Matthew 19 – Jesus Teaches on Marriage, Divorce, Riches, and Discipleship
A. Jesus teaches on marriage, divorce, and celibacy.
1. (1-2) Jesus heads towards Judea and Jerusalem.
Now it came to pass, when Jesus had finished these sayings, that He departed from Galilee and came to the region of Judea beyond the Jordan. And great multitudes followed Him, and He healed them there.
a. He departed from Galilee and came to the region of Judea: The records of Matthew, Mark, and Luke focus on the Galilean ministry of Jesus, and only emphasize His presence in Jerusalem right before His crucifixion and resurrection. Yet it would be a mistake to believe that this trip from Galilee to the region of Judea was unusual for Jesus. The Gospel of John tells us of many previous visits He made to Judea and Jerusalem.
i. “To the Judean territory by way of Peraea, i.e., along the eastern shore of Jordan.” (Bruce) Mark 10:1 and Luke 9:51 indicate the same journey.
ii. “It seems, therefore, most probable, that the course of Christ’s journey led him by the side of the river Jordan, not beyond it. That the Greek word peran, especially with a genitive case as here, has sometimes this signification, see on John 6:22.” (Clarke)
b. Great multitudes followed Him, and He healed them there: Matthew points this out so his readers understand that the popularity and power of Jesus was not restricted to Galilee. It was also evident in Judea.
i. “He healed them, the text saith; but it saith not, they believed in him.” (Poole)
ii. They followed Him; “Some to be instructed-some to be healed-some through curiosity-and some to ensnare him.” (Clarke)
2. (3) The Pharisees attempt to trap Jesus.
The Pharisees also came to Him, testing Him, and saying to Him, “Is it lawful for a man to divorce his wife for just any reason?”
a. The Pharisees also came to Him, testing Him: This continues the theme of conflict and controversy with the religious leaders. Previously in Matthew, they had questioned Jesus as He did His work in Galilee. Now Jesus, in Judea is questioned by them – and their questions were not honest. They asked this, testing Him. They hoped to trap Jesus.
b. Is it lawful for a man to divorce his wife: Divorce was a controversial topic in Jesus’ day, with two main schools of thought, centered around two of its most famous proponents. The first was the school of Rabbi Shammai (a more strict and unpopular view) and second was the school of Rabbi Hillel (a more lax and popular view).
i. Among the Jews of that day, marriage was a sacred duty. If a man was unmarried after the age of 20 – except to concentrate on the study of the law – he was guilty of breaking God’s command to “be fruitful and multiply.” According to Barclay, they said that by not having children he killed his own descendants, and had lessened the glory of God on earth.
ii. In theory, the Jews of that day had a high ideal of marriage. Yet they had a low view of women. “The Jews had very low views of women…A wife was bought, regarded as property, used as a household drudge, and dismissed at pleasure.” (Bruce) Today, men also have a low view of women; tragically, women also have a low view of women, and often reject the idea that women should be different than men in any way.
iii. Their low view of women meant that their high ideal of marriage was constantly compromised, and those compromises were made into law, as with the thinking of Rabbi Hillel. Under the thinking of Hillel, “a man could divorce his wife if she spoiled his dinner, if she spun, or went with unbound hair, or spoke to men in the streets, if she spoke disrespectfully of his parents in his presence, or if she was a brawling woman whose voice could be heard in the next house. Rabbi Akiba even went the length of saying…that a man could divorce his wife if he found a woman whom he liked better and considered more beautiful.” (Barclay)
iv. “Perhaps, too, they hoped that Jesus would say something that would entangle him in the Herod-Herodias affair so that he might meet the Baptist’s fate.” (Carson)
c. For just any reason: These words were the center of the debate. Each school of thought understood that the Mosaic law gave permission for divorce in Deuteronomy 24:1: When a man takes a wife and marries her, and it happens that she finds no favor in his eyes because he has found some uncleanness in her, and he writes her a certificate of divorce, puts it in her hand, and sends her out of his house. Each side knew and believed Deuteronomy 24:1; the question was, “What constitutes uncleanness?”
i. The school of Rabbi Shammai understood that uncleanness meant sexual immorality, and said this was the only valid reason for divorce. The school of Rabbi Hillel understood uncleanness to mean any sort of indiscretion; even to the point where for some rabbis, burning a husband’s breakfast was considered valid grounds for divorce.
ii. Barclay says that the Rabbis had many sayings about bad marriages and the bad wife. They said that the man with a bad wife would never face hell, because he has paid for his sins on earth. They said that the man who is ruled by his wife has a life that is not life. They said that a bad wife is like leprosy to her husband, and the only way he could be cured is by divorce. They even said, “If a man has a bad wife, it is a religious duty to divorce her.”
d. Testing Him: So in their question, the Pharisees tried to get Jesus to side with one teaching or the other. If He agreed with the lax school of Rabbi Hillel, it was clear that Jesus did not take the Law of Moses seriously. If He agreed with the strict school of Rabbi Shammai, then Jesus might become unpopular with the multitude, who generally liked access to an easy divorce. The religious leaders had reason to believe they had caught Jesus on the horns of a dilemma.
3. (4-6) Jesus’ first answer to the Pharisees: get back to marriage.
And He answered and said to them, “Have you not read that He who made them at the beginning ‘made them male and female,’ 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’? So then, they are no longer two but one flesh. Therefore what God has joined together, let not man separate.”
a. Have you not read: The Pharisees wanted to talk about divorce and rabbinical opinions, but Jesus wanted to go back to the Scriptures and talk about marriage. Jesus began with the first marriage – the one between Adam and Eve. This emphasis on the Scriptures and on marriage, rather than divorce, is a wise approach for anyone interested in keeping a marriage together.
i. “Our Lord honors Holy Scripture by drawing his argument therefrom. He chose specially to set his seal upon a part of the story of creation – that story which modern critics speak of as if it were fable or myth.” (Spurgeon)
ii. “By answering the question, not from Shammai or Hillel, but from Moses, our blessed Lord defeated their malice, and confounded their devices.” (Clarke)
iii. “In the case of Adam and Eve divorce was not only inadvisable; it was not only wrong; it was completely impossible, for the very simple reason that there was no one else whom either of them could possibly marry.” (Barclay)
iv. Divorce cannot be seen as a ready option when things are difficult in married life. Marriage is like a mirror; it reflects what we put into it. If one or both partners has divorce readily in their mind as a convenient option, divorce will be much more likely.
v. “If marriage is grounded in creation, in the way God has made us, then it cannot be reduced to a merely covenantal relationship that breaks down when the covenantal promises are broken.” (Carson)
b. He who made them at the beginning “made them male and female”: In quoting Genesis 1:27, Jesus indicated first that God made men and women different, and that God joins men and women together in marriage. In this, Jesus asserts God’s authority over marriage; it is God’s institution, not man’s – so it is fair to say that His rules apply.
i. By bringing the issue back to the Scriptural foundation of marriage, Jesus makes it plain that couples must forsake their singleness (a man shall leave his father and mother), and come together in a one-flesh relationship that is both a fact (they are…one flesh) and a goal (shall become one flesh).
ii. “The law of God was not, that a man should forsake his wife whenever he had a mind to it, but that he should rather forsake his father and mother than his wife; that he should cleave unto his wife, living and dwelling with her.” (Poole)
c. Be joined to his wife, and the two shall become one flesh: Back to creation and Adam’s statement in Genesis 1:23, we see that men and women (as husband and wife) are different; yet they are joined together as one, completing one another as one flesh.
i. Adam said this at the creation of Eve. It was as if Adam said, “You are different than me; but you were made for me and from me. We are not the same, but we are one.” In Genesis, Adam tells us that men and women are different from creation:
· Different sources of creation.
· Different methods of creation.
· Different times of creation.
· Different names at creation.
ii. Despite these fundamental, creation-rooted differences between the natures of men and women, God calls a husband and wife to come together as one, as one flesh. This process of things not alike coming together is part of God’s great work in marriage; the work of sanctifying, and the work of providing a good parental team.
iii. The idea that they shall become one flesh includes the sexual union, but also goes far beyond it. “Marriage is given, not that two people should do one thing together, but that they should do all things together.” (Barclay) “Be glued to her.” (Trapp)
iv. “The reference is primarily to the physical fleshly unity. But flesh in Hebrew thought represents the entire man, and the ideal unity of marriage covers the whole nature. It is a unity of soul as well as of body: of sympathy, interest, purpose.” (Bruce)
v. The two shall become one flesh also prohibits polygamy, and shows that this was God’s intention from the beginning. Though polygamy was allowed under the Old Testament, it was never God’s best – and men should have known so from looking at Genesis 2:24.
d. What God has joined together: Jesus also reminded the Pharisees that marriage is spiritually binding before God. Marriage is not merely a social contract; and as God has joined, He expects man to honor what He has joined and to keep the marriage together.
i. Joined together: “Sunezeuxen, yoked together, as oxen in the plough, where each must pull equally, in order to bring it on. Among the ancients, when persons were newly married, they put a yoke upon their necks, or chains upon their arms, to show that they were to be one, closely united, and pulling equally together in all the concerns of life.” (Clarke)
ii. “One flesh vividly expresses a view of marriage as something much deeper than either human convenience or social convention…To see divorce as man undoing the word of God puts the whole issue in a radically new perspective.” (France)
4. (7-9) The Mosaic controversy: Jesus’ second answer.
They said to Him, “Why then did Moses command to give a certificate of divorce, and to put her away?” He said to them, “Moses, because of the hardness of your hearts, permitted you to divorce your wives, but from the beginning it was not so. And I say to you, whoever divorces his wife, except for sexual immorality, and marries another, commits adultery; and whoever marries her who is divorced commits adultery.”
a. Why then did Moses command to give a certificate of divorce, and to put her away: The Pharisees wrongly thought that God commanded divorce where there was uncleanness. One rabbinic saying of that day went: “If a man has a bad wife, it is a religious duty to divorce her.” But Jesus noted the difference between “command” and “permitted.” God never commands divorce, but He does permit it.
i. The Pharisees thought that Moses was creating or promoting divorce. In fact, he was controlling it.
b. Because of the hardness of your hearts: Divorce is never commanded, but permitted by God in certain circumstances, and God permits it because of the hardness of human hearts. It was as if Jesus said this: “Here is the ideal; and here is the allowance of God when human sinfulness and hardness of heart has made the ideal unobtainable.”
i. Hardness of your hearts: “The thought is not so much of the cruelty of men to their wives, as of their unresponsiveness to the mind and will of God.” (France)
ii. Sometimes the heart of the offending party is hard, and they will not do what must be done to reconcile the relationship. Sometimes the heart of the offended party is hard, and they refuse to reconcile and get past the offence even when there is contrition and repentance. Often the hardness of heart is on both sides.
iii. “Divorce is never to be thought of as a God-ordained, morally neutral option but as evidence of sin, of hardness of heart.” (Carson)
c. Except for sexual immorality: Jesus interpreted the meaning of the word uncleanness in the Mosaic Law, showing that it refers to sexual immorality, not just anything that might displease the husband. Therefore, divorce – and the freedom to remarry without sin – is only permitted in the case of sexual immorality.
i. The ancient Greek word for sexual immorality is porneia. It is a broad word, covering a wide span of sexual impropriety. One may be guilty of porneia without actually having consummated an act of adultery. “It must be admitted that the word porneia itself is very broad…Porneia covers the entire range of such sins…and should not be restricted unless the context requires it.” (Carson)
ii. To this permission for divorce, the Apostle Paul added the case of abandonment by an unbelieving spouse (1 Corinthians 7:15).
iii. We note that incompatibility, not loving each other anymore, brutality, and misery are not grounds for divorce, though they may be proper grounds for a separation and consequent “celibacy within marriage” as Paul indicates in 1 Corinthians 7:11. These words of Paul show us that a Christian couple may in fact split up for reasons that do not justify a Biblical divorce. It may be because of a misguided sense of spirituality; it may be because of general unhappiness, or conflict, or abuse, or misery, addiction, or poverty. Paul recognizes (without at all encouraging) that one might depart in such circumstance, but they cannot consider themselves divorced, with the right to remarry, because their marriage had not split up for reasons that justify a Biblical divorce.
iv. These problems that are serious yet fall short of the Biblical permission for divorce may justify a separation, but the partners are expected to honor their marriage vows even in their separation, because as far as God is concerned, they are still married – their marriage covenant has not been broken for what God considers to be Biblical reasons.
d. And marries another, commits adultery: The reason why a person who does not have a legitimate divorce commits adultery upon remarrying is because they are not divorced in the eyes of God. Since their old marriage was never dissolved on Biblical grounds, that marriage is still valid and they are actually guilty of bigamy and adultery.
i. “He agrees with neither Shammai nor Hillel; for even though the school of Shammai was stricter than Hillel, it permitted remarriage when the divorce was not in accordance with its own Halakah (rules of conduct).” (Carson)
ii. This teaching of Jesus shows us that marriage, as a promise made to God, to our spouse and to the world, is a binding promise, and cannot be broken at our own discretion. If God does not recognize the promise being broken, then it is not.
iii. One must admit that this is a hard teaching from Jesus. There are many reasons people give today to justify divorce that do not fulfill the two Biblical allowances for divorce.
iv. There are also many situations where a marriage is separated or divorced for reasons that do not fulfill the Biblical allowance for divorce, but later one or more of the spouses goes on to give Biblical allowance, often by marriage or sexual relations with another.
v. We also remember what the Apostle Paul wrote in 1 Corinthians 7:17: As the Lord has called each one, so let him walk. In the context, one of Paul’s ideas with this statement was a warning about trying to undo the past in regard to relationships; God tells us to repent of whatever sin is there and then to move on. If you are married to your second wife after wrongfully divorcing your first wife, and become a Christian, don’t think you must now leave your second wife and go back to your first wife, trying to undo the past. As the Lord has called you, walk in that place right now.
5. (10-12) The disciples ask about marriage and celibacy.
His disciples said to Him, “If such is the case of the man with his wife, it is better not to marry.” But He said to them, “All cannot accept this saying, but only those to whom it has been given: “For there are eunuchs who were born thus from their mother’s womb, and there are eunuchs who were made eunuchs by men, and there are eunuchs who have made themselves eunuchs for the kingdom of heaven’s sake. He who is able to accept it, let him accept it.”
a. If such is the case… it is better not to marry: The disciples understood Jesus’ teaching on marriage and divorce clearly. They understood that it was not a commitment to be entered into quickly or lightly, and considered that since marriage is so binding before God, then maybe it is better not to marry.
i. “It is not evil to marry, but good to be wary; to look ere one leap.” (Trapp)
b. All cannot accept this saying, but only those to whom it has been given: Jesus recognized that celibacy is good for some, for the one who is able to accept it (such as Jesus Himself and the Apostle Paul, 1 Corinthians 7:7-9).
i. “If there be any who can receive this saying, who can without marriage bridle his list, and so live in a solute and single state as not to sin against God by any extravagancy of lusts, and impure desires and affections, and desire, and shall do so, that he may be more spiritual, and serve God with less distraction, and be a more fit instrument to promote the kingdom of God in the world, let him do it.” (Poole)
ii. “But this is not every man’s happiness; and where it is, the pride of virginity is no less foul a sin than impurity, saith Augustine.” (Trapp)
c. For there are eunuchs who were born thus: The term eunuch was used figuratively for those who voluntarily abstain from marriage. Jesus here gave three kinds of eunuchs.
· Those who are born without the capacity for sex and marriage.
· Those who are made by others without the capacity for sex and marriage.
· Those who choose to live without sex and marriage for the kingdom of heaven’s sake.
i. Paul said that the one who is unmarried because of calling should be holy both in body and in spirit (1 Corinthians 7:34). Therefore these eunuchs for the kingdom of heaven’s sake should come to peace with their celibacy both physically and spiritually; it should not be a consistent torment to them in either aspect.
6. (13-15) Jesus blesses little children.
Then little children were brought to Him that He might put His hands on them and pray, but the disciples rebuked them. But Jesus said, “Let the little children come to Me, and do not forbid them; for of such is the kingdom of heaven.” And He laid His hands on them and departed from there.
a. Then little children were brought to Him: It is marvelous that in the midst of Jesus’ teaching on marriage, parents brought their children to be blessed. Today, parents should still bring their children to Jesus; He wants to bless them and welcome them into the kingdom of heaven.
i. “It was a Jewish custom to bring a child to the elders on the evening of the Day of Atonement ‘to bless him and pray for him’ (Mishnah Sopherim 18:5).” (France)
ii. “These are termed by Luke, Luke 18:15, ta brefh, infants, very young children.” (Clarke)
b. Let the little children come to Me: This also shows us something remarkable able Jesus’ character. He was the kind of man that children liked, and children are often astute judges of character.
c. He laid His hands on them: With this, Jesus blessed the children. The laying on of hands is used Biblically as a way to bestow blessing on another (Acts 6:6, Acts 8:17, Acts 9:17, 1 Timothy 5:22, 2 Timothy 1:6).
i. “He did not baptize them, but he did bless them.” (Spurgeon)
B. Jesus teaches on riches and following Him.
1. (16-17) A man asks Jesus about gaining eternal life.
Now behold, one came and said to Him, “Good Teacher, what good thing shall I do that I may have eternal life?” So He said to him, “Why do you call Me good? No one is good but One, that is, God. But if you want to enter into life, keep the commandments.”
a. What good thing shall I do to inherit eternal life: This question demonstrates that this man, like all people by nature, had an orientation towards earning eternal life. He wanted to know what good work or noble deed he could do to inherit eternal life.
i. All three gospels (Matthew, Mark, and Luke) tell us this man was rich. Matthew tells us he was young (Matthew 19:22), and Luke tells us he was a ruler.
b. Why do you call Me good? In this, Jesus did not deny His own goodness. Instead, He asked the man, “Do you understand what you are saying when you call Me good?”
i. It was as if Jesus said, “You come to Me asking about what good thing you can do to inherit eternal life. But what do you really know about goodness?” “The argument is clear: either Jesus was good, or he ought not to have called him good; but as there is none good but God, Jesus who is good must be God.” (Spurgeon)
c. If you want to enter into life, keep the commandments: Jesus’ answer to the man’s question was straightforward. If you want to gain eternal life by your doing, you must keep the commandments – all of them, and keep them in the fullest sense.
i. “He would needs be saved by doing, Christ sets him that to do which no man living can do, and so shows him his error.” (Trapp)
2. (18-20) Jesus tests him by the aspects of the Mosaic Law that deal with man’s relationship to men.
He said to Him, “Which ones?” Jesus said, “‘You shall not murder,’ ‘You shall not commit adultery,’ ‘You shall not steal,’ ‘You shall not bear false witness,’ ‘Honor your father and your mother,’ and, ‘You shall love your neighbor as yourself.’” The young man said to Him, “All these things I have kept from my youth. What do I still lack?”
a. You shall not murder: Jesus asked the man about the commandments which primarily deal with a man’s relation to man. In response, the young man claimed, “All these things I have kept from my youth,” thus claiming to fulfill all God’s commands regarding how we must treat other people.
i. Both tables of the law will test every person before God. It isn’t enough to do good by our fellow man and be decent folk; we must do right by God, and give Him the glory and honor He deserves.
b. All these things I have kept from my youth: It is fair to ask if this man really had kept these commandments. It is likely that he actually did keep them in a way that made him righteous in the eyes of men, in the sense that Paul could say concerning the righteousness which is in the law, blameless in Philippians 3:6. But he certainly did not keep them in the full and perfect sense which Jesus spoke of in the Sermon on the Mount.
i. Mark 10:21 tells us that in response to the man’s answer, Jesus loved him. Jesus had compassion on this man, who was so misguided as to think that he really could justify himself before God.
c. What do I still lack? This alone tells us that this man had not perfectly kept the law, because he still knew that there was something missing in his life, prompting the question, “What do I still lack?” There was still something lacking in his life, reflecting something missing in his relationship with God.
i. “The exemplary life plus the dissatisfaction meant much…‘I am on the right road, according to your teaching; why then do I not attain the rest of the true, godly life?’” (Bruce)
3. (21-22) Jesus tests him by the aspects of the Mosaic Law which deal with man’s relationship to God.
Jesus said to him, “If you want to be perfect, go, sell what you have and give to the poor, and you will have treasure in heaven; and come, follow Me.” But when the young man heard that saying, he went away sorrowful, for he had great possessions.
a. Sell all you have and give to the poor, and you will have treasure in heaven; and come, follow Me: The call to forsake everything and follow Jesus is a call to put God first in all things. It is full obedience to the first table of the law, which dealt with a man’s relation to God.
i. We may make two mistakes here. The one is to believe this applies to everyone, when Jesus never made this a general command to all who would follow Him, but especially to this one rich man whose riches were clearly an obstacle to his discipleship. Instead, many rich people can do more good in the world by continuing to make money and using those resources for the glory of God and the good of others. The second mistake is to believe this applies to no one, when there are clearly those today for whom the best thing they could do for themselves spiritually is to radically forsake the materialism that is ruining them.
ii. Yet we notice that Jesus simply called this man to be His disciple, in saying, “Follow Me.” He used similar language in calling many of His disciples (Matthew 4:19; 8:22; 9:9; Mark 2:14). Jesus simply called this man to be His follower; but for this man it meant leaving behind the riches he had set his heart upon.
iii. “Think not, therefore, as many do, that there is no other hell but poverty, no better heaven than abundance.” (Trapp)
b. He went away sorrowful, for he had great possessions: In this, the wealthy questioner failed utterly. Money was his god; he was guilty of idolatry. This is why Jesus, knowing the man’s heart, asked him to renounce his possessions.
i. “He would be saved by works; yet he would not carry out his works to the full of the law’s demand. He failed to observe the spirit both of the second and the first table. He loved not his poor brother as himself; he loved not God in Christ Jesus with all his heart and soul.” (Spurgeon)
ii. The principle remains: God may challenge and require an individual to give something up for the sake of His kingdom that He still allows to someone else. There are many who perish because they will not forsake what God tells them to.
iii. Sorrowful, for he had great possessions: “And what were these in comparison of peace of conscience, and mental rest? Besides, he had unequivocal proof that these contributed nothing to his comfort, for he is now miserable even while he possesses them! And so will every soul be, who puts worldly goods in the place of the supreme God.” (Clarke)
4. (23-26) Riches as an obstacle to the kingdom.
Then Jesus said to His disciples, “Assuredly, I say to you that it is hard for a rich man to enter the kingdom of heaven. And 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.” When His disciples heard it, they were greatly astonished, saying, “Who then can be saved?” But Jesus looked at them and said to them, “With men this is impossible, but with God all things are possible.”
a. Assuredly, I say to you: We should not diminish the strength of Jesus’ words, nor fail to see their application in our own affluent society. Who among us would not be considered richer than this rich young ruler was?
b. It is hard for a rich man to enter the kingdom of heaven: Riches are a problem because they tend to make us satisfied with this life, instead of longing for the age to come. As well, sometimes riches are sought at the expense of seeking God.
i. The illustration that Jesus used – it is easier for a camel to go through the eye of a needle – was meant to be somewhat humorous. We immediately think of this as being impossible.
ii. “The camel, the largest common animal, trying to squeeze through the smallest imaginable hole.” (France)
iii. One problem with riches is that they encourage a spirit of false independence, very much like the church of Laodicea: “I am rich, have become wealthy, and have need of nothing” (Revelation 3:17).
c. They were exceedingly amazed: The great amazement of the disciples was based on the assumption that riches were always a sign of God’s blessing and favor.
i. They had probably hoped that their following of Jesus would make them rich and influential, and prominent leaders in His Messianic government. “In a culture where wealth was regarded as a sign of God’s blessing and where a religious teacher was therefore expected to be at least moderately wealthy, the lifestyle of Jesus and his disciples was conspicuously different.” (France)
d. With God all things are possible: It is possible for the rich man to be saved. God’s grace is enough to save the rich man; we have the examples of people like Zaccheus, Joseph of Arimathea, and Barnabas. These all were rich men still able to put God first, not their riches.
i. “Jesus is not saying that all poor people and none of the wealthy enter the kingdom of heaven. That would exclude Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob, to say nothing of David, Solomon, and Joseph of Arimathea.” (Carson)
5. (27-30) Peter’s blunt question: What do we get for following You?
Then Peter answered and said to Him, “See, we have left all and followed You. Therefore what shall we have?” So Jesus said to them, “Assuredly I say to you, that in the regeneration, when the Son of Man sits on the throne of His glory, you who have followed Me will also sit on twelve thrones, judging the twelve tribes of Israel. And everyone who has left houses or brothers or sisters or father or mother or wife or children or lands, for My name’s sake, shall receive a hundredfold, and inherit eternal life. But many who are first will be last, and the last first.”
a. Therefore what shall we have? In contrast to the rich young ruler, the disciples did leave all to follow Jesus – so what would be their reward? Jesus tells of special honor for the disciples: you who have followed Me will also sit on twelve thrones, judging the twelve tribes of Israel. The disciples will have a special role in the future judgment, probably in the sense of administration in the millennial Kingdom.
i. As well, the apostles had the honor of helping to provide a singular foundation for the church (Ephesians 2:20), and have a special tribute in the New Jerusalem (Revelation 20:14).
ii. “What Peter said was true, but it was not wisely spoken. It has a selfish, grasping look…After all, what have any of us to lose for Jesus compared with what we gain by him?” (Spurgeon)
b. Everyone who has left houses or brothers or sisters: But there will be universal honor for all who sacrifice for Jesus’ sake; whatever has been given up for Him will be returned to us a hundred times over – in addition to everlasting life.
i. Hundredfold is obviously not literal in a material sense; otherwise, Jesus promises a hundred mothers and a hundred wives. Jesus will do more than make up what we have given up for His sake, but the return may be spiritual instead of material. Hundredfold certainly is literally true in the spiritual sense.
ii. Matthew Poole described some of the ways we get our hundredfold:
· Joy in the Holy Ghost, peace of conscience, the sense of God’s love.
· Contentment. They shall have a contented frame of mind.
· God will stir up the hearts of others to supply their wants, and that supply shall be sweeter to them than their abundance was.
· God sometimes repays them in this life, as He restored Job after his trial to greater riches.
iii. The principle stands: God will be a debtor to no man. It is impossible for us to give more to God than He gives back to us.
c. But many who are first will be last, and the last first: In the previous words, Jesus promised that those who sacrificed for His sake and the sake of His kingdom would be rewarded. Then He said that though they would be rewarded, it would be different than man usually expects; because we usually believe that the first will be first and the last will be last. The parable in the following chapter will illustrate this principle.
i. “Jesus lays it down that there will be surprises in the final assessment… it may be that those who were humble on earth will be great in heaven, and that those who were great in this world will be humbled in the world to come.” (Barclay)
ii. “You remember the old Romish legend, which contains a great truth. There was a brother who preached very mightily, and who had won many souls to Christ, and it was revealed to him one night, in a dream, that in heaven he would have no reward for all that he had done. He asked to whom the reward would go; and an angel told him that it would go to an old man who used to sit on the pulpit stairs, and pray for him. Well, it may be so, though it is more likely that both would share their Master’s praise. We shall not be rewarded, however, simply according to our apparent success.” (Spurgeon)
©2018 David Guzik – No distribution beyond personal use without permission