Matthew 19
Pulpit Commentary
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;
Verses 1-12. - The beginning of the last journey to Jerusalem. The question concerning divorce. (Mark 10:1-12.) Verse 1. - When Jesus had finished these sayings. This is the beginning of a new section of the history, commencing, as usual, with the formulary, And it came to pass. "These sayings" must refer to what was recorded in ch. 18. But St. Matthew's narrative omits many events that happened in the interval between the account of the Galilaean ministry and the history of these last days, that is, from the autumn of one year to the spring of the next. The transactions of this time, which are omitted also by St. Mark, are given by St. Luke (Luke 9:51-17:11) and St. John (John 7:2-11:54), comprising many things that occurred at Jerusalem during the Feast of Tabernacles and on other occlusions. He departed from Galilee. Not visiting it again till he appeared there after his resurrection. There was no part of the Holy Land in which he did not at some time sojourn, and now, as the final consummation drew nigh, he resolutely set his face towards Jerusalem. Came into the coasts of Judea beyond Jordan. Coasts should be borders. Judaea was bounded by the river, and there was no part of it beyond, that is, on the east of Jordan. The words, "beyond Jordan," belong to the verb "came," and the clause signifies that the object of Christ's journey was the vicinity of Judaea, and that, instead of entering the province by the direct road through Samaria, he took the more lengthy but safer route through Peraea. This was the name of the region on the east of the Jordan (πέραν, beyond), extending at this time from the river Hieromax, or Jarmouk, on the north, to the Arnon on the south, i.e. to the middle of the eastern shore of the Dead Sea. The ruler of this district was Herod Antipas, and it was at this era in a most flourishing condition, notably fertile, and containing many fine towns ornamented with magnificent buildings. Here the simple, pastoral country people were less influenced by the narrow bigotry of the Pharisaic party, and in the towns the ban which excluded Jesus from the synagogues of Galilee and Judaea was either not recognized or not enforced. A quiet opportunity for preaching the gospel was thus offered. This may possibly be the sojourn in Peraea mentioned by St. John (John 10:40-42).
And great multitudes followed him; and he healed them there.
Verse 2. - Great multitudes followed him. He was favourably received by the unprejudiced Peraeans. Healed them. Those of the multitude who had need of healing (Luke 9:11). There. In the "beyond Jordan" region. St. Mark observes that he taught them. Thus, "at one time teaching, at another working miracles, he varied his means of salvation, that from the miracles faith might be given him as a Teacher; and by his teaching he might urge to edification the miracles which he wrought" (St. Chrysostom, ap. I. Williams).
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?
Verse 3. - We have now to listen to our Lord's teaching respecting divorce and marriage. The Pharisees. The article is better omitted. Our Lord was not long left in peace by these inveterate enemies, who, if they could not openly persecute him, might hope to extract something from his words and sentiments which might be used to his disadvantage. They were probably envoys sent from Jerusalem to entrap and annoy him. Tempting him. Trying to get him to give an answer which would in any case afford a handle for malicious misrepresentation. The question proposed concerned divorce. To put away his wife forevery cause; κατὰ πᾶσαν αἰτίαν: quacumque ex causa; for any cause whatever. This was a delicate question to raise in the domains of Herod Antipas (see Matthew 14:3, 4), and one greatly debated in the rabbinical schools. Our Lord had already twice pronounced upon the subject, once in the sermon on the mount (Matthew 5:32), and again when reasoning with the Pharisees on the due observance of the Law (Luke 16:18). Two opposite opinions were held by the followers of Hillel and Schammai, the heads of antagonistic schools. The school of Hillel contended that a man might divorce his wife for various causes quite unconnected with infringement of the marriage vow, e.g., because he had ceased to love her, or had seen some one whom he liked better, or even because she cooked his dinner badly. The school of Schammai was more strict, and permitted divorce only in case of fornication, adultery, or some offence against chastity. Between these contending parties the Pharisees desired to make our Lord give a decision, thinking that they had fixed him in a dilemma. If he took the popular lax view, they could deride his claims as a Teacher of superior morality; if he upheld the stricter side, he would rouse the enmity of the majority, and possibly, like John the Baptist, involve himself in trouble with the licentious tetrarch. There was a chance also that the high tone which he had already taken might prove to be at variance with Mosaic enactments. The easiness with which divorce was obtained may be seen in Josephus, Who thus writes: "He who for any reason whatsoever (and many such causes happen to men) wishes to be separated from a wife who lives with him, must give it to her in writing that he will cohabit with her no longer, and by this means she shall have liberty to marry another man; but before this is done it is not permitted her to do so" ('Ant.,' 4:08, 23). Josephus himself repudiated his own wife because he was not pleased with her behaviour ('Vita,' § 76). And Ben-Sira gives the curt injunction, "If she go not as thou wouldest have her (κατὰ χεῖρά σου), cut her off from thy flesh,... and let her go" (Ecclus. 25:26).
And he answered and said unto them, Have ye not read, that he which made them at the beginning made them male and female,
Verse 4. - He answered and said. Our Lord does not directly reply in the negative, but refers to the original institution of marriage. All his auditors agreed in holding the legality of divorce, though they differed in their estimation of the causes that warranted separation. It was quite a new idea to find the propriety of divorce questioned, and to have their captious question met by an appeal to Scripture which they could not gainsay, and an enunciation of a high ideal of matrimony which their glosses and laxity had miserably perverted or obscured. He which made them. Manuscripts vary between ὁ ποιήσας and ὁ κτίσας. The latter is approved by Westcott and Hort. It is best translated, the Creator. The Vulgate gives, qui fecit hominem. At the beginning (ἀπ ἀρχῆς). These words should be joined to the following verb made (ἐποίησεν), and not with the preceding participle, as it is intended to show the primordial design in the creation of man and woman. God made the first members of the human family a male and a female, not a male and females. The lower animals were created separately, male and female; "mankind was created in one person in Adam, and when there was found no help meet for Adam, no companion in body, soul, or spirit, fit for him, then God, instead of creating a wholly new thing, made Eve out of Adam" (Sadler). Two individuals of opposite sexes were thus formed for each other; one was the complement of the other, and the union was perfect and lasted, as long as life. There was in this original institution no room for polygamy, no room for divorce. It was a concrete example of the way in which God unites man and wife.
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?
Verse 5. - And said. The words that follow are assigned to Adam in Genesis 2:23, 24, but he spake by inspiration of God, as he knew nothing of "father and mother" by personal experience, and therefore they can be rightly attributed to the Creator. It was, in fact, a prophetic utterance of which Adam was the mouthpiece; as St. Augustine says, "Deus utique per hominem dixit quod homo prophetando praedixit." For this cause. Because of this Divine appointment, and especially of the peculiar creation of Eve. She was not formed separately of the dust of the earth, but directly from the substance of Adam; so she was one with her husband, nearer than all other human relations, superior to the tenderest ties of nature and birth. Shall cleave (προσκολληθήσεται, or κολληθήσεται); literally, shall be glued to; adhaerebit. The word expresses the closest possible union, stronger and higher than that towards parents. They twain shall be one flesh; the two shall become one flesh (ἔσονται οἱ δίο εἰς σάρκα μίαν). The Septuagint and Samaritan Pentateuch insert "the two," which is not in the present Hebrew text. Our Lord adopts the addition as conveying the correct sense. In marriage there is a moral and physical union, so that two persons become virtually one being. Originally, man contained woman in himself before she was separated from him; she was a corporeal unity with man; or, as others put it, man, as a race, was created male and female, the latter being implicitly contained in the former; the previous unity is thus asserted. In marriage this unity is acknowledged and continued. St. Paul quotes this text in Ephesians 5:31; and in 1 Corinthians 6:16 uses it as an argument against fornication,
Wherefore they are no more twain, but one flesh. What therefore God hath joined together, let not man put asunder.
Verse 6. - Wherefore (ὥστε); so that. This follows from the quotation just given. Our Lord explains and confirms the original dictum by an assertion of his own and a general law. What God hath joined together. The institution of marriage is God's appointment. Christ says ο{, what, neuter singular, not "those whom," plural and concrete, that he may make it clear that he is here speaking in the abstract, not specially of Adam and Eve. What he enunciates is true of all wedlock, not simply of the case of our first parents. Let not man put asunder. Man does thus infringe the primitive rule when he divorces his with. Herein he opposes God and acts against nature. He and his wife are one; they can no more separate from one another than they can from themselves. If we regard our Lord's language in this passage without prejudice, and not reading into it modern notions, we must consider that he here decrees the indissolubility of the marriage tie. His hearers plainly understood him so to speak, as we see from the objection which they urged.
They say unto him, Why did Moses then command to give a writing of divorcement, and to put her away?
Verse 7. - Why did Moses then command? If, as you assert, God ordained that marriage should be indissoluble, how comes it that Moses commanded (ἐνετείλατο) us to practise divorce, and prescribed rules as to its conduct? They are referring to Deuteronomy 24:1, 2. Jesus had escaped the trap which was laid for him, and foiled them by the very words of Scripture and the plain intention of the first institution. But they see their way to opposing the authority of the great lawgiver to the dictum and interpretation of this new Teacher. It cannot be supposed, they argue, that Moses would enjoin a practice condemned by the Word of God; therefore, if you abide by your exposition, you contradict Moses. A writing of divorcement. The man who desired to divorce his wife could not effect this separation by mere word of mouth or by violent ejectment; he must have a written document formally prepared and witnessed, necessitating certain delay and publicity. In regulating the method of divorce and giving rules which prevented it from being undertaken rashly and lightly, Moses could not justly be said to have commanded it. There were also two cases in which he absolutely forbade divorce (see Deuteronomy 22:13-19; Deuteronomy 22:28, 29).
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.
Verse 8. - Moses because of (πρὸς, with a view to, to meet) the hardness of your hearts; your obstinacy, perverseness. You were not honest and pure enough to obey the primitive law. There was danger that you would ill treat your wives in order to get rid of them, or even murder them. The lesser evil was regular divorce. But the enactment is really a shame and reproach to you, and was occasioned by grave defects in your character and conduct. And it is not true to say that Moses commanded; he only suffered you to put away your wives. This was a temporary permission to meet your then circumstances. Divorce had been practised commonly and long; it was traditional; it was seen among all other Oriental peoples. Moses could not hope at once to eradicate the inveterate evil; he could only modify, mitigate, and regulate its practice. The rules which he introduced were intended, not to facilitate divorce, but to lead men better to realize the proper idea of marriage. And Christ was introducing a better law, a higher morality, for which Mosaic legislation paved the way (comp. Romans 5:20; Romans 8:3; Hebrews 9:10). From the beginning. The original institution of marriage contained no idea of divorce; it was no mere civil contract, made by man and dissoluble by man, but a union of God's own formation, with which no human power could interfere. However novel this view might seem, it was God's own design from the first. The first instance of polygamy occurs in Genesis 4:19, and is connected with murder and revenge.
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.
Verse 9. - And I say unto you. Our Lord here enunciates the law which was to obtain in his kingdom, which, indeed, was simply the reintroduction and enforcement of the primitive and natural ordinance. Except it be for fornication; εἰ μὴ ἐπὶ πορνείᾳ: nisi ob fornicationem (Vulgate). This is the received reading. Tregelles, Tischendort; Westcott and Hort omit εἰ. The parallel passage in St. Mark (where Christ is stated to have made the remark to his disciples "in the house") omits the clause altogether. Lachmann, following some few manuscripts, has introduced παρεκτὸς λόγου πορνείας, "saving for the cause of fornication," from Matthew 5:32. The interpretation of this verse has given occasion to acute controversy. There are some questions that have to be considered in expounding this matter.

(1) What is here meant by πορνεία? Does it bear its usual meaning, or is it equivalent to μοιχεία, "adultery"? These who affirm that the sin of married persons is never expressed by the word porneia, hold that it here signifies ante-nuptial unchastity, which would make the marriage void ab initio; post-nuptial transgression would be punished by death, not by divorce. In this view, our Lord would say that no divorce is allowable except where the wife is proved to have been unchaste before marriage. In such a case, the union being void from the first, the man is free to marry again. But there are difficulties in this interpretation. Why, at the end of the verse, is it called adultery to marry the divorced woman, if she was never really and lawfully married? Again, it is not correct to say that porneia denotes solely the sin of unmarried people. All illicit connection is described by this term, and it cannot be limited to one particular kind of transgression. In Ecclus. 23:23 it is used expressly of the sin of an adulteress. We may also remark that metaphorically idolatry is often called by this name, whereas, since Israel is supposed to be married to the Lord, the breaking of this bend by the worship of false gods might more strictly be named adultery. And yet again, there is no proof that the discovery of previous immorality in a wife did ipso facto vitiate the marriage (see Hosea 1:2, etc.). The passages that are thought to bear on this matter are Deuteronomy 22:13-21 and Deuteronomy 24:1-4. In the former there is no question of divorce, - the offender is to be stoned; in the second passage the ground of divorce is "some uncleanness," or some unseemly thing, whether immorality or personal defect is meant cannot be decided, the rival schools taking different sides. But it is quite certain that adultery is not intended, and ante-nuptial unchastity is not even hinted. The interpretation, therefore, given above cannot be maintained.

(2) Omitting for the moment the limiting clause, may we say that the general teaching of Christ makes for the indissolubility of the marriage bond? The majority of the Fathers from Hermas and Justin Martyr downwards affirm this. Those who admit that divorce is permissible in the case of the wife's adultery are unanimous in asserting that, by Christ's ordinance, remarriage is prohibited to the husband during the culprit's life; so that, practically, if divorce a mensa et toro is allowed, divorce a vinculo is refused. All Christ's utterances on the subject, saving the apparently restrictive clause (Matthew 5:32) and here, absolutely and plainly forbid divorce, on the ground of law and nature. The words in Mark 10:11 and Luke 16:18 are given without any limitation whatever. St. Paul draws from such his conclusion of the indissolubility of the marriage tie, as may be seen in 1 Corinthians 7:10, 11, 39; Romans 7:2, 3. There could never have been a doubt about this subject had it not been for the difficulty in interpreting the parenthetical clause.

(3) Are we, then, to suppose that Christ, by those words, modifies his general statement, and allows absolute divorce in the case of a wife's misconduct? Such is the view taken by many theologians, and practically endorsed by the civil law of many countries. Neither the Roman nor the Anglican Churches support this laxity. Ecclesiastical and civil laws are here antagonistic. It is said that Christ allows the wronged party to marry again. If so, if the oneness of the parties is wholly destroyed by the sin of the woman, why is it not permitted to a man to marry a divorced woman? This cannot be called adultery unless she is still one flesh with her husband, although separated. We must argue from this that divorce in such a case does not destroy the vinculum matrimonii, the marriage bond. and if not under this circumstance, surely under no other; for any other ground must be always less serious than adultery. If the clause in question enunciated an exception to the absolute rule elsewhere given, Christ would seem to stultify himself, to give two opposite decisions, and to introduce uncertainty in a most important verdict. The principle on which he based his dictum would be overthrown, and his hearers might have accused him of inconsistency. The solution offered for this difficulty is this - that Christ is contemplating merely what we call judicial separation; he considers that no trivial cause justifies this, in fact, nothing but fornication, and that this modified divorce does not free the man so that he may marry again; he is bound by the Law as long as his wife lives. Our Lord seems to have introduced the exceptional clause in order to answer what were virtually two questions of the Pharisees, viz. whether it was lawful to "put away a wife for every cause," and whether, when a man had legally divorced his wife, he might marry again. To the former Christ replies that separation was allowable only in the case of fornication; in response to the second, he rules that even in that case remarriage was wholly barred. And whosoever marrieth her which is put away (ἀπολελυμένην, without the article); her, when she is put away (Revised Version); or, a divorced woman. The clause is wholly omitted by א and some other manuscripts, and some modern editors, as Westcott and Hort. But it has very high authority in its favour. Alford renders, "her, when divorced," and restricts the application to a woman unlawfully divorced, not extending it to one separated for porneia. But the language is too indefinite to admit of this interpretation as certain (see Luke 16:18, and the note on Matthew 5:32, where the popular view is expressed). The clause, pondered without regard to foregone conclusions, surely contains an argument for the indissolubility of the marriage tie, as we have said above. Marriage with a divorced wife can be rightly termed adultery only in consideration of the continuance of the vinculum. Doth commit adultery. The binding nature of marriage does not depend on the will or the acts of the persons, but on its primal character and institution. By the repeal of the Mosaic relaxation and the restoration of marriage to its original principle, Christ not only enforces the high dignity of this ordinance, but obviates many opportunities of wickedness, such, for instance, as collusion between husband and wife with a view to obtain freedom for marriage with others.
His disciples say unto him, If the case of the man be so with his wife, it is not good to marry.
Verse 10. - His disciples say unto him. Our Lord appears to have repeated privately to the disciples what he had said publicly to the Pharisees. If the case (ἡ αἰτία) of the man be so with his wife. Some commentators take αἰτία to signify guilt: "if such guilt appertains to the married state." But the meaning is plain enough anyway, and the word, as here used, corresponds to the Latin causa, and the Hebrew dibrah, which may denote "case," "condition," etc. The disciples reflect the feeling of their day. Marriage without any possibility of essential release (for they see that this is Christ's law) seems to them a severe and unbearable connection. It were better never to marry at all than to fetter one's self with such an inexorable obligation. Such a doctrine was entirely novel in that age, and most unpalatable; and even the apostles receive it with wonder and hesitation. They have not yet leaned that in Messiah's kingdom grace conquers natural inclination, and strengthens the weak will so that it rises superior to custom, prejudice, and the promptings of the flesh.
But he said unto them, All men cannot receive this saying, save they to whom it is given.
Verse 11. - Our Lord makes a gentle reply to this observation of the disciples concerning the inexpediency of marriage under some circumstances. You say true, he seems to mean, but all men cannot receive this saying; i.e. their words, "It is not good to marry." But he endorses these words in a different signification from theirs. Their objection to marry arose from the impossibility of putting away a wife for any cause. Christ passes over these ignoble scruples, and enunciates the only principle which should lead a man to abstain from marriage. They to whom it is given. They to whom are given the call and the grace to abstain from marriage. These persons' practice forms an exception to the general view of the propriety and blessedness of the marriage state.
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.
Verse 12. - Our Lord proceeds to note three classes of men to whom it is given to abstain from marriage. There are some eunuchs, which were so born. The first class consists of those who are physically unable to contract matrimony, or, having the power, lack the inclination. They are compulsorily continent, and are not voluntary abstainers. Neither is the second class: those which were made eunuchs of men. Such were common enough in the harems and courts of Orientals. The cruel and infamous treatment which such persons underwent was practised against their will, and consequently their continence had no sort of merit. The third is the only class which of choice and for high reasons lived a celibate life: which have made themselves eunuchs for the kingdom of heaven's sake. This is not to be understood of excision; for this would be a contravention of the order of nature and the good work of creation. Origen, who took the passage literally, and with his own hands mutilated himself, was justly condemned by the verdict of the Church. The verb is to be understood in a metaphorical sense of the mortification of the natural desires and impulses at the cost of much pain and trouble, the spirit conquering the flesh by the special grace of God. The motive of such self-denial is high and pure. It is practised "for the kingdom of heaven's sake," that is, to be free from distraction and the cares and dangers involved in a married life. St. Paul carries forward the Lord's teaching when he writes (1 Corinthians 7:32, 33), "He that is unmarried is careful for the things of the Lord, how he may please the Lord; but he that is married is careful for the things of the world, how he may please his wife" (comp. Isaiah 56:3, 4). The celibate life, deliberately embraced for religion's sake, is here approved by Christ, not to the disparagement of matrimony, but as a counsel which some are enabled to follow to their soul's great benefit. It may be added that the counsel applies also to married persons who sacrifice conjugal endearments for spiritual reasons - "have wives as though they had none" (1 Corinthians 7:29). Let him receive it. This is not an injunction, but a permission; it is no universal rule, prescribed to all or to the many; it is a special grace allowed to the few, and by few attained. "Each man," says St. Paul, "hath his own gift from God, one after this manner, and another after that" (1 Corinthians 7:7, 26). Some think the Essenes are here referred to; but it is not likely that our Lord would endorse the practices of a sect which in some of its tenets was by no means commendable. Rather he is laying down a limitation that, while self-sacrifice and self-dedication to God are acceptable and fraught with peculiar blessings, none should attempt to win heaven in this way, unless they are specially prepared for such a life by the grace of God mastering the human will and controlling every earthly desire. The pre-eminent value set on celibacy by the early Church was learned from this and similar passages; but Christ institutes no comparison between the single and married states; and it would have been wiser to imitate his reserve in estimating the spiritual merits of the two conditions.
Then were there brought unto him little children, that he should put his hands on them, and pray: and the disciples rebuked them.
Verses 13-15. - Benediction of little children. (Mark 10:13-16; Luke 18:15-17.) Verse 13. - Christ, having laid his blessing on marriage, now blesses its fruit. Then. This happened directly after the preceding conversation. Mothers were won to his side by his elevation of woman to her true position, and his marked tenderness to children. Little children (παιδία). St. Luke calls them τὰ βρέφη, "their infants." These were babes whom the mothers carried in their arms, and who were too young to understand the meaning and importance of the act of Christ in blessing them. It was a custom to take infants to the synagogues, that they might receive the prayers and blessings of the rabbis, or holy men. For this reason they were brought to Christ as a holy and revered Teacher. That he should put his hands on them, and pray. The laying on of hands was symbolical of blessing (see Genesis 48:14; Numbers 27:23). From the Jewish it passed into the Christian Church (Acts 6:5), and continues unto this day to be used on various solemn occasions. The disciples rebuked them. More definitely in St. Mark, "rebuked those that brought them." Why they did so is not quite obvious. Either they thought that it was beneath Christ's dignity, and a waste of his precious time to attend to these babes; or, being still of imperfect faith, they did not realize that any spiritual good could proceed from the imposition of Christ's hands upon unconscious and irresponsive infants. They had seen him cure bodily diseases with a touch, and they would have welcomed these little ones it' they had been brought to be healed of some obvious maladies; what they could not understand was that these irrational creatures, not possessed of faith, could be the recipients of Divine blessing. Christ, by word and action, teaches another lesson. St. Mark adds that Jesus was "much displeased" at the disciples' faithless interference. St. Luke tells us that he "called them [the babes] unto him," making his followers desist from their officious remonstrance, and said the memorable words which are given almost without variation by the three synoptists.
But Jesus said, Suffer little children, and forbid them not, to come unto me: for of such is the kingdom of heaven.
Verse 14. - Suffer [the] little children, and forbid them not, to come unto me. He speaks as though the infants were ready and eager to come to him, if they were not prevented. He thus intimates the truth that, though incompetent to undo, stand God's blessing, children were not incompetent to receive it. There was no natural impediment to bar the way. Unconscious intents, under the Mosaic dispensation, were admitted to the privileges of the Jewish Church by the rite of circumcision; in Christ's kingdom analogous mercies were to be extended to them. From this passage has been derived a cogent argument for infant baptism, because Christ herein showed, not only that tender age and immaturity of reason put no obstacle in the way of his blessing, but that children were the standard by which fitness for his kingdom was to be tested. For of such is the kingdom of heaven. They who would enter Christ's kingdom must be pure, simple, obedient, as little children (comp. Matthew 18:3). That is why he says, "of such," not "of these," intimating that it is not to the age, but to the disposition and character, that he refers. Some, not so suitably, confine the saying to such as are dedicated to God in baptism. It is well said that what children now are is God's work; what they shall be hereafter is their own.
And he laid his hands on them, and departed thence.
Verse 15. - He laid his hands on them. He was not influenced by the captious objections of the disciples. St. Mark tells us that "he took them up in his arms, put his bands upon them, and blessed them." Thus far he complied with the wishes of the parents who brought the babes to him. But we do not read that he prayed, as they had asked. Doubtless there was meaning in this omission. In conferring blessing he was acting in his Divine nature, and had no need of prayer. Sometimes, indeed, he prayed for the sake of bystanders (see John 11:42; John 12:30); here he prays not, that he may teach a lesson of his Divinity. Departed thence. Set out from Peraea, journeying towards Jerusalem.
And, behold, one came and said unto him, Good Master, what good thing shall I do, that I may have eternal life?
Verses 16-22. - Answer to the inquiry of the rich young ruler concerning eternal life. (Mark 10:17-22; Luke 18:18-23.) Verse 16. - And, behold. The exclamation, as usual, denotes the suddenness and unexpected nature of the occurrence. It took place probably on the next day after the blessing of the children. One came (εϊς προσελθών). This is more emphatic than the enclitic τις, and we learn from St. Luke that he was "a ruler," i.e. of the synagogue, and he must have been of noted piety and worth to have arrived at this dignity while still a youth (ver. 22). St. Mark gives more details - he "came running, and kneeled to him." He was eager for an answer to his question, and recognized in Jesus a Rabbi worthy of all honour and veneration, though he saw in him nothing more. lie comes with no sinister intention, as the Pharisees did, but in all good faith, hoping to have a religious difficulty solved. Good Master. Thus the received text in the three synoptists. The epithet "good" is omitted by many excellent manuscripts, and has been expunged by most modern editors. It is required if the received text of the next verse is retained. It occurs in Mark and Luke without variation. The young man may have used the expression with the view of winning Christ's favour, or, at any rate, with the idea of showing the light in which he regarded him. What good thing shall I do, that I may have eternal life? His notion was that eternal happiness was obtained by the performance of certain acts, and he is not sure that he has done enough for the reward, and wishes to know particularly what further good work will secure it. The other synoptists have merely, "What shall I do? but of course, good work is implied, if not expressed. This was a question much mooted in the rabbinical schools, and one to which the answers were as various as they were puerile. Some taught that the commandments were not equally important, and that what they deemed the lesser might be violated with impunity, if the others were observed. Some made the gift of perfection to depend on the daily recitation of certain prayers or psalms, others on giving due honour to the aged. Amid such perplexing rules, the youth desires an authoritative decision, which he may put in practice, and thus be sure of a happy place in Messiah's kingdom - be, as the Jews termed it, "a son of the age to come."
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.
Verse 17. - Why callest thou me good? Such is the reading of the received text here, and without any variation in the parallel passages of Mark and Luke. Our Lord takes the ruler to task for applying this epithet to him. unless the youth believed in his Divinity. You think of me only as a learned Teacher: how, then, can you speak of me in a term which can really be predicated of no child of man? Christ answers the ruler's address before he touches the subject of his interrogation, reproving him for using a form of words without realizing its full import. This is all plain enough; but many good manuscripts, including א B, D, etc., Vulgate, and other versions, read, Why askest thou me concerning the good? Most modern editors and the Revised Version have adopted this reading, which they hold to be genuine, and to have been altered subsequently in order to conform it to the other synoptists. If this is so, it is difficult to see whence Mark and Luke obtained their wording, unless - which is improbable - our Lord used both interrogations on the same occasion. The revised reading expresses Christ's astonishment at having this question asked; and it may be taken, as Bengel suggests, "He who is good ought to be interrogated about the good;" or, "What is right to do, you ought to know; it can only be obedience to the Author of all goodness." There is none good but one, that is, God. Here again the reading varies. The other synoptists agree with the received text of Matthew, except that Luke has εῖς Θεὸς instead of εῖς Θεός. Late editors, following א, B, D, etc., have printed, εῖς ἐστὶν ὁ ἀγαθός: one there is who is good, or one is the good. God alone is the absolutely good; he alone can instruct you and put you certainly in the right way. Persons have been found to argue from this sentence that Christ renounces all claim to be God Almighty. But it is not so. He replies to what was in the young man's mind. The ruler regarded Jesus as man only; Jesus intimates that, in comparison with God, no man is good. He does not deny the applicability of the epithet to himself, but turns the questioner's thoughts to the Source of all good. He will not have himself regarded simply as a pre-eminently good man, but as Son of God, one with the Father. If thou wilt (θέλεις, willest to) enter into life; i.e. enjoy eternal life. Christ uses a term equivalent to that of the ruler in ver. 16. So Christ said on another occasion to a lawyer who tempted him. "This do, and thou shalt live" (Luke 10:28). There is no real life without obedience. Keep the commandments of him who is good. The Law was given to prepare men to receive Christianity, and in proportion as they carefully observed it, so were they made ready to inherit the life which Christ gives. No mere external compliance without faith is here approved, but it is laid down that, in order to win eternal life, there must be strict observance of God's laws - not some one extraordinary performance, but constant attention to known duties from the highest motive. Faith, indeed, is belief in action, and is dead and profitless if inoperative; so that true obedience is the outcome of true faith.
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,
Verse 18. - Which (ποίας)? Christ's answer was disappointing to the inquirer; it was too vague and general to satisfy his thought. He expected to hear (as the rabbis taught) of some special precept or precepts, difficult of accomplishment, and not usually regarded, by observance of which he could obtain his great reward. So he asks with laudable persistence, "Of what sort are these commandments which I have to obey?" He is far from thinking of the common duties of the Decalogue, though doubtless he had been taught that these varied greatly in meritoriousness. Christ, in reply, notifies, as examples, the chief enactments of what we call the second table of the Decalogue, quoting the sixth, seventh,eighth, ninth, and fifth. He enunciates nothing uncommon, nothing new; and, by prefixing the definite article τὸ to the enumeration, he makes the whole a substantial unity, comprising the moral law of duty to one's neighbour. Perhaps Christ confines his list to the second table in order to make the man feel his imperfection in these ordinary matters, or to bring out his self-righteous spirit. There could be no doubt that infringement of the first table involved the loss of eternal life. Ver. 17 virtually includes the spirit of this table. It was round these last six commandments chiefly that rabbinical traditions and interpretations had gathered, so that their plain meaning was obscured or depraved. Whoever observed the second table in spirit and truth, kept also the first (Romans 13:9, 10); and it is easier to love one's neighbour than to love God, as the apostle witnesses (see 1 John 4:20); and without love of our neighbour there cannot be true love of God.
Honour thy father and thy mother: and, Thou shalt love thy neighbour as thyself.
Verse 19. - Honour, etc. Lange considers that in this verse we have a summary of the two tables, "Honour thy father and mother," summing up the commandments of the first; and "Thou shalt love thy neighbour as thyself," those of the second (Leviticus 19:18). Thou shalt love thy neighbour as thyself. St. Mark and St. Luke omit this clause; the latter adds, "Defraud not." According to our text, Christ gives four negative and two positive commands: the last being a summary taken from Leviticus 19:18 (comp. Romans 13:9, 10; Galatians 5:14). It has been questioned why our Lord omits the tenth commandment (as we call it) from the catalogue. Virtually he introduces it in ver. 21; but he may have refrained from formally mentioning it because covetousness was the ruler's besetting sin, and the marked omission of this precept might force the man to reflect upon this failing, which would wreck his spiritual life. On the other hand, it may be that Christ is not intending to give an epitome of man's duty; but affording merely an outline of the same, he naturally passes over some portion without special mention.
The young man saith unto him, All these things have I kept from my youth up: what lack I yet?
Verse 20. - All these things have I kept [from my youth up]. The bracketed words are omitted in some good manuscripts, and by most modern editors; but they have high authority, and are found in most versions, and in the parallel passages of Mark and Luke. They accurately express the ruler's view of his conduct. He could say without hesitation or mental reservation that he had scrupulously observed the duties of the Decalogue from the time that he knew right from wrong. Of course, we accuse one who could make such a statement of self-righteousness, of ignorance of the spirit of the Law which he claimed to have obeyed; and if one of us spoke thus presumptuously, we should rightly condemn him; we should say that outward service and legal notions of duty were of little worth, and could not secure eternal life. But our Lord treated the young man differently. He did not blame him as boastful and self-deceiving; he had no reproof for his seemingly presumptuous assertion; he recognized his simplicity, honesty, and sincerity, and St. Mark tells us that "Jesus beholding [looking upon, or into] him, loved him." He read the youth's heart, saw how pure and guileless it was, recognized in him the possibility of great things, and that he was worthy of the saintly life. The ruler felt that there was more to come; hence he asks, What lack I yet? Τί ἔτι ὑστερῶ; In what respect am I still deficient? How do I come short of eternal life? He had still a sense of want. All that he had done had not given him peace of mind. Hence his inquiry. From a Christian the question would savour of ignorance and unspirituality; but this man asked it in all sincerity, desiring earnestly to know what more was required of him, and being ready, as he thought, to undergo any pain, make any, even the most painful effort, if by so doing he might win the prize on which his soul was set.
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.
Verse 21. - If thou wilt (θέλεις) be perfect. I believe what you tell me. You have led a religious life in the ordinary way; now yon aspire to higher things; you have a noble ambition to serve God more completely; yon have the power, if you have the will, to do so; I will tell you how. To be "perfect" is to be lacking in nothing that is required for life eternal. It is spoken of Noah and Job; it is required of Christ's disciples (Matthew 5:48). Christ is here giving a counsel of perfection, as it is called, not of obligation on all men, but suited to the idiosyncrasy of this particular inquirer, and of others who are capable of such absolute self-surrender and trustfulness. Go and sell that thou hast. Go back to thy home, and sell all thy substance, all thy possessions. This was the counsel which Jesus gave, denoting the stumbling block which lay in the way of the ruler's endeavours after perfection. He was voluntarily to deprive himself of the earthly thing to which he fondly clung, his wealth, and to embrace a life of poverty and hardship. Give to the poor. The money obtained by the sale of his possessions he was to distribute, not to relations and friends, who might make some return, but to the poor, from whom he could expect no recompense. And thou shalt have treasure in heaven (Matthew 5:12; Matthew 6:20). Thou shalt obtain that which thou desirest, eternal life. Not that stripping one's self of goods and giving to the poor does necessarily ensure the great reward, but, in this youth's case, such a sacrifice, such a victory over the besetting sin, would be the turning point in his character, and enable him to conquer all lesser temptations, and win the prize of his high calling. Here was to be proved love of man. But there was one more element in the required perfection, viz. love of God. Come and follow me. St Mark adds, "take up the cross." If he would have apostolic perfection, he must embrace the apostolic life. He must give up wealth, position, earthly ties, earthly occupations, must cast in his lot with the despised Jesus, suffer with him, and, if necessary, die with him. The twelve apostles had accepted Christ's call on these terms; from him was demanded the same sacrifice the same test of sincerity. He had wished to be exceptionally good; exceptional conduct was required from him in order to reach this high standard. The condition imposed, severe as it undoubtedly was, exactly suited the case, showed the weak spot in the ruler's character, and, if accepted fully and heartily, would have led him to perfection. Reading these words of our Lord, St. Anthony was so stricken in heart and conscience that he obeyed them literally, stripped himself of everything that he had, distributed to the needy, and went forth poor and naked, trusting to God to provide for him. Many in all ages, inspired by ardent love of life eternal, have done the same. We shall do well to recognize that there are two ways of serving God acceptably - there is the good life required from all religious Christians, and there is the life of perfection to which some, by God's special grace, are called, and which they embrace and fulfil. It was the latter life that Christ put before this young man.
But when the young man heard that saying, he went away sorrowful: for he had great possessions.
Verse 22. - When the young man heard that saying. Such an injunction was wholly unexpected; it completely staggered him; it appealed to the one point in his character which was weak and imperfect. He would have endured any amount of legal requirements or of vexatious and painful observances; he would gladly have become a disciple of Christ; but the previous sacrifice was too great; he could not make it; not that he was specially covetous or avaricious, but his heart was set on his riches; he had a wealthy man's tastes and position and self-confidence, and he could not bring himself to cast away these even at Christ's word. Such supreme self-denial, such absolute devotion, he would not embrace. So he went away sorrowful. He saw the right road, but he turned away from it. Without any further word, casting aside all hope of the saintly life, yet grieved and dejected at the thought of what he was losing, he returned to his home. It was hard to disobey the wise and loving Teacher who had endeavoured to lead him to the noblest aims and the highest ambition; but it was harder to follow his severe counsels. The evangelist gives the reason of this unhappy decision. For he had great possessions; η΅ν γὰρ ἔχων κτήματα πολλά: erat enim habens multas possessiones; he was one that had many possessions, or had and continued to have, implying possession and retention (comp. Luke 5:18, "he continued in retirement"). This fact was the snare that trapped him, the stumbling block over which he fell. The possession of riches proved fatal to saintliness. It is this truth that our Lord emphasizes in the following discourse. They who tare unconscious of having been tried as this young man was tried may condemn him as worldly, covetous, and insincere. A true Christian, who knows his own heart, may well feel that he can throw no stone at this defaulter; that he, any more than the Jew, could not give up all that he held dear for Christ's sake; that, bad the alternative been set before him in this blunt, palpable fashion, he too would have gone away sorrowful.
Then said Jesus unto his disciples, Verily I say unto you, That a rich man shall hardly enter into the kingdom of heaven.
Verses 23-30. - The dangers of riches and the blessings of self-denied. (Mark 10:23-31; Luke 18:24-30.) Verse 23. - Then said Jesus. He derives an important lesson from the sad result of the above incident. St Luke connects it with what had just preceded: "When Jesus saw that he [the ruler] was very sorrowful, he said." It was a strange and most emphatic assertion, quite alien from general opinion and sentiment. A rich man shall hardly (δυσκόλως, with difficulty) enter into the kingdom of heaven. Remembering that Christ had just invited the young ruler to range himself on his side and become his disciple, we see that the primary meaning of the term, "kingdom of heaven," here is the Christian Church, the society which Jesus came to establish. It was indeed difficult for a man wealthy, honoured, dignified, to strip himself of his riches and rank, and openly cast in his lot with the despised Jesus and his followers, voluntarily surrendering all that hitherto had made life beautiful and worth living. It is difficult for a rich man in any case to serve God acceptably, as Christ shows with reiterated emphasis.
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.
Verse 24. - Again I say unto you. The disciples, St. Mark notes, "were astonished at his words," so he proceeds to state the startling proposition more unreservedly and energetically. It is easier for a camel, etc. This is a proverbial expression for an impossibility. A similar proverb is found in many countries, only substituting another great animal instead of the camel, e.g., the elephant. From taking a too literal view of the passage, some commentators have invented a gate at Jerusalem, low and narrow, designed only for foot passengers, which was called "the needle's eye." Others have remedied the supposed absurdity by reading κάμιλος (if, indeed, there is such a word) "rope," for κάμηλος, as if we were to say cable instead of camel. But there is no difficulty in the expression. Such hyperboles and paradoxes are common in all languages (comp. Matthew 23:24). The impossibility, indeed (as ver. 26 shows), is relative, but the warning is none the less real and terrible. The Lord says that the possession of riches prevents the owner from following him, and endangers his eternal salvation; for that is what it comes to. In St. Mark (whether the words are genuine or not is uncertain) we find a limitation introduced: "How hard it is for them that trust in riches!" Now, this is the effect of riches; men learn to trust in them, to deem that their earthly state is secure, that change and chance will not affect them, that they are, so to speak, independent of Providence; they love the world which is so good to them and so pleasant in their eyes, and they have no earnest longing for a better home. Such is the natural consequence of the possession of wealth, and that which makes the impossibility of entrance into the kingdom.
When his disciples heard it, they were exceedingly amazed, saying, Who then can be saved?
Verse 25. - Exceedingly amazed. The stern teaching of vers. 23 and 24 thoroughly dismayed and perhaps offended them. Temporal prosperity had in their Law been held forth as the reward of righteousness and obedience, a foretaste of future happiness. They must unlearn this principle. Here, as they understood it, was a doctrine novel, unheard of, unnatural! Fancy the astonishment that would be displayed nowadays if such a sentiment were solemnly propounded in the Stock Exchange, the bank, the market! The apostles could not minimize its import, or say that it might suit other days and other states of society, but was inapplicable to their age and nation. We can do this in the case of many seemingly stringent requirements of the gospel; but they accepted the announcement in its full and simple meaning, and asked in sorrowful wonder, Who then can be saved? If the way to heaven is barred to the rich man, how shall the poor pass therein? The difficulty seemed to apply to everybody. All who are not rich are hoping and struggling to become rich, and therefore fall under the same category. If the apostles thought not of themselves in this question, they were grieved at the reflection that, under the circumstances, the majority of mankind were recklessly endangering their eternal salvation. With their views of a temporal kingdom, the apostles probably were thinking of their own prospects.
But Jesus beheld them, and said unto them, With men this is impossible; but with God all things are possible.
Verse 26. - But Jesus beheld them (ἐμβλέψας, looking upon them). He turned on his disciples a look full of earnestness, sympathy, and love, soothing their fears and claiming their full attention for a spiritual truth. With men (παρὰ ἀνθρώποις) this is impossible. Men in their own strength, relying on their own natural powers, cannot save their souls or rise superior to the snare of riches. From the entanglements occasioned by wealth, and the lowering effects of its pursuit and enjoyment, the natural man is wholly unable to extricate himself. With God all things are possible. Here is the only solution of the difficulty. With the grace of God, and embracing the calls of his providence, the rich man may be delivered from his dangers, may keep a heart unspotted, may use his wealth to God's glory and his own eternal good. So the impossibility is a conditional one, to be overcome by due recourse to the help of God and the strong hope of the future life. How a rich man may be disciplined and elevated we see in the case of Zacchaeus (Luke 19:8). Many such instances have occurred in our own days, as in all Christian times.
Then answered Peter and said unto him, Behold, we have forsaken all, and followed thee; what shall we have therefore?
Verse 27. - Then answered Peter. This was not so much a reply to any direct word of Jesus, as to the general purport of his late utterances. He had intimated that self-renunciation was the passport to eternal life; that a just reward awaited those who gave up all for Jesus' sake. This, Peter says, is exactly what the apostles had done. We have forsaken all, and followed thee. It was not much that they had left, but it was all they had, their whole means of subsistence, old habits, old associations, to which the poor cling as tenaciously as the wealthy. All this, at a simple word of Christ, they had relinquished unreservedly, without regret or complaint. They had reduced themselves to the condition which Christ had enjoined. What shall we have therefore? The question showed the usual ignorance of the nature of the kingdom of Messiah. Peter is thinking chiefly of temporal advancement and promotion, of success and dignity in an earthly realm. Even after their Master's crucifixion and resurrection they had asked, "Lord, wilt thou at this time restore again the kingdom to Israel?" (Acts 1:6). It was not till after the effusion of the Holy Spirit at Pentecost that their imperfect view was corrected, and they understood what Christ meant when he said, "My kingdom is not of this world." But what a revulsion of feeling must have taken place in those who a few minutes before had despairingly thought that salvation was unattainable, and now asked what their reward would be for the sacrifices which they had made! The older commentators have regarded Peter's inquiry as referring to eternal life after death, to which their acts had given them a claim. But it must be remembered that the Jews had very vague ideas about the beatified state in the other world, which, as many thought, was to be inaugurated at the close of the Messianic era, and which others put off indefinitely to the unknown day of judgment. It was never generally and popularly anything more than an uncertain hope, and was not regarded as a stimulant to life and action on earth. While, on the other hand, the terrestrial proceedings of the Messiah were a subject of the keenest expectation, and the ground of national aspirations. It is not probable that the apostles' notions had at this time risen superior to the popular view. Peter's question, therefore, was doubtless prompted by the national conception of Messiah's reign.
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.
Verse 28. - Verily I say unto you. Christ does not reprove the apostle for his seemingly bold self-assertion, but, replying to Peter's question, he gives a grand promise to him and his fellow disciples. Ye which have followed me, excluding all the half-hearted, the self-seeking, the Judaizers. In the regeneration (τῇ παλιγγενεσίᾳ). The word means "new birth," or "renovation, renewal." It occurs in Titus 3:15 in reference to baptism," through the washing [laver] of regeneration." It has been variously interpreted in the present passage. Some have connected it with the participle preceding, "ye who have followed me in the regeneration," and explained it to mean the reformation and spiritual renovation commencing with the preaching of John the Baptist, and carried on by the ministry of Christ. But more generally and correctly it is taken with what follows, Ye shall sit, etc. The meaning, however, is still disputed. Some say that the Christian dispensation is intended, and an intimation is given of the work of the apostles in the unseen world in directing and guarding the Church. But this seems hardly to satisfy the language of the promise. Others regard the term as signifying the resurrection, when the mortal shall put on immortality, and we shall be changed, remade, reconstituted. This is true; but it seems more suitable to refer the term to the new creation, the new heaven and the new earth spoken of by Isaiah (Isaiah 65:17) and by St. John (Revelation 21:12; cf. 2 Peter 3:10, 13); This is the reparation of the whole creation described by St. Paul (Romans 8:19, etc.), which is to take place at the great consummation, and which, remedying all the evils which sin has impressed on the material and spiritual world, on man and his habitation, may well be called new birth. This is the mysterious period when Christ's promise shall be accomplished. Shall sit. It is not "when he shall come," but when he shall have taken his seat (ἐπὶ, with genitive) as Judge upon his glorious throne. Ye also (ὑμεῖς... καὶ ὑμεῖς). The pronoun is repeated to give greater emphasis to the amazing assertion. Shall sit upon (καθίσεσθε ἐπὶ, with accusative); shall be promoted to, taken and placed upon. Twelve thrones. Judas forfeited his position; Matthias and Paul and Barnabas were afterwards added to the apostolic band; so that the number twelve must not be pressed as defining and limiting. Rather it expresses the completeness of the judicial body, regarding not so much the persons as the position of its members. With reference to papal claims, it may be observed that Peter has no pre-eminence here, no throne to himself; he merely shares with his colleagues in the session. The apostles and those who have been proved to be of like mind with them (for the number is not limited) shall be assessors with Christ, as in an earthly court, where the judge or the prince sits in the centre, and on either side of him are posted his councillors and ministers. Judging. So in Daniel we hear of thrones being placed, and judgment given to the saints (Daniel 7:9, 22); "Know ye not," says St. Paul (1 Corinthians 6:2, 3), "that the saints shall judge the world... that we shall judge angels?" (comp. Revelation 20:4). Of course, the great Judge is Christ himself. What part his assessors shall take is not revealed. The verb "judge" sometimes signifies "govern or direct," and perhaps may be here used to denote that the saints shall, in the new Messianic kingdom, be Christ's vicegerents and exercise his authority. The twelve tribes of Israel. There is considerable difficulty in interpreting this portion of the promise. If it means that the beatified apostles shall judge the actual descendants of Abraham, then we must believe that the distinction between Jew and Gentile will be maintained in this regeneration - an opinion which seems to be opposed to other texts of Scripture (see 1 Corinthians 12:13; Galatians 3:28, etc.). The judging in this case would be condemnation of them for not receiving the gospel. One does not see how this can be held forth as a great and happy reward, however high a position it may imply. More probably Israel means the spiritual Israel, or the whole body of the Church; and the number twelve (as above) imports the complete number of those who are to be judged. They who have followed Christ devotedly and sincerely, as his disciples, shall be placed next to him in his glory, shall have pre-eminence over all others, and be associated with him in assigning their due portion to all believers, or in governing the Church. Nothing is here said about the final judgment of unbelievers and heathen.
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.
Verse 29. - Every one that hath forsaken. The Lord extends the promise. Even those who have not risen to the utter self-sacrifice of apostles, who have not surrendered so much as they, shall have their reward, though nothing to be compared to the unspeakable recompense of the twelve. Houses... lands. Some manuscripts, followed by some modern editors, omit or wife, the omission being probably first made by some critical scribe, who deemed that a wife should never be left. The Lord enumerates the persons and objects upon which men's hearts are most commonly and firmly fixed. He begins and ends the list with material possessions - houses and lands, and between them introduces in gradation the most cherished members of the family circle. "Forsaking wife and children" may be understood as abstaining from marriage in order the better to serve God. For my Name's sake. In consequence of belief in Christ, rather than do despite to his grace, or in order to confess and follow him more completely. In times of persecution, under many different cases of pressure, or where his friends were heathens or infidels, a Christian might feel himself constrained to relinquish the dearest ties, to east off all old associations, to put himself wholly in God's hands, freed from all worldly things; such a one should receive ample reward in the present life. An hundredfold. Some read "manifold," as in Luke 18:30. The spiritual relationship into which religion would introduce him largely compensates for the loss of earthly connections. He shall have brothers and sisters in the faith - hundreds who will show him the affection of father and mother, hundreds who will love him as well a s wife and children. And if he suffer temporal loss, this shall be made up by the charity of the Christian society, all whose resources are at his command, and he shall enjoy that peace and comfort of heart which no worldly possessions can give, and which are superior to all changes of fortune. And it may well be that the relief from the cares and distractions caused by wealth brings a hundredfold more real happiness than its possession ever supplied. "Godliness is profitable for all things, having the promise of the life which now is, and of that which is to come" (1 Timothy 4:8). Everlasting life. The hope of future happiness is in itself sufficient to lighten and dissipate all earthly troubles, and to stimulate severest sacrifices.
But many that are first shall be last; and the last shall be first.
Verse 30. - Many that are first. This proverbial saying, which Christ uses more than once (see Matthew 20:16; Luke 13:30), is illustrated by the parable in the next chapter, and would be better placed at its commencement Here it conveys a warning that man's estimation is liable to error, and it must not be thought that those who are first in privilege are therefore highest in God's favour. The Lord may have had in view the case of Judas, who was an early apostle, and had the care of the bag, and fell by reason of covetousness; and that of one like St. Paul, who was called late, and yet laboured more abundantly than all that were before him. The application may be made with perfect truth to many professors of religion.

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