Mark 10
Calvin's Commentaries
And he arose from thence, and cometh into the coasts of Judaea by the farther side of Jordan: and the people resort unto him again; and, as he was wont, he taught them again.
And the Pharisees came to him, and asked him, Is it lawful for a man to put away his wife? tempting him.

Matthew 19:3-9

Mark 10:2-12

3. And the Pharisees came to him, tempting him, and saying to him, Is it lawful for a man to divorce his wife for any cause whatever? 4. Who answering said to them, Have you not read, that he who made them at first, [593] made them male and female? 5. And he said, Therefore shall a man leave his father and mother, and be joined to his wife; and they shall be one flesh. 6. Therefore now they are not two, but one flesh: what God therefore hath joined, let not man separate. 7. They say to him, Why then did Moses order to give a letter of divorcement, and send her away? 8. He said to them, Moses, for the hardness of your heart, permitted you to divorce your wives; but at the beginning it was not Songs 9. And I say to you, That whosoever shall divorce his wife, except for fornication, and shall marry another, committeth adultery; and whosoever shall marry her that is divorced committeth adultery.

2. And the Pharisees, coming to him, asked him, Is it lawful for a man to divorce his wife? tempting him. 3. But he answering said to them, What did Moses command you? 4. And they said, Moses permitted to write a letter of divorcement, and to send her away. 5. And Jesus answering said to them, For the hardness of your heart he wrote to you this commandment. 6. But at the beginning of the creation God made them male and female. 7. For this reason shall a man leave his father and mother, and cleave to his wife; 8. And they shall be one flesh: therefore now they are not two, but one flesh. 9. What therefore God hath joined together let not man separate. 10. And in the house his disciples again asked him about the same subject. 11. And he saith to them, Whososever shall divorce his wife, and marry another, committeth adultery against her. 12. And if a woman shall divorce her husband, and shall be married to another, she committeth adultery.

Matthew 19:3. And the Pharisees came to him, tempting him. Though the Pharisees lay snares for Christ, and cunningly endeavor to impose upon him, yet their malice proves to be highly useful to us; as the Lord knows how to turn, in a wonderful manner, to the advantage of his people all the contrivances of wicked men to overthrow sound doctrine. For, by means of this occurrence, a question arising out of the liberty of divorce was settled, and a fixed law was laid down as to the sacred and indissoluble bond of marriage. The occasion of this quibbling was, that the reply, in whatever way it were given, could not, as they thought, fail to be offensive.

They ask, Is it lawful for a man to divorce his wife for any cause whatever? If Christ reply in the negative, they will exclaim that he wickedly abolishes the Law; and if in the affirmative, they will give out that he is not a prophet of God, but rather a pander, who lends such countenance to the lust of men. Such were the calculations which they had made in their own minds; but the Son of God, who knew how to take the wise in their own craftiness, (Job 5:13,) disappointed them, sternly opposing unlawful divorces, and at the same time showing that he brings forward nothing which is inconsistent with the Law. For he includes the whole question under two heads: that the order of creation ought to serve for a law, that the husband should maintain conjugal fidelity during the whole of life; and that divorces were permitted, not because they were lawful, but because Moses had to deal with a rebellious and intractable nation.

4. Have you not read? Christ does not indeed reply directly to what was asked, but he fully meets the question which was proposed; just as if a person now interrogated about the Mass were to explain faithfully the mystery of the Holy Supper, and at length to conclude, that they are guilty of sacrilege and forgery who venture either to add or to take away any thing from the pure institution of the Lord, he would plainly overturn the pretended sacrifice of the Mass. Now Christ assumes as an admitted principle, that at the beginning God joined the male to the female, so that the two made an entire man; and therefore he who divorces his wife tears from him, as it were, the half of himself. But nature does not allow any man to tear in pieces his own body.

He adds another argument drawn from the less to the greater. The bond of marriage is more sacred than that which binds children to their parents. But piety binds children to their parents by a link which cannot be broken. Much less then can the husband renounce his wife. Hence it follows, that a chain which God made is burst asunder, if the husband divorce his wife. [594]

Now the meaning of the words is this: God, who created the human race, made them male and female, so that every man might be satisfied with his own wife, and might not desire more. For he insists on the number two, as the prophet Malachi, (2:15,)when he remonstrates against polygamy, employs the same argument, that God, whose Spirit was so abundant that He had it in His power to create more, yet made but one man, that is, such a man as Christ here describes. And thus from the order of creation is proved the inviolable union of one husband with one wife. If it be objected, that in this way it will not be lawful, after the first wife is dead, to take another, the reply is easy, that not only is the bond dissolved by death, but the second wife is substituted by God in the room of the first, as if she had been one and the same woman.

5. Therefore shall a man leave his father and mother. It is uncertain whether Moses represents Adam or God as speaking these words; but it is of little consequence to the present passage which of these meanings you choose, for it was enough to quote the decision which God had pronounced, though it might have been uttered by the mouth of Adam. Now he who marries a wife is not commanded absolutely to leave his father; for God would contradict himself, if by marriage He set aside those duties which He enjoins on children towards their parents; but when a comparison is made between the claims, the wife is preferred to the father and mother But if any man abandon his father, and shake off the yoke by which he is bound, no man will own such a monster; [595] much less will he be at liberty to dissolve a marriage.

And the two shall be one flesh. This expression condemns polygamy not less than it condemns unrestrained liberty in divorcing wives; for, if the mutual union of two persons was consecrated by the Lord, the mixture of three or four persons is unauthorized. [596] But Christ, as I stated a little ago, applies it in a different manner to his purpose; namely, to show that whoever divorces his wife tears himself in pieces, because such is the force of holy marriage, that the husband and wife become one man. For it was not the design of Christ to introduce the impure and filthy speculation of Plato, but he spoke with reverence of the order which God has established. Let the husband and wife, therefore, live together in such a manner, that each shall cherish the other in the same manner as if they were the half of themselves. Let the husband rule, so as to be the head, and not the tyrant, of his wife; and let the woman, on the other hand, yield modestly to his commands.

6. What God therefore hath joined. By this sentence Christ restrains the caprice of husbands, that they may not, by divorcing their wives, burst asunder the sacred knot. And as he declares that it is not in the power of the husband to dissolve the marriage, so likewise he forbids all others to confirm by their authority unlawful divorces; for the magistrate abuses his power when he grants permission to the husband to divorce his wife. But the object which Christ had directly in view was, that every man should sacredly observe the promise which he has given, and that those who are tempted, by wantonness or wicked dispositions, to divorce, may reflect thus with themselves: "Who, art thou that allowest thyself to burst asunder what God hath joined?" But this doctrine may be still farther extended. The Papists, contriving for us a church separated from Christ the Head, leave us an imperfect and mutilated body. In the Holy Supper, Christ joined the bread and the wine; but they have dared to withhold from all the people the use of the cup. To these diabolical corruptions we shall be at liberty to oppose these words, What God hath joined let not man separate

7. Why then did Moses order? They had thought of this calumny, [597] if, which was more probable, Christ should demand a proper cause to be shown in cases of divorce; for it appears that whatever God permits by his law, whose will alone establishes the distinction between what is good or evil, is lawful. But Christ disarms the falsehood and slander by the appropriate reply, that Moses permitted it on account of their obstinacy, and not because he approved of it as lawful. And he confirms his opinion by the best argument, because it was not so at the beginning. He takes for granted that, when God at first instituted marriage, he established a perpetual law, which ought to remain in force till the end of the world. And if the institution of marriage is to be reckoned an inviolable law, it follows that whatever swerves from it does not arise from its pure nature, but from the depravity of men.

But it is asked, Ought Moses to have permitted what was in itself bad and sinful? I reply, That, in an unusual sense of the word, he is said to have permitted what he did not severely forbid; [598] for he did not lay down a law about divorces, so as to give them the seal of his approbation, but as the wickedness of men could not be restrained in any other way, he applied what was the most admissible remedy, that the husband should, at least, attest the chastity of his wife. For the law was made solely for the protection of the women, that they might not suffer any disgrace after they had been unjustly rejected. Hence we infer, that it was rather a punishment inflicted on the husbands, than an indulgence or permission fitted to inflame their lust. Besides, political and outward order is widely different from spiritual government. What is lawful and proper the Lord has comprehended under the ten words. [599] Now as it is possible that many things, for which every man's conscience reproves and charges him, may not be called in question at a human tribunal, it is not wonderful if those things are connived at by political laws.

Let us take a familiar instance. The laws grant to us a greater liberty of litigation than the law of charity allows. Why is this? Because the right cannot be conferred on individuals, unless there be an open door for demanding it; and yet the inward law of God declares that we ought to follow what charity shall dictate. And yet there is no reason why magistrates should make this an excuse for their indolence, if they voluntarily abstain from correcting vices, or neglect what the nature of their office demands. But let men in a private station beware of doubling the criminality of the magistrates, by screening their own vices under the protection of the laws. For here the Lord indirectly reproves the Jews for not, reckoning it enough that their stubbornness was allowed to pass unpunished, if they did not implicate God as defending their iniquity. And if the rule of a holy and pious life is not always, or in all places, to be sought from political laws, much less ought we to seek it from custom.

9. But I say to you. Mark relates that this was spoken to the disciples apart, when they had come into the house; but Matthew, leaving out this circumstance, gives it as a part of the discourse, as the Evangelists frequently leave out some intermediate occurrence, because they reckon it enough to sum up the leading points. There is therefore no difference, except that the one explains the matter more distinctly than the other. The substance of it is: though the Law does not punish divorces, which are at variance with God's first institution, yet he is an adulterer who rejects his wife and takes another. For it is not in the power of a man to dissolve the engagement of marriage, which the Lord wishes to remain inviolate; and so the woman who occupies the bed of a lawful wife is a concubine.

But an exception is added; for the woman, by fornication, cuts herself off, as a rotten member, from her husband, and sets him at liberty. Those who search for other reasons ought justly to be set at nought, because they choose to be wise above the heavenly teacher. They say that leprosy is a proper ground for divorce, because the contagion of the disease affects not only the husband, but likewise the children. For my own part, while I advise a religious man not to touch a woman afflicted with leprosy, I do not pronounce him to be at liberty to divorce her. If it be objected, that they who cannot live unmarried need a remedy, that they may not be burned, I answer, that what is sought in opposition to the word of God is not a remedy. I add too, that if they give themselves up to be guided by the Lord, they will never want continence, for they follow what he has prescribed. One man shall contract such a dislike of his wife, that he cannot endure to keep company with her: will polygamy cure this evil? Another man's wife shall fall into palsy or apoplexy, or be afflicted with some other incurable disease, shall the husband reject her under the pretense of incontinency? We know, on the contrary, that none of those who walk in their ways are ever left destitute of the assistance of the Spirit.

For the sake of avoiding fornication, says Paul, let every man marry a wife, (1 Corinthians 7:2.) He who has done so, though he may not succeed to his wish, has done his duty; and, therefore, if any thing be wanting, he will be supported by divine aid. To go beyond this is nothing else than to tempt God. When Paul mentions another reason, namely, that when, through a dislike of godliness, wives happen to be rejected by unbelievers, a godly brother or sister is not, in such a case, liable to bondage, (1 Corinthians 7:12,15,) this is not inconsistent with Christ's meaning. For he does not there inquire into the proper grounds of divorce, but only whether a woman continues to be bound to an unbelieving husband, after that, through hatred of God, she has been wickedly rejected, and cannot be reconciled to him in any other way than by forsaking God; and therefore we need not wonder if Paul think it better that she should part with a mortal man than that she should be at variance with God.

But the exception which Christ states appears to be superfluous. For, if the adulteress deserve to be punished with death, what purpose does it serve to talk of divorces? But as it was the duty of the husband to prosecute his wife for adultery, in order to purge his house from infamy, whatever might be the result, the husband, who convicts his wife of uncleanness, is here freed by Christ from the bond. It is even possible that, among a corrupt and degenerate people, this crime remained to a great extent unpunished; as, in our own day, the wicked forbearance of magistrates makes it necessary for husbands to put away unchaste wives, because adulterers are not punished. It must also be observed, that the right belongs equally and mutually to both sides, as there is a mutual and equal obligation to fidelity. For, though in other matters the husband holds the superiority, as to the marriage bed, the wife has an equal right: for he is not the lord of his body; and therefore when, by committing adultery, he has dissolved the marriage, the wife is set at liberty.

And whosoever shall marry her that is divorced. This clause has been very ill explained by many commentators; for they have thought that generally, and without exception, celibacy is enjoined in all cases when a divorce has taken place; and, therefore, if a husband should put away an adulteress, both would be laid under the necessity of remaining unmarried. As if this liberty of divorce meant only not to lie with his wife; and as if Christ did not evidently grant permission in this case to do what the Jews were wont indiscriminately to do at their pleasure. It was therefore a gross error; for, though Christ condemns as an adulterer the man who shall marry a wife that has been divorced, this is undoubtedly restricted to unlawful and frivolous divorces. In like manner, Paul enjoins those who have been so dismissed

to remain unmarried, or to be reconciled to their husbands, (1 Corinthians 7:11;)

that is, because quarrels and differences do not dissolve a marriage. This is clearly made out from the passage in Mark, where express mention is made of the wife who has left her husband: and if the wife shall divorce her husband Not that wives were permitted to give their husbands a letter of divorcement, unless so far as the Jews had been contaminated by foreign customs; but Mark intended to show that our Lord condemned the corruption which was at that time universal, that, after voluntary divorces, they entered on both sides into new marriages; and therefore he makes no mention of adultery.


[593] "Qui feit l'homme des le commencement;" -- "who made man from the beginning."

[594] "Que le mari qui se separe d'avecques sa femme rompt le lien dupuel Dieu estoit autheur;" -- "that the husband, who separates from his wife, bursts the chain of which God was the author."

[595] "Il n'y a celuy qui ne fust estonne d'un tel monstre;" -- "there is no man who would not be astonished at such a monster."

[596] "C'est un meslinge faux et pervers;" -- "it is a false and wicked mixture."

[597] "Ils avoyent songe ceste calomnie pour l'avoir toute preste;" -- "they had thought of this calumny, to have it all ready."

[598] "Ie repond, Qu'a parler proprement, il ne l'a pas permis: mais d'autant qu'il ne l'a pas defendu estroittement, il est dit qu'il l'a permis;" -- "I reply, That, strictly speaking, he did not permit it; but in so far as he did not strictly forbid it, he is said to have permitted it."

[599] Where the English version gives the words, ten commandments, the phrase in the original Hebrew is, srt hdvrym, the ten words, (Exodus 34:28; Deuteronomy 4:13; Deuteronomy 10:4.) -- Ed

And he answered and said unto them, What did Moses command you?
And they said, Moses suffered to write a bill of divorcement, and to put her away.
And Jesus answered and said unto them, For the hardness of your heart he wrote you this precept.
But from the beginning of the creation God made them male and female.
For this cause shall a man leave his father and mother, and cleave to his wife;
And they twain shall be one flesh: so then they are no more twain, but one flesh.
What therefore God hath joined together, let not man put asunder.
And in the house his disciples asked him again of the same matter.
And he saith unto them, Whosoever shall put away his wife, and marry another, committeth adultery against her.
And if a woman shall put away her husband, and be married to another, she committeth adultery.
And they brought young children to him, that he should touch them: and his disciples rebuked those that brought them.

Matthew 19:13-15

Mark 10:13-16

Luke 18:15-17

13. Then were presented to him children, that he might lay hands on them and pray; but the disciples rebuked them. 14. And Jesus said to them, Suffer children, and forbid them not, to come to me; for of such is the kingdom of heaven. 15. And when he had laid hands on them, he departed thence.

13. And they brought to him children, that he might touch them; but the disciples rebuked those who presented them. 14. And when Jesus saw it, he was displeased, and said to them, Suffer children to come to me, and do not forbid them; for of such is the kingdom of heaven. 15. Verily I say to you, Whosoever shall not receive the kingdom of God as a child shall not enter into it. 16. And when he had taken them in his arms, he laid hands on them, and blessed them.

15. And they presented to him also infants, that he might touch them; which, when the disciples saw, they rebuked them. 16. But Jesus, when he had called them to him, said, Suffer children to come to me, and do not forbid them; for of such is the kingdom of God. 17. Verily I say to you, Whosoever shall not receive the kingdom of God as a child shall not enter into it.

This narrative is highly useful; for it shows that Christ receives not only those who, moved by holy desire and faith, freely approach to him, but those who are not yet of age to know how much they need his grace. Those little children have not yet any understanding to desire his blessing; but when they are presented to him, he gently and kindly receives them, and dedicates them to the Father [611] by a solemn act of blessing. We must observe the intention of those who present the children; for if there had not been a deep-rooted conviction in their minds, that the power of the Spirit was at his disposal, that he might pour it out on the people of God, it would have been unreasonable to present their children. There is no room, therefore, to doubt, that they ask for them a participation of his grace; and so, by way of amplification, Luke adds the particle also; as if he had said that, after they had experienced the various ways in which he assisted adults, they formed an expectation likewise in regard to children, that, if he laid hands on them, they would not leave him without having received some of the gifts of the Spirit. The laying on of hands (as we have said on a former occasion) was an ancient and well known sign of blessing; and so there is no reason to wonder, if they desire that Christ, while employing that solemn ceremony, should pray for the children At the same time, as the inferior are blessed by the better, (Hebrews 7:7,) they ascribe to him the power and honor of the highest Prophet.

Matthew 19:13. But the disciples rebuked them. If a crown [612] had been put on his head, they would have admitted it willingly, and with approbation; for they did not yet comprehend his actual office. But they reckon it unworthy of his character to receive children; and their error wanted not plausibility; for what has the highest Prophet and the Son of God to do with infants? But hence we learn, that they who judge of Christ according to the feeling of their flesh are unfair judges; for they constantly deprive him of his peculiar excellencies, and, on the other hand, ascribe, under the appearance of honor, what does not at all belong to him. Hence arose an immense mass of superstitions, which presented to the world a fancied Christ. [613] And therefore let us learn not to think of him otherwise than what himself teaches, and not to assign to him a character different from what he has received from the Father. We see what happened with Popery. They thought that they were conferring a great honor on Christ, if they bowed down before a small piece of bread; but in the sight of God it was an offensive abomination. Again, because they did not think it sufficiently honorable to him to perform the office of an Advocate for us, they made for themselves innumerable intercessors; but in this way they deprived him of the honor of Mediator.

14. Suffer children. He declares that he wishes to receive children; and at length, taking them in his arms, he not only embraces, but blesses them by the laying on of hand; from which we infer that his grace is extended even to those who are of that age. And no wonder; for since the whole race of Adam is shut up under the sentence of death, all from the least even to the greatest must perish, except those who are rescued by the only Redeemer. To exclude from the grace of redemption those who are of that age would be too cruel; and therefore it is not without reason that we employ this passage as a shield against the Anabaptists. They refuse baptism to infants, because infants are incapable of understanding that mystery which is denoted by it. We, on the other hand, maintain that, since baptism is the pledge and figure of the forgiveness of sins, and likewise of adoption by God, it ought not to be denied to infants, whom God adopts and washes with the blood of his Son. Their objection, that repentance and newness of life are also denoted by it, is easily answered. Infants are renewed by the Spirit of God, according to the capacity of their age, till that power which was concealed within them grows by degrees, and becomes fully manifest at the proper time. Again, when they argue that there is no other way in which we are reconciled to God, and become heirs of adoption, than by faith, we admit this as to adults, but, with respect to infants, this passage demonstrates it to be false. Certainly, the laying on of hands was not a trifling or empty sign, and the prayers of Christ were not idly wasted in air. But he could not present the infants solemnly to God without giving them purity. And for what did he pray for them, but that they might be received into the number of the children of God? Hence it follows, that they were renewed by the Spirit to the hope of salvation. In short, by embracing them, he testified that they were reckoned by Christ among his flock. And if they were partakers of the spiritual gifts, which are represented by Baptism, it is unreasonable that they should be deprived of the outward sign. But it is presumption and sacrilege to drive far from the fold of Christ those whom he cherishes in his bosom, and to shut the door, and exclude as strangers those whom he does not wish to be forbidden to come to him

For of such is the kingdom of heaven. Under this term he includes both little children and those who resemble them; for the Anabaptists foolishly exclude children, with whom the subject must have commenced; but at the same time, taking occasion from the present occurrence, he intended to exhort his disciples to lay aside malice and pride, and put on the nature of children Accordingly, it is added by Mark and Luke, that no man can enter into the kingdom of heaven unless he be made to resemble a child. But we must attend to Paul's admonition,

not to be children in understanding, but in malice, (1 Corinthians 14:20.)


[611] "A Dieu son Pere;" -- "to God his Father."

[612] "Une couronne royale;" -- "a royal crown."

[613] "Un Christ faict a la fantasie des hommes;" -- "a Christ made according to the fancy of men."

But when Jesus saw it, he was much displeased, and said unto them, Suffer the little children to come unto me, and forbid them not: for of such is the kingdom of God.
Verily I say unto you, Whosoever shall not receive the kingdom of God as a little child, he shall not enter therein.
And he took them up in his arms, put his hands upon them, and blessed them.
And when he was gone forth into the way, there came one running, and kneeled to him, and asked him, Good Master, what shall I do that I may inherit eternal life?

Matthew 19:16-22

Mark 10:17-22

Luke 18:18-23

16. And, lo, one came and said to him, Good Master, what good thing shall I do, that I may have eternal life? 17. Who said to him, Why callest thou me good? There is none good but God alone? [614] but if thou wilt enter into life, keep the commandments. 18. He saith to him, Which? And Jesus said, Thou shalt not murder, Thou shalt not commit adultery, Thou shalt not steal, Thou shalt not bear false witness, 19 Honor thy father and mother: and, Thou shalt love thy neighbor as thyself. 20. The young man saith to him, All these things have I kept from my youth: what do I still want? 21. Jesus saith to him, If thou wilt be perfect, go sell what thou hast, and give to the poor, and thou shalt have a treasure in heaven; and come, follow me. 22. And when the young man heard that saying, he went away sorrowful; for he had many possessions. [615]

17. And as he was going out into the road, one ran, and, when he had kneeled down, asked him, Good Master, what shall I do, that I may obtain eternal life? 18. And Jesus said to him, Why callest thou me good? There is none good but God alone. 19. Thou knowest the commandments, Do not commit adultery, Do not kill, Do not steal, Do not bear false witness, Defraud not, Honor thy father and mother. 20. But he answering said to him, Master, all these things have I kept from my youth. 21. And Jesus, beholding him, loved him, and said to him, Thou art in want of one thing, go sell what thou hast, and give to the poor, and thou shalt have a treasure in heaven; and come, follow me, taking the cross on thy shoulders. 22. But he, affected with uneasiness on account of the saying, went away sorrowful; for he had many possessions.

18. And a certain ruler asked him, saying, Good Master, what shall I do, that I may obtain eternal life? 19. And Jesus said to him, Why callest thou me good? None is good but God alone. 20. Thou knowest the commandments, Thou shalt not commit adultery, Thou shalt not kill, Thou shalt not steal, Thou shalt not bear false witness. Honor thy father and thy mother. 21. And he said, All these things have I kept from my youth. 22. Having heard this, Jesus said to him, Yet one thing thou wantest; sell all that thou hast, and give to the poor, and thou shalt have a treasure in heaven; and come, follow me. 23. Having heard these things, he was grieved; for he was very rich.

Matthew 19:16. And, lo, one. Luke says that he was a ruler, (archon,) that is, a man of very high authority, not one of the common people. [616] And though riches procure respect, [617] yet he appears to be here represented to have been held in high estimation as a good man. For my own part, after weighing all the circumstances, I have no doubt that, though he is called a young man, he belonged to the class of those who upheld the integrity of the Elders, by a sober and regular life. [618] He did not come treacherously, as the scribes were wont to do, but from a desire of instruction; and, accordingly, both by words and by kneeling, he testifies his reverence for Christ as a faithful teacher. But, on the other hand, a blind confidence in his works hindered him from profiting under Christ, to whom, in other respects, he wished to be submissive. Thus, in our own day, we find some who are not ill-disposed, but who, under the influence of I know not what shadowy holiness, [619] hardly relish the doctrine of the Gospel.

But, in order to form a more correct judgment of the meaning of the answer, we must attend to the form of the question. He does not simply ask how and by what means he shall reach life, but what good thing he shall do, in order to obtain it. He therefore dreams of merits, on account of which he may receive eternal life as a reward due; and therefore Christ appropriately sends him to the keeping of the law, which unquestionably is the way of life, as I shall explain more fully afterwards.

17. Why callest thou me good? I do not understand this correction in so refined a sense as is given by a good part of interpreters, as if Christ intended to suggest his Divinity; for they imagine that these words mean, "If thou perceivest in me nothing more exalted than human nature, thou falsely appliest to me the epithet good, which belongs to God alone." I do acknowledge that, strictly speaking, men and even angels do not deserve so honorable a title; because they have not a drop of goodness in themselves, but borrowed from God; and because in the former, goodness is only begun, and is not perfect. But Christ had no other intention than to maintain the truth of his doctrine; as if he had said, "Thou falsely callest me a good Master, unless thou acknowledgest that I have come from God." The essence of his Godhead, therefore, is not here maintained, but the young man is directed to admit the truth of the doctrine. He had already felt some disposition to obey; but Christ wishes him to rise higher, that he may hear God speaking. For -- as it is customary with men to make angels of those who are devils -- they indiscriminately give the appellation of good teachers to those in whom they perceive nothing divine; but those modes of speaking are only profanations of the gifts of God. We need not wonder, therefore, if Christ, in order to maintain the authority of his doctrine, directs the young man to God.

Keep the commandments. This passage was erroneously interpreted by some of the ancients, whom the Papists have followed, as if Christ taught that, by beeping the law, we may merit eternal life On the contrary, Christ did not take into consideration what men can do, but replied to the question, What is the righteousness of works? or, What does the Law require? And certainly we ought to believe that God comprehended in his law the way of living holily and righteously, in which righteousness is included; for not without reason did Moses make this statement,

He that does these things shall live in them, (Leviticus 18:5;)

and again,

I call heaven and earth to witness that l have
this day showed you life, (Deuteronomy 30:19.)

We have no right, therefore, to deny that the keeping of the law is righteousness, by which any man who kept the law perfectly -- if there were such a man -- would obtain life for himself. But as we are all destitute of the glory of God, (Romans 3:23,) nothing but cursing will be found in the law; and nothing remains for us but to betake ourselves to the undeserved gift of righteousness. And therefore Paul lays down a twofold righteousness, the righteousness of the law, (Romans 10:5,) and the righteousness of faith, (Romans 10:6.) He makes the first to consist in works, and the second, in the free grace of Christ.

Hence we infer, that this reply of Christ is legal, because it was proper that the young man who inquired about the righteousness of works should first be taught that no man is accounted righteous before God unless he has fulfilled the law, [620] (which is impossible,) that, convinced of his weakness, he might betake himself to the assistance of faith. I acknowledge, therefore, that, as God has promised the reward of eternal life to those who keep his law, we ought to hold by this way, if the weakness of our flesh did not prevent; but Scripture teaches us, that it is through our own fault that it becomes necessary for us to receive as a gift what we cannot obtain by works. If it be objected, that it is in vain to hold out to us the righteousness which is in the law, (Romans 10:5,) which no man will ever be able to reach, I reply, since it is the first part of instruction, by which we are led to the righteousness which is obtained by prayer, it is far from being superfluous; and, therefore, when Paul says, that the doers of the law are justified, (Romans 2:13,) he excludes all from the righteousness of the law.

This passage sets aside all the inventions which the Papists have contrived in order to obtain salvation. For not only are they mistaken in wishing to lay God under obligation to them by their good works, to bestow salvation as a debt; but when they apply themselves to do what is right, they leave out of view the doctrine of the law, and attend chiefly to their pretended devotions, as they call them, not that they openly reject the law of God, but that they greatly prefer human traditions. [621] But what does Christ say? That the only worship of which God approves is that which he has prescribed; because obedience is better to him than all sacrifices, [622] (1 Samuel 15:22.) So then, while the Papists are employed in frivolous traditions, let every man who endeavors to regulate his life by obedience to Christ direct his whole attention to keep the commandments of the law.

18. Thou shalt not murder It is surprising that, though Christ intended to show that we are bound to obey the whole law, he should mention the second table only; but he did so, because from the duties of charity the disposition of every man is better ascertained. Piety towards God holds, no doubt, a higher rank; [623] but as the observation of the first table is often feigned by hypocrites, the second table is better adapted for making a scrutiny. [624] Let us know, therefore, that Christ selected those commandments in which is contained a proof of true righteousness; but by a synecdoche he takes a part for the whole. As to the circumstance of his placing that commandment last which speaks of honoring parents, it is of no consequence, for he paid no attention to the regular order. Yet it is worthy of notice, that this commandment is declared to belong to the second table, that no one may be led astray by the error of Josephus, who thought that it belonged to the first table. [625] What is added at the end, Thou shalt love thy neighbor, contains nothing different from the former commandments, but is, general explanation of them all.

The young man saith to him. The law must have been dead to him, when he vainly imagined that he was so righteous; for if he had not flattered himself through hypocrisy, it was an excellent advice to him to learn humility, to contemplate his spots and blemishes in the mirror of the law. But, intoxicated with foolish confidence, he fearlessly boasts that he has discharged his duty properly from his childhood. Paul acknowledges that the same thing happened to himself, that, so long as the power of the law was unknown to him, he believed that he was alive; but that, after he knew what the law could do, a deadly wound was inflicted on him, (Romans 7:9.) So the reply of Christ, which follows, was suited to the man's disposition. And yet Christ does not demand any thing beyond the commandments of the law, but, as the bare recital had not affected him, Christ employed other words for detecting the hidden disease of avarice.

I confess that we are nowhere commanded in the law to sell all; but as the design of the law is, to bring men to self-denial, and as it expressly condemns covetousness, we see that Christ had no other object in view than to correct the false conviction of the young man. [626] for if he had known himself thoroughly, as soon as he heard the mention of the law, he would have acknowledged that he was liable to the judgment of God; but now, when the bare words of the law do not sufficiently convince him of his guilt, the inward meaning is expressed by other words. If Christ now demanded any thing beyond the commandments of the law, he would be at variance with himself. He just now taught that perfect righteousness is comprehended in the commandments of the law: how then will it agree with this to charge the law with deficiency? Besides, the protestation of Moses, (Deuteronomy 30:15,) which I formerly quoted, would be false.

Mark 10:21. One thing thou wantest. Christ therefore does not mean that the young man wanted one Thing beyond the keeping of the law, but in the very keeping of the law. For though the law nowhere obliges us to sell all, yet as it represses all sinful desires, and teaches us to bear the cross, as it bids us be prepared for hunger and poverty, the young man is very far from keeping it fully, so long as he is attached to his riches, and burns with covetousness. And he says that one thing is wanting, because he does not need to preach to him about fornication and murder, but to point out a particular disease, as if he were laying his finger on the sore.

It ought also to be observed, that he does not only enjoin him to sell, but likewise to give to the poor; for to part with riches would not be in itself a virtue, but rather a vain ambition. Profane historians applaud Crates, a Theban, because he threw into the sea his money and all that he reckoned valuable; for he did not think that he could save himself unless his wealth were lost; as if it would not have been better to bestow on others what he imagined to be more than he needed. Certainly, as charity is the bond of perfection, (Colossians 3:14,) he who deprives others, along with himself, of the use of money, deserves no praise; and therefore Christ applauds not simply the selling but liberality in assisting the poor

The mortification of the flesh is still more strongly urged by Christ, when he says, Follow me. For he enjoins him not only to become his disciple, but to submit his shoulders to bear the cross, as Mark expressly states. And it was necessary that such an excitement should be applied; for, having been accustomed to the ease, and leisure and conveniences, of home, he had never experienced, in the smallest degree, what it was to crucify the old man, and to subdue the desires of the flesh. But it is excessively ridiculous in the monks, under the pretense of this passage, to claim for themselves state of perfection. First, it is easy to infer, that Christ does not command all without exception to sell all that they have; for the husbandman, who had been accustomed to live by his labor, and to support his children, would do wrong in selling his possession, if he were not constrained to it by any necessity. To keep what God has put in our power, provided that, by maintaining ourselves and our family in sober and frugal manner, we bestow some portion on the poor, is a greater virtue than to squander all. But what sort of thing is that famous selling, on which the monks plume themselves? A good part of them, finding no provision at home, plunge themselves into monasteries as well-stocked hog-styes. All take such good care of themselves, that they feed in idleness on the bread of others. A rare exchange truly, when those who are ordered to give to the poor what they justly possess are not satisfied with their own, but seize on the property of others.

Jesus beholding him, loved him. The inference which the Papists draw from this, that works morally good -- that is, works which are not performed by the impulse of the Spirit, but go before regeneration -- have the merit of congruity, is an excessively childish contrivance. For if merit be alleged to be the consequence of the love of God, we must then say that frogs and fleas have merit, because all the creatures of God, without exception, are the objects of his love. To distinguish the degrees of love is, therefore, a matter of importance. [627] As to the present passage, it may be enough to state briefly, that God embraces in fatherly love none but his children, whom he has regenerated with the Spirit of adoption, and that it is in consequence of this love that they are accepted at his tribunal. In this sense, to be loved by God, and to be justified in his sight, are synonymous terms. [628]

But God is sometimes said to love those whom he does not approve or justify; for, since the preservation of the human race is agreeable to Him -- which consists in justice, uprightness, moderation, prudence, fidelity, and temperance -- he is said to love the political virtues; not that they are meritorious of salvation or of grace, but that they have reference to an end of which he approves. In this sense, under various points of view, God loved Aristides and Fabricius, and also hated them; for, in so far as he had bestowed on them outward righteousness, and that for the general advantage, he loved his own work in them; but as their heart was impure, the outward semblance of righteousness was of no avail for obtaining righteousness. For we know that by faith alone hearts are purified, and that the Spirit of uprightness is given to the members of Christ alone. Thus the question is answered, How was it possible that Christ should love a man who was proud and a hypocrite, while nothing is more hateful to God than these two vices? For it is not inconsistent, that the good seed, which God has implanted in some natures, shall be loved by Him, and yet that He should reject their persons and works on account of corruption.

Matthew 19:22. He went away sorrowful. The result at length showed how widely distant the young man was from that perfection to which Christ had called him; for how comes it that he withdraws from the school of Christ, but because he finds it uneasy to be stripped of his riches? But if we are not prepared to endure poverty, it is manifest that covetousness reigns in us. And this is what I said at the outset, that the order which Christ gave, to sell all that he had, was not an addition to the law, but the scrutiny of a concealed vice. [629] For the more deeply a man is tainted by this or the other vice, the more strikingly will it be dragged forth to light by being reproved. We are reminded also by this example that, if we would persevere steadily in the school of Christ, we must renounce the flesh. This young man, who had brought both a desire to learn and modesty, withdrew from Christ, because it was hard to part with a darling vice. The same thing will happen to us, unless the sweetness of the grace of Christ render all the allurements of the flesh distasteful to us. Whether or not this temptation was temporary, so that the young man afterwards repented, we know not; but it may be conjectured with probability, that his covetousness kept him back from making any proficiency.


[614] "Il n'y a nul bon, sinon un seul, c'est Dieu:" -- "There is none good but one only, it is God."

[615] "Car il avoit beaucoup de richesses;" -- "for he had much wealth."

[616] "Que c'estoit un prince ou seigneur; c'est a dire, un homme d'estat et de grande authorite;" -- "that he was a prince or lord; that is to say, a man of rank and of great authority."

[617] "Combien que les richesses rendent un homme honorable au monde;" -- "though riches render a man honorable in the world."

[618] "Non point par trahison, et pour surprendre Christ;" -- "not by treachery, and to take Christ by surprise."

[619] "Pource qu'ils sont enveloppez de ie ne scay quelle ombre de sainctete;" -- "because they are covered by I know not what shadow of holiness."

[620] "Sinon qu'il ait accompli toute la loy de poinct en poinct;" -- "unless he has fulfilled all the law in every point."

[621] "D'autant qu'ils font bien plus grand cas de leurs traditions humaines, que des commandemens de Dieu;" -- "because they set far higher value on their human traditions than on the commandments of God."

[622] "Pource qu'il estime plus obeissance que tous les sacrifices du monde;" -- "because he esteems obedience more than all the sacrifices in the world."

[623] "Vray est qu'entre les commandemens ceux qui parlent de la recognoissance que nous devons a Dieu tienent le premier degre;" -- "it is true that, among the commandments, those which speak of the acknowledgment which we owe to God hold the first rank."

[624] "A faire examen pour cognoistre les personnes;" -- "to make a scrutiny for knowing persons."

[625] Josephus says that there were five on each table, from which it must be inferred, that he considered the Fifth commandment as belonging to the First Table. His words are: He showed them the two tables, with the ten commandments engraven upon them, Five upon each table; and the writin was by the hand of God. -- (Ant. 3. 6, 8.) -- Ed.

[626] "La fausse persuasion et presomption de ee ieune homme;" -- "the false conviction and presumption of this young man."

[627] "Parquoy il est besoin de mettre quelque distinction, et recognoistre qu'il y a divers degrez d'amour en Dieu;" -- "wherefore it is necessary to state some distinction, and to observe that there are various degrees of love in God."

[628] "Signifient du tout une mesme chose;" -- "mean entirely the same thing."

[629] "Que c'a este pour sonder et descouvrir un vice cache;" -- "that it was to search and discover a concealed vice."

And Jesus said unto him, Why callest thou me good? there is none good but one, that is, God.
Thou knowest the commandments, Do not commit adultery, Do not kill, Do not steal, Do not bear false witness, Defraud not, Honour thy father and mother.
And he answered and said unto him, Master, all these have I observed from my youth.
Then Jesus beholding him loved him, and said unto him, One thing thou lackest: go thy way, sell whatsoever thou hast, and give to the poor, and thou shalt have treasure in heaven: and come, take up the cross, and follow me.
And he was sad at that saying, and went away grieved: for he had great possessions.
And Jesus looked round about, and saith unto his disciples, How hardly shall they that have riches enter into the kingdom of God!

Matthew 19:23-26

Mark 10:23-27

Luke 18:24-27

23. And Jesus said to his disciples, Verily I say to you, A rich man will with difficulty enter into the kingdom of heaven. 24. Again I say to you, It is easier for a camel [630] to pass through the eye of a needle, than for a rich man to enter into the kingdom of God. 25. And his disciples, when they had heard these things, were greatly amazed, [631] saying, Who then can be saved? 26. And Jesus, beholding them, said to them, With men this is impossible; but with God all things are possible.

23. And when Jesus had looked around, he said to his disciples, With what difficulty shall they who have riches enter into the kingdom of God! 24. And the disciples were astonished at his words. But Jesus again replying, said to them, Children, how difficult is it for those who have confidence in riches to enter into the kingdom of God! 25. It is easier for a camel to pass through the eye of a needle, than for a rich man to enter into the kingdom of God. 26. And they wondered beyond measure, saying within themselves, And who can be saved? 27. And Jesus beholding them saith, With men it is impossible, but not with God: for all things are possible with God.

24. And Jesus, perceiving that he was sorrowful, said, With what difficulty shall they who have riches enter into the kingdom of God! 25. For it is easier for a camel to pass through the eye of a needle, than for a rich man to enter into the kingdom of God. 26. And they that heard it said, And who can be saved? [632] 27. But he said, The things which are impossible with men are possible with God.

Matthew 19:23. A rich man will with difficulty enter. Christ warns them, not only how dangerous and how deadly a plague avarice is, but also how great an obstacle is presented by riches. In Mark, indeed, he mitigates the harshness of his expression, by restricting it to those only who place confidence in riches But these words are, I think, intended to confirm, rather than correct, the former statement, as if he had affirmed that they ought not to think it strange, that he made the entrance into the kingdom of heaven so difficult for the rich, because it is an evil almost common to all to trust in their riches Yet this doctrine is highly useful to all; to the rich, that, being warned of their danger, they may be on their guard; to the poor, that, satisfied with their lot, they may not so eagerly desire what would bring more damage than gain. It is true indeed, that riches do not, in their own nature, hinder us from following God; but, in consequence of the depravity of the human mind, it is scarcely possible for those who have a great abundance to avoid being intoxicated by them. So they who are exceedingly rich are held by Satan bound, as it were, in chains, that they may not raise their thoughts to heaven; nay more, they bury and entangle themselves, and became utter slaves to the earth. The comparison of the camel., which is soon after added, is intended to amplify the difficulty; for it means that the rich are so swelled with pride and presumption, that they cannot endure to be reduced to the straits through which God makes his people to pass. The word camel denotes, I think, a rope used by sailors, rather than the animal so named. [633]

25. And his disciples, when they heard these things, were greatly amazed. The disciples are astonished, because it ought to awaken in us no little anxiety, that riches obstruct the entrance into the kingdom of God; for, wherever we turn our eyes, a thousand obstacles will present themselves. But let us observe that, while they were struck with astonishment, they did not shrink from the doctrines of Christ. The case was different with him who was lately mentioned; for he was so much alarmed by the severity of the commandment, that he separated from Christ; while they, though trembling, and inquiring, who can be saved? do not break off in an opposite direction, but are desirous to conquer despair. Thus it will be of service to us to tremble at the threatenings of God: whenever he denounces any thing that is gloomy or dreadful, provided that our minds are not discouraged, but rather aroused.

26. With men this is impossible. Christ does not entirely free the minds of his disciples from all anxiety; for it is proper that they should perceive how difficult it is to ascend to heaven; first, that they may direct all their efforts to this object; and next, that, distrusting themselves, they may implore strength from heaven. We see how great is our indolence and carelessness; and what the consequence would be if believers thought that they had to walk at ease, for pastime, along a smooth and cheerful plain. Such is the reason why Christ does not extenuate the danger -- though he perceives the terror which it excited in his disciples -- but rather increases it; for though formerly he said only that it was difficult, he now affirms it to be impossible Hence it is evident, that those teachers are guilty of gross impropriety, who are so much afraid to speak harshly, that they give indulgence to the slothfulness of the flesh. They ought to follow, on the contrary, the rule of Christ, who so regulates his style that, after men have been bowed down within themselves, he teaches them to rely on the grace of God alone, and, at the same time, excites them to prayer. In this manner, the weakness of men is seasonably relieved, not by ascribing anything to them, but by arousing their minds to expect the grace of God. By this reply of Christ is also refuted that widely embraced principle -- which the Papists have borrowed from Jerome -- "Whoever shall say that it is impossible to keep the law, let him be accursed. "For Christ plainly declares, that it is not possible for men to keep the way of salvation, except so far as the grace of God assists them.


[630] "Il est plus facile qu'un Chable passe;" -- "it is easier for a CABLE to pass."

[631] "S'estonnerent grandement;" -- "were greatly astonished."

[632] "Qui pent donc estre sauve?" -- "Who can then be saved?"

[633] "Vray est que le mot CAMELUS, dont a use l'Evangeliste, significant un chameau qu'un chable: mats i'aime mieux le prendre en la derniere signification pour une grosse carde de nayire." -- "It is true that the word kamelos which the Evangelist has employed, means both a camel and a cable; but I prefer taking it in the latter signification for a large rope used by sailors." The two English words camel and cable closely resemble each other, and the corresponding Greek words differ only by a single vowel; kamelos, denoting a camel, and kamilos a cable or rope It does not appear that Calvin; relied on certain Manuscripts of no good authority, which substitute kamilon, for kamelon. But he adopted the notion equally unfounded, that Greek writers sometimes used kamelos, in the sense of kamilos. Had due allowance been made for the boldness of Eastern imagery, the supposed difficulty would have disappeared, and the most refined taste would have been fully gratified. The poet Southey has seized the true spirit of the passage: -- "S. The camel and the needle, Is that then in your mind? "T. Even so. The text Is gospel wisdom. I would ride the camel, -- Yea leap him flying, through the needle's eye, As easily as such a pampered soul Could pass the narrow gate." At one period, critics showed a strong leaning to the idea of cable, which our Author favors, but have now very generally abandoned it, and returned to the true reading. -- Ed

And the disciples were astonished at his words. But Jesus answereth again, and saith unto them, Children, how hard is it for them that trust in riches to enter into the kingdom of God!
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.
And they were astonished out of measure, saying among themselves, Who then can be saved?
And Jesus looking upon them saith, With men it is impossible, but not with God: for with God all things are possible.
Then Peter began to say unto him, Lo, we have left all, and have followed thee.

Matthew 19:27-30

Mark 10:28-31

Luke 18:28-30, Luke 22:28-31

27. Then Peter answering said to him, Lo, we have left all, and have followed thee: what therefore shall we have? 28. And Jesus said to them, Verily I say to you, That you who have followed me in the regeneration, when the Son of man shall sit on the throne of his majesty, you also shall sit on twelve thrones, judging the twelve tribes of Israel. 29. And whosoever shall leave houses, or brothers, or sisters, or father, or mother, or wife, or children, or fields, for the sake of my name, shall receive a hundred-fold, and shall obtain eternal life. 30. And many that are first shall be last, and the last first. [634]

28. And Peter began to say to him, Lo, we have left all, and have followed thee. 29. And Jesus answering said, Verily I say to you, There is no man that hath left house, or brothers, or sisters, or father, or mother, or wife, or children, or fields, for my sake, and (for the sake) of the Gospel, [635] 30. But shall receive a hundred-fold now at this time, houses, and brothers, and sister, and mothers, and children, and fields, with persecution, and in the world to come eternal life. 31. But many that are first shall be last, and the last first. [636]

28. And Peter said, Lo, we have left all, and have followed thee. 29. Who said to them, Verily I say to you, There is no man who hath left house, or parents, or brothers, or wife, or children, on account of the kingdom of God, 30. Who shall not receive much more at this time, and in the world to come eternal life.

Luke 22:28-30

28. You are they that have continued with me in my temptations: [637] 29. And I appoint to you the kingdom, [638] as my Father hath appointed it to me; 30. That you may eat and drink at my table in my kingdom and may sit on thrones, judging the twelve tribes of Israel.

Matthew 19:27. Then Peter answering said to him. Peter tacitly compares himself and the other disciples to the rich man, whom the world had turned aside from Christ. As they had led a poor and wandering [639] life, which was not unaccompanied by disgrace and by annoyances, and as no better condition for the future presented itself, he properly inquires if it be to no purpose that they have left all their property, and devoted themselves to Christ; for it would be unreasonable if, after having been stripped of their property by the Lord, they should not be restored to a better condition.

Lo, we have left all. But what were those all things? for, being mean and very poor men, they scarcely had a home to leave, and therefore this boasting might appear to be ridiculous. And certainly experience shows how large an estimate men commonly form of their duties towards God, as at this day, among the Papists, those who were little else than beggars make it a subject of haughty reproach that they have sustained great damage for the sake of the Gospel. But the disciples may be excused on this ground, that, though their wealth was not magnificent, they subsisted at home, by their manual labors, not less cheerfully than the richest man. And we know that men of humble condition, who have been accustomed to a quiet and modest life, reckon it a greater hardship to be torn from their wives and children than those who are led by ambition, or who are carried in various directions by the gale of prosperity. Certainly, if some reward had not been reserved for the disciples, it would have been foolish in them to have changed their course of life. [640] But though on that ground they might be excused, they err in this respect, that they demand a triumph to be given them, before they have finished their warfare. If we ever experience such uneasiness at delay, and if we are tempted by impatience, let us learn first to reflect on the comforts by which the Lord soothes the bitterness of the cup in this world, and next elevate our minds to the hope of the heavenly life; for these two points embrace the answer of Christ.

28. Verily I say to you. That the disciples may not think that they have lost their pains, and repent of having begun the course, Christ warns them that the glory of his kingdom, which at that time was still hidden, was about to be revealed. As if he had said, "There is no reason why that mean condition should discourage you; for I, who am scarcely equal to the lowest, will at length ascend to my throne of majesty. Endure then for a little, till the time arrive for revealing nay glory." And what does he then promise to them? That they shall be partakers of the same glory.

You also shall sit on twelve thrones By assigning to them thrones, from which they may judge the twelve tribes of Israel, he compares them to assessors, or first councilors and judges, who occupy the highest seats in the royal council. We know that the number of those who were chosen to be apostles was twelve, in order to testify that, by the agency of Christ, God purposed to collect the remnant of his people which was scattered. This was a very high rank, but hitherto was concealed; and therefore Christ holds their wishes in suspense till the latest revelation of his kingdom, when they will fully receive the fruit of their election. And though the kingdom of Christ is, in some respects, manifested by the preaching of the Gospel, there is no doubt that Christ here speaks of the last day.

In the regeneration. Some connect this term with the following clause. In this sense, regeneration would be nothing else than the renovation which shall follow our restoration, when life shall swallow up what is mortal, and when our mean body shall be transformed into the heavenly glory of Christ. But I rather explain regeneration as referring to the first coming of Christ; for then the world began to be renewed, and arose out of the darkness of death into the light of life. And this way of speaking occurs frequently in the Prophets, and is exceedingly adapted to the connection of this passage. For the renovation of the Church, which had been so frequently promised, had raised an expectation of wonderful happiness, as soon as the Messiah should appear; and therefore, in order to guard against that error, Christ distinguishes between the beginning and the completion of his reign.

Luke 22:28. You are they who have continued with me. Although Luke appears to relate a different discourse of Christ, and one which was delivered at a different time, yet I have no doubt that it refers to the same time. For it is not a continued discourse of Christ that is here related, but detached sentences, without any regard to the order of time, as we shall shortly afterwards have occasion to state. But he employs more words than Matthew; for he declares that, as the apostles had accompanied him, and had remained steadfastly in his temptations, they would also be partakers of his glory. It is asked, in what sense does he call them his temptations? I think that he means the contests by which God tried him and the apostles in common. And properly did he use the word temptations; for, according to the feeling of human nature, his faith and patience were actually tried.

29. And I appoint to you the kingdom. Here he makes them not only judges, but kings; for he shares with them the kingdom which he received from the Father There is an emphasis in the word appoint, that they may not, by warmth and vehemence of desire, hasten too eagerly to possess the kingdom of which he alone has the lawful right to dispose. By his own example, also, he exhorts them to patience; for, though he was ordained by the Father to be a King, yet he was not immediately raised to his glory, but even emptied Himself, (Philippians 2:7,) and by the ignominy of the cross obtained kingly honor. To eat and drink at his table is put metaphorically for being made partakers of the same glory.

Matthew 19:29. And whosoever shall forsake. After having raised the expectation of his followers to the hope of a future life, he supports them by immediate consolations, [641] and strengthens them for bearing the cross. For though God permit his people to be severely afflicted, he never abandons them, so as not to recompense their distresses by his assistance. And here he does not merely address the apostles, but takes occasion to direct his discourse generally to all the godly. The substance of it is this: Those who shall willingly lose all for the sake of Christ, will be more happy even in this life than if they had retained the full possession of them; but the chief reward is laid up for them in heaven.

But what he promises about recompensing them a hundredfold appears not at all to agree with experience; for in the greater number of cases, those who have been deprived of their parents, or children, and other relatives -- who have been reduced to widowhood, and stripped of their wealth, for the testimony of Christ -- are so far from recovering their property, that in exile, solitude and desertion, they have a hard struggle with severe poverty. I reply, if any man estimate aright the immediate grace of God, by which he relieves the sorrows of his people, he will acknowledge that it is justly preferred to all the riches of the world. For though unbelievers flourish, (Psalm 92:7,) yet as they know not what awaits them on the morrow (James 4:14,) they must be always tossed about in perplexity and terror, and it is only by stupefying themselves in some sort that they can at all enjoy prosperity. [642] Yet God gladdens his people, so that the small portion of good which they enjoy is more highly valued by them, and far sweeter, than if out of Christ they had enjoyed an unlimited abundance of good things. In this sense I interpret the expression used by Mark, with persecutions; as if Christ had said, Though persecutions always await the godly in this world, and though the cross, as it were, is attached to their back, yet so sweet is the seasoning of the grace of God, which gladdens them, that their condition is more desirable than the luxuries of kings.

30. And many that are first shall be last. This sentence was added in order to shake off the indolence of the flesh. The apostles, though they had scarcely begun the course, were hastening to demand the prize. And such is the disposition of almost all of us, that, when a month has elapsed, we ask, like soldiers who have served their time, to receive a discharge. But Christ exhorts those who have begun well (Galatians 3:3; Galatians 5:7) to vigorous perseverance, and at the same time gives warning, that it will be of no avail to runners to have begun with alacrity, if they lose courage in the midst of the course. In like manner Paul also warns us, that not all who run obtain t/re prize, (1 Corinthians 9:24;) and in another passage he exhorts believers, by referring to his own example, to:

forget those things which are behind, and press forward to the remaining portion of their course,
(Philippians 3:13,14.)

As often, therefore, as we call to mind the heavenly crown, we ought, as it were, to feel the application of fresh spurs, that we may not be more indolent for the future.


[634] "Et les derniers seront premiers;" -- "and the last shall be first."

[635] "Pour l'amour de moy et de l'Evangile;" -- "for the love of me and of the Gospel."

[636] "Et les derniers seront premiers;" -- "and the last shall be first."

[637] "Qui avez persevere avec moy;" -- "who have persevered with me."

[638] "Le royaume."

[639] "Et suiete a changer souvent de demeurance;" -- "and liable to change their residence frequently."

[640] "D'avoir change d'estat et de facon de vivre;" -- "for having changed their condition and their way of living."

[641] "De consolations de la vie presente;" -- "by consolations of the present life."

[642] "Ils ne peuvent iouir a leur aise des biens qu'ils ont, sinon qu'ils en-trent comme en une stupidite, et effacent tout sentiment de leur conscience;" -- "they cannot enjoy at their ease the good things which they possess, unless they become, as it were, stupid, and destroy every feeling of their conscience."

And Jesus answered and said, Verily I say unto you, There is no man that hath left house, or brethren, or sisters, or father, or mother, or wife, or children, or lands, for my sake, and the gospel's,
But he shall receive an hundredfold now in this time, houses, and brethren, and sisters, and mothers, and children, and lands, with persecutions; and in the world to come eternal life.
But many that are first shall be last; and the last first.
And they were in the way going up to Jerusalem; and Jesus went before them: and they were amazed; and as they followed, they were afraid. And he took again the twelve, and began to tell them what things should happen unto him,

Matthew 20:17-19

Mark 10:32-34

Luke 18:31-34

17. And Jesus, going up to Jerusalem, took the twelve disciples apart in the way, and said to them, 18. Lo, we go up to Jerusalem; and the Son of man will be delivered to the chief priests and scribes; and they will condemn him to death. 19. And they will deliver him to the Gentiles to mock, and to scourge, and to crucify him; [647] and on the third day he will rise again.

32. And they were in the way going up to Jerusalem; and Jesus went before them: and they were amazed; and, while they followed him, where afraid. And having again taken aside the twelve, he began to tell them what things would happen to him: 33. Lo, we go up to Jerusalem; and the Son of man will be delivered to the chief priests and scribes; and they will condemn him to death, and will deliver him to the Gentiles: 34. And will mock him, and scourge him, and spit upon him, and kill him; and on the third day he will rise again.

31. And Jesus took the twelve, and said to them, Lo, we go up to Jerusalem, and all things which have been written by the prophets concerning the Son of man will be accomplished. 32. For he will be delivered to the Gentiles, and mocked, and insulted, and spat on; 33. And after having scourged, they will kill him; and on the third day he will rise again. 34. And they understood none of these things; and this saying was hidden from them, and they understood not the things which were spoken. [648]

Though the apostles had been previously informed what kind of death awaited our Lord, yet as they had not sufficiently profited by it, he now repeats anew what he had frequently said. He sees that the day of his death is at hand; nay more, he is already in a state of readiness to offer himself to be sacrificed; and, on the other hand, he sees the disciples not only afraid, but overwhelmed by blind alarm. He therefore exhorts them to steadiness, that they may not immediately yield to temptation. Now there are two methods by which he confirms them; for, by foretelling what would happen, he not only fortifies them, that they may not give way, when a calamity, which has arisen suddenly and contrary to expectation, takes them by surprise, but meets the offense of the cross by a proof of his Divinity, that they may not lose courage at beholding his short abasement, when they are convinced that he is the Son of God, and therefore will be victorious over death. The second method of confirmation is taken from his approaching resurrection.

But it will be proper to look more closely at the words. Mark states -- what is omitted by the other two Evangelists -- that, before our Lord explained to his disciples in private that he was going straight to the sacrifice of death, not only they, but also the rest of his followers, were sorrowful and trembling. Now why they were seized with this fear it is not easy to say, if it was not because they had already learned that they had dangerous adversaries at Jerusalem, and would therefore have wished that Christ should remain in some quiet retreat beyond the reach of the darts, rather than voluntarily expose himself to such inveterate enemies. Although this fear was in many respects improper, yet the circumstance of their following Christ is a proof of no ordinary respect and obedience. It would indeed have been far better to hasten cheerfully and without regret, wheresoever the Son of God chose to lead them; but commendation is due to their reverence for his person, which appears in choosing to do violence to their own feelings rather than to forsake him.

Matthew 20:17. Took the twelve disciples apart in the way It may appear surprising that he makes the twelve alone acquainted with his secret, since all have need of consolation, for all had been alike seized with fear. I consider the reason why he did not publish his death to have been, that the report might not spread too widely before the time. Besides, as he did not expect that the warning would be of immediate advantage, he reckoned it enough to entrust it to a few, who were afterwards to be his witnesses. For, as the seed thrown into the earth does not immediately spring up, so we know that Christ said many things to the apostles which did not immediately yield fruit. And if he had admitted all indiscriminately to this discourse, it was possible that many persons, seized with alarm, might flee, and fill the ears of the public with this report; and thus the death of Christ would have lost its glory, because he would have appeared to have rashly brought it on himself. Secretly, therefore, he addresses the apostles, and does not even select them as qualified to receive profit by it, but, as I lately hinted, that they may afterwards be witnesses.

On this subject Luke is more full than the others; for he relates not only that Christ predicted the events which were near at hand, but also that he added the doctrine, that those things which had been written by the prophets would be accomplished in the Son of man. It was an excellent remedy for overcoming temptation, to perceive in the very ignominy of the cross the marks by which the Prophets had pointed out the promised Author of salvation. There can be no doubt that our Lord pointed out also from the Prophets what kind of fruit they ought to expect from his death; for the Prophets do not only teach that Christ must suffer, but add the reason, that he may reconcile the world to God.

18. Lo, we go up to Jerusalem. Hence we perceive that Christ was endued with divine fortitude for overcoming the terrors of death, for he knowingly and willingly hastens to undergo it. [649] For why does he, without any constraint, march forward to suffer a shocking murder, but because the invincible power of the Spirit enabled him to subdue fear, and raised him above all human feelings? By a minute detail of the circumstances, he gives a still more evident proof of his Divinity. For he could not -- as man -- have foreseen that, after having been condemned by the chief priests and scribes, he would be delivered up to the Gentiles, and spat on, and mocked in various ways, and scourged, and at length dragged to the punishment of the cross Yet it must be observed that, though our Lord was fully acquainted with the weakness of his disciples, he does not conceal from them a very grievous offense. For -- as we have said on a former occasion [650] -- nothing could at that time have happened more powerfully calculated to shake the minds of the godly, than to see the whole of the sacred order of the Church opposed to Christ.

And yet he does not spare their weakness by deceiving them, but, candidly declaring the whole matter, points out the way to overcome temptation; namely, by looking forward with certainty to his resurrection. But as it was necessary that His death should go before, he makes their triumph, in the meantime, to consist in hope.

Luke 18:34. And they understood none of these things. What stupidity was this, not to understand what Christ said to them in a plain and familiar manner, on a subject not too lofty or intricate, but of which they had, at their own suggestion, entertained some suspicion! But it is proper also to bear in mind -- what I have formerly observed -- the reason why they were held in such gross ignorance, which was, that they had formed the expectation of a joyful and prosperous advancement, and therefore reckoned it to be in the highest degree absurd, that Christ should be ignominiously crucified. Hence we infer with what madness the minds of men are seized through a false imagination; and therefore we ought to be the more careful not to yield to any foolish thoughts, and shut our eyes against the light.


[647] "Pour estre mocque, et flagelle, et crucifie;" -- "to be mocked, and scourged, and crucified."

[648] "Et ne pouvoyent entendre ce qu'il leur disoit;" -- "and they could not understand what he said to them."

[649] "Veu qu'il se haste pour s'y presenter de son bon gre, et seachant bien ce qu'il avoit a endurer;" -- "since he hastens to present himself to it of his own accord, and knowing well what he had to endure."

[650] See [36]p. 301 of this volume.

Saying, Behold, we go up to Jerusalem; and the Son of man shall be delivered unto the chief priests, and unto the scribes; and they shall condemn him to death, and shall deliver him to the Gentiles:
And they shall mock him, and shall scourge him, and shall spit upon him, and shall kill him: and the third day he shall rise again.
And James and John, the sons of Zebedee, come unto him, saying, Master, we would that thou shouldest do for us whatsoever we shall desire.

Matthew 20:20-23

Mark 10:35-40

20. Then came to him the mother of Zebedee's children with her sons, worshipping, [651] and asking something from him. 21. And he said to her, What wilt thou? She saith to him, Grant that these my two sons may sit, one at thy right hand, and the other at the left, in thy kingdom. 22. And Jesus answering said, You know not what you ask. Can you drink the cup which I shall drink, and be baptized with the baptism with which I am baptized? They say to him, We can. 23. He saith to them, You shall indeed drink my cup, and you shall be baptized with the baptism with which I am baptized; but to sit at my right hand, and at my left, is not mine to give; but it shall fall to those for whom it is prepared by my Father. [652]

35. And James and John, sons of Zebedee, came to him, saying, Master, we desire that thou shouldest do for us whatsoever we shall ask. 36. And he said to them, What do you wish that I should do for you? 37. And they said, Grant to us that we may sit, on at thy right hand, and the other at thy left, in thy glory. 38. And Jesus said to them, You know not what you ask. Can you drink the cup which I drink, and be baptized with the baptism with which I am baptized? 39. And they said to him, We can. And Jesus said to them, You shall indeed drink the cup which I drink, and you shall be baptized with the baptism with which I am baptized: 40. But to sit at my right hand, and at my left is not mine to give; but it shall fall to those for whom it is prepared. [653]

Matthew 20:20. Then came to him the mother of Zebedee's children. This narrative contains a bright mirror of human vanity; for it shows that proper and holy zeal is often accompanied by ambition, or some other vice of the flesh, so that they who follow Christ have a different object in view from what they ought to have. They who are not satisfied with himself alone, but seek this or the other thing apart from him and his promises, wander egregiously from the right path. Nor is it enough that, at the commencement, we sincerely apply our minds to Christ, if we do not stead-lastly maintain the same purity; for frequently, in the midst of the course, there spring up sinful affections by which we are led astray. In this way it is probable that the two sons of Zebedee were, at first, sincere in their adherence to Christ; but when they see that they have no ordinary share of his favor, and hear his reign spoken of as near at hand, their minds are immediately led to wicked ambition, and they are greatly distressed at the thought of remaining in their present situation. If this happens to two excellent disciples, with what care ought we to walk, if we do not wish to turn aside from the right path! More especially, when any plausible occasion presents itself, we ought to be on our guard, lest the desire of honors corrupt the feeling of piety.

Though Matthew and Mark differ somewhat in the words, yet they agree as to the substance of the matter. Matthew says that the wife of Zebedee came, and asked for her sons that they might hold the highest places in the kingdom of Christ. Mark represents themselves as making the request. But it is probable that, being restrained by bashfulness, they had the dexterity to employ their mother, who would present the request with greater boldness. That the wish came originally from themselves may be inferred from this circumstance, that Christ replied to them, and not to their mother. Besides, when their mother, bowing down, states that she has something to ask, and when themselves, according to Mark, apply for a general engagement, that whatever they ask shall be granted to them, this timid insinuation proves that they were conscious of something wrong. [654]

21. In the kingdom. It was worthy of commendation in the sons of Zebedee, that they expected some kingdom of Christ, of which not even the slightest trace was then visible. They see Christ exposed to contempt under the mean aspect of a servant; nay more, they see him despised and loaded with many reproaches by the world; but they are convinced that he will soon become a magnificent king, for so he had taught them. It is unquestionably a noble specimen of faith; but hence we perceive how easily the pure seed is no sooner implanted in our hearts than it becomes degenerate and corrupted; for they imagined to themselves a kingdom which had no existence, and presently committed the folly of desiring the highest places. Since, therefore, this wicked ambition flowed from a general principle of faith, which in itself was highly commendable, we ought to pray, not only that the Lord would open the eyes of our mind, but that he would give us continual direction, and keep our minds fixed on the proper object. We ought also to pray, not only that he would bestow faith upon us, but that he would keep it pure from all mixture.

22. You know not what you ask. Their ignorance was worthy of blame on two accounts; first, because their ambition led them to desire more than was proper; and, secondly, because, instead of the heavenly kingdom of Christ, they had formed the idea of a phantom in the air. As to the first of those reasons, whoever is not satisfied with the free adoption of God, and desires to raise himself, such a person wanders beyond his limits, and, by unseasonably pressing himself forward beyond what was proper for him to do, is ungrateful to God. Now to estimate the spiritual kingdom of Christ according to the feeling of our flesh is highly perverse. And, indeed, the greater the delight which the mind of man takes in idle speculations, the more carefully ought we to guard against them; as we see that the books of the sophists are stuffed with useless notions of this sort.

Can you drink the cup which I shall drink? To correct their ambition, and to withdraw them from this wicked desire, he holds out to them the cross, and all the annoyances which the children of God must endure. As if he had said, "Does your present warfare allow you so much leisure, that you are now making arrangements for a triumphal procession?" For if they had been earnestly employed in the duties of their calling, they would never have given way to this wicked imagination. In these words, therefore, those who are desirous to obtain the prize before the proper time are enjoined by Christ to employ themselves in attending to the duties of piety. And certainly this is an excellent bridle for restraining ambition; for, so long as we are pilgrims in this world, our condition is such as ought to banish vain luxuries. We are surrounded by a thousand dangers. Sometimes the enemy assails us by ambush, and that in a variety of ways; and sometimes he attacks us by open violence. Is he not worse than stupid who, amidst so many deaths, entertains himself at his ease by drawing pictures of a triumph?

Our Lord enjoins his followers, indeed, to feel assured of victory, and to sing a triumphal song in the midst of death; for otherwise they would not have courage to fight valiantly. But it is one thing to advance manfully to the battle, in reliance on the reward which God has promised to them, and to labor with their whole might for this object; and it is another thing to forget the contest, to turn aside from the enemy, to lose sight of dangers, and to rush forward to triumph, for which they ought to wait till the proper time. Besides, this foolish speed, for the most part, draws men aside from their calling; for as in battle the greatest coward is the keenest to seize the booty, so in the kingdom of Christ none are more eager to obtain the superiority than those who shrink from all the annoyance which attends toil. Most properly, therefore, does Christ enjoin those who were puffed up with vain glory to keep by their post. [655] The sum of the whole is, that for none but him who has fought lawfully is the crown prepared; and especially, that none will be a partaker of the life and the kingdom of Christ who has not previously shared in his sufferings and death.

In the word baptism the force of the metaphor is very evident; for we know that by baptism believers are instructed to deny themselves, (Matthew 45:24;) to crucify the old man, (Romans 6:6;) and, in short, to bear the cross It is uncertain if, by the word cup, (poterion,) our Lord alluded to the mystery of the Holy Supper; but as it had not yet come into use, I choose to interpret it more simply as denoting the measure of afflictions which God appoints to every one. For as it is his right to lay on every one his own burden according to his pleasure, in the same manner as a householder distributes and allots the portions of the members of his family, so He is said to give them a cup to drink [656]

These words contain no ordinary consolation for alleviating the bitterness of the cross, when in the cross Christ associates himself with us. And what could be more desirable than to have every thing in common with the Son of God? for thus are those things which at first sight appear to be deadly made to yield to us salvation and life. On the other hand, how shall he be reckoned among the disciples of Christ, who desires to be wholly exempted from the cross? For such person refuses to submit to the baptism of Christ, which is nothing else than to withdraw from the earliest lessons. [657] Now whenever baptism is mentioned, let us recollect that we were baptized on this condition, and for this purpose, that the cross may be attached to our shoulders.

The boast made with so much confidence by John and James, that they are prepared to drink the cup, manifests the presumption of the flesh; for, when we are beyond the reach of darts, we think nothing impossible. And not long afterwards, the melancholy result exposed their rashness; but in so far it was good in them that, when they were free to make a choice, they presented themselves to bear the cross.

23. You shall indeed drink my cup. As they were disciples, it was proper that they should be assimilated to their Master. Christ warns them of what will take place, that they may be prepared to endure it with patience; and, in the persons of two men, he addresses all his followers. For though many believers die a natural death, and without violence or shedding of blood, yet it is common to all of them, as Paul informs us, (Romans 8:29; 2 Corinthians 3:18,) to be conformed to the image of Christ; and, therefore,

during their whole life, they are sheep appointed to the slaughter, (Romans 8:36.)

Is not mine to give [658] By this reply Christ surrenders nothing, but only states that the Father had not assigned to him this office of appointing to each person his own peculiar place in the kingdom of heaven. He came, indeed, in order to bring all his people to eternal life; but we ought to reckon it enough that the inheritance obtained by his blood awaits us. As to the degree in which some men rise above others, it is not our business to inquire, and God did not intend that it should be revealed to us by Christ, but that it should be reserved till the latest revelation. We have now ascertained Christ's meaning; for he does not here reason as to his power, but only desires us to consider for what purpose he was sent by the Father, and what corresponds to his calling, and therefore distinguishes between the secret purpose of God and the nature of that teaching which had been enjoined on him. It is a useful warning, that we may learn to be wise with sobriety, and may not attempt to force our way into the hidden mysteries of God, and more especially, that we may not indulge excessive curiosity in our inquiries about the future state; for

It hath not yet appeared what we shall be,
till God shall make us like himself, (1 John 3:2.

It is also worthy of our notice, that these words do not imply that there will be equality among the children of God, after they have been admitted to the heavenly glory, but rather that to each is promised that degree of honor to which he has been set apart by the eternal purpose of God.


[651] "S'enclinant a luy;" -- "bowing down to him."

[652] "Mais ceux ausquels il est apparelle de mon l'ere [l'auront];" -- "but those for whom it is prepared by my Father [shall have it.]"

[653] "Mais il sera [donne] a ceux ausquels il est prepare;" -- "but it shall be given to those for whom it is prepared."

[654] "Monstre que leur conscience les redarguoit;" -- "shows that their conscience was reproving them."

[655] "A bon droict done Christ royant ses deux disciples eslevez d'une vaine gloire, les arreste a penser aux choses qui concernent le devoir de leur vocation;" -- "with good reason, then, does Christ, seeing his two disciples carried away by vain glory, make them stop to consider the things which belong to the duty of their calling."

[656] "Il est dit pour ceste cause, que Dieu donne la coupe a boire;" -- "for this reason it is said that God gives the cup to drink."

[657] "Car cela n'est proprement autre chose que se retirer des commencemens, et ne vouloir entrer a la premiere lecon de son eschole;" -- "for that is properly nothing else than to withdraw at the beginning, and to refuse to enter into the first lesson of his school."

[658] "Ce n'est pas a moy a le dormer;" -- "it does not belong to me to give it."

And he said unto them, What would ye that I should do for you?
They said unto him, Grant unto us that we may sit, one on thy right hand, and the other on thy left hand, in thy glory.
But Jesus said unto them, Ye know not what ye ask: can ye drink of the cup that I drink of? and be baptized with the baptism that I am baptized with?
And they said unto him, We can. And Jesus said unto them, Ye shall indeed drink of the cup that I drink of; and with the baptism that I am baptized withal shall ye be baptized:
But to sit on my right hand and on my left hand is not mine to give; but it shall be given to them for whom it is prepared.
And when the ten heard it, they began to be much displeased with James and John.

Matthew 20:24-27

Mark 10:41-45

Luke 22:24-27

24. And when the ten heard it, [659] they were displeased with the two brethren. 25. And Jesus called them to him, and said, You know that the princes of the Gentiles rule over them, and they who are great exercise authority over them. 26. It shall not be so among you: but whoever wishes to be great among you, let him be your minister; 27. And he that wishes to be chief among you, let him be your servant: 28. Even as the Son of man came not that he might be served, but that he might serve, and that he might give his life a ransom for many.

41. And when the ten heard it, they began to be displeased with James and John 42. And Jesus, when he had called them to him, saith to them, You know that they who appear to rule over the Gentiles exercise dominion over them; and they who are princes among them exercise power over them. 43. But it shall not be so among you; but whoever wishes to become great among you, shall be your minister;. And whoever wishes to be chief among you, shall be your servant. 45. For even the Son of man came not that he might be served, but that he might serve, and that he might give his life a ransom for many.

24. And there arose also a dispute among them, which of them appeared to be greatest. 25. And he said to them, The kings of the Gentiles rule over them; and they that have power over them are called benefactors. 26. But you are not so: but he that is greatest among you, let him become as the younger; and he that is ruler, as he that serves. 27. For which is greater, he that sitteth at table, or her that serveth? Is it not he that sitteth at table? But I am in the midst of you as he that serveth.

Matthew 20:24. And when the ten heard it. [660] Luke appears to refer this dispute to a different time. But any one who shall carefully examine that twenty-second chapter will plainly see that discourses delivered at different times are there brought together, without any regard to order. The dispute about the primacy, therefore which Luke mentions, flowed from this source, that the sons of Zebedee aspired to the first places in the kingdom of Christ. And yet the displeasure of the rest was far from being well-founded; for, while the foolish ambition of the two disciples was so severely blamed, that they retired from Christ with disgrace, what injury was it to the other ten, that those disciples foolishly wished what they did not obtain? [661] For though they had a good right to be offended at the ambition of those disciples, yet when it was put down they ought to have been satisfied. But our Lord intended to seize on this occasion for laying open a disease which was lurking within them; for there was not one of them who would willingly yield to others, but every one secretly cherished within himself the expectation of the primacy; in consequence of which, they envy and dispute with one another, and yet in all there reigns wicked ambition. And if this fault was found to be natural to uneducated men of ordinary rank, and if it broke out on a slight occasion, and almost without any occasion at all, how much more ought we to be on our guard, when there is abundance of fuel to feed a concealed flame? We see then how ambition springs up in any man who has great power and honors, and sends out its flames far and wide, unless the spirit of modesty, coming from heaven, extinguish the pride which has a firm hold of the nature of man.

25. You know that the princes of the Gentiles rule over them. It is first said that Christ called them to him, that he might reprove them in private; and next we learn from it that, being ashamed of their ambition, they did not openly complain, but that a sort of hollow murmur arose, and every one secretly preferred himself to the rest. He does not explain generally how deadly a plague ambition is, but simply warns them, that nothing is more foolish than to fight about nothing. [662] He shows that the primacy, which was the occasion of dispute among them, has no existence in his kingdom. Those persons, therefore, who extend this saying indiscriminately to all the godly are mistaken; for Christ only takes occasion from the present occurrence to show that it is absurd in the apostles to dispute about the degree of power and honor in their own rank, because the office of teaching, to which they were appointed, has no resemblance to the governments of the world. I do acknowledge that this doctrine applies both to private persons and to kings and magistrates; for no man deserves to be reckoned one of Christ's flock, unless he has made such proficiency under the teacher of humility, as to claim nothing for himself, but condescend to cultivate brotherly love. This is, no doubt, true; but the design of Christ was, as I have said, to distinguish between the spiritual government of his Church and the empires of the world, that the apostles might not look for the favors of a court; for in proportion as any of the nobles is loved by kings, he rises to wealth and distinction. But Christ appoints pastors of his Church, not to rule, but to serve

This reflects the error of the Anabaptists, who exclude kings and magistrates from the Church of God, because Christ declares [663] that they are not like his disciples; though the comparison is here made not between Christians and ungodly men, but between the nature of their offices. Besides, Christ did not look so much at the persons of men as at the condition of his Church. For it was possible that one who was governor of a village or of a city might, in a case of urgent necessity, discharge also the office of teaching; but Christ satisfied himself with explaining what belongs to the apostolic office and what is at variance with it.

But a question arises, Why does Christ, who appointed separate orders in his Church, disown in this passage all degrees? For he appears to throw them all down, or, at least, to place them on a level, so that not one rises above the rest. But natural reason prescribes a very different method; and Paul, when describing the government of the Church, (Ephesians 4:11,) enumerates the various departments of the ministry, in such a manner as to make the rank of apostleship higher than the office of pastors. Timothy and Titus also, are unquestionably enjoined by him to exercise authoritative superintendence over others, according to the command of God. I reply, if we carefully examine the whole, it will be found that even kings do not rule justly or lawfully, unless they serve; but that the apostolic office differs from earthly government in this respect, that the manner in which kings and magistrates serve does not prevent them from governing, or indeed from rising above their subjects in magnificent pomp and splendor. Thus David, Hezekiah, and others of the same class, while they were the willing servants of all, used a scepter, a crown, a throne, and other emblems of royalty. But the government of the Church admits nothing of this sort; for Christ allowed the pastors nothing more than to be ministers, and to abstain entirely from the exercise of authority. Here, to it ought to be observed, that the discourse relates to the thing itself rather than to the disposition. Christ distinguishes between the apostles and the rank of kings, not because kings have a right to act haughtily, but because the station of royalty is different from the apostolic office. While, therefore, both ought to be humble, it is the duty of the apostles always to consider what form of government the Lord has appointed for his Church.

As to the words which Matthew employs, the princes of the Gentiles rule over them, Luke conveys the same import by saying, they are called benefactors; which means, that kings possess great wealth and abundance, in order that they may be generous and bountiful. For though kings have greater delight in their power, and a stronger desire that it should be formidable, than that it should be founded in the consent of the people, still they desire the praise of munificence. [664] Hence, too, they take the name in the Hebrew language, ndyvym, (nedibim ) They are so called from bestowing gifts; [665] for taxes and tributes are paid to them for no other purpose than to furnish the expense necessary to the magnificence of their rank.

26. It shall not be so among you. There can be no doubt that Christ refers to the foolish imagination by which he saw that the apostles were deceived. "It is foolish and improper in you," he says, "to imagine a kingdom, which is unsuitable to me; and therefore, if you desire to serve me faithfully, you must resort to a different method, which is, that each of you may strive to serve others." [666] But whoever wishes to be great among you, let him be your servant. These words are employed in an unusual sense; for ambition does not allow a man to be devoted, or, rather, to be subject to his brethren. Abject flattery, I do acknowledge, is practiced by those who aspire to honors, but nothing is farther from their intention than to serve But Christ's meaning is not difficult to be perceived. As every man is carried away by a love of himself, he declares that this passion ought to be directed to a different object. Let the only greatness, eminence, and rank, which you desire, be, to submit to your brethren; and let this be your primacy, to be the servants of all.

28. As the Son of man Christ confirms the preceding doctrine by his own example; for he voluntarily took upon himself the form of a servant, and emptied himself, as Paul also informs us, (Philippians 2:7.) To prove more clearly how far he was from indulging in lofty views, he reminds them of his death. "Because I have chosen you to the honor of being near me, you are seized by a wicked ambition to reign. But I--- by whose example you ought to regulate your life -- came not to exalt myself, or to claim any royal dignity. On the contrary, I took upon me, along with the mean and despised form of the flesh, the ignominy of the cross. If it be objected, that Christ was:

exalted by the Father, in order that every knee might bow to him, (Philippians 2:9,10,)

it is easy to reply, that what he now says refers to the period of his humiliation. Accordingly, Luke adds, that he lived among them, as if he were a servant: not that in appearance, or in name, or in reality, he was inferior to them, (for he always wished to be acknowledged as their Master and Lord,) but because from the heavenly glory he descended to such meekness, that he submitted to bear their infirmities. Besides, it ought to be remembered that a comparison is here made between the greater and the less, as in that passage,

If I, who am your Master and Lord, have washed your feet, much more ought you to perform this service to one another,
(John 13:14.)

And to give his life a ransom for many. Christ mentioned his death, as we have said, in order to withdraw his disciples from the foolish imagination of an earthly kingdom. But it is a just and appropriate statement of its power and results, when he declares that his life is the price of our redemption; whence it follows, that we obtain an undeserved reconciliation with God, the price of which is to be found nowhere else than in the death of Christ. Wherefore, this single word overturns all the idle talk of the Papists about their abominable satisfactions Again, while Christ has purchased us by his death to be his property, this submission, of which he speaks, is so far from diminishing his boundless glory, that it greatly increases its splendor. The word many (pollon) is not put definitely for a fixed number, but for a large number; for he contrasts himself with all others. [667] And in this sense it is used in Romans 5:15, where Paul does not speak of any part of men, but embraces the whole human race.


[659] "Les dix autres ayans ouy cela;" -- "the other ten having heard that."

[660] "Les dix autres ayans ouy cela;" -- "the other ten having heard that."

[661] "Avoyent follement desire une chose qu'ils n'ont peu obtenir;" -- "had foolishly desired a thing which they could not obtain."

[662] "Qu'il n'y a point de folie plus grande, que de debattre d'une chose qui n'est point;" -- "that there is no greater folly than to debate about a thing which does not exist."

[663] "Sous couleur de ce que Christ dit;" -- "under the pretense of what Christ says."

[664] "Toutesfois ils appetent d'avoir la louange d'estre magnifiques et liberaux;" -- "yet they desire to have the praise of being sumptuous and liberal."

[665] ndyv (nadib,)alvrince, which is derived from ndv (nadab,) to be bountiful, is the very word to which allusion is supposed to be made in the passage, (Luke 22:25,) where it is said that the name princes (ndyvym, nedibim) signifies benefactors. -- Ed

[666] "De se rendre serviteur a ses compagnons;" -- "to become a servant to his companions."

[667] "Il prend PLUSIEURS, non pas pour quelque certain nombre, mais pour les autres: car il fait une comparaison de sa personne a tout le reste des hommes;" -- "He takes MANY, not for any fixed number, but for the others; for he makes a comparison of his person with all the rest of men."

But Jesus called them to him, and saith unto them, Ye know that they which are accounted to rule over the Gentiles exercise lordship over them; and their great ones exercise authority upon them.
But so shall it not be among you: but whosoever will be great among you, shall be your minister:
And whosoever of you will be the chiefest, shall be servant of all.
For even the Son of man came not to be ministered unto, but to minister, and to give his life a ransom for many.
And they came to Jericho: and as he went out of Jericho with his disciples and a great number of people, blind Bartimaeus, the son of Timaeus, sat by the highway side begging.

Matthew 20:29-34

Mark 10:46-52

Luke 18:35-43

29. And while they were departing from Jericho, a great multitude followed him. 30. And, lo, two blind men sitting near the road, when they heard that Jesus was passing by, cried aloud, saying, Have mercy on us, O Lord, thou Son of David. 31. And the multitude rebuked them, that they might be silent; but they cried out the more, saying, Have mercy on us, O Lord, thou Son of David. 32. And Jesus stood, and called them, and said, What do you wish that I should do to you? 33. They say to him, Lord, that our eyes may be opened. 34. And Jesus, moved with compassion, touched their eyes; and immediately their eyes received sight, and they followed him.

46. And they come to Jericho: and while they was departing from the city Jericho, and his disciples, and a great multitude, Bartimeus, son of Timeus, a blind man, was sitting hear the road begging. 47. And when he heard that it was Jesus of Nazareth, he began to cry aloud, and to say, Jesus, Son of David, have mercy on me. 48. And many rebuked him, that he might be silent: but he cried out so much the more, Son of David, have mercy on me. 49. And Jesus stood, and commanded him to be called. And they call the blind man, saying to him, Be of good courage, rise; he calleth thee. 50. And he, throwing away his mantle, arose, and came to Jesus. 51. And Jesus answering, saith to him, What dost thou wish that I should do to thee? And the blind man said to him, Master, [668] that I may receive sight. 52 And Jesus said to him, Go away; thy faith hath cured thee. And immediately he received sight, and followed Jesus in the way.

35. And it happened that, while he was approaching Jericho, a certain blind man was sitting near the road begging: 36. And when he heard a multitude passing by, he asked what it was. 37. And they said to him, that Jesus of Nazareth was passing by. 38. And he cried out, saying, Jesus, Son of David, have mercy on me. 39. And they that were going before rebuked him, that he might be silent: but he cried out so much the more, Son of David, have mercy on me. 40. And Jesus, standing still, commanded him to be brought to him: and while he was approaching, he asked him, 41. Saying, What dost thou wish that I should do to thee? And he said, Lord, that I may receive sight. 42. Then Jesus said to him, Receive sight: thy faith hath cured thee. 43. And immediately he received sight, and followed him, glorifying God: and all the people when they saw it, gave praise to God.

Matthew 20:29. And while they were departing from Jericho. Osiander has resolved to display his ingenuity by making four blind men out of one. But nothing can be more frivolous than this supposition. Having observed that the Evangelists differ in a few expressions, he imagined that one blind man received sight when they were entering into the city, and that the second, and other two, received sight when Christ was departing from it. But all the circumstances agree so completely, that no person of sound judgment will believe them to be different narratives. Not to mention other matters, when Christ's followers had endeavored to put the first to silence, and saw him cured contrary to their expectation, would they immediately have made the same attempt with the other three? But it is unnecessary to go into particulars, from which any man may easily infer that it is one and the same event which is related.

But there is a puzzling contradiction in this respect, that Matthew and Mark say that the miracle was performed on one or on two blind men, when Christ had already departed from the city; while Luke relates that it was done before he came to the city. Besides, Mark and Luke speak of not more than one blind man, while Matthew mentions two. But as we know that it frequently occurs in the Evangelists, that in the same narrative one passes by what is mentioned by the others, and, on the other hand, states more clearly what they have omitted, it ought not to be looked upon as strange or unusual in the present passage. My conjecture is, that, while Christ was approaching to the city, the blind man cried out, but that, as he was not heard on account of the noise, he placed himself in the way, as they were departing from the city, [669] and then was at length called by Christ. And so Luke, commencing with what was true, does not follow out the whole narrative, but passes over Christ's stay in the city; while the other Evangelists attend only to the time which was nearer to the miracle. There is probability in the conjecture that, as Christ frequently, when he wished to try the faith of men, delayed for a short time to relieve them, so he subjected this blind man to the same scrutiny.

The second difficulty may be speedily removed; for we have seen, on a former occasion, that Mark and Luke speak of one demoniac as having been cured, while Matthew, as in the present instance, mentions two, (Matthew 8:28; Mark 5:2; Luke 8:27 [670] ) And yet this involves no contradiction between them; but it may rather be conjectured with probability, that at first one blind man implored the favor of Christ, and that another was excited by his example, and that in this way two persons received sight Mark and Luke speak of one only, either because he was better known, or because in him the demonstration of Christ's power was not less remarkable than it was in both. It certainly appears to have been on account of his having been extensively known that he was selected by Mark, who gives both his own name and that of his father: Bartimeus, son of Timeus By doing so, he does not claim for him either illustrious descent or wealth; for he was a beggar of the lowest class. Hence it appears that the miracle was more remarkable in his person, because his calamity had been generally known. This appears to me to be the reason why Mark and Luke mention him only, and say nothing about the other, who was a sort of inferior appendage. But Matthew, who was an eye-witness, [671] did not choose to pass by even this person, though less known.

30. Have mercy on me, O Lord. I stated, a little ago, that there was at first but one who cried out, but the other was induced by a similar necessity to join him. They confer on Christ no ordinary honor, when they request him to have mercy, and relieve them; for they must have been convinced that he had in his power the assistance or remedy which they needed. But their faith is still more clearly exhibited by their acknowledgment of him as Messiah, to whom we know that the Jews gave this designation, Son of David They therefore apply to Christ, not only as some Prophet, but as that person whom God had promised to be the only Author of salvation. The cry proved the ardor of the desire; for, though they knew that what they said exposed them to the hatred of many, who were highly displeased with the honor done to Christ, their fear was overcome by the ardor of desire, so that they did not refrain, on this account, from raising their voice aloud.

31. And the multitude reproved them. It is surprising that the disciples of Christ, who follow him through a sense of duty and of respect, should wish to drive wretched men from the favor of Christ, and, so far as lies in them, to prevent the exercise of his power. But it frequently happens that the greater part of those who profess the name of Christ, instead of inviting us to him, rather hinder or delay our approach. If Satan endeavored to throw obstacles in the way of two blind men, by means of pious and simple persons, who were induced by some sentiments of religion to follow Christ, how much more will he succeed in accomplishing it by means of hypocrites and traitors, if we be not strictly on our guard. Perseverance is therefore necessary to overcome every difficulty, and the more numerous the obstacles are which Satan throws in the way, the more powerfully ought we to be excited to earnestness in prayer, as we see that the blind men redoubled their cry

32. What do you wish that I should do to you? He gently and kindly asks what they desire; for he had determined to grant their requests. There is no reason to doubt that they prayed by a special movement of the Holy Spirit; for, as the Lord does not intend to grant to all persons deliverance from bodily diseases, so neither does he permit them simply to pray for it. A rule has been prescribed for us what we ought to ask, and in what manner, and to what extent; and we are not at liberty to depart from that rule, unless the Lord, by a secret movement of the Spirit, suggest to us some special prayer, which rarely happens. Christ puts the question to them, not for their sake as individuals, but for the sake of all the people; for we know how the world swallows God's benefits without perceiving them, unless they are stimulated and aroused. Christ, therefore, by his voice, awakens the assembled crowd to observe the miracle, as he awakens them shortly afterwards by a visible sign, when he opens their eyes by touching them.

34. And Jesus, moved with compassion, etc. Splanchnistheis, moved with compassion, is not the participle of the same verb which Matthew had just now employed in reference to the blind man, eleeson, have mercy [672] They implored the mercy of Christ, that he might relieve their wretchedness; but now the Evangelist expresses that Christ was induced to cure them, not only by undeserved goodness, but because he pitied their distress. For the metaphor is taken from the bowels, (splanchna,) in which dwells that kindness and mutual compassion which prompts us to assist our neighbors.

Mark 10:52. Thy faith hath saved thee By the word faith is meant not only a confident hope of recovering sight, but a loftier conviction, which was, that this blind man had acknowledged Jesus to be the Messiah whom God had promised. Nor must we imagine that it was only some confused knowledge; for we have already seen that this confession was taken from the Law and the Prophets. For the blind man did not at random bestow on Christ the name of Son of David, but embraced him as that person whose coming he had been taught by the divine predictions to expect. Now Christ attributes it to faith that the blind man received sight; for, though the power and grace of God sometimes extend even to unbelievers, yet no man enjoys His benefits in a right and profitable manner, unless he receive them by faith; nay, the use of the gifts of God is so far from being advantageous to unbelievers, that it is even hurtful. And therefore, when Christ says, thy faith hath saved thee, the word saved is not limited to an outward cure, but includes also the health and safety of the soul; as if Christ had said, that by faith the blind man obtained that God was gracious to him, and granted his wish. And if it was in regard to faith that God bestowed his favor on the blind man, it follows that he was justified by faith

Matthew 20:34. And followed him. This was an expression of gratitude, [673] when the blind men became followers of Christ; for, though it is uncertain how long they discharged this duty, yet it showed a grateful mind, that they presented themselves to many, in that journey, as mirrors of the grace of Christ. Luke adds, that the people gave praise to God, which tends to prove the certainty of the miracle.


[668] "Rabboni;" -- "Maistre."

[669] "Mais pource qu'il ne peut estre ouy a cause du bruit du peuple, qu'il s'en alla, l'autre porte de la ville par laquelle Christ devoit sortir, pour l'attendre la au chemin;" -- "but, because he could not be heard on account of the noise of the people, that he went away to the other gate by which Christ was to go out, to wait for him there on the road."

[670] See Harmony, [37]vol. 1 p.

[671] "Qui avoit este present au miracle;" -- "who had been present at the miracle."

[672] "Quand ils disoyent, Fils de David, aye misericorde de nous;" -- "when they said, Son of David, have mercy on us."

[673] "Ceci a este un signe de recognoissance du bien receu de Christ;" -- "this was an expression of gratitude for the favor received from Christ."

And when he heard that it was Jesus of Nazareth, he began to cry out, and say, Jesus, thou Son of David, have mercy on me.
And many charged him that he should hold his peace: but he cried the more a great deal, Thou Son of David, have mercy on me.
And Jesus stood still, and commanded him to be called. And they call the blind man, saying unto him, Be of good comfort, rise; he calleth thee.
And he, casting away his garment, rose, and came to Jesus.
And Jesus answered and said unto him, What wilt thou that I should do unto thee? The blind man said unto him, Lord, that I might receive my sight.
And Jesus said unto him, Go thy way; thy faith hath made thee whole. And immediately he received his sight, and followed Jesus in the way.
John Calvin's Commentaries
Text Courtesy of Christian Classics Etherial Library.

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