Matthew 19
Cambridge Bible for Schools and Colleges
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;
Ch. Matthew 19:1-2. Jesus goes to Judæa from Galilee

Mark 10:11. came into the coasts of Judea beyond Jordan] From the parallel passage in Mark we learn that this means: Came into Judæa by the trans-Jordanic route through Peræa, thus avoiding Samaria. It does not mean that any portion of Judæa lay beyond Jordan. St Matthew here omits various particulars, of which some are to be supplied from Luke 9:51 to Luke 17:11; others from John—two visits to Jerusalem (John 7:8-10 and John 10:22-39); the raising of Lazarus (John 11:1-30); the retirement to Ephraim (John 11:54).

And great multitudes followed him; and he healed them there.
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?
3. Is it lawful for a man to put away his wife for every cause?] The words “for every cause” are omitted in Mark. In Matthew they contain the pith of the question: “Is the husband’s right to divorce his wife quite unlimited?” The school of Shammai allowed divorce in the case of adultery, the school of Hillel on any trivial pretext.

3–12. The Question of Marriage and Divorce

Mark 10:2-9Matthew 19:10-12 are peculiar to Matthew. St Mark mentions the part of the conversation contained in Matthew 19:9 as having taken place “in the house,” Matthew 19:10-12.

And he answered and said unto them, Have ye not read, that he which made them at the beginning made them male and female,
4. at the beginning] An appeal from the law of Moses to a higher and absolute law, which has outlived the law of Moses.

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?
5. For this cause] The lesson of Nature is the lesson of God, “Nunquam aliud Natura aliud Sapientia dicit.” Juv. Sat. xiv. 321.

Wherefore they are no more twain, but one flesh. What therefore God hath joined together, let not man put asunder.
They say unto him, Why did Moses then command to give a writing of divorcement, and to put her away?
7. a writing of divorcement] See ch. Matthew 5:31-32.

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.
8. because of the hardness of your hearts] Literally, having respect to, with a view to the hardness of your hearts towards God. So the law was relatively good, not absolutely. A great principle. Even now all are not capable of the higher religious life or of the deepest truths. Some interpret “hardness of heart,” of the cruelty of men towards their wives.

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.
9. See ch. Matthew 5:32.

and shall marry another] Omitted in the Sinaitic MS.

The reading “causeth her to commit adultery,” instead of “committeth adultery,” has high MS. authority. The Sinaitic MS. also omits and whoso … adultery.

His disciples say unto him, If the case of the man be so with his wife, it is not good to marry.
10. If the case of the man be so with his wife] If these are the conditions of marriage.

it is not good to marry] Nothing could prove more clearly the revolution in thought brought to pass by Christ than this. Even the disciples feel that such a principle would make the yoke of marriage unbearable.

But he said unto them, All men cannot receive this saying, save they to whom it is given.
11. this saying] viz. that it is not good to marry.

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.
12. eunuchs = “unmarried.”

12. for the kingdom of heaven’s sake] In old days some men abstained from marriage in order to devote themselves to the study of the law, in later times men have done so for the furtherance of Christianity.

Then were there brought unto him little children, that he should put his hands on them, and pray: and the disciples rebuked them.
13. Then were there brought unto him little children] It appears that it was customary for Jewish infants to be taken to the synagogue to be blessed by the Rabbi. Smith’s Dict. of Bible, Art. “Synagogue,” note E.

13–15. Little Children are brought to Christ

Mark 10:13-16. Luke 18:15-17.

In Luke the incident is placed immediately after the parable of the Pharisee and Publican; there it is an illustration of humility. Here, and in Mark, the connection between the purity of married life and the love of little children cannot be overlooked.

But Jesus said, Suffer little children, and forbid them not, to come unto me: for of such is the kingdom of heaven.
14. of such is the kingdom of heaven] Love, simplicity of faith, innocence, and above all, humility, are the ideal characteristics of little children, and of the subjects of the kingdom.

And he laid his hands on them, and departed thence.
15. laid his hands on them] No unmeaning act, therefore infants are capable of receiving a blessing, though not conscious of an obligation.

And, behold, one came and said unto him, Good Master, what good thing shall I do, that I may have eternal life?
16. one came] “Came one running, and kneeled to him” (Mark). “A certain ruler,” i. e. one of the rulers of the synagogue, like Jairus. The “decemvirate” (see ch. Matthew 4:23) of the synagogue were chosen from “men of leisure” (Hebr. Batlanin, cp. our “scholars”), who were free from the necessity of labour, and could devote themselves to the duties of the synagogue, and to study; of these the first three were called “Rulers of the Synagogue.”

Good Master] According to good MS. authority simply “Master.”

what good thing shall I do] In this question ‘what shall I do’ the ruler touches the central error of the Pharisaic system—that goodness consisted in exact conformity to certain external rules of conduct Jesus shews that it is not by doing anything whatever that a man can inherit eternal life, but by being something; not by observing Pharisaic rules, but by being childlike.

16–22. The Young Rich Ruler

Mark 10:17-22. Luke 18:18-23.

From Luke alone we learn that he was a “ruler;” from Matthew alone that he was young. Each of the three Synoptists states that “he was very rich” (Luke); “had great possessions” (Matthew and Mark).

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.
17. Why callest thou me good?] Here, but not in the parallel passages in Mark and Luke, the leading MSS. read, “Why askest thou me about what is good? He who is good is one.” With either reading the drift of our Lord’s answer is to cause reflection. “In a single breath thou hast twice used the word good; think what good really means. Am I then the one good?” Jesus refuses the conventional title of “good master;” and leads the questioner to think of the only One who could be called “good” in a high and true sense.

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,
18. Which?] Accurately “what sort of commandments.”

Comp. this enumeration with that in ch. Matthew 15:19. Here, as there, the commandments proceed in order from the 6th to the 9th. Here, as there, the enumeration stops at covetousness—the rich ruler’s special failing. Neither St Mark nor St Luke preserve the same order.

Honour thy father and thy mother: and, Thou shalt love thy neighbour as thyself.
The young man saith unto him, All these things have I kept from my youth up: what lack I yet?
20. All these things have I kept] Like St Paul he was “touching the righteousness which is in the law, blameless.” Php 3:6.

from my youth up] These words which seem unsuitable to the “young man” are omitted here, but not in the parallel passages, by the oldest MSS. They might be translated “from childhood.”

Jesus said unto him, If thou wilt be perfect, go and sell that thou hast, and give to the poor, and thou shalt have treasure in heaven: and come and follow me.
21. If thou wilt be perfect] i. e. “if thou desirest to be perfect.”

go and sell that thou hast] Jesus does indeed bid him do something, but to do that would be a proof of being perfect, it is the test for his special case, not a universal rule. With many it is more difficult to use wealth for Christ than to give it up for Christ. St Mark has the touching words “Jesus beholding him loved him.” The incident recalls the parable of the “merchant man seeking goodly pearls” (ch. Matthew 13:45-46). Here is a seeker after good, the pearl is found: will he not sell all that he hath and buy it?

But when the young man heard that saying, he went away sorrowful: for he had great possessions.
22. sorrowful] A conflict of opposite desires vexed his soul. He wished to serve God and mammon. He was sorrowful because he saw that the special sacrifice required to win eternal life was too great for him.

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

23–26. Of Riches, and the Kingdom of God

Mark 10:23-27. Luke 18:24-27.

These reflections follow naturally on the last incident.

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.
24. easier for a camel to go through the eye of a needle] An expression familiar to Jews of our Lord’s time. The exaggeration is quite in the Eastern style. It is unnecessary to give other explanations, as that camel is a Greek word meaning “a rope,” or that “the eye of a needle” is a gate so called.

When his disciples heard it, they were exceedingly amazed, saying, Who then can be saved?
25. Who then can be saved?] Salvation seemed to belong by right to the rulers of synagogues and other rich people. It was a notable fact that the gospel should be preached to the poor. The thought of the disciples still lives. Wealth and intellect make men seem better, “Sometimes even supplying the absence of real good with what looks extremely like it.” See a Sermon by Prof. Mozley, on The Reversal of Human Judgment, pp. 85–87.

But Jesus beheld them, and said unto them, With men this is impossible; but with God all things are possible.
Then answered Peter and said unto him, Behold, we have forsaken all, and followed thee; what shall we have therefore?
27–30. The Claim of the Disciples

Mark 10:28-31. Luke 18:28-30.

27. what shall we have therefore] Peter, still not perfect in the Spirit of Christ, suggests a lower motive for following Christ. The answer of Christ shews that all true sacrifice shall have its reward, but all that looks like sacrifice is not really such, therefore “Many that are first shall be last.” Among the Twelve there was a Judas.

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.
28. the regeneration] “The renewal of things,” “the return to a perfect state,” otherwise called “the restitution of all things,” nearly= the Kingdom of God. Cp. ch. Matthew 17:11.

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.
29. hath forsaken] Bp Thirlwall remarks, “Strange as it may sound, there is a sense in which it is a most certain truth that a man may leave that which he keeps, and keep that which he leaves. And there can be no doubt that this is the sense in which our Lord meant to be understood. For it is clear that He is speaking not of a mere outward act, but of the disposition from which it proceeds.”

shall receive an hundredfold] St Mark seems to take the words of Jesus in a more literal sense by naming the earthly goods expressly, and adding “now in this time,” but he points to the true and spiritual interpretation by subjoining “with persecutions.”

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