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A.M. 4037. A.D. 33.
Jesus leaves Galilee and comes into the coasts of Judea, where he is attended by great multitudes, whose sick he heals, Matthew 19:1 , Matthew 19:2 . He declares against divorces, except in the case of adultery, and discourses with his disciples concerning marriage, Matthew 19:3-12 . He kindly receives and blesses some little children that were brought to him, Matthew 19:13-15 . He discourses with a rich young man applying to him for direction in the way to eternal life, Matthew 19:16-22 . Christ takes occasion from his case to caution his disciples concerning the danger of riches, Matthew 19:23-26 ; and promises a great reward to those who forsake all to follow him, Matthew 19:27-30 .
Matthew 19:1-2. When Jesus had finished these sayings Had delivered the instructions contained in the preceding chapter, to his disciples at Capernaum; he departed from Galilee Where he had long dwelt, and through which he had made repeated journeys, but in which, from henceforward, he walked no more; and came into the coasts of Judea beyond Jordan “Properly speaking, no part of Judea was on the farther side of Jordan; for though, after the Jews returned from the captivity, the whole of their land was called Judea, especially by foreigners who happened to mention their affairs, it is certain that in the gospels Judea is always spoken of as a particular division of the country. We may therefore reasonably suppose, that Matthew’s expression is elliptical; and may supply it from Mark 10:1, thus, And came into the coasts of Judea, δια του περαν του Ιορδανου , through the country beyond Jordan. See John 10:40. In this journey, our Lord passed through the country beyond Jordan, that the Jews living there might enjoy the benefit of his doctrine and miracles. And great multitudes followed him Namely, from Galilee into Perea, for his fame having become exceeding great, he was everywhere resorted to, and followed by the sick who wished to be healed; by their friends who attended them; by those whose curiosity prompted them to see and examine things so wonderful; by well-disposed persons, who found themselves greatly profited and pleased with his sermons; by enemies who watched all his words and actions with a design to expose him as a deceiver; lastly, by those who expected that he would set up the kingdom immediately: besides, at this time the multitude may have been greater than ordinary, because, as the passover was at hand, many, going thither, may have chosen to travel in our Lord’s train, expecting to see new miracles.” Macknight.
Matthew 19:3. The Pharisees also Who always had a watchful eye on his motions, and attended him with the most malignant designs, being now more especially irritated by the fame of his late miracles, which they had in vain endeavoured to suppress; came unto him, tempting him With what they thought a very artful and insnaring question; and That they might, if possible, find some reason to accuse him, or to discredit him, at least, among the people; they asked him, Is it lawful for a man to put away his wife for every cause? That is, for any thing which he dislikes in her. “The school of Hillel taught, that a man might put away his wife for any cause. The son of Sirach saith, ‘If she go not as thou wouldest have her, cut her off from thy flesh, give her a bill of divorce, and let her go.’ Sir 25:26 . Josephus saith, The law runs thus: ‘He that would be disjoined from his wife, for any cause whatsoever, let him give her a bill of divorce.’ And he confesseth, that he himself put away his wife, after she had borne him three children, ‘because he was not pleased with her behaviour.’ But the school of Shammah determined, on the contrary that the wife was only to be put away for adultery.” Whitby. (Christ, it must be observed, “had delivered his sentiments on this subject twice; once in Galilee, Matthew 5:31; and again in Perea, Luke 16:18. It is probable, therefore, that they knew his opinion, and solicited him to declare it, hoping it would incense the people, who reckoned the liberty which the law gave them of divorcing their wives, one of their chief privileges. Or if, standing in awe of the people, he should deliver a doctrine different from what he had taught on former occasions, they thought it would be a fit ground for accusing him of dissimulation. But they missed their aim entirely; for Jesus, always consistent with himself, boldly declared the third time against arbitrary divorces, not fearing the popular resentment in the least.” Macknight.
Matthew 19:4-6. He answered, Have ye not read, &c. It is thought by some that the chief design of the Pharisees in putting the fore-mentioned question to our Lord, was to make him contradict Moses. If so, they were much disappointed, for, instead of contradicting him, he confutes them by the very words of Moses. He who made them at the beginning When the human race began to exist; made them male and female Greek, αρσεν και θηλυ , which Dr. Campbell renders, a male and a female. He finds fault with our version as inaccurate and irrelative to our Lord’s argument, and thinks our translators “could not have rendered the clause differently if the original expression had been αρρενας και θηλειας εποιεσεν αυτους . Yet it is manifest, that the sense would have been different. All that this declaration would have implied is, that when God created mankind, he made people of both sexes. But what argument could have been drawn from this principle, to show that the tie of marriage was indissoluble? Or how could the conclusion annexed have been supported? For this cause shall a man leave father and mother. Besides, it was surely unnecessary to recur to the history of the creation to convince those Pharisees of what all the world knew, that the human race was composed of men and women, and consequently of two sexes. The weight of the argument, therefore,” he says, “must lie in this circumstance, that God created at first no more than a single pair, one of each sex, whom he united in the bond of marriage, and, in so doing, exhibited a standard of that union to all generations. The very words, and these two, show that it is implied in the historian’s declaration, that they were two, one male and one female, and no more. But this is by no means implied in the common version. It lets us know, indeed, that they were two sexes, but gives us no hint that these were but two persons.” And said By the mouth of Adam, who uttered these words, For this cause On account of his engaging in the married state; shall a man leave father and mother When those dear relations of parental and filial tenderness shall take place, and shall cleave to his wife With an affection more strong and steady than he feels even for those from whom, under God, he has derived his being: and they twain shall be one flesh That is, “shall constitute only one person, in respect of the unity of their inclinations and interests, and of the mutual power which they have over each other’s bodies, 1Co 6:16 ; 1 Corinthians 7:4; and as long as they continue faithful to this law, they must remain undivided till death separates them.” Wherefore they are no more twain, but one flesh
“From the original institution of marriage, therefore, in paradise, and from the great law thereof, declared by God himself on that occasion, it evidently appears that it is the strongest and tenderest of all friendships, a friendship supported by the divine sanction and approbation, a friendship therefore which ought to be indissoluble till death.” What therefore God hath joined together, let no man put asunder By unreasonable divorces. Husbands and wives, being joined together by the ordinance of God, must not be put asunder by any ordinance of man: but the bond of marriage must be esteemed sacred, and incapable of being dissolved by any thing which does not make them cease to be one flesh, by making that of the one common to some third person, that is, by one of the parties committing adultery: for as, by forming at first only one man and one woman, God condemned polygamy, so, by making them one flesh, he condemned divorce.
Matthew 19:7-9. They say, Why did Moses then command to give a writing of divorcement, &c. “If divorce be contrary to the original institution of marriage, as you affirm, how came it that Moses has commanded us to give a bill of divorce? &c. The Pharisees, by calling the law concerning divorce a command, insinuated that Moses had been so tender of their happiness that he would not suffer them to live with bad wives, though they themselves had been willing; but peremptorily enjoined, that such should be put away.” He saith, Moses, because of the hardness of your hearts Because neither your fathers nor you could bear the more excellent way; suffered, (or permitted,) not commanded, you to put away your wives: but from the beginning it was not so And the account which Moses himself gives of the original constitution of things, which has now been referred to, proves it to be an irregularity which must have no place under the gospel dispensation. And I say unto you, Whosoever shall put away his wife, except it be for fornication Which is a fundamental breach of the main article of the marriage covenant, by which they are one flesh; and shall marry another, committeth adultery Against her that was his former wife, and who continues still to be so in the sight of God. As the law of Moses allowed divorce, for the hardness of men’s hearts, and the law of Christ forbids it, we learn from hence that Christians being under a dispensation of love and liberty, tenderness of heart may justly be expected among them, and that they should not be hard-hearted like the Jews. Indeed there will be no occasion for divorces if we bear with one another, and forgive one another in love, as those that are and hope to be forgiven of God, and have found him reluctant to put us away, Isaiah 50:1. Divorces are unnecessary if husbands love their wives, and wives be obedient to their husbands, and they dwell together as heirs of the grace of life. These are the laws of Christ, and such as we find not in all the law of Moses.
Matthew 19:10-11. His disciples say, If the case of a man be so with his wife If the marriage-bond be thus indissoluble, and a man cannot dismiss his wife unless she break that bond by going astray, but must bear with her, whether she be quarrelsome, petulant, prodigal, foolish, barren, given to drinking, or, in a word, troublesome by numberless vices; it is not good to marry A man had better not marry at all, since by marrying he may entangle himself in an inextricable snare, and involve himself in trials and troubles which may make him miserable all the rest of his days. But he said, All men cannot receive this saying Namely, that it is not expedient to marry; save they to whom it is given As a peculiar gift, to conquer those inclinations toward that state which are found in mankind in general, according to the common constitution of human nature.
Matthew 19:12. For there are some eunuchs, &c. Our Lord here shows that the fore-mentioned gift of continence is given to three sorts of persons: 1st, To some by natural constitution, without their choice. 2d, To some by the violence of men, against their choice: and, 3d, To others by grace, with their choice; who steadily withstand their natural inclinations, that they may wait upon God without distraction, and may glorify him in a single life, judging it to be a state more free from worldly cares, and more friendly to devotion, than that of marriage. He that is able to receive it, let him receive it He that has this gift, in any of these ways, whether by natural constitution and disposition; or by the injury of human force used upon him, rendering him incapable of the matrimonial union; or by an ardent desire of promoting the interests of religion, animating him to subdue his natural appetite, and enabling him to live in voluntary chastity, unencumbered with secular concerns; such a person will not sin though, he leads a single life. The words, however, let him receive it, must not be referred to the clauses immediately preceding them, as if our Lord had meant to say, He that is able to become a eunuch by any of the ways I have mentioned, let him become one; for the second way, namely, through violence offered to men’s bodies, is absolutely unlawful: but they must be referred to Matthew 19:11, as is plain from the words themselves; and the meaning of them is, He that can receive the saying there mentioned, and live chastely without marriage, may receive it; and, as many commentators understand the words, ought to receive it. “They who have the gift of continency,” says Henry, “and are not under any necessity of marrying, do best if they continue single, 1 Corinthians 7:1; for they that are unmarried have opportunity, if they have but a heart, to care more for the things of the Lord, how they may please the Lord, 1 Corinthians 7:32; 1 Corinthians 7:34, being less encumbered with the cares of this life, and having greater vacancy of thoughts, and time to mind better things.” The word eunuchs, from the Greek ευνουχοι , eunouchoi, means having the care of the bed, or bed-chamber, (from ευνην εχειν ,) this being the principal employment of eunuchs in the eastern countries, that is, of such as our Lord says were made eunuchs by men, merely for the purpose of attending in the apartments of queens and princesses.
Matthew 19:13-15. Then were brought unto him little children Luke says, βρεφη , infants. It is not said by whom they were brought, but probably it was by their parents or guardians: and herein, 1st, they testified their respect for Christ, and the value they set upon his favour and blessing: and, 2d, manifested their love to their children, not doubting but it would be for their benefit in this world and the next to have the blessing and prayers of the Lord Jesus, whom they looked upon at least as an extraordinary person, a holy man, and as a prophet, if not also as the Messiah, and the blessings of such were valued and desired. Observe, reader, they who glorify Christ by coming to him themselves, ought further to glorify him by bringing their children to him likewise, and all upon whom they have influence. That he should put his hands on them and pray It appears to have been customary among the Jews, when one person prayed for another who was present, to lay his hand upon the person’s head; and this imposition of hands was a ceremony used in ancient times, especially in paternal blessing: thus Jacob, when he blessed and adopted the sons of Joseph, laid his hands upon their heads, Genesis 48:14-20. And the disciples rebuked them That is, them that brought the children; probably thinking such an employ beneath the dignity of their Master. But Jesus said, Suffer little children to come unto me Mark says, that when Jesus saw it, that is, observing his disciples rebuking those that brought the children, he was much displeased, namely, to find his disciples so defective in benevolence toward objects whose innocence and helplessness entitled them to great affection from persons of riper years. He ordered them therefore to let the children be brought to him; saying, For of such is the kingdom of heaven The Church of God on earth, and his kingdom in heaven, is composed of persons who resemble little children in their dispositions; and children, even in a natural sense, have a right to be admitted into his kingdom, the gospel authorizing the ministers of Christ to admit the children of believing parents into his church by baptism, and those that die in infancy being undoubtedly heirs of eternal glory. And he laid his hands on them, as he was desired to do, and blessed them, Mark 10:16; recommended them in a solemn manner to the divine blessing and favour.
Matthew 19:16. And behold, one came, &c. Many of the poor had followed him from the beginning. One rich man came at last, and came running, with great earnestness, and kneeled to him with great humility and reverence, Mark 10:17, and said, Good Master Manifesting by the appellation both a submissive and teachable disposition; his persuasion that Christ was a divinely-commissioned teacher, and his affection and peculiar respect to him as such. What good thing shall I do? Or, as Mark and Luke express it, What shall I do to inherit eternal life? By this question he manifested, 1st, That he believed in a future state; that there was an eternal life that might be inherited; he was therefore no Sadducee: 2d, that he was concerned to ensure that life to himself, and was more desirous of it than of any of the enjoyments of this life: thus he differed from many of his age and quality; for the rich are apt to think it below them to make such an inquiry as this, and young people in general are inclined to defer making it to some future period of their lives: 3d, that something must be done; some evils omitted, some duties performed, or divine injunctions complied with, in order to it: 4th, that he was, or at least thought he was, willing to do what was to be done, or to take the steps necessary to be taken for the obtaining of this eternal life. And surely those that know what it will be to enjoy eternal life, and what to come short of it, will be glad to accept it on any terms.
Matthew 19:17-22. He said, Why callest thou me good? Whom thou regardest merely as a prophet sent from God, and therefore supposest to be only a man; there is none good Supremely, originally, essentially, but God. If thou wilt enter into life, keep the commandments From a principle of loving faith. Believe, and thence love and obey. And this undoubtedly is the way to eternal life. Our Lord therefore does not answer ironically, which had been utterly beneath his character, but gives a plain, direct, serious answer to a serious question. The young man saith, All these have I kept from my childhood So he imagined, and perhaps he had, as to the letter, but not as to the spirit, which our Lord immediately shows. What lack I yet? Wherein am I deficient? What is further needful in order to my securing the glorious prize which I am pursuing? In answer to this inquiry, made by one evidently puffed up with a high opinion of his own righteousness, our Lord replies, If thou wilt be perfect That is, a real, thorough Christian, yet lackest thou one thing, (Luke,) namely, to be saved from the love of the world; from all undue esteem for, and inordinate affection to, earthly things. Therefore, go and sell that thou hast, (Luke, all that thou hast,) and give Distribute the money which arises from the sale thereof; to the poor, and thou shalt have treasure in heaven Infinitely more excellent and durable than that which thou renouncest on earth. And come, ( take up the cross, Mark,) and follow me Unite thyself to me as my constant attendant, though it should be even at the expense of thy life. He who reads the heart, saw that this young man’s bosom sin was the love of his worldly possessions; and that he could not be saved from it but by literally parting with them. To him, therefore, he gave this particular direction, which he never designed for a general rule to all his followers. For him this was necessary, not only, as some suppose, in order to his giving proof of exalted piety, but in order to his salvation. For him literally to sell all, was an absolute duty; for many to do this would be an absolute sin. And yet, though God does not in fact require every man to distribute all his goods to others, and so in effect to become one of the number of the poor relieved out of his own possessions, yet sincere piety and virtue require in all an habitual readiness not only to sacrifice their possessions, but their lives, at the command of God; and Providence has in fact, in all ages, called some out to trials as severe as this. And certainly an entire renunciation of the world, so far at least as to be willing to part with it whenever God should call them to it, was peculiarly necessary for all Christians in the first ages, when the profession of Christianity so generally exposed men to persecution and death. And when he heard this he went away sorrowful Not being willing to have salvation at so high a price; for he had great possessions Which he now plainly showed he valued more than eternal life: and it was with great wisdom that our Lord took this direct and convincing method of manifesting both to himself and others that secret insincerity and carnality of temper which prevailed under all these specious pretences and promising appearances.
Matthew 19:23-24. Then said Jesus unto his disciples While they had this example before their eyes, and were witnesses of the melancholy fact of a well-educated and well-disposed man voluntarily foregoing all hope of eternal life rather than part with his temporal possessions; that is, relinquishing all prospect of the infinite and everlasting riches and glories of heaven, for the unsatisfying, uncertain, and transitory enjoyments of earth! Verily I say unto you And enjoin you firmly to believe and seriously to consider what I say; that a rich man shall hardly enter into the kingdom of heaven Either into the kingdom of grace or the kingdom of glory; or be brought to have such an esteem and love for the gospel, with its present and future blessings, as to embrace it at the hazard of losing their worldly property, together with their good name, thereby, or so as to use that property in such a manner as the laws of the gospel require. Our Lord therefore adds, It is easier for a camel to go through the eye of a needle, &c. A common proverb among the Jews to express the extreme difficulty of a thing. Theophylact observes, that some explain the word, καμηλον , as signifying here a cable. “A good authority, however, for this signification, though adopted by Castalio, who says, rudentem, I,” says Dr. Campbell, “have never seen. The frequency of the term among all sorts of writers, for denoting the beast so denominated, is undeniable. Besides, the camel being the largest animal they were acquainted with in Judea, its name was become proverbial for denoting any thing remarkably large, and a camel’s passing through a needle’s eye came, by consequence, as appears from some rabbinical writings, to express a thing absolutely impossible.” Our Lord, therefore, here represents the salvation of a rich man as being next to an impossibility. It was especially so in those early days, when the profession of the gospel exposed men to so much persecution. And perhaps, as Dr. Macknight observes, these strong expressions, in their strictest sense, must be understood of the state of things at that time subsisting; yet they are also applicable to rich men in all ages. The reason is, “Riches have a woful influence upon piety in two respects. 1st, In the acquisition; for, not to mention the many frauds and other sins that men commit to obtain riches, they occasion an endless variety of cares and anxieties, which draw the affections away from God. 2d, They are offensive to piety in the possession; because, if they are hoarded, they never fail to beget covetousness, which is the root of all evil; and if they are enjoyed they become strong temptations to luxury, drunkenness, lust, pride, and idleness.” But, besides these, riches are a dangerous snare in several other respects. 1st, It is difficult to possess them and not inordinately love them, and put that trust in them which ought to be put only in the living God. For rich men “obtaining all the necessaries and superfluities of life by means of their riches, are apt to consider them as the sources of their happiness, and to depend upon them as such, forgetting altogether their dependance on God. It is otherwise with the poor. They are exposed to manifold afflictions, and labour under the pressure of continual wants. These serve to convince them of the vanity of the world, and to put them in mind of their dependance upon God; at the same time, the unexpected deliverances and supplies which they meet with, rivet the idea more firmly. Wherefore, in the very nature of things, the poor are nearer to the kingdom of God than the rich; and if the latter, yielding to the temptations of their state, trust in their riches, words can scarce be invented strong enough to paint the difficulty of bringing them to that holy temper of mind which would qualify them for the kingdom of God.” 2d, It is not easy to possess riches and not think highly of ourselves on account of them, as they certainly give their possessors a consequence which they otherwise could not have, and cause them to be looked up to with respect by all that are round about them. But, 3d, The most difficult thing of all is, to possess them and make a right use of them, even that use which God wills all to make in whose hands he hath lodged them. In other words, To use them as those who are persuaded that, properly speaking, they are not proprietors, but merely stewards of them, and will certainly be called by the great Lord of all to give an account how they have employed every part of them, and what use they have made of the advantages and opportunities for doing and receiving good above others, which riches put in their power.
Matthew 19:25-26. When his disciples heard it, they were exceedingly amazed The disciples, who had followed their Master in expectation of becoming rich and great, were exceedingly astonished when they heard him declare that it was next to impossible for a rich man to enter into the kingdom of God. They thought if the rich and the great could not enter his kingdom, he never could have any kingdom at all; and, therefore, they asked one another with great surprise, Who then can be saved If rich men with all their advantages cannot? “Who? A poor man: a peasant: a beggar: ten thousand of them,” says Mr. Wesley, “sooner than one that is rich.” But Jesus beheld them Mark says, looking upon them To compose their hurried spirits. O what a speaking look was there! Said to them With the utmost sweetness; With men this is impossible It is observable, he does not retract what he had said; no, nor soften it in the least degree, but rather strengthens it, by representing the salvation of a rich man as the utmost effort of Omnipotence. The energy of divine grace is able to make a man despise the world, with all that it contains, when no efforts of man, no arguments, eloquence, or persuasions are able to do it.
Matthew 19:27-28. Then answered Peter With some warmth and confidence; Behold, we have forsaken all We have done what this youth, hopeful as he seemed, had not the resolution to do; for though indeed we had not much, we have left all the little that we had, and have at all adventures followed thee with the sincerest zeal and affection. What shall we have therefore? It seems Peter was ready to think that their labour was lost, because they were to have no recompense on earth, and that his stewardship, the office which he supposed his Master had promised him under the metaphor of the keys of the kingdom, was likely to be of little service to him. Jesus said, Ye which have followed me in the regeneration During this time and state of things, in which men are to be regenerated and created anew by the gospel, and the earth is to be renewed in righteousness. Mr. Fleming paraphrases the verse thus: “You, my apostles, who have followed me in this new state of the church, which is to be brought to the birth when I am to ascend to heaven, shall be to the whole Christian Church what the twelve heads of the tribes were of old to the whole Jewish nation: my followers shall appeal to your decisions, as the rule of their faith and practice.” But, it seems, the expression, εν τη παλιγγενεσια , ought rather to be connected with what follows; the sense then will be, In the renovation, namely, the final renovation, or restitution of all things, Acts 3:21, when the Son of man shall sit on the throne of his glory Exalted above the highest angels of God, and presiding over and judging the assembled world; ye also shall sit In the beginning of the judgment they shall stand; (2 Corinthians 5:10.) Then, being absolved, they shall sit with the Judge: (1 Corinthians 6:2:) on twelve thrones So our Lord promised, without expressing any condition: yet, as absolute as the words are, it is certain there is a condition implied, as in many scriptures where none is expressed. In consequence of this, these twelve did not sit on those twelve thrones: for the throne of Judas another took, so that he never sat thereon. Judging the twelve tribes of Israel Concurring joyfully with me in the sentence which will then be passed on the Jewish nation, and on all the professed members of my church, as they have been sincere or faithless in their profession, and in the observance of those laws which you, by authority from me, shall have given them.
Matthew 19:29-30. And every one In every age and country, and not you my apostles only; that hath forsaken houses, or brethren, or wife, or children Either by giving any of them up, when they could not be retained with a clear conscience; or by willingly refraining from acquiring them: shall receive a hundred-fold In value, though not in kind, even in the present world, in the inward satisfaction and divine consolation attending real religion; and inherit everlasting life Shall enjoy to all eternity that unspeakable felicity and glory which God has prepared for all his children, and especially for those who have cheerfully made such sacrifices as those, and have given such proofs of their faith in, and love to, their God and Saviour. But many first In the advantages and privileges which they enjoy; shall notwithstanding this, fall short of others, and be last in the great day of accounts; and those who are the last, shall prove in this respect the first: for some, from whom it might be least expected, shall embrace the gospel, and courageously endure the greatest hardships for it; while others, with far greater advantages, shall reject it, and under much stronger engagements shall desert it. The words thus interpreted may be considered as a prediction that the Gentiles would receive and obey the gospel, while the Jews should reject it. As if he had said, “Though you may imagine that you and your brethren have a peculiar title to the great and substantial blessings of my kingdom, which I have been describing, the Gentiles shall have equal opportunities and advantages for obtaining them; because they shall be admitted to all the privileges of the gospel on the same footing with you Jews; nay, in point of time, they shall be before you; for they shall generally embrace the gospel before your nation is converted, Romans 11:25-26.” Macknight. The words may also be thus interpreted: Many that are first in profession, and in the opinion of their fellow-creatures, and their own opinion, for piety and virtue, shall be last in my esteem, and in that of my Father, or shall be found wanting, and therefore shall be condemned at the day of judgment: and the last in the opinion of men, and in their own opinion, and who are despised and rejected by those that judge according to appearance, shall be first Shall be preferred to others, and be found highest in my favour in that day. The passage has evidently yet another sense, namely, Many of those who were first called shall be last, shall have the lowest reward, those who came after them being preferred before them: and yet possibly both the first and the last may be saved, though with different degrees of glory. The doctrine contained in this sentence is illustrated by the parable of the householder, contained in the beginning of the following chapter.
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Benson, Joseph. "Commentary on Matthew 19". Joseph Benson's Commentary. https://www.studylight.org/
the Week of Proper 24 / Ordinary 29