Gospel of Matthew Chapter Nineteen Commentary by
Pastor Ron Beckham
Verses 1-2: "When Jesus had finished these words, He departed from Galilee and came into the region of Judea beyond the Jordan; 2 and large crowds followed Him, and He healed them there."Jesus now went south from Galilee, entering Judea with His disciples. At His birth, He had left eternity, the place of rest we will only truly understand by going there, and here we see Him working diligently for others, placing their needs ahead of His own. If He did this as a human being, think about what He is accomplishing now that He has returned to the Father. He is intimately aware of all your needs and is healing your injured soul. Jesus goes far beyond our immediate concerns, creating within us that which is eternally valuable.
Verses 3-6: "Some Pharisees came to Jesus, testing Him and asking, 'Is it lawful for a man to divorce his wife for any reason at all?' 4 And He answered and said,'Have you not read that He who created them from the beginning made them male and female, 5 and said, 'For this reason a man shall leave his father and mother and be joined to his wife, and the two shall become one flesh? 6 So they are no longer two, but one flesh. What therefore God has joined together, let no man separate.'" We know that marriage is valuable because God created it. Matthew, the human writer of this Gospel, had seen first hand that the religious leaders who came to Jesus were unbelievers. They had no faith and used everything at their disposal, even Scripture, to attack the Lord. Notice the elements here, in this quote of Genesis 2:24—1) The participants in marriage are to be male and female, 2) only one of each sex is involved—no intruders, 3) the man leaves his birth family when he marries, 4) the newlyweds become a distinct new family, which is to say, "one flesh," 5) it is God who joins people in marriage, not a mere human being, and 6) they marry for life—"until death do us part," which is to say: divorce is not God's plan for you. A faithful marriage is valuable to the Lord.
Verses 7-9: "They said to Him, 'Why then did Moses command to give her a certificate of divorce and send her away?' 8 "He said to them,'Because of your hardness of heart Moses permitted you to divorce your wives; but from the beginning it has not been this way. 9 And I say to you, whoever divorces his wife, except for immorality, and marries another woman commits adultery.'" The Pharisees of these verses were now citing Deuteronomy 24:1-4, which seems to allow a man who thinks his wife is distasteful, to divorce her. The words in Deuteronomy continued, stating that if she subsequently marries somebody else, who then divorces her, the first husband can't change his mind and marry her again. If you are contemplating divorce, give some thought to this verse in Matthew—and also see Malachi 2:16, where it says about God—"He hates divorce." The person who divorces and then marries again—with very few exceptions, commits the sin of adultery in the sight of God.
Verses 10-12: "The disciples said to Him, 'If the relationship of the man with his wife is like this, it is better not to marry.' 11 But He said to them,'Not all men can accept this statement, but only those to whom it has been given. 12 For there are eunuchs who were born that way from their mother’s womb; and there are eunuchs who were made eunuchs by men; and there are also eunuchs who made themselves eunuchs for the sake of the kingdom of heaven. He who is able to accept this, let him accept it.'" Not that long ago in history, and it is true in some places today, marriage was arranged by parents or tribal, sometimes religious elders. Somewhere in the 19th century, it was widely observed that too many marriages were unhappy, and so individuals increasingly began to select mates on the basis of romantic love. In music, poetry, novels and in many other ways, the pressure to marry is great, and yet, even with so much marital counseling and so many divorces, many sadly discover that escape from marriage isn't the answer. Eunuchs were males, often captured boys who were emasculated before puberty, rendering survivors among them able to safely become servants in the king's harem or perform other duties. A careful reading of Daniel 1, reveals that Daniel was a eunuch, and another Biblical example is the Ethiopian eunuch who trusted in the Lord (Acts 8:26-40). Jesus included that meaning, but also used the word "eunuch" as a metaphor, to include those who are chosen by the Lord to not marry.
Verses 13-15: "Then some children were brought to Him so that He might lay His hands on them and pray; and the disciples rebuked them. 14 But Jesus said,'Let the children alone, and do not hinder them from coming to Me; for the kingdom of heaven belongs to such as these.' 15 After laying His hands on them, He departed from there." Jesus, as the song goes, "loves the little children of the world..." The capacity for faith in our little ones is great, and we are to delight in bringing our children to the Lord. Trusting in Christ, we embark on the road leading back to the innocence of newborns, a state to be fully realized in eternity. Until then, let's gently bring as many as possible with us to the Lord, and delight in those who bring others to Christ through the gift of "evangelism."
Verses 16-19: "And someone came to Him and said, 'Teacher, what good thing shall I do that I may obtain eternal life?' 17 And He said to him,'Why are you asking Me about what is good? There is only One who is good; but if you wish to enter into life, keep the commandments.' 18 Then he said to Him, 'Which ones?' And Jesus said,'You shall not commit murder; You shall not commit adultery; You shall not steal; You shall not bear false witness; 19 Honor your father and mother; and You shall love your neighbor as yourself.'" Events very similar to these verses are recorded in Mark 10:17 and Luke 18:18-27. It's usually assumed that all three are differing renditions of the same event, but what if God, to make sure we understand, enables similar events to keep occurring until we finally understand? It happens often, which explains the origin of the idea that if we move to a new place, our old problems come with us. This man was really trying to do the right thing, thinking that if he did enough right things, God would be pleased with him, which is the basis of most religion. Jesus answered the man's question with quotes from the Ten Commandments, seen in Exodus 20 and Deuteronomy 5, with the exception that "love your neighbor as yourself," is from Leviticus 19:18. And notice here in Verse 17 that the only true good in people is God in our hearts, revealed as He expresses Himself through us. The impossibility of keeping God's commandments becomes possible through faith in the Lord.
Verses 20-22: "The young man said to Him, 'All these things I have kept; what am I still lacking?' 21 Jesus said to him,'If you wish to be complete, go and sell your possessions and give to the poor, and you will have treasure in heaven; and come, follow Me.' 22 But when the young man heard this statement, he went away grieving; for he was one who owned much property." Do you ever get tired from trying to do what's right and have that sinking feeling down inside that it's just not enough? That was the state of this "young man"—he knew there was something missing, but didn't know what it was. Jesus knew—and note that these verses are not some kind of command to give everything away. This particular young man had faith in his money—but his need was to trust in the Lord, whether he had money or not. When Jesus was asked at another time about what work we must do to be saved, He replied, "This is the work of God, that you believe in Him whom He sent" (John 6:28-29). The young man of these verses needed faith in the Lord.
Verses 23-24: "And Jesus said to His disciples,'Truly I say to you, it is hard for a rich man to enter the kingdom of heaven. 24 Again I say to you, it is easier for a camel to go through the eye of a needle, than for a rich man to enter the kingdom of God.'" The people of humanity tend to rely on armies, life insurance, income, jobs, doctors; things and people that can be helpful, but it's a problem when we look to them more than we trust God. He comes first. A lot of money CAN be a problem. The "eye of the needle" was a literal small gate into Jerusalem and may be the reference here, but the point is—what we lack can actually be God's blessing. He Himself is more valuable than any commodity of this earth. Gold and diamonds are just shiny rocks... He is life everlasting for you and me.
Verses 25-26: "When the disciples heard this, they were very astonished and said, 'Then who can be saved?' 26 And looking at them Jesus said to them,'With people this is impossible, but with God all things are possible.'" Most value money too much, and all need to understand that, "with God all things are possible," an expression of faith in the Lord. God is infinitely MORE than we are. We are limited, but He can do anything, creating faith in the Lord within people like us. He built a universe in six literal days (Genesis 1). The "sun stood still" at God's command, which meant the earth quit rotating, but was not destroyed or damaged as a result (Joshua 10:12-14). God created the physical laws that govern us, but He and His actions are not bound by them, and to "be saved" is the greatest miracle of all.
Verses 27-30: "Then Peter said to Him, 'Behold, we have left everything and followed You; what then will there be for us?' 28 And Jesus said to them,'Truly I say to you, that you who have followed Me, in the regeneration when the Son of Man will sit on His glorious throne, you also shall sit upon twelve thrones, judging the twelve tribes of Israel. 29 And everyone who has left houses or brothers or sisters or father or mother or children or farms for My name’s sake, will receive many times as much, and will inherit eternal life.' 30 But many who are first will be last; and the last, first.'" Peter was asking, "What's in it for us?" Every one of us looks at God and His creation from a limited perspective. The disciples coveted the usual desires of humanity: Power, money, prestige, comfort, and so on, but what this world offers merely points to something infinitely more. Through faith in the Lord, a unique and beautiful place is reserved for us in eternity, where we will never lack, never be bored, and we will be delighted—forever. You can feel the Lord's sigh of sadness, as He uttered the words of Verse 30. He has so much more for us than what we think we want—What can we do? We are to abandon ourselves to Him, embracing His will for our lives, and trust Him as led by His Holy Spirit. Real life is responding with joy to the love of God which is in Christ Jesus. Look into the center of your being: What do you value?
Lord, I am Yours. I confess I have trusted too much in the limited things of this world, and now, finally, I accept Your will for my life. I have faith in You, Jesus. You are the One I need. I pray in Jesus Name. Amen.