People's New Testament
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Chapter XIX

Marriage and Divorce; The Rich Ruler

SummaryThe Last Departure from Galilee. The Question of the Pharisees about Divorce. Christ's Law of Divorce. Eunuchs for the Kingdom of Heaven's Sake. Blessing the Little Children. The Rich Young Ruler. Eternal Life. Rich Men and the Kingdom of God. Leaving All for Christ's Sake.

1, 2. He departed from Galilee. Compare Mark 10:1–12, and Luke 16:18. This is the final departure from Galilee before the Savior's death. The borders of Judea beyond Jordan. From Galilee he followed the route on the east of the Jordan to Jerusalem. The region where the conversation on divorce occurred is called Perea, which means “the land beyond,” or east of the Jordan. Great multitudes. Because his fame was now well known over all Palestine.

3. Pharisees came. As usual, ready to oppose. Is it lawful for a man to put away his wife for every cause? Hillel, the greatest of the Jewish Rabbins whom Jews have sought to compare with Christ, taught that almost any ground of displeasure on the part of a husband would justify divorce. He even specifies scorching the bread as sufficient cause. Josephus, the historian, says he “divorced his wife because he was not pleased with her manners.”

4, 5. Made them male and female. In the creation, God made man male and female and united the two by an indissoluble bond in the marriage of one man to one woman. For this cause. The bond of husband and wife is stronger than that between children and parents. Be one flesh. Two lives joined into one.

6. What God hath joined together. If God hath so joined them that the twain are one, no human ordinance has the right to separate them.

7, 8. Why then did Moses command? Deut. 24:1–4. They insinuate that he contradicts Moses. Moses, for your hardness of heart. Moses “suffered” some things that were not right on account of “the hardness of your heart,” a low state of morals. A people cannot be lifted from moral depravity to a high standard at once. Hence the law permitted some things that were below the perfect standard of Christ. In the beginning. In the beginning there was no divorce and no polygamy. The first polygamist was the race of Cain (Gen. 4:19).

9. I say unto you. We have here Christ's law of divorce in contrast with that of Moses. Except for fornication. There is only one sufficient cause of divorce; that is, unfaithfulness to the marriage relation. Committeth adultery. Because he is married still to his former wife, who is still his wife in spite of the divorce; so, too, if any man marries the divorced woman, he marries another man's wife.

10. It is expedient not to marry. Such a rigid marriage law was too high for their loose Jewish ideas. It seemed to them as if it would be impossible to live up to so high an ideal. If a man could not get rid of his wife, if he tired of her, it were better not to marry.

11. To whom it is given. Only those can receive and live up to this rule who are enlightened by Christianity. The less Christianity, the lower the ideal of marriage. This is the rule everywhere.

12. There are eunuchs. The classes are named who need not marry: (1) Those born physically incompetent; (2) those made eunuchs by mutilation, once a very common practice in the East, and (3) those who abstain from marriage to devote themselves, free from worldly cares, to Christ's work. Paul was an example.

13. They brought unto him little children. Compare Mark 10:13–16; Luke 18:15–17. It was the Jewish custom to bring children to the synagogue on their first birthday for the Rabbi to bless them. So these persons came to one whom they regarded the greatest of all Rabbins. The disciples rebuked them. They thought it an interruption.

14. Suffer little children. Do not hinder them, either by word, or by a bad example. To come unto me. Whatever mortal, young or old, wishes to come to Christ should be encouraged. For of such is the kingdom of heaven. Those who have the loving simplicity, humility, and trust of children. See @Matt. 18:1–14. These words show, (1) that children are not, as some have taught, totally depraved; (2) that the earlier they come to Christ the better; (3) that they should not be hindered from coming by injudicious teaching; (4) that parents should bring them to the Savior.

15. Laid his hands on them. And blessed them.

16. Behold, one came and said. Compare Mark 10:17–27, and Luke 18:18–30. We learn from verse 20 that he was a young man; from Luke 18:18, that he was a ruler, probably of a synagogue, although these were usually elderly; from verse 22 (Matthew) that he was rich, which probably accounts for his holding office, at an unusual age; and from Mark 10:17, that he came running to Jesus and kneeled to him. Good Master, what good thing shall I do to inherit eternal life? Whether he had before heard Christ or not, he had learned that eternal life belonged to heirs, the heirs of God, his children, and had to be inherited.

17. Why callest thou me good? none good but one, God. The Revision, following the Siniatic, Vatican, and some other manuscripts, leaves off “good” before Master in verse 16, and changes this to, “Why asketh thou me concerning good?” Still, Mark and Luke give the question in the form of the Common Version as here; hence we are justified in adhering to the text as above. Some have seen in these words of Christ an affirmation that he was not divine. To these, Stier replies: “Either there is none good but God, Christ is good, therefore Christ is God; or, there is none good but God, Christ is not God, therefore Christ is not good.” There is no answer to these syllogisms but to deny the sinlessness of Christ. If thou wilt enter into life, keep the commandments. The Lord had evidently asked his first question to prepare the way for this direction. He has, in saying that no man is absolutely good, said that no man can keep the commandments perfectly.

18, 19. Which? Thou shalt not kill. The Lord passes over the first four of the ten commandments, throws the young man back to his relations with his fellow-men, compels him to give an account of his moral goodness, and after keeping the letter of the moral commands, still to confess his sense of a lack.

20. All these have I kept from my youth up. There was, no doubt, great ignorance in this reply. What lack I yet? He was sensible of the fact that there was a lack. His soul had not found rest in outward duties.

21. If thou wilt be perfect. To be good he must be perfect. Sell what thou hast. The injunction of the Lord is manifestly intended to bring out the fact that the young man had made an idol of his riches.

22. He went away sorrowful. He would like to be a disciple of Christ, and an heir of life, but was not ready to pay such a price. The Lord had struck his difficulty, his besetting sin, his ruling passion. This man was required to use his wealth for God and for man; so are we to use ours. There is just one difference; he was commanded to sell and give away; we are required to turn all over to Christ and to hold it as his stewards.

23. A rich man shall hardly enter into the kingdom of heaven. The Lord does not say that a rich man shall not enter, but that he shall enter with great difficulty. Mark says that when Christ uttered these words the disciples were astonished, and then Jesus explained by the words, “How hard it is for them that trust in riches to enter into the kingdom of God,” which shows the sense in which he spoke the words of this verse. A man may trust in riches who has $100, as well as one who has $100,000.

24. It is easier for a camel to go through the eye of a needle. It is easier for a camel to go through the eye of a needle than for a rich man (i. e., as already explained, one who trusts in riches) to enter into the kingdom of God. In other words, one whose trust is in wealth cannot enter at all.

25, 26. With men this is impossible; but with God all things are possible. This means that human efforts alone cannot save a man. The young man was zealous in keeping the commandments, but there was a great lack. The grace of God only can save. It can break down the trust in wealth, take away the love of wealth, and fill the heart with the love of Christ. It is the love of money, not money, that is the root of all evil A pauper may love money as much as a millionaire.

27. Lo, we have left all. Compare Mark 10:28, 29, and Luke 18:28–30. The apostles had left all they had for Christ. The case of the rich young man suggested Peter's question.

28. Ye. The apostles. In the regeneration. At the coming of the Lord the second time. When the Son of man shall sit, etc. In his final triumph over all evil. Shall sit on twelve thrones. Christ shall sit on the throne of his glory and the apostles also shall have thrones. The twelve tribes of Israel. The reference is probably spiritual, rather than literal. The inspired preaching of the apostles presented the conditions of pardon under the New Covenant. Thus they “bind” and “loose,” or “judge.” In judgment, salvation will turn on whether the Jews, or the true Israel (Gal. 3:29), have obeyed the “apostles' doctrine.” The apostles even now judge the church.

29. Every one. Not only apostles, but every one who leaves all for Christ shall receive a hundred fold. A hundred fold. Mark says, “Now in this time.” They shall be taken care of in this world, and have earthly peace and joy, such as no sinner can have, and above all, “eternal life.”

30. Many shall be last, etc. There will be reversals; those rich on earth, but poor hereafter; those high in station, degraded hereafter; and the lowly on earth, exalted hereafter. The right man to follow any cause, be it what it will, is he who loves it well enough to fling to it everything he has in the world, and then think that not enough, and so fling himself after it. This last item often weighs down the scales in heaven, and the man gets what he gave himself for.

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