ use of the verb "command" (entellesthai) and Jesus’ switch to the word "suffered" (epitrepein) in His answer. Since Mark’s gospel reverses the order, there is no theological significance in the shift in language. In Mark 10:3, it is Jesus who asks what Moses "commanded" and the questioners who reply that Moses "suffered." Jesus, however, speaks in Mark 10:5 of the divine legislation as a precept or command.

Verse 8

He saith unto them, Moses because of the hardness of your hearts suffered you to put away your wives: but from the beginning it was not so.

Moses because of the hardness of your hearts suffered you to put away your wives: Jesus addresses two important truths in this verse. First, He shows the source of divorce. Divorce does not originate with God, neither is it Moses’ design. It stems from hearts that are not in tune with God’s will. Divorce is always the by-product of rebellion.

Second, Jesus again shows "adultery" is not the "cause" Moses has in mind in Deuteronomy 24:1. Jesus says Moses gives Deuteronomy 24:1 because of "hard hearts" (sklerokardia). It cannot be successfully argued, then, that it is "hardhearted" to divorce one’s spouse after he/she has committed adultery. Even God divorced his adulterous wife Israel, but God is not "hardhearted" for doing so (Isaiah 50:1). Moses’ law must refer to lesser and more trivial reasons than adultery.

but from the beginning it was not so: For the second time, Jesus reminds His audience that from the beginning divorce was not God’s plan. In the Garden of Eden, before man’s heart becomes hardened by sin, divorce is nonexistent. Divorce is a by-product of Satan’s influence. It is an attack on the first God-ordained institution, the family. Satan knows that when the family is weak, so too is society and likewise the church.

Verse 9

And I say unto you, Whosoever shall put away his wife, except it be for fornication, and shall marry another, committeth adultery: and whoso marrieth her which is put away doth commit adultery.

And I say unto you: After establishing an air tight case for the rule of marriage—"one man and one woman for life"—Jesus continues by giving the exception. "I say to you" establishes Jesus’ authority regarding the marriage law under the New Covenant.

Whosoever: The question arises as to whom Jesus’ teaching applies. Some believe it is a universal teaching that applies to alien sinners and Christians alike. Others believe it applies to Christians only. Numerous difficulties arise for those who believe the term "Whosoever" is universal. If Jesus’ teaching applies to alien sinners, then a sinner who is previously divorced and remarried for other than the specific cause of fornication is duty bound to separate from his current spouse before he can become a Christian; yet nowhere in the New Testament is such action required or even implied. Furthermore, there is no hint that Jews who previously divorced and remarried per Deuteronomy 24 are required by the apostles to divorce again before being baptized. The "universal" position also raises other questions. Must a convert divorce his current spouse and search for his original mate? Must he remain celibate? What about any children who are victimized? What about the influence (or lack thereof) on a non-believing spouse who suddenly becomes the victim of his mate’s new found faith? If the new believer must divorce his current spouse, may he then return to an original spouse who is an infidel? What impact does 2 Corinthians 6:14 and 2 Corinthians 5:17 have on this situation? Since a believer is prohibited from divorcing an unbeliever (1 Corinthians 7:12), how can a new convert now divorce "one more time"? Is a pre-baptismal divorce required before the person can be saved? Are we to assume that no first-century Gentile convert was ever divorced and remarried for trivial reasons before coming to Christ? Is divorce an added step in the plan of salvation for certain individuals? The list of questions goes on and on!

It is obvious that scripture qualifies scripture. For example, verse 9 qualifies and limits the "whosoever" of Mark 10:11 or else no exception is admissible. Likewise Paul’s writing in 1 Corinthians 7 further qualifies this chapter and provides a vital link to understanding to whom the exception applies. In 1 Corinthians 7:10-12, the apostle addresses two classes of individuals. In verse 10 he addresses a class to whom the Lord has previously and personally legislated on divorce and remarriage. His statement in verse 10, "not I but the Lord," shows that what he is about to say is the general rule that Jesus gives in Matthew 5:32 and in subsequent verses. He further shows this admonition is for two believers who are married.

In verse 12, Paul addresses the "rest" (that is, those who are in a mixed marriage where only one partner is a Christian). These, the apostle says, were not addressed during Jesus’ ministry; thus, He will give further revelation. In such a case, the believer is not to divorce the unbeliever.

The point is obvious. Paul says that what Jesus taught during His physical and earthly ministry was designed for believers. Jesus did not legislate on mixed marriages. Matthew 5:32; Matthew 19:9 outline God’s marriage expectations for His covenanted people, not for pagans. If such an interpretation is incorrect, we know of no other reasonable explanation of Paul’s teaching.

shall put away his wife: God instituted marriage because it is not good for man to be alone (Genesis 2:18; 1 Corinthians 7:2). God, however, also demands nuptial purity (1 Corinthians 6:16; Hebrews 13:4). If a spouse unrepentantly violates the marriage bed, the innocent party may put away (divorce) his spouse. Such law allows the innocent party to remain pure and keeps him from being "one with a harlot" (1 Corinthians 6:15-16). As noted previously, however, God hates divorce and wants all measures to be exhausted before divorce takes place. If the guilty spouse is willing to repent and amend his ways, the marriage has the possibility of being salvaged. If, however, the guilty party refuses to repent or if such emotional scarring has occurred so that reconciliation is not possible, the innocent party is free to remarry.

except it be for fornication: As noted in Matthew 5:31-32, an exception in no way diminishes the force of the rule. It merely gives conditions under which a rule may be amended so that divine equity is maintained (see previous phrase and comments on 5:31–32).

and shall marry another: The phrase "marry another" is part of the exception. God approves of a subsequent remarriage after a legitimate divorce occurs. To demand a "no divorce/remarriage policy" under all circumstances is to make the innocent person a victim of God’s own provision for companionship. Paul warns of making such rules in 1 Timothy 4:3. Nevertheless, Jesus authorizes only the innocent party to remarry. No such provision is provided for the guilty party. If this arrangement seems unfair to the guilty party, we would be wise to remember the penalty for adultery under the Mosaic system was death. Jesus’ system is full of grace and mercy. Although under the New Covenant the guilty is not authorized to remarry, he still lives to find forgiveness. The consequences of his adultery follow him, and the weight of scripture seems to demand that he remain unmarried.

committeth adultery: One commits adultery when he marries another if he is not legitimately loosed from his spouse. This teaching again shows that God may still recognize a marriage even if the courts say it is dissolved. Adultery is a serious sin and puts one’s soul in jeopardy of eternal damnation.

and whoso marrieth her which is put away doth commit adultery: The guilty party who remarries after having been put away for adultery involves yet another person in his sin. In the case mentioned, the man who marries the guilty woman commits adultery because she is ineligible for remarriage. In the case where a woman has been put away for other than adultery, she is also ineligible to remarry because God still holds her to be the wife of her husband. Thus, any man who marries her commits adultery because he takes another man’s wife.

Even though Jesus clearly gives an exception and allows the innocent party to remarry, some general truths must be observed. In general, both Jesus and the Apostle Paul institute a "no divorce" policy for two Christians married to one another. The apostle, however, acknowledges there may be times when two Christians separate for reasons other than fornication. In this case, remarriage to another is forbidden and reconciliation should be pursued (1 Corinthians 7:10-11). In God’s eyes, such a couple is still bound to each other in marriage.

Even in the case where a believer is bound in marriage to an infidel, the Christian may not initiate a divorce. If the unsaved is pleased to dwell in that relationship, the union must stand. Even the children are holy (1 Corinthians 7:12-15; 1 Peter 3:1). Divorce is permitted only for the Christian when an unbeliever voluntarily decides to leave the marriage. Because the believer has no control over the infidel, he is not to contest the departure. The marriage is dissolved. The Christian is not a slave to that relationship in any form (1 Corinthians 7:15).

Verse 10

His disciples say unto him, If the case of the man be so with his wife, it is not good to marry.

This verse gives us a rare glimpse into the apostles’ thinking. Although they understand the seriousness of Jesus’ teaching, their shock reveals their carnality. They seem horrified that a man might be so "entrapped" by the marriage bond. It is clear the disciples have not escaped the pervasive liberalism of Hillel’s philosophy. Their concern seems to be that if marriage is so binding as to be unbroken except in cases of fornication, it is better to remain single. Celibacy is an easier cross to shoulder than living an entire lifetime with an undesirable mate.

Verse 11

But he said unto them, All men cannot receive this saying, save they to whom it is given.

But he said unto them: Jesus does not revise His teaching. Rather, He shows there is a small group who are exempt from the marriage law.

All men cannot receive this saying: Those who cannot receive Jesus’ saying about marriage are those who have chosen to remain unmarried for the reasons now explained. This point leads us to Jesus’ discussion regarding various types of "eunuchs."

save they to whom it is given: Most people find marriage natural and normal for reasons of companionship and sexual purity (Genesis 2:24; 1 Corinthians 7:9). These are they to whom the marriage law is given. For others, however, marriage is not applicable because they are eunuchs. For these individuals, celibacy is a gift and provides opportunities to serve the Lord (1 Corinthians 7:7; 1 Corinthians 7:32).

Verse 12

For there are some eunuchs, which were so born from their mother’s womb: and there are some eunuchs, which were made eunuchs of men: and there be eunuchs, which have made themselves eunuchs for the kingdom of heaven’s sake. He that is able to receive it, let him receive it.

In light of the disciples’ question of whether anyone will do well to marry, Jesus now notes three categories of "eunuchs" for whom marriage is not the best life choice.

1. Those eunuchs who, because of some congenital deformities, are sexually incapacitated from birth. Both natural desires and full marriage consummation would be altered.

2. Those eunuchs made so deliberately by others. Ancient kings often made men eunuchs so they might be better servants in the palace (2 Kings 20:18; Jeremiah 38:7; Acts 8:27). MacArthur says, "In some ancient religions, castration was considered a way of pleasing and serving a pagan deity, and parents sometimes even had their infant sons castrated for that purpose. Obviously, castrated men do not have normal desires for a woman" (175).

3. Those who have made themselves eunuchs for the kingdom of heaven’s sake. Unlike the other two categories, this one is not a physical emasculation. It is a mental decision to refrain from the pleasure of marriage so that one might dedicate himself totally to the Lord. In much the same way as Paul describes the widow indeed (1 Timothy 5:5), one who chooses celibacy might give all of his time and talent to God’s kingdom.

Except in cases of unmarried persons or a guilty divorcee (19:9), nowhere does God demand celibacy. While the Apostle Paul notes its advantages (1 Corinthians 7), it neither makes one more righteous nor less pious. For many Christians, marriage not only provides companionship but also a deeper spiritual relationship with the heavenly Father. Both husband and wife strengthen one another and grow together in the Lord. It is obvious that the apostate doctrine of "celibacy" is wrong on numerous accounts, not the least of which is the fact that Paul commands "elders" to be one-woman husbands (1 Timothy 3:2). Thus, marriage is mandatory in some instances. Even Paul, himself an advocate for celibacy, maintains the right of marriage for himself and others (1 Corinthians 9:5).

Jesus’ words regarding marriage, purity, and celibacy speak to the issue of self-control. Physical mutilation of the flesh is not discussed, and Paul forbids such rigorous asceticism (Colossians 2:20-23). Some in church history have actually taken Christ’s words literally. Eusebius records that Origen emasculated himself (History of the Church, VI, chapter 8). Such action is to be condemned as pagan, mechanical, and foreign to New Testament teaching. He who cannot, or will not, exercise control in matters of sexuality will find fleshly mutilation ineffective at removing the real problem.

Verse 13

Then were there brought unto him little children, that he should put his hands on them, and pray: and the disciples rebuked them.

Then were there brought unto him little children, that he should put his hands on them, and pray: The events that now transpire parallel those recorded in Mark 10:13-16 and Luke 18:15-17. Although the scene is often placed outside, Mark 10:10 indicates Jesus and his disciples are "in the house." Thus, the "laying on of hands" most likely occurs inside the house. Mark’s narrative seems to suggest the disciples try to dissuade parents before they even enter the house. Perhaps they stand outside turning them away. When Jesus finally looks out and realizes what is happening He becomes indignant and rebukes the disciples (Mark 10:14).

It is not surprising that parents bring their children to the Master. By this time the gentle Rabbi has a reputation for loving children. He has raised Jairus’ daughter from the dead (9:25), healed the Canaanite woman’s daughter (15:28), healed the demon-possessed boy at the base of the mount of transfiguration (17:14–15), and has placed a toddler on his lap to teach a lesson in humility (18:2). Every good Jewish parent would delight in having such a wonderful rabbi bless their children by laying his hands on them.

Jews always value the touch of a father, a prophet, or a great rabbi because it signifies a transfer of blessing or approval. The Jewish Talmud speaks of children being brought to the Temple for such blessings. During the ceremony, the father will first lay his hands on the child’s head. Afterwards he will lead the child to the elders who will give, one by one, the same blessing, offering prayers that the child will grow up famous in the law, faithful in marriage, and abundant in good works (Broadus 401). We are not told how old these children are. Since Matthew uses the word paidia, the group could include children up to toddler age. Luke uses a different Greek word (brefos), suggesting at least some are infants.

and the disciples rebuked them: Again the disciples are impatient. Though they know of Jesus’ love for children, they have no time for such a display of affection. They have just finished an intense discussion with the Master about marriage, and they probably still have other questions (Mark 10:10). Such bothersome interruption is cutting into their private time with the Messiah, and there are more important matters than touching children. In haste to rid the house of noisy children, the disciples begin to rebuke the overzealous parents. The imperfect tense indicates the rebuke is continuous.

Jesus responds to the disciples’ actions with His own rebuke. Mark says Jesus is moved with indignation (10:14). Out of devotion and genuine sincerity, these parents entrust their most prized possessions to the arms of the One who has created them. Now they are being scurried away by the Rabbi’s disciples. The disciples do not represent their leader, however, and neither speak on His behalf nor in accordance with His ministry. For men who covet positions of prominence in the Messianic kingdom (18:1), they demonstrate a vast ignorance of what the kingdom is truly about. Swiftly and with justified anger, Jesus corrects His disciples.

Verse 14

But Jesus said, Suffer little children, and forbid them not, to come unto me: for of such is the kingdom of heaven.

But Jesus said, Suffer little children, and forbid them not, to come unto me: "Suffer" and "forbid not" repeat the same thought. Both commands are highly emphatic. In essence, Jesus says, "Permit them to come to me. Leave them alone and stop hindering them."

for of such is the kingdom of heaven: Mark and Luke say, "For of such is the kingdom of God." The meaning is further expressed by their addition, "Whosoever shall not receive the kingdom of God as a little child, he shall in no wise enter therein" (Mark 10:15; Luke 18:17). This statement is similar to the one in Matthew 18:3. Jesus’ point is that God’s kingdom is designed for those who possess certain childlike characteristics (humility, trustfulness, etc.). As in Matthew 18:2-3, Jesus uses the physical to illustrate the spiritual.

Contrary to certain commentators, Jesus’ blessing does not indicate that that these children have inherited sins that need to be remitted. Furthermore, Jesus’ act does not parallel infant baptism as suggested by Barnes (196). Barnes takes the view that parents should, by the rite of infant baptism, "give them (their children—jmc) up to God" just as the parents of Matthew 18:13 gave their infants to Christ (196).

Barnes’ analogy is false for two reasons. First, by calling attention to children, Jesus demonstrates their goodness, not their need for forgiveness. Furthermore, if Jesus believes in total heredity depravity, He would need to qualify or limit His illustration. Second, the text does not indicate a necessity for these parents to bring their children to Jesus, only that they did bring them. There is a difference between the two. The first derives its motivation from fear and responsibility while the latter derives from adoration of the Savior.

The question that arises is at what point do children cease being the comparative standard for entrants into God’s kingdom. As children represent absence of rebellion against God, they set the standard for disciples. Sin is rebellion; therefore, when children mature to such an age that they are capable of rebellion against God, they sin and join those who must become children again to recover what they lost.

Verse 15

And he laid his hands on them, and departed thence.

Mark indicates that Jesus "took them in his arms" and continued to bless them by laying hands on them. Not only does He rebuke His disciples for their impatience, He demonstrates to the children’s parents that He is willing to take time from His busy schedule to bless their "blessings from heaven."

It is sad when we pay no heed to children. If children set the standard for discipleship in the areas of humility, sinlessness, and faith, how are we justified when we take them for granted? While parents have the obligation to enjoy their children, Jesus’ lesson extends beyond parents to leaders of the church. Though busy in ministry, church leaders, preachers, and elders need to heed the cry of the little ones of their flock. If, while preparing for the cross, the Master took time for children, so should those who preach the cross.

Verse 16

And, behold, one came and said unto him, Good Master, what good thing shall I do, that I may have eternal life?

And, behold, one came and said unto him: Having finished blessing the children, Jesus leaves the house (Mark 10:10) and goes forth onto the road (Mark 10:17). This could be the beginning of Jesus’ trip to Jerusalem for His final Passover and subsequent crucifixion (20:17). If so, then the Master’s chance encounter with this "one" is poignant because here we learn a lesson on commitment: Jesus is willing to part with His life yet the rich ruler is unwilling to part with his gold. Matthew does not tell us what this man’s name is, but the synoptic writers provide an excellent description of his position and wealth. Matthew tells us he is young (19:22). Luke says he is a ruler (18:18). Some believe he is one of the great Sanhedrin like Nicodemus and Joseph of Arimathaea. Others believe he is simply a local synagogue ruler much like Jairus. Nevertheless, all three gospel writers describe him as prominent and rich.

Mark says the man comes "running" and "kneeling" (10:17). By addressing Jesus as "Master" or "teacher" (didaskalos –teacher), the man places himself on the level of a student. He wants Jesus to teach him what more he needs to do to inherit eternal life.

Good Master: The title the man gives to Jesus is interesting. What does the ruler mean by this title? Is he simply offering respect? Is he offering himself for discipleship? Or is this empty flattery? Does he see Jesus as a man of moral character superior to all other rabbis? Does he recognize the deity of Christ? Does the man really understand the implications of calling Jesus "good"?

The answers to these questions are perhaps impossible to ascertain with certainty. Such questions fuel the fires of intense scholarly debate. From all indications, it seems this man is not trying to flatter Jesus, but neither does he fully realize the depth of his statement. Jesus is "good," but as Jesus will show in verse 17, to acknowledge His goodness carries profound consequences.

what good thing shall I do, that I may have eternal life: This ruler has obviously performed many good deeds in his life. Thus, his question seems to suggest that he wants to know what final act he needs to add to his repertoire to please God. Like Peter, this man seems to want to put "God in a box" and define his duty to God by a certain list of do’s and don’ts (see comments on 18:21).

There is no reason to assume that the ruler’s request is insincere. In fact, Mark 10:21 indicates Jesus loves the man and sees within him a remarkable depth of goodness and moral quality. He sincerely wants to know the answer to life’s most pressing question: What does God require for man to be saved? Like this man, however, many find that answer does not bring them eternal life but drives them toward the fires of eternal death. This man was little prepared to hear what Jesus had to say and even less prepared to obey.

Verse 17

And he said unto him, Why callest thou me good? there is none good but one, that is, God: but if thou wilt enter into life, keep the commandments.

And he said unto him, Why callest thou me good? there is none good but one, that is, God: "Why do you call me good?" is designed to awaken the ruler’s spiritual senses. This ruler needs to understand the true standard of good is God! If this ruler is going to call Jesus "good," he must acknowledge Jesus’ deity. What Jesus seems to want the man to realize is that when it comes to the Messiah, the term cannot be applied flippantly.

Because the young man does not recognize Jesus as God, he probably thinks Jesus has attained His goodness in the same way as he has attained his own (by doing good things). So, no matter how sincere in his address, this ruler has reduced Jesus to the level of humanity. Jesus can no more allow this title than He can allow being called "Messiah" without people realizing the true depth of meaning. If the ruler wants to call Jesus "good," he must acknowledge what he says.

In commenting, "There is none good but God," Jesus is affirming, "I am God." In reality, this is the only legitimate reason Jesus can tell the ruler he lacks anything. From all outward appearance, the rich young ruler has lived a complete life even from his youth. No human can judge any deeper than the fine façade he sees around this man and require more of him. When Deity looks, however, He sees what no ordinary rabbi can see. Although the ruler’s actions look perfect, his attitude toward his wealth betrays his covetousness. Jesus knows that unless the rich young man can conquer his heart, he will never enter eternal life. Whoever holds to riches on earth will have insufficient reach to grasp the treasures of heaven.

God: but if thou wilt enter into life, keep the commandments: Mark and Luke indicate that Jesus responds to the man by saying, "[T]hou knowest the commandments." Jesus wants the young man to realize that obedience is mandatory. As the narrative will illustrate, however, obedience should only be the outward manifestation of a heart completely in tune with God. Verse 21 shows that one can obey God and still lose his home in heaven.

Verses 18-19

He saith unto him, Which? Jesus said, Thou shalt do no murder, Thou shalt not commit adultery, Thou shalt not steal, Thou shalt not bear false witness, Honour thy father and thy mother: and, Thou shalt love thy neighbour as thyself.

He saith unto him, Which: The ruler perhaps expects Jesus to outline some new commandment. Although he has memorized the commandments from his youth, the ruler apparently thinks he might have overlooked one. Or maybe he thinks that this great Rabbi called Jesus has one law He prefers to single out above all the rest. McGarvey notes the man is probably surprised when Jesus responds with six commandments (Commentary on Matthew 167).

Jesus said, Thou shalt do no murder, Thou shalt not commit adultery, Thou shalt not steal, Thou shalt not bear false witness, Honour thy father and thy mother: and, Thou shalt love thy neighbour as thyself: Matthew’s record of Jesus’ list includes five of the Ten Commandments as found in Exodus 20:12-16 and Deuteronomy 5:16-20, plus the addition of the more general principle of loving one’s neighbor as outlined in Leviticus 19:18. All of these commands deal with one’s relationship with his fellow man.

The question arises as to why Jesus does not list those commandments that deal with man’s relationship with God? McGarvey suggests that commandments dealing with humanity are the most frequently violated (Commentary on Matthew 167). While each day presents ample opportunity to offend one’s neighbor, each day presents many opportunities to offend God. Then why does Jesus not speak to this ruler about God?

The answer might be found in the fact that a person cannot genuinely love his neighbor unless he first loves God. While the rich man performs the external acts dealing with others, it is obvious he fails in his internal relationship with God. He does the right things, but he fails to develop fully a heart for God. The list of commandments Jesus gives, which the ruler is already doing, masterfully stands in contrast to what the ruler is failing to do. By listing the duties toward man that the ruler is doing, Jesus is highlighting the commandments he is not keeping. Nevertheless, if this rich man is willing to follow Jesus, it will demonstrate that he is keeping the first four commandments relating to God just as he keeps the other six commandments. By refusing to follow Jesus, however, this ruler exposes the façade of piety that makes him an unfit subject for the kingdom of heaven. The sad irony is that what this ruler needs to do cannot be performed on others.

Perhaps another consideration is that while this ruler has not violated the outward acts of the law, it is possible that he struggles with lust, hate, covetousness, and the attitudes that ultimately lead to such acts. Naturally, only Jesus knows what is in this man’s heart. But when a man loves God as he should, his external actions will simply be an expression of a purity that exists in the heart. Perhaps Jesus wants him to grasp the fact that discipleship begins in the heart and requires more than just ritual perfection. What this ruler needs to be complete cannot be performed on "others." What this ruler needs must be performed on "himself."

Verse 20

The young man saith to him, All these did I keep from my youth; what yet do I lack?

Matthew says the man is "young." During this period, "youth" includes those from about twenty-four years of age to the age of forty. This ruler is mature enough to hold considerable wealth and considerable status in his community.

We see the zest, confidence, and impulsiveness of youth. There is no hint of contemplation or introspection or of fear at claiming perfection in the areas Jesus lists. Without hesitation the young ruler says, "All these have I kept from my youth."

Furthermore, it seems it is with anticipation and eagerness that the young man replies, "What lack I yet?" In other words, "If there is anything else I need to do, tell me, and I will add that to my list of credits!" He has fully obeyed the duties on the Master’s list. If he has overlooked something, he is certain he can accomplish that as well.

Verse 21

Jesus said to him, If thou dost will to be perfect, go away, sell what thou hast, and give to the poor, and thou shalt have treasure in heaven, and come, follow me.

If thou dost will to be perfect: The word "perfect" does not carry the idea of being "sinless" but rather "complete." In other words, the rich young ruler is not complete in his spiritual development. How ironic that even though he has just affirmed his strict compliance to Moses’ Law, he is lacking in the most important quality: a heart for God (Mark 10:21). His void cannot be filled with external obedience. Though his body is disciplined, his heart needs change. Obeying what Jesus asks will prove that he really does understand his relationship to God and his neighbor.

There is nothing wrong with the man’s wealth in and of itself. Riches are not inherently good or evil. Nevertheless, one must be willing to renounce his wealth if it stands between him and service to God. The problem is not one of possession but one of devotion. Jesus puts the ruler to the real test. If he truly wants eternal life, then nothing will dissuade him from following the One who can offer it.

go away, sell what you have and give to the poor: This command is not the complete formula for eternal life. One might take a "vow of poverty" and still lose his eternal reward. For this man, however, the command is the only "life saving" diagnosis. Fowler notes that here the Great Physician cuts right to the heart of the matter. How can this man so carelessly pretend to love his neighbor while he hoards wealth, despite the poor all around him (850)?

thou shalt have treasure in heaven: This phrase stands as a contrast to "treasures on earth." This statement is similar to Jesus’ comment in the sermon on the mount (6:19–21). By holding to his earthly possessions, this ruler forfeits those things that have real and lasting value. In reality, Jesus asks this man to trade the temporal for the eternal, the tangible for the intangible. In other words, Jesus asks this man to step out in faith and focus for the first time on that which he cannot see—God. He cannot follow both wealth and Jesus (6:24).

and come follow me: Jesus’ invitation is for every man, but the cost is great for those who will learn of Him.

Verse 22

But when the young man heard that saying, he went away sorrowful: for he had great possessions.

Mark says the man’s countenance falls, and he goes away sad (10:22). Luke says he goes away "exceedingly sorrowful" (18:23). The energy he had when running to meet Jesus is gone, along with his smile. He has faced the Teacher and almost passed the class but failed the final exam. He heads down the road of life with nothing to guide him but the fleeting fancy of riches. With one last wistful glance at the Savior, the young ruler turns his back on heaven and heads home.

The young ruler’s sadness indicates the inner battle that Jesus’ words spark within him. Had this man been like the Pharisees, Jesus’ words would have produced little more than a snicker. Here is a man, however, who feels a depth of sorrow that stems only from sincerity. Nevertheless, sincerity is not enough to fulfill God’s requirements. Rote obedience is not what God wants; discipleship requires all! Either he or his wealth will have to go. He can gain the world and lose his soul, or he can lose the world and gain his soul. He makes the choice quickly. Eternal life will have to wait; he has riches to tend to.

Verse 23

Then said Jesus unto his disciples, Verily I say unto you, That a rich man shall hardly enter into the kingdom of heaven.

When men refuse the discipleship Jesus offers, Jesus never chases or begs them to reconsider. Even though Jesus loves this man and sees within him abundant good, He lets him go. The axiom that discipleship must come from the heart is just as valid today as ever. While we must be patient in preaching to the lost, we must also grant them the full capacity of their own will. Acts 13:46 sets the principle that when the gospel is rejected, we turn to more willing recipients. Pearls are not to be wasted on pigs (7:6).

Then said Jesus unto his disciples, Verily I say unto you: The solemn word "verily" (amen) underscores the danger of riches for those who would enter the kingdom of heaven.

That a rich man shall hardly enter into the kingdom of heaven: The Greek word for "hardly" (duskolos) carries the idea of difficulty and may even suggest painfulness (Ellicott 289). In this context, "hard" may even carry the exaggerated meaning of "impossible" as the next verse clearly shows. Jesus’ warning does not mean that all rich people are lost and all poor are saved. His point is simply that wealth is dangerous! Fowler notes that the man who is addicted to wealth is an idolater who has too much at stake in his possessions to let God be the Ruler of his life (857). As Jesus notes in the sermon on the mount, the knee cannot bend to both God and mammon (6:24).

Mark 10:24 adds, "How hard is it for them that trust in riches." The phrase is absent from most of the better manuscripts. Such an expression softens the harshness of Jesus’ words, but the idea fits the context. "Trust" is an attitude. When one has the wrong attitude about money, it makes it impossible for him to be saved. The problem is not that this young ruler has money. The problem is that money has him. Paul warns of this danger in 1 Timothy 6:9.

The irony of Jesus’ statement is its relevance to both poor and rich. Though perhaps less common, it is just as possible for a poor man to lose his soul over a few pennies as it is for a rich man to lose his soul over millions. It is attitude that Jesus addresses in this passage. Because many Jews of Jesus’ day see wealth as a direct indicator of divine favor, they think that the rich will have first entrance into the kingdom of heaven. Jesus turns this notion on its head. Because His kingdom is spiritual, it is not wealth that counts but poverty: "poverty of spirit" (see notes on 5:3).

Verse 24

And again I say unto you, It is easier for a camel to go through the eye of a needle, than for a rich man to enter into the kingdom of God.

Mark indicates the disciples are amazed after Jesus’ statement (10:24). Jesus further illustrates His point by painting a picture of impossibility. The progression from verses 23 to 24 is climatic.

The camel is the largest of all beasts common to the Jews. The eye of a needle is the smallest opening of any familiar object. Although Jesus is certainly using hyperbole, many argue about how Jesus uses these terms. Notwithstanding, both camel and the needle should be interpreted literally. In order to minimize the "impossibility factor," some suggest the word "camel" (kamelos) is originally "cable" (kamilos—large rope of cable) and attribute the change to scribal error. The theory is without warrant. Ellicott notes that not a single manuscript supports the reading (279). MacArthur also notes that even if scribal error changed the word in one place, it is still unlikely those who copied the original manuscripts would all make the same mistakes in all three gospel accounts (199). Furthermore, accepting "rope" over "camel" does nothing to diminish the "impossibility factor." Rope cannot go through a needle’s eye.

Some conjecture that "eye of a needle" refers to some "small gate" in a city wall through which a camel might pass only by walking on its knees after its burden has been removed. But again, the theory is unwarranted since there is insufficient proof to support the idea of such a gate at Jerusalem or in any other city during Jesus’ day (McGarvey, Commentary on Matthew 169; Hendriksen 728; MacArthur 199; Robertson 157). MacArthur is correct when he argues that even if such an opening existed, it would be illogical for a person to pass through it when he might just as easily have taken his camel to a larger gate just a few hundred yards down the wall (199). Note, too, that Luke’s account employs a medical term (belone) that specifically denotes a surgical needle (18:25). Clearly, a "gate" is not the point of this "needle."

It may be that Jesus’ words reflect a common Jewish colloquialism and may have been a modified form of a Talmudic proverb. Broadus and others note that in the Talmud the idea of an "elephant" going through a "needle’s eye" is used several times to illustrate impossibility. Because elephants are not indigenous to Palestine, "camel" would be a natural substitute for His Jewish audience. Recall that Jesus also speaks of camels in condemning the religious practices of the Pharisees (23:24).

Verse 25

When his disciples heard it, they were exceedingly amazed, saying, Who then can be saved?

The fact that Jesus is referring to a literal camel and a literal needle is manifest by the disciple’s shocked reaction. The word Jesus uses here for astonished (exeplessonto – amazed) literally means "struck out" (Robertson 158). Lenski says it means "utterly dumbfounded" (756). This is the same reaction that the people have after Jesus finishes the sermon on the mount (7:28).

Who then can be saved: The disciples’ question further illustrates their amazement. They consider wealth as a barometer of God’s favor. The wealthier one is, the more favored by God. If one so good and prosperous as this young ruler does not meet God’s approval, and if it is really easier for a camel to pass through a needle’s eye than for a rich man to be saved, "Then who can be saved?" The question rhetorically implies that no one can be saved! Did they not each have some innate desire to be wealthy and to have positions of prominence? Are they not the very ones who argued about who would be greatest? Was there no hope for them either? Were they also lost? The prospect of such seems beyond their comprehension.

Verse 26

But Jesus beheld them, and said unto them, With men this is impossible; but with God all things are possible.

But Jesus beheld them, and said unto them: Jesus looks intently at His disciples. Although His previous words intimate that wealth prohibits the possibility of salvation, such need not necessarily be the case. God is in sovereign control, and nothing is beyond His power. What human judgment deems impossible is well within the realm of God (Luke 1:37; Job 42:2; Genesis 18:14).

The disciples think, "If man cannot be saved with wealth, but man cannot live without a certain measure of it, then salvation and perfection must be unobtainable." Jesus is quick to remind them that God is more powerful than the enigma of this seemingly unsolvable dilemma. God can transform man’s attitude about wealth, making him dependent on Him and not on money.

Verse 27

Then answered Peter and said unto him, Behold, we have forsaken all, and followed thee; what shall we have therefore?

Though far less wealthy than the rich young ruler, Peter is reminded of his own sacrifice in following Jesus. He and Andrew have left their fishing nets and boats as have James and John (4:18–22). Matthew has also left his lucrative tax collecting position (9:9). Likewise, the other apostles have left families, loved ones, and other earthly possessions. What then will they receive for their trouble?

We are left to wonder why Peter asks such a question. Does arrogance cause Peter to think he has done what the rich ruler refuses to do? Does he think, as do most Jews, that his sacrifice now will ultimately bring him status and wealth when the kingdom comes? The disciples argued over this point one chapter earlier. Whatever the case, Peter’s statement seems to reflect an all too common quid pro quo mentality. In other words, following Jesus somehow needs to end in our receiving some tangible benefit (wealth, protection, etc.). We are reminded of Satan’s accusation against God in the case of Job. Satan says that Job follows God only because He has set a hedge about Job (1:10). Job goes on to prove that one can serve God even if there is no visible benefit in such service. One can serve God simply out of selflessness and because God is God!

Verse 28

And Jesus said unto them, Verily I say unto you, That ye which have followed me, in the regeneration when the Son of man shall sit in the throne of his glory, ye also shall sit upon twelve thrones, judging the twelve tribes of Israel.

This verse is difficult to understand and serves to address the question of what reward awaits the apostles. The verse is exclusive to Matthew, being omitted by Mark and Luke.

The disciples’ materialistic thinking apparently causes them to expect some temporal reward for their discipleship. But even though their immature misconceptions will never be fulfilled, there are tremendous promises that await. Little do they realize that what they will receive will be far more gratifying than the earthly riches of which they currently dream. As they will come to understand in later maturity, the power and honor Jesus promises is spiritual. Soon they will possess spiritual authority over God’s people, the church.

And Jesus said unto them, Verily I say unto you, That ye which have followed me: This statement obviously refers to the twelve apostles because Jesus later specifically mentions twelve personal thrones. In other words, it is "those who have continued with Me in My trials" (Luke 22:28). Paul and Matthias are not specifically in view here since the events of their apostleship have not yet occurred. As apostles, however, they will also to be included among those who enjoyed the inspiration of the Holy Spirit (1 Corinthians 14:37).

in the regeneration when the Son of man shall sit in the throne of his glory ye also shall sit upon twelve thrones, judging the twelve tribes of Israel: The term "regeneration" (palingenesia) is used one other time in the New Testament in reference to baptism (Titus 3:5). Here, it has a broader meaning and refers to "that long awaited era when everything would begin to be made new" (Fowler 868). But when would this occur? Commentators have two main theories:

1. Some see the "regeneration period" as being the Christian age, beginning with Pentecost. Thus, the apostles’ "judging the twelve tribes of Israel" refers to their authority in matters of doctrine and practice as authorized by Jesus via the Holy Spirit (John 14:26; John 15:26; John 16:13; Acts 2:42).

2. Others, however, see the "regeneration" as a reference to the end of time, a new order of things, and some subsequent renovation of the universe (2 Peter 3:13; Revelation 21:1-5). This theory sees the twelve thrones as referring to the great judgment and Jesus’ second coming. Millennialists take the idea one step further because they believe in a literal and earthly thousand year reign of Christ. They suggest the apostles’ thrones will be literal and their reign a literal reign over restored Israel during the millennium (MacArthur 204).

Several points bear consideration in analyzing this passage:

1. The promise Jesus gives in this verse comes soon after his warning about material possessions. Contextually, this verse serves as a contrast. The apostles will receive reward, but it will not be of a physical nature. It will be a spiritual reward and reign.

2. It seems logical to believe that since their reign will be contemporaneous with Jesus’, whatever kind of throne He receives, they will also receive. If His is a spiritual throne, so will be the apostles’.

3. The "regeneration" is contemporaneous with the Messiah’s reign. If we can determine when Christ takes His throne, we should at least be able to determine the beginning of the period called the "regeneration." Christ’s reign was announced as an accomplished fact on the day of Pentecost (Acts 2:33-36). Peter makes it unmistakably clear that Christ, at that moment, sat on David’s throne. Thus, the "regeneration" has its beginning at least before Pentecost. Since Jesus was not literally present in Jerusalem on an earthly throne during Pentecost, we can conclude that the millennial doctrine is wrong. The throne of David to which Christ ascended is a spiritual throne.

4. The King’s throne is part and parcel with His kingdom. If we can determine when the kingdom came, we should be able to discover when the events of this verse occurred. Mark 9:1 states that some would not taste of death until they see the kingdom come with power. Jesus further promises power to the apostles beginning in Jerusalem (Luke 24:49; Acts 1:8). This promise is fulfilled on the first Pentecost after Jesus’ death. Thus, Christ’s reign, the authority of the apostles, and the church-kingdom are a present reality (Colossians 1:13; 1 Corinthians 15:24; Hebrews 1:8; Ephesians 5:5; 2 Timothy 4:1; Revelation 1:9).

5. The phrase "twelve tribes of Israel" should not necessarily be interpreted as literal. It is a figurative allusion from the Old Testament referring to the ideal people of God. In the New Testament, it has practical reference to the church. Paul indicates the "true Israel of God" are those who follow Christ among whom there is no distinction of race, lineage, or color (Galatians 6:15-16). Notice also that James addresses Christian believers as "the twelve tribes" (James 1:1) (see Revelation 21:12).

6. When a person reigns, he exercises authority over a body of subjects. Thus, in this light, the apostles’ "reign over the twelve tribes of Israel" (God’s people, the church) began with Pentecost and will continue via their inspired words until which time the kingdom is given back to the Father (1 Corinthians 15:24). This is the reason the early church continued steadfastly in the apostles’ doctrine (Acts 2:42) and followed the traditions of the apostles (1 Corinthians 11:2; 1 Corinthians 14:37; Galatians 1:8-9; Galatians 6:16; Ephesians 1:1; Ephesians 4:11; John 14:26; John 15:26; John 16:13; etc.).

7. The "regeneration" is the period in which men are "regenerated" by submitting themselves to the King and His appointed judges. McGarvey says, "Having enthroned himself, Jesus enthroned the apostles also, not as kings but as judges, having jurisdiction over all questions of faith and practice in the earthly kingdom" (Fourfold 548). This judgment occurred through the apostles’ words while they were alive and afterwards through their writings. McGarvey says that even though we do not have written communication from all the apostles, all had authority. He says, "judgments pronounced by one of a bench of judges with the known approval of all, are the judgments of the entire bench" (Fourfold 548).

The meaning of Jesus’ words, therefore, becomes clear when we consider all of the above facts. The Master does not have some mysterious, eschatological formula in mind, but simply prophesies of a time, soon to come, when the apostles will rule over the church. This passage closely parallels Matthew 16:19; Matthew 18:18; Matthew 28:19-20. This period will continue until the saints are raised with regenerated bodies, and heaven and earth shall themselves be regenerated as the home of the redeemed (McGarvey, Commentary on Matthew 170).

Verse 29

And every one that hath forsaken houses, or brethren, or sisters, or father, or mother, or wife, or children, or lands, for my name’s sake, shall receive an hundredfold, and shall inherit everlasting life.

Peter’s comment in verse 27 and the response of verse 28 deal primarily with the twelve. Now, however, the emphasis shifts away from the twelve to all who sacrifice for the kingdom of heaven. Jesus says "everyone" who faithfully follows Him will secure a reward.

The path to eternal reward is paved with sacrifice, and Jesus intimates that the believer may have to give up some of his most prized possessions. By saying "houses," did Jesus have in mind the home that Peter had left? By "father," does Jesus call to mind James and John who had left their father’s fishing business (4:21)? Perhaps. In any case, the things Jesus mentions fall into two categories most precious to man. "Houses and lands" denote "material possessions." "Father, mother, etc." denote "earthly relationships." To be a citizen of Christ’s kingdom one must be willing to sacrifice both.

Jesus says, "…for my name’s sake." Mark adds, "and for the gospel’s sake" (10:29). There is no inherent value in asceticism if it is not for the right purpose. Jesus is not condemning ownership of property, nor is He disdaining human ties. He is showing that true discipleship appeals to a higher standard than earthly possession and emotion. His disciple is not motivated by the physical but by the spiritual and is willing to sacrifice all for the Master’s lofty ideals.

Jesus says the reward for sacrifice will be "an hundredfold." Mark adds the expression "in this time" (10:29). Matthew then adds the phrase "and shall inherit everlasting life." That the faithful Christian shall inherent eternal and everlasting life is simple enough to understand. The scriptures are replete with such assurance. But what does Jesus mean by the promise of a "hundredfold" reward in this time? Should the believer expect some material recompense for his trouble here on earth?

It seems likely that Jesus’ comments about receiving a "hundred fold in this life" are to be interpreted figuratively. The man who sacrifices family ties, for example, should not expect to gain a literal hundred fathers, mothers, or children. Jesus simply uses material things to teach a lesson about the eternal rewards of discipleship. These immature disciples still struggle with appreciating the real treasure that awaits the faithful.

Nevertheless, there is a sense in which the phrase "receive an hundred fold in this life" could be taken literally. The Christian, more than non-believers, realizes the true value of material possessions. He realizes they are from God and must be used for His glory. When a believer is willing to sacrifice his lands, houses, or even relationships for Christ, he is actually able to enjoy them more. In letting go, the believer actually holds on more tightly and with greater joy to those things that he has relinquished to God’s control. Some commentators further suggest that when Christians are forced to forsake family, friends, and goods for the sake of Christ they actually find increased "relatives" in the "household of faith." Certainly this is true whether or not one is forced to abandon physical ties.

The phrase "inherit eternal life" stands paradoxically to "forsaking fathers and mothers." One can only inherit something if he is a legitimate heir—a son or daughter. How ironic that the believer who abandons earthly ties and loses his physical inheritance finds himself heir to the riches of the heavenly Father, for he has proved himself a worthy son of the King.

Verse 30

But many that are first shall be last; and the last shall be first.

Luke omits this enigmatical saying while Mark 10:31 includes it. Jesus also uses a similar expression at the end of his parable in Matthew 20:16.

Jesus seems to be warning His disciples about making hasty decisions about whom God accepts. God is issuing a reversal of things. Fowler says, "Earthly estimates and evaluations, based upon mistaken premises, however popular and widely believed, cannot but be reversed by God who judges everything according to reality" (877).

The disciples have just witnessed someone whom they felt should have been first in God’s kingdom, yet the rich young ruler walked away empty handed. Likewise there is one among the apostles’ own ranks whose position will soon be given to the obscure Matthias (Acts 1:15-26). Jesus’ point to His disciples is, "Be careful how you look at things because God might see things differently." Hendriksen writes:

The first are those who because of their wealth, education, position, prestige, talents, etc. are highly regarded by men in general, sometimes even by God’s children. But since God sees and knows the heart many of these very people are by him assigned to a position behind the others; in fact, some may even be altogether excluded from the halls of glory….(732).

There will be many surprises however. Not only will many of those now regarded as pillars of the church be last but also many who never made the headlines will be first on the day of judgment (Mark 12:43-44; Matthew 26:10-13)—think of the poor widow who contributed "two mites" (Mark 12:42) and Mary of Bethany whose act of loving lavishness was roundly criticized by the disciples (Matthew 26:8). The disciples who were constantly quarreling about rank (18:1; 20:20; Luke 22:24) had better take note! (732).

The proverb Jesus uses here actually leads into the parable of the vineyard workers in the next chapter. It serves to illustrate the truth of Jesus’ statement and is repeated at the beginning and the end of the parable (compare 19:30 and 20:16).

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Bibliographical Information
Editor Charles Baily, "Commentary on Matthew 19". "Contending for the Faith". https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/eng/ctf/matthew-19.html. 1993-2022.