The Beginning of the Last
The Question concerning Divorce. (Mark 10:1-12.)
1 "And it came to pass, that when Jesus had finished these sayings, he departed
from Galilee, and
came into the coasts of Judaea beyond
When Jesus had finished these sayings. This is the beginning of a new section of
the history, commencing, as usual, with the formulary, And it came to pass. "These
sayings" must refer to what was recorded in ch. 18. But Matthew's narrative omits
many events that happened in the interval between the account of the Galilaean
ministry and the history of these last days, that is, from the autumn of one year to
the spring of the next. The transactions of this time, which are omitted also by Mark,
things that occurred at
occasions. He departed from
after His resurrection. There was no part of the
some time sojourn, and now, as the final consummation drew nigh, He resolutely
set His face towards
there was no part of it beyond, that is, on the east of
Christ's journey was the vicinity of
province by the direct road through
route through Peraea. This was the
name of the region on the east of the
(πέραν - peran - beyond), extending at this time from the river Hieromax, or
Jarmouk, on the north, to the Arnon on the south, i.e. to the middle of the
eastern shore of the
it was at this era in a most flourishing condition, notably fertile, and containing
many fine towns ornamented with magnificent buildings. Here the simple,
pastoral country people were less influenced by the narrow bigotry of the
Pharisaic party, and in the towns the ban which excluded Jesus from the
synagogues of Galilee and
(Compare the geographical distribution of red and blue states in the United
located in big cities and along the coasts - religious fundamental Christians
and conservative in the heart land - CY - 2017) A quiet opportunity for
preaching the gospel was thus offered. This may possibly be the sojourn in
Peraea mentioned by John (John 10:40-42).
2 "And great multitudes followed Him; and He healed them there.
Great multitudes followed Him. He was favorably received by the unprejudiced
Peraeans. Healed them. Those of the multitude who had need of healing (Luke 9:11).
There. In the "beyond
"at one time teaching, at another working miracles, He varied His means of salvation,
that from the miracles faith might be given Him as a Teacher; and by His teaching
He might urge to edification the miracles which He wrought" (St. Chrysostom).
3 "The Pharisees also came unto Him, tempting Him, and saying unto Him,
Is it lawful for a man to put away his wife for every cause?" We have now to
listen to our Lord's teaching respecting divorce and marriage. The Pharisees.
The article is better omitted. Our Lord was not long left in peace by these inveterate
enemies, who, if they could not openly persecute Him, might hope to extract
something from His words and sentiments which might be used to His disadvantage.
They were probably envoys sent from
Tempting Him. Trying to get Him to give an answer which would in any case
afford a handle for malicious misrepresentation. The question proposed concerned
divorce. To put away his wife for every cause; κατὰ πᾶσαν αἰτίαν - kata pasan
aitian - for any cause whatever: quacumque ex causa. This was a delicate question
to raise in the domains of Herod Antipas (see ch.14:3-4), and one greatly debated
in the rabbinical schools. Our Lord had already twice pronounced upon the subject,
once in the sermon on the mount (ch. 5:32), and again when reasoning with the
Pharisees on the due observance of the Law (Luke 16:18). Two opposite opinions
were held by the followers of Hillel and Schammai, the heads of antagonistic
various causes quite unconnected with infringement of the marriage vow, e.g.,
because he had ceased to love her, or had seen some one whom he liked better,
or even because she cooked his dinner badly. The
strict, and permitted divorce only in case of fornication, adultery, or some offence
against chastity. Between these contending parties the Pharisees desired to make
our Lord give a decision, thinking that they had fixed Him in a dilemma. If He took
the popular lax view, they could deride His claims as a Teacher of superior morality;
if He upheld the stricter side, He would rouse the enmity of the majority, and possibly,
like John the Baptist, involve Himself in trouble with the licentious tetrarch. There
was a chance also that the high tone which He had already taken might prove to be
at variance with Mosaic enactments. The easiness with which divorce was obtained
may be seen in Josephus, Who thus writes: "He who for any reason whatsoever
(and many such causes happen to men) wishes to be separated from a wife who
lives with him, must give it to her in writing that he will cohabit with her no longer,
and by this means she shall have liberty to marry another man; but before this is
done it is not permitted her to do so" ('
his own wife because he was not pleased with her behaviour ('Vita,' § 76). And
Ben-Sira gives the curt injunction, "If she go not as thou wouldest have her
(κατὰ χεῖρά σου - kataa cheira sou), cut her off from thy flesh,... and let her go"
4 "And He answered and said unto them, Have ye not read, that He which made
them at the beginning made them male and female, - He answered and said.
Our Lord does not directly reply in the negative, but refers to the original institution
of marriage. All His auditors agreed in holding the legality of divorce, though they
differed in their estimation of the causes that warranted separation. It was quite a
new idea to find the propriety of divorce questioned, and to have their captious
question met by an appeal to Scripture which they could not gainsay, and an
enunciation of a high ideal of matrimony which their glosses and laxity had
miserably perverted or obscured. He which made them. Manuscripts vary
between ὁ ποιήσας - ho poiaesas - One making and ὁ κτίσας - ho ktisas -
the Creator.The latter is approved by Westcott and Hort. The Vulgate gives,
qui fecit hominem. At the beginning (ἀπ ἀρχῆς - ap archaes - from beginning).
These words should be joined to the following verb made (ἐποίησεν - epoiaesen -
makes), and not with the preceding participle, as it is intended to show the
primordial design in the creation of man and woman. God made the first
members of the human family a male and a female, not a male and
FEMALES. The lower animals were created separately, male and female;
"mankind was created in one person in Adam, and when there was found no
help meet for Adam, no companion in body, soul, or spirit, fit for him, then
God, instead of creating a wholly new thing, made Eve out of Adam" (Sadler).
Two individuals of opposite sexes were thus formed for each other; one was the
complement of the other, and THE
AS LONG AS LIFE! There was in this original institution no room for
polygamy, no room for divorce. It was a concrete example of the way in which
God unites man and wife.
4 "And said, For this cause shall a man leave father and mother, and shall
cleave to his wife: and they twain shall be one flesh? And said. The words that
follow are assigned to Adam in Genesis 2:23-24, but he spake by inspiration of God,
as he knew nothing of "father and mother" by personal experience, and therefore
they can be rightly attributed to the Creator. It was, in fact, a prophetic utterance
of which Adam was the mouthpiece; as
hominem dixit quod homo prophetando praedixit." For this cause. Because of
this Divine appointment, and especially of the peculiar creation of Eve. She was
not formed separately of the dust of the earth, but directly from the substance of
Adam; so she was one with her husband, nearer than all other human relations,
superior to the tenderest ties of nature and birth. Shall cleave (προσκολληθήσεται -
proskollaethaesetai - shall be being joined to - or κολληθήσεται - kollaethaesetai -
literally, shall be glued to); adhaerebit. The word expresses the closest possible
union, stronger and higher than that towards parents. They twain shall be one flesh;
the two shall become one flesh (ἔσονται οἱ δίο εἰς σάρκα μίαν - esontai hoi dio eis
sarka mian - shall be the two into flesh one). The Septuagint and Samaritan Pentateuch
insert "the two," which is not in the present Hebrew text. Our Lord adopts the addition
as conveying the correct sense. In marriage there is a moral and physical union, so that
two persons become virtually one being. Originally, man contained woman in himself
before she was separated from him; she was a corporeal unity with man; or, as others
put it, man, as a race, was created male and female, the latter being implicitly
contained in the former; the previous unity is thus asserted. In marriage this unity
is acknowledged and continued. Paul quotes this text in Ephesians 5:31; and in
I Corinthians 6:16 uses it as an argument against fornication,
6 "Wherefore they are no more twain, but one flesh. What therefore God hath
joined together, let not man put asunder. Wherefore (ὥστε - hoste - so that). This
follows from the quotation just given. Our Lord explains and confirms the original
dictum by an assertion of His own and a general law. What God hath joined together.
The institution of marriage is GOD'S APPOINTMENT! Christ says ὁ - ho - what,
neuter singular, not "those whom," plural and concrete, that He may make it clear
that He is here speaking in the abstract, not specially of Adam and Eve. What He
enunciates is true of all wedlock, not simply of the case of our first parents. Let not
man put asunder. Man does thus infringe the primitive rule when he divorces his
wife. Herein he opposes God and acts against nature. He and his wife are one;
they can no more separate from one another than they can from themselves.
If we regard our Lord's language in this passage without prejudice, and not reading
into it modern notions, we must consider that He here decrees the indissolubility
of the marriage tie. His hearers plainly understood Him so to speak, as we see
from the objection which they urged.
7 "They say unto Him, Why did Moses then command to give a writing of
divorcement, and to put her away? Why did Moses then command? If, as you
assert, God ordained that marriage should be indissoluble, how comes it that
Moses commanded (ἐνετείλατο - eneteilato - directs) us to practice divorce, and
prescribed rules as to its conduct? They are referring to Deuteronomy 24:1-2.
Jesus had escaped the trap which was laid for Him, and foiled them by the very
words of Scripture and the plain intention of the first institution. But they see
their way to opposing the authority of the great lawgiver to the dictum and
interpretation of this new Teacher. It cannot be supposed, they argue, that
Moses would enjoin a practice condemned by the Word of God; therefore,
if you abide by your exposition, you contradict Moses. A writing of divorcement.
The man who desired to divorce his wife could not effect this separation by mere
word of mouth or by violent ejectment; he must have a written document formally
prepared and witnessed, necessitating certain delay and publicity. In regulating the
method of divorce and giving rules which prevented it from being undertaken rashly
and lightly, Moses could not justly be said to have commanded it. There were also
two cases in which he absolutely forbade divorce (see Deuteronomy 22:13-19;
Natural Laws and Human Infirmities (vs. 6-7)
The law of marriage must be thought of as fixed for human beings before
the Fall. Natural laws are not fixed in view of man’s willfulness and sin.
They remain natural laws after man has sinned; but their application and
practical working are modified by the new conditions and relations which
sin has introduced. God made man male and female. God designed single
pairs. God proposed lifelong faithfulness of the wedded pairs. There is no
natural provision made for divorce, because such a thing has no place in
the natural order. In the Divine idea human society is based on the mutually
helpful relation in which one man and one woman may stand. INSTABILITY
OF HUMAN SOCIETY comes when the family bond can be easily broken.
The human infirmities which have necessitated modifications of the natural
marriage laws are:
against man’s violence. Natural law makes man and woman equals. They
are different; but their faculties and sympathies are relative, and each is
head in a way. But sin took first shape as masterfulness; and man, the
stronger, took advantage of woman, the weaker, and made her his slave.
There had to be adjustment of law to meet this condition and give due
protection to the weaker one. “But for the possibility of divorce, the wife
would have been the victim of the husband’s tyranny; and law — social law
— which has to deal with facts — not with what ought to be, but with
what is — was compelled to choose between two evils.” Woman’s lot,
even in civilized times, would often be intolerable but for the possibility
and the fear of divorce.
general audience; and yet there is no subject on which wise words are more
pressingly demanded. It is one of the most serious of the mischiefs wrought
by sin, that it has loosened men’s control of bodily passion. And the
mischief is wrought, not in man only, but also in woman. Infidelities make
the continuance of natural relations impossible, though the modification of
law, which permits divorce, makes no attempt to deliver man or woman
from the power of their infirmity.
8 "He saith unto them, Moses because of the hardness of your hearts suffered
you to put away your wives: but from the beginning it was not so." Moses
because of (πρὸς - pros - toward - with a view to, to meet) the hardness of your
hearts; your obstinacy, perverseness. You were not honest and pure enough to
obey the primitive law. There was danger that you would ill treat your wives in
order to get rid of them, or even murder them. The lesser evil was regular divorce.
But the enactment is really a shame and reproach to you, and was occasioned by
grave defects in your character and conduct. And it is not true to say that Moses
commanded; he only suffered you to put away your wives. This was a temporary
permission to meet your then circumstances. Divorce had been practiced commonly
and long; it was traditional; it was seen among all other Oriental peoples. Moses
could not hope at once to eradicate the inveterate evil; he could only modify,
mitigate, and regulate its practice. The rules which he introduced were intended,
not to facilitate divorce, but to lead men better to realize the proper idea of
marriage. And Christ was introducing a better law, a higher morality, for which
From the beginning. The original institution of marriage contained no idea of
divorce; it was no mere civil contract, made by man and dissoluble by man, but
interfere. However novel this view might seem, it was God's own design from the
first. The first instance of polygamy occurs in Genesis 4:19, and is connected with
murder and revenge. (An example of man's sin which led to the Flood - CY - 2017)
9 "And I say unto you, Whosoever shall put away his wife, except it be for
fornication, and shall marry another, committeth adultery: and whoso
marrieth her which is put away doth commit adultery. And I say unto you.
Our Lord here enunciates the law which was to obtain in His kingdom, which,
indeed, was simply the reintroduction and enforcement of the primitive and
natural ordinance. Except it be for fornication; εἰ μὴ ἐπὶ πορνείᾳ - ei mae epi
porneia - if no on prostitution - nisi ob fornicationem (Vulgate). This is the
received reading. Tregelles, Tischendort; Westcott and Hort omit εἰ. The parallel
passage in Mark (where Christ is stated to have made the remark to His disciples
"in the house") omits the clause altogether. Lachmann, following some few
manuscripts, has introduced παρεκτὸς λόγου πορνείας - parektos logou porneias -
saving for the cause of fornication; outside the case of fornication, from ch. 5:32.
The interpretation of this verse has given occasion to acute controversy. There are
some questions that have to be considered in expounding this
(1) What is here meant by πορνεία? Does it bear its usual meaning, or is it equivalent
to μοιχεία - moicheia - adultery? These who affirm that the sin of married persons
is never expressed by the word πορνεία, hold that it here signifies ante-nuptial
unchastity, which would make the marriage void ab initio; post-nuptial
transgression would be punished by death, not by divorce. In this view, our Lord
would say that no divorce is allowable except where the wife is proved to have
been unchaste before marriage. In such a case, the union being void from the first,
the man is free to marry again. But there are difficulties in this interpretation.
Why, at the end of the verse, is it called adultery to marry the divorced woman,
if she was never really and lawfully married? Again, it is not correct to say that
πορνεία denotes solely the sin of unmarried people. All illicit connection is
described by this term, and it cannot be limited to one particular kind of
transgression. In Eccleiasticus 23:23 it is used expressly of the sin of an
adulteress. We may also remark that metaphorically idolatry is often called by
this name, whereas, since
of this bond by the worship of false gods might more strictly be named adultery.
And yet again, there is no proof that the discovery of previous immorality in a
wife did ipso facto vitiate the marriage (see Hosea 1:2, etc.). The passages that are
thought to bear on this matter are Deuteronomy 22:13-21 and Deuteronomy 24:1-4.
In the former there is no question of divorce, - the offender is to be stoned; in the
second passage the ground of divorce is "some uncleanness," or some unseemly
thing, whether immorality or personal defect is meant cannot be decided, the rival
schools taking different sides. But it is quite certain that adultery is not intended,
and ante-nuptial unchastity is not even hinted. The interpretation, therefore, given
above cannot be maintained.
(2) Omitting for the moment the limiting clause, may we say that the general
teaching of Christ makes for the indissolubility of the marriage bond? The majority
of the Fathers from Hermas and Justin Martyr downwards affirm this. Those who
admit that divorce is permissible in the case of the wife's adultery are unanimous
in asserting that, by Christ's ordinance, remarriage is prohibited to the husband
during the culprit's life; so that, practically, if divorce a mensa et toro - divorce
from bed and board - is allowed, divorce a vinculo is refused. The divorce a vinculo
matrimonii is because the marriage was never legal, as in the case of bigamy, or
marriage within the prohibited degrees; but a divorce a mensa et thoro is because
the parties cannot live together from incompatibility of temper, in which case
they may, if they choose, come together again. All Christ's utterances on the
subject, saving the apparently restrictive clause (ch. 5:32) and here, absolutely
and plainly forbid divorce, on the ground of law and nature. The words in Mark 10:11
and Luke 16:18 are given without any limitation whatever. Paul draws from such
his conclusion of the indissolubility of the marriage tie, as may be seen in
this subject had it not been for the
difficulty in interpreting the parenthetical clause.
(3) Are we, then, to suppose that Christ, by those words, modifies His general
statement, and allows absolute divorce in the case of a wife's misconduct? Such is
the view taken by many theologians, and practically endorsed by the civil law of
many countries. Neither the Roman
Ecclesiastical and civil laws are here antagonistic. It is said that Christ allows the
wronged party to marry again. If so, if the oneness of the parties is wholly destroyed
by the sin of the woman, why is it not permitted to a man to marry a divorced woman?
This cannot be called adultery unless she is still one flesh with her husband, although
separated. We must argue from this that divorce in such a case does not destroy the
vinculum matrimonii, the marriage bond, and if not under this circumstance, surely
under no other; for any other ground must be always less serious than adultery. If
the clause in question enunciated an exception to the absolute rule elsewhere given,
Christ would seem to stultify Himself, to give two opposite decisions, and to
introduce uncertainty in a most important verdict. The principle on which He based
His dictum would be overthrown, and His hearers might have accused Him of
inconsistency. The solution offered for this difficulty is this - that Christ is
contemplating merely what we call judicial separation; He considers that no
trivial cause justifies this, in fact, nothing but fornication, and that this modified
divorce does not free the man so that he may marry again; he is bound by the Law
as long as his wife lives. Our Lord seems to have introduced the exceptional clause
in order to answer what were virtually two questions of the Pharisees, viz. whether
it was lawful to "put away a wife for every cause," and whether, when a man had
legally divorced his wife, he might marry again. To the former Christ replies that
separation was allowable only in the case of fornication; in response to the second,
he rules that even in that case remarriage was wholly barred. And whosoever
marrieth her which is put away (ἀπολελυμένην - apolelumenaen - one having
been dismissed -without the article - ); her, when she is put away (Revised Version);
or, a divorced woman. The clause is wholly omitted by א and some other
manuscripts, and some modern editors, as Westcott and Hort. But it has very high
authority in its favor. Alford renders, "her, when divorced," and restricts the
application to a woman unlawfully divorced, not extending it to one separated
for πορνεία. But the language is too indefinite to admit of this interpretation as
certain (see Luke 16:18, and the note on ch. 5:32, where the popular view is
expressed). The clause, pondered without regard to foregone conclusions, surely
contains an argument for the indissolubility of the marriage tie, as we have said
above. Marriage with a divorced wife can be rightly termed adultery only in
consideration of the continuance of the vinculum. Doth commit adultery. The
binding nature of marriage does not depend on the will or the acts of the persons,
but on its primal character and institution. By the repeal of the Mosaic relaxation
and the restoration of marriage to its original principle, Christ not only enforces
the high dignity of this ordinance, but obviates many opportunities of wickedness,
such, for instance, as collusion between husband and wife with a view to obtain
freedom for marriage with others.
Divorce (vs. 3-9)
The readiness with which the marriage tie is dissolved in some countries,
and the daring questions on the subject that have been raised make it important
for us to see clearly how divorce should be regarded in the light of the teachings
of Christ. Plainly He sets His face against any divorce except in the most extreme
case. Let us consider some of the pleas for a laxer rule, and then look at the duty of resisting them.
Ø The happiness of the home. It is urged that some husbands and wives
are hopelessly at variance. Though married outwardly, in soul they are
not wedded at all. They live together as enemies compelled to occupy
the same prison, which a miserable conventionality falsely names home.
Undoubtedly, this may be so. But then happiness is not the chief end of life. Moreover, the immediate relief of freedom would have to be purchased at the cost of an invasion of the settled social order.
Ø The rights of liberty. A more daring position is taken up by those who
claim liberty to dissolve the marriage bond. These people deny that we
have any right to enter into a lifelong contract of marriage; or rather,
they plead that such a contract should be subject to revision.
Christ saw the terrible evils that resulted from great freedom of divorce in
His day, and He distinctly opposed this dangerous license. Let us consider
some of the grave objections to it.
Ø It is contrary to nature. On the surface of it, marriage may seem to be an
artificial arrangement, and absolute freedom the state of nature. But our
Lord pointed out that marriage was instituted at the Creation, and that it
was associated with the very constitution of human life. There is a
higher nature than that of the animal world. There is a certain best arrangement which only those who have intelligence to perceive it and conscience to follow it can enter into. This corresponds to Nature, not
in her lowest instincts, but in her highest aspirations.
Ø It is contrary to the law of God. The arrangement of nature was
supplemented by the word of revelation. In marriage men and women carry out a law that God has revealed. In free divorce they break that
law. This is of no consequence, perhaps, to people who are “emancipated;” but it should be all-authoritative for Christians.
Ø It leads to numberless evils.
o It ruins the home. Discordant sentiments may also ruin it; but they
indicate failure to reach an ideal. Freedom of divorce (in this day and time it is called “no-fault divorce” – CY – 2017) destroys the very
ideal. The home which may be broken up at any moment is no home.
o It is unjust. It cannot always happen that both husband and wife desire
to be separated when one is tired of the union; and if the wish is on one
side only, injustice is done by divorce, and a wrong inflicted. Even if
the divorce cannot be carried out without mutual consent, the one
person who does not wish for it is placed in a cruelly distressful position.
o It lowers the idea of marriage. Instead of studying to make the best
of the marriage union, people who have freedom of divorce are
tempted to be looking abroad for new attractions. This is immoral;
it tends directly to degrade the thoughts, and to throw open the
flood gates of unrestrained desires.
10 "His disciples say unto Him, If the case of the man be so with his wife, it is
not good to marry." His disciples say unto Him. Our Lord appears to have
repeated privately to the disciples what He had said publicly to the Pharisees.
If the case (ἡ αἰτία - hae aitia - the cause) of the man be so with his wife. Some
commentators take αἰτία to signify guilt: "if such guilt appertains to the married
state." But the meaning is plain enough anyway, and the word, as here used,
corresponds to the Latin causa, and the Hebrew dibrah, which may denote "case,"
"condition," etc. The disciples reflect the feeling of their day. Marriage without
any possibility of essential release (for they see that this is Christ's law) seems to
them a severe and unbearable connection. It were better never to marry at all
than to fetter one's self with such an inexorable obligation. Such a doctrine was
entirely novel in that age, and most unpalatable; and even the apostles receive it
with wonder and hesitation. They have not yet learned that in Messiah's kingdom
grace conquers natural inclination, and strengthens the weak will so that it rises
superior to custom, prejudice, and the promptings of the flesh.
11 "But He said unto them, All men cannot receive this saying, save they to
whom it is given." Our Lord makes a gentle reply to this observation of the
disciples concerning the inexpediency of marriage under some circumstances.
You say true, He seems to mean, but all men cannot receive this saying; i.e.
their words, "It is not good to marry." But He endorses these words in a different
signification from theirs. Their objection to marry arose from the impossibility of
putting away a wife for any cause. Christ passes over these ignoble scruples, and
enunciates the only principle which should lead a man to abstain from marriage.
They to whom it is given. They to whom are given the call and the grace to abstain
from marriage. These persons' practice forms an exception to the general view of
the propriety and blessedness of the marriage state.
Varieties in Receptiveness (v. 11)
“All men cannot receive this saying.” It is not quite clear to what the term
“this saying” refers. It may be the rule laid down by our Lord in v. 9. It
may be the exclamation of the disciples in v. 10. It may be that our Lord
refers generally to marriage, and intends to say that the question of
entering into the marriage state is one which each man must settle for
himself, according to natural capacity, material circumstances, and cultured
disposition. It is one thing to give good and wise counsels; it is quite
another thing to receive them and. act upon them. It is easy to say, “It is
good to marry;” but it is not everybody who can receive the saying.
is, in this, a marked distinction between men and women. As a rule, by
nature, women are receptive, and not critical; men are critical, and not
receptive. Sometimes we find the womanly receptiveness in man; but it is a
sign of a weak disposition. Strong men only receive on compulsion.
Receptiveness may hinder rather than help education; and it prevents
activity. He who is satisfied to receive makes little effort to attain. True
education deals with natural receptivity, and is anxious about its effective
limitation. It makes teaching easy, but too easy. He who can only receive
becomes only a crammed storehouse.
receptiveness which we have as an element of our natural disposition may
prove a perilous weakness, the receptiveness which we gain by self-discipline
becomes an effective power in our life. It is a qualifying receptiveness. It is related to the will. It is held in control. The man who is not subject to
influence, who cannot be persuaded, who is as a hard field path into which
no seed can sink, is a manifestly undisciplined man, self-centered,
self-satisfied — a man who can learn nothing, and grow no better.
12 "For there are some eunuchs, which were so born from their mother's womb:
and there are some eunuchs, which were made eunuchs of men: and there be
eunuchs, which have made themselves eunuchs for the kingdom of heaven's sake.
He that is able to receive it, let him receive it." Our Lord proceeds to note three
classes of men to whom it is given to abstain from marriage. There are some eunuchs,
which were so born.
matrimony, or, having the power, lack the inclination. They are compulsorily
continent, and are not voluntary abstainers.
were common enough in the harems and courts of Orientals. The cruel and
infamous treatment which such persons underwent was practiced against
their will, and consequently their continence had no sort of merit.
celibate life: which have made themselves eunuchs for the kingdom of
This is not to be understood of excision; for this would be a contravention of the
order of nature and the good work of creation. Origen, who took the passage
literally, and with his own hands mutilated himself, was justly condemned by the
verdict of the Church. The verb is to be understood in a metaphorical sense of the
mortification of the natural desires and impulses at the cost of much pain and
trouble, the spirit conquering the flesh by the special grace of God. The motive
of such self-denial is high and pure. It is practiced "for the kingdom of heaven's
sake," that is, to be free from distraction and the cares and dangers involved in a
married life. Paul carries forward the Lord's teaching when he writes (I Corinthians
7:32-33), "He that is unmarried is careful for the things of the Lord, how he may
please the Lord; but he that is married is careful for the things of the world, how he
may please his wife" (compare Isaiah 56:3-5). The celibate life, deliberately
embraced for religion's sake, is here approved by Christ, not to the disparagement
of matrimony, but as a counsel which some are enabled to follow to their soul's
great benefit. It may be added that the counsel applies also to married persons
who sacrifice conjugal endearments for spiritual reasons - "have wives as though they
had none" (1 Corinthians 7:29). Let him receive it. This is not an injunction, but a
permission; it is no universal rule, prescribed to all or to the many; it is a special
grace allowed to the few, and by few attained. "Each man," says Paul, "hath his
own gift from God, one after this manner, and another after that" (I Corinthians
7:7, 26). Some think the Essenes are here referred to; but it is not likely that our Lord
would endorse the practices of a sect which in some of its tenets was by no means
commendable. Rather He is laying down a limitation that, while self-sacrifice and
self-dedication to God are acceptable and fraught with peculiar blessings, none
should attempt to win heaven in this way, unless they are specially prepared for
such a life by the grace of God mastering the human will and controlling every
earthly desire. The pre-eminent value set on celibacy by the early Church was
learned from this and similar passages; but Christ institutes no comparison between
the single and married states; and it would have been wiser to imitate His reserve
in estimating the spiritual merits of the two conditions.
The Sanctity of Marriage (vs. 1-12)
Work in Peraea. The Lord hath now
hostility of the Pharisees had driven Him from the province in which at first
He had met with such great success, and which was regarded as His own
He would work while it was day; but He would not expose Himself to
unnecessary danger before the time appointed. Peraea was for a short
season open to Him; it was less overspread by Pharisaic influence than
followed Him, and He healed them there. The Lord is an example of
patience and perseverance; He would not throw up His work in weariness
and disgust, as men too often do when they meet with failure and
opposition. He neglected no opening for work, no opportunity of
preaching the blessed gospel. Oh that we might imitate Him in this as in
Ø The question of the Pharisees. They found Him, even in Peraea; they
followed Him everywhere during the latter part of His ministry with their
ensnaring questions and malicious persecutions. And now they asked, “Is it
lawful for a man to put away his wife forevery, cause?” It was common to
consult great teachers on points of controversy; but this question was not
asked honestly; they were tempting Him, seeking to entangle Him in His talk,
to bring Him into collision with one or other of the two great schools, or
with Herod Antipas himself, the ruler of the country in which they were.
The famous Hillel had taught that divorce was allowable for any cause;
Shammai, that it was lawful only in the case of adultery. Herod was guilty
of shameful violations of the law of marriage, and had murdered the holy
Baptist, who rebuked him for his sin. The Lord had taught the strict view
of marriage in His sermon on the mount; would He dare to maintain the
same doctrine in the dominions of Herod? The Pharisees seemed to ask for
information; they had malice and envy in their hearts. Controversy is full of
danger to the soul; those who are called to engage in it ought to look most
carefully into their own consciences to see that their motives are pure and
Ø The Lord’s answer. He refers them to the Scriptures. “Have ye not
read?” He says, as He had said before. He points to the study of the
Scriptures as the source of religious knowledge. “Have ye not read?” We
ought to be always reading, always learning lessons of Divine truth from
the holy Word of God. He goes back to the original principle of marriage.
“He which made them at the beginning made them male and female.”
They were created for one another. “They twain shall be one flesh .... What
therefore God hath joined together, let not man put asunder.” The wedded
pair are one; the Lord does not say “those which,” but “that which God
hath joined.” They are no longer two, but one flesh, one unity. Man may
not dare to part that which God by matrimony hath made one. So true is
the old saying that marriages are made in heaven. Marriage is an
honourable estate, instituted by God in the time of man’s innocency;
declared by God Himself, speaking through Adam of things which Adam
could know only through Divine inspiration, to be more sacred and binding
even than the love of parent and child, the holiest surely and deepest of all
other forms of human love; ennobled in the New Testament by a yet holier
consecration, so that it becomes the symbol, the representation, of the
mystical union that is between Christ and his Church. Marriage is a very
holy thing, not to be taken in hand lightly and wantonly; not to be dissolved
for any cause, according to the views of these Pharisees of Hillel’s school,
but to be undertaken reverently and in the fear of God, as a bond which is
to unite husband and wife in holy love unto their lives’ end.
Ø The Mosaic rule. The Pharisees were not convinced; they quoted
Deuteronomy against our Lord. Why did Moses, they said, command to
give a bill of divorcement? The Lord first corrected their quotation. Moses
did not command; he permitted. So eager controversialists misquote
Scripture and bend it to their own purpose. (II Peter 3:16) Let us be careful
to deal always truthfully and sincerely with the Word of God. It was true
that Moses permitted divorce; but it had not been so from the beginning; it was permitted by the Law of Moses for temporary reasons, because of the
hardness of the people’s hearts. The Law of Moses was not final; it was
adapted in large measure to the circumstances of the times — to the
manners, capacity, spiritual condition of the Israelites. It was added
because of transgressions; it was a schoolmaster to bring us to Christ.
(Galatians 3:24) The high spiritual requirements of the gospel would not
have been suited to the rude, uncultured natures of the ancient Israelites.
There was need of a long preparation, a preliminary training. Such a training was furnished by the Law. The Law was very high above contemporary
moral teaching; it was imperfect in comparison with the gospel which was to come, but very far in advance of the moral standard prevalent in Gentile countries. The permission of divorce was one of the points in which
allowance had been made for the customs of the time, for the character of
the Israelites. It had not been so from the beginning; it was not intended to remain so. The Lord distinctly forbids divorce, “except it be for fornication.” He does not sanction remarriage even in that case.
Ø Their inference. If it be so, if divorce is allowable only on that one
ground, then, the disciples thought, it is not good to marry — the risk
would be too great, the prospect of happiness too uncertain; better to
remain unmarried than to enter upon a union which could not be dissolved.
They spoke from the Jewish point of view, in accordance with their old
associations and habits of thought. Their objection seems to us very
strange. The fact of their making it shows the immense change which
Christianity has produced in the estimate of marriage.
Ø The Lord’s answer. “Not all can receive this saying.” Some can serve
God best in the married state; some in a single life. Some, like the
apostle Paul, have chosen to live unmarried for the kingdom of
heaven’s sake, that they may have fewer hindrances, more time, more
opportunities for the blessed work of preaching the gospel of Christ. But
the Lord leaves it open for the Christian conscience to determine in each
man’s case whether the married or the single life will serve better to
Ø Marriage is indissoluble; enter upon it discreetly, with serious thought
and earnest prayer.
Ø Marriage is a holy thing; let the husband love his wife as Christ loved his
spouse, the Church.
Ø The Lord raised woman to her proper place; Christians must aim at a
high standard of purity.
Ø The Lord laid the foundation of the sanctity of Christian homes and
Christian family relations; let us cherish His high and holy teaching.
The Ethics of Marriage (vs. 1-12)
Note here a contrast: multitudes following Christ for healing, Pharisees
pursuing Him for mischief. Satan will appear among the sons of God. (Job 2:1)
Jesus turns the contradiction of sinners into instructions for His disciples. Let us
Ø The occasion.
o It was commonly practiced. Josephus recites Deuteronomy 24:1,
that he divorced his own wife because he was not pleased with her manners and behavior
practice had the sanction of scribes. While the
Schammah were strict in their interpretation of the Law, the school
of Hillel were lax.
o The temptation was to embroil Jesus with one or other of these
schools. The plot was similar to that in the question of the tribute
(see ch. 22:15). “In evil things Satan separates the end from the
means; in good things the means from the end” (Philip Henry).
Ø The reply.
o It takes no notice of the scribes. Human authority is nowhere
when put into competition with THE WORD OF GOD!
o He appeals immediately to the Word: “Have ye not read?”
Matrimonial cases are made intricate by leaving the Law of God and following the leading of human passion and folly.
o “He that made them from the beginning made them male and female.”
It is profitable to reflect upon our genesis. Man was created in the image of God, woman after the likeness of man. The true marriage is the union of wisdom and love. One man and one woman, leaving no room for divorce and remarriage, so intimating the perpetual obligation of the marriage tie. This argument is equally conclusive against polygamy.
o “And said” — God said — “For this cause shall a man leave his father and mother, and shall cleave to his wife.” But these words of God were spoken by the lips of Adam (see Genesis 2:23-24). Adam, then, who had no “father and mother,” spake prophetically under
Divine inspiration. Marriage, then, is a sacred, not a mere civil, institution; and NO LEGISLATURE HAS POWER TO ALTER ITS
LAW! The relation between husband and wife is nearer than that between parent and child. If, then, a parent may not abandon his
child, or a child his parent, by so much less may a husband put away
o “And the twain shall become one flesh” — as if one person. What can
be less dissoluble? His children are of him, his wife is as himself. (I
once bought my wife a figurine that said “If two were ever one,
then we!” – CY – 2017) One flesh with his wife, “one spirit with the Lord.” “One flesh,” viz. while in the flesh. “No man ever yet hated his own flesh.” (Ephesians 5:29) “They twain shall be one;” so there must be but one wife (compare Malachi 2:15).
o “What therefore God hath joined together, let not man put asunder.”
But this the scribes had presumed to do. God is the Author of union; man, of division. Man would:
§ sunder soul and body,
§ sin and punishment,
§ holiness and happiness,
§ precept and promise.
(This is quite profound and explains the world today! – CY – 2017)
Ø The concession.
o “Why then did Moses command to give a bill of divorcement?” It is
usual for sinners to justify their conduct by the perversion of Scripture. (II Peter 3:16) The “command” of Moses applied solely to the
manner of the divorce; the thing was permissive simply. A toleration
is strangely converted into a command. (Another nail in the coffin
of “pop culture.” CY – 2017)
o The reason of the toleration was the reverse of creditable to the Jews.
“Moses for your hardness of heart suffered you to put away your wives.” The permission was to prevent the cruelty of vicious husbands
to their wives, which was murderous. The bill of divorcement had to
be drawn and witnesses procured, and afforded time to obviate the effects of sudden impulses of passion. A permission of lesser
evil to prevent greater.
Ø Its repeal.
o This is prefaced by an appeal. “But from the beginning it hath not been
so.” The appeal here is from Deuteronomy to Genesis; so from Moses still to Moses (compare Luke 18:17-18).
o But the relaxation applied only to the Jews, and was conceded to them
in judgment for the hardness of their hearts; for the original was the more excellent way.
o This relaxation is, however, now removed. “I say unto you.” Here is an
authority superior to Moses, equal to God. By Divine authority the law
of marriage is now explicitly stated (see v. 9). Note: The grace of the gospel is superior to that of the Law. The Law considered the hardness
of the heart; the gospel cures it (compare Galatians 3:19).
Ø They viewed it in the light of selfishness. “If the case of a man is so
....it is not good to marry,” (v. 10). God said, “It is not good for man
to be alone” (Genesis 2:18), i.e. unmarried; the disciples, blinded by
the prejudices of their race, said, “It is not good to marry.”
Ø Jesus put it in its true light.
o The principle of expediency is admissible. “All men cannot receive this
saying;” for there are some who are disqualified for marriage, so that
the question for them is settled without their option.
o Others have not the gift of continence. For such celibacy is not
expedient. “It is better to marry than to burn.” (I Corinthians 7:9)
o For those who have this gift celibacy may be expedient in times of
persecution and suffering (ibid. v. 26).
o It is commendable in those who are celibates “for the kingdom of
heaven’s sake,” viz. that they might walk more closely with God,
and be more serviceable to the salvation of men (ibid. v. 32;
Benediction of Little Children (vs. 13-15)
13 "Then were there brought unto Him little children, that He should put His
hands on them, and pray: and the disciples rebuked them." Christ, having laid
His blessing on marriage, now blesses its fruit. Then. This happened directly after
the preceding conversation. Mothers were won to His side by His elevation of
woman to her true position, and His marked tenderness to children. Little children
(παιδία - paidia - little boys and girls). Luke 18:15 calls them τὰ βρέφη - ta brephae -
the babes; their infants. These were babes whom the mothers carried in their arms,
and who were too young to understand the meaning and importance of the act of
Christ in blessing them. It was a custom to take infants to the synagogues, that
they might receive the prayers and blessings of the rabbis, or holy men. For this
reason they were brought to Christ as a holy and revered Teacher. That He should
put His hands on them, and pray. The laying on of hands was symbolical of blessing
Church (Acts 6:5), and continues unto this day to be used on various solemn
occasions. The disciples rebuked them. More definitely in Mark 10:13, "rebuked
those that brought them." Why they did so is not quite obvious. Either they thought
that it was beneath Christ's dignity, and a waste of His precious time to attend to
these babes; or, being still of imperfect faith, they did not realize that any spiritual
good could proceed from the imposition of Christ's hands upon unconscious and
irresponsive infants. They had seen Him cure bodily diseases with a touch, and they
would have welcomed these little ones if they had been brought to be healed of
some obvious maladies; what they could not understand was that these irrational
creatures, not possessed of faith, could be the recipients of Divine blessing. Christ, by
word and action, teaches another lesson. Mark adds that Jesus was "much displeased"
at the disciples' faithless interference. (ibid. v. 14) Luke 18:16 tells us that He
"called them [the babes] unto Him," making His followers desist from their
officious remonstrance, and said "Suffer little children to come unto me, and
forbid them not, for of such is the
which are given almost without variation by the three synoptists. (here, v. 14;
Mark 10:14; Luke 18:16).
The Folk who are Interested in the Children (v. 13)
It is difficult for us to conceive of the good man who does not love
flowers, song, spring time, and children. We might be quite sure that the
“best of men who e’er wore earth about him” loved the children. But in the
East all children are kept in the background; female children are despised
by their fathers, and even male children are in the women’s hands until
quite big. So our Lord’s interest in children seemed new and strange to His
disciples. At this time, His mind was filled with the thought of coming
sorrows, and it was relief and comfort to be made to think of simple,
guileless childhood. If Jesus honored the children, it is also true that the
children comforted Jesus. Beware of exaggeration in representing Christ’s
dealings with children. Very few instances are recorded. On one occasion
He “set a child in the midst” of the disciples; then there is the incident of the
text; and also the “hosannah” of the children at the triumphal entry (ch. 21:15).
Fixing attention on the persons prominent in the incident of the text, see:
Ø Their physical health. Subtle connection between health and character.
Relation of health to success in life. Importance of laying foundations of
health in early years.
Ø Their mental culture. Age of education; danger of overstrain; and of
thinking learning more important than character.
Ø Their social position. So they try to secure for them right companions,
good society, advantageous connections.
Ø Their moral character. This ought to come first. Beginnings of
character and piety are:
disciples, in their conduct on this occasion, may represent all who have
narrow and limited views of the sphere of God and religion. They wanted
these children to run away and play, and not trouble or hinder the Master.
Deal with the once prevailing idea that religion is only the concern of
grown up folk. There has been over pressure of the idea of “conversion.”
There is an unfolding into the service of Christ.
o To come to Him for their own sakes. And “coming to Christ” is simply
this — setting our love upon Him.
o To come to Him for their mothers’ sakes; because, through them, He can
get a gracious influence on the mothers.
o To come to Him for the sake of what He can teach with their help. Bring
out the reproofs and lessons, for the disciples, involved in our Lord’s act.
14 "But Jesus said, Suffer little children, and forbid them not, to come unto me:
for of such is the kingdom of heaven." Suffer [the] little children, and forbid them
not, to come unto me. He speaks as though the infants were ready and eager to come
to Him, if they were not prevented. He thus intimates the truth that, though
incompetent to understand God's blessing, children were not incompetent to
receive it. There was no natural impediment to bar the way. Unconscious intents,
under the Mosaic dispensation, were admitted to the privileges of the Jewish Church
by the rite of circumcision; in Christ's kingdom analogous mercies were to be
extended to them. From this passage has been derived a cogent argument for
infant baptism, because Christ herein showed, not only that tender age and
immaturity of reason put no obstacle in the way of His blessing, but that
children were the standard by which fitness for His kingdom was to be tested.
For of such is the kingdom of heaven. They who would enter Christ's kingdom
must be pure, simple, obedient, as little children (compare ch. 18:3) That is why
He says, "of such," not "of these," intimating that it is not to the age, but to the
disposition and character, that He refers. Some, not so suitably, confine the saying
to such as are dedicated to God in baptism. It is well said that what children now
are is God's work; what they shall be hereafter is their own.
15 "And He laid His hands on them, and departed thence." He laid His hands
on them. He was not influenced by the captious objections of the disciples. Mark
10:16 tells us that "He took them up in His arms, put His hands upon them, and
blessed them." Thus far He complied with the wishes of the parents who brought the
babes to Him. But we do not read that He prayed, as they had asked. Doubtless there
was meaning in this omission. In conferring blessing He was acting in His Divine
nature, and had no need of prayer. Sometimes, indeed, He prayed for the sake of
bystanders (see John 11:42; 12:30); here He prays not, that He may teach a lesson
of His Divinity. Departed thence.
Set out from Peraea, journeying towards
The Little Children (vs. 13-15)
Ø The reason. It seems to have been customary to bring young children
into the synagogues to be blessed by the elders. The Lord was regarded
with reverence as a great Rabbi now in Peraea, as He once had been in
view of marriage which He taught. The frequency of divorce destroyed
the sanctity of the marriage bond, degraded woman, interfered grievously with the true ideal of home and family life. It was
Christianity, or rather it was the Lord Himself, who raised woman to
her proper dignity, who surrounded wedded life with an atmosphere of purity and mutual trustfulness, who gave unto men all the blessed charities, all the pure and holy joys, all that happy discipline of self-denial for the sake of wife, or husband, or children, which consecrate Christian family life, and make the family on earth a place of training and preparation for the family in heaven (Ephesians 3:15). The Lord’s teaching touched the hearts of these Hebrew matrons; they brought their little ones to Him; they wished Him to lay His hands upon them, in token that His blessing should rest upon their lives; they wished Him to pray for them; they were sure that His prayer was holy and effectual. These children were infants, at least some of them (βρέφη – brephae – babes - Luke 18:15). The mothers doubted not, but earnestly believed
that the prayer, the blessing of Christ, would be profitable to those
unconscious infants. So we should bring our little ones to Christ in holy
baptism, in Christian education. Christian mothers can do much — much
that no one else can do so well, for the spiritual good of their children. The
simple teaching of a believing mother, the simple prayers learned from a
mother’s lips, often exert a hallowing influence over a whole life; even if
forgotten for a time among the toils and temptations of the world, they
often return to the memory in later years. Those holy memories are by
God’s grace a powerful help in restoring that childlike spirit which is so
precious in the sight of Christ.
Ø The rebuke of the disciples. The conduct of the disciples seems strange.
They had soon forgotten the
incidents of their last visit to
(ch. 18:1-14). Then the Lord had Himself taken a little child, and,
bringing him into the midst, had made him the subject of His discourse, and had proposed the childlike character as the model for their imitation. One who so loved the little ones, who regarded them with such affectionate interest, who saw in childhood so many beauties, so much
that was precious, would not be likely to repel the children now. But the disciples thought, perhaps, that they were mere infants, unconscious, incapable of learning anything from Christ. They did not suppose that
His touch, His prayer, could benefit babes who could not pray for themselves. They thought that His time should be given to older people, who might gain more from His instructions. Their Master was very great and holy; His lessons were very sacred and precious. It was not right,
they thought, to waste the time that was so valuable by claiming His attentions for these helpless infants. Such things seemed beneath His dignity, unworthy of His regard. And they rebuked those who had
brought the children.
Ø His reproof of the disciples. “He was much displeased,” Mark 10:14
tells us; He blamed those who would have kept the little ones from Him.
The apostles were displeased with the mothers who brought the little ones to Christ; the Lord was displeased with the apostles themselves. It was a true spiritual instinct that prompted these Hebrew mothers; they were right, the apostles were wrong. The apostles had yet to learn those deep lessons of true Christian lowliness and true Christian sympathy with the young and simple and ignorant which only Christ can teach. Sometimes the ignorant feel instinctively what is right when the more instructed are led astray by prejudices or pride. Sometimes, it may be, the Lord is much displeased with us when we think that we are acting for His honor. Let us watch carefully over our motives, remembering always that His eye is
ever on us, and that no secrets of the heart are hidden FROM HIM!
Ø His words. “Suffer little children.” The Lord had used the same words
when He came unto John to be baptized of Him, “Suffer it to be so now.”
(ch. 3:15) As John then obeyed the voice of Christ, and “suffered Him;” (ibid.) so Christ bids His disciples to “suffer little children, and forbid them not, to come unto me.” (v. 14) Christians must not keep them back, they must not rebuke those who bring them; for the little ones are very dear to Christ; He cares for them all; the Father cares for them: “It is
not the will of your Father which is in heaven that one of these little ones should perish.” (ch. 18:14) We must bring them to Christ in their infancy, dedicating them to Him in holy baptism, asking Him to embrace them with the arms of His mercy, to put His hands upon them and bless them. We must bring them to Him in prayer, praying for them ourselves, as the poor father prayed for the lunatic boy, teaching them to lift up their own childlike hearts to God as soon as their lips can utter the words of prayer. We must bring them to Christ by the training of a Christian home, by holy example; carefully avoiding the danger of laying a stumbling block in the way of the little ones by any word or deed of ours.
The responsibilities under which we lie towards the children of our families should be a strong additional motive for the cultivation of holiness. We must bring them to Christ by a Christian education, giving them that inestimable privilege which Timothy had received from his grandmother Lois and his mother Eunice — the knowledge of the Holy Scriptures from childhood — from infancy (ἀπὸ βρέφους – apo
brephous – from a babe - II Timothy 3:15). The Lord is pleased with
those who thus bring the little ones to Him; He is displeased
with those who would keep them from Him; for, He saith, of such is the
kingdom of heaven. (v. 14) The kingdom of heaven belongs to them,
as it belongs to the poor in spirit, and to those who are persecuted for righteousness’ sake. (ch. 5:3,10) The kingdom of heaven is theirs; they
are by the gift of God entitled
to its privileges. Surely, then, they will be received into the kingdom of
glory if they are taken hence in the comparative innocence of childhood. We cannot doubt but that He who said, “Suffer
the little children, and forbid them not, to come unto me” (v. 14) will
gather the lambs into His bosom in the
Father. The kingdom is theirs, but not theirs only. “Of such is the kingdom of heaven.” (ibid.) The childlike in heart are true children of
the kingdom; they receive the
like the little ones; they are truthful, unaffected, real. Let us seek for
that childlike simplicity and transparency of heart; let us pray, let us strive after it. It is the character of Christ’s chosen, His beloved. “He
laid his hands on them, and departed thence.” (v. 15) He gave the desired blessing: “He took them up in His arms, laid His hands
upon them, and blessed them.” (Mark 10:16) Happy children!
Happy those who by the grace of Christ and the cleansing, quickening
power of His Spirit, retain, or recover, the freshness, the simplicity, the
comparative purity, of childhood!
Ø Imitate the Peraean parents; bring the little ones to Christ.
Ø Let none dare to despise children; the Lord cares for them and loves
Ø Teach them at home, in Sunday schools; the Lord is pleased with
those who help to train them for Him.
Christ Blessing Little Children (vs. 13-15)
This incident, familiar to us from our childhood, not only throws light on
the character of our Lord and His interest in child life. It reveals something
in all who took part in it.
deeply significant, because it closely connects this paragraph with that
which precedes. Jesus had been vindicating the sanctity of marriage. The
degenerate Jews had come to regard the subject too much, if not
exclusively, in regard to the relations of man and wife. Here we see its
bearings on the great and wonderful fact of motherhood. Marriage should
be protected for the sake of the children. (I wonder what per cent of
abortions are due to illegitimacy? – CY – 2017) True parents do not live
chiefly for their own happiness. They live for their children. The unselfish
love of motherhood is one of the most striking facts in nature. It softens the tigress when she is playing with her cubs; it gives ferocity to the hen when she
is protecting her chickens. Now mothers, naturally yearning for the good of
their children, can do nothing better for the little ones than to bring them to
Christ, and train them for Him. Yet some parents, who study the bodily
health of their children with deepest solicitude, scarcely give a thought to
their souls’ welfare.
Ø Obedience. The children came at their mothers’ bidding. Obedience to
parents is the root of obedience to God.
Ø A perception of the attractiveness of Christ. Obedience would bring the
children with their mothers. But more was wanted to induce them to go up
to Christ and permit Him to take them in His arms. There are some people
who only terrify children, although they try to coax them into favor.
Jesus, however, was evidently one who won children by His own
gentleness, kindness, and childlikeness. Pharisees were uncomfortable in
His presence, but children were quite at home.
Ø For Christ’s sake. They would not have Him troubled. They wished to
serve Christ, but they did not understand His mind; therefore they
blundered. We must know His will and do it, if we would serve Him
Ø For their own sakes. They would keep Christ to themselves. The advent
of these mothers and children interrupted a discussion which was very
interesting to them. But Christ preferred to turn from a subject which was
distressing to Him to the innocent simplicity of the little children. Further
o Children will come to Christ if we will suffer them. It is our part to
remove every hindrance from their approach to Him.
o All children need Christ’s blessing.
o Very young children are old enough to receive it.
their mothers. This well known incident reveals Him to us in His most
Ø Love of children. We should give the children a good place in our
arrangements for Christian work, if we would please our Lord, who is
Ø Childlikeness. Jesus is drawn to the children by a natural affinity.
Ø Gracious kindness. He blesses the children. This He does with personal
touch, Hutting His hands upon them. Christ will take trouble to help and
The Children, of the Kingdom (vs. 13-15)
Here we have the kingdom of heaven, its children, and its King.
Ø This is a name for the invisible Church of God.
o It exists throughout the universe, comprising the “whole family”
of God at once in heaven and on earth (see Ephesians 3:15). The headquarters and enrolment are in heaven (see Hebrews 12:23).
o It is the one Church of all the ages. It comprises the aristocracy of
every dispensation. Christians from all climes sit down in the
Ø This is also a name for the collective Christian Church.
this restricted sense it does not include the
seventy disciples speak of it as future to them (see ch. 3:2; 4:17; 10:7).
o The gospel dispensation is the kingdom of heaven as bringing heaven
near to us. Christ is “the Lord from heaven.” The spirit of the gospel is the very spirit of heaven. It brings us also near to heaven. We are spiritually risen with Christ, and sit with Him in heavenly places.
Ø These are the disciples who are childlike.
o Those who are without this resemblance have no place in this kingdom
(see ch. 18:1-4).
o In the innocence and simplicity of childhood we see in outline what a
man will become when born again and created anew.
Ø These are also little children proper.
o Such were the “little children” brought to Christ. They were “brought,”
viz. by their parents. They were so “little” that Jesus “took them into
His arms” (see Mark 10:16). They are described as “babes” (see
He received as belonging to the
be no good reason in rebuking the disciples for forbidding such little children to come to Him, because childlike grown persons had a right
to admission into the kingdom.
o This blessedly disposes of the dreadful doctrine of non-elect infants’
damnation. The parents in this case were in some sense believers in Jesus, else they would not have brought their children to receive His blessing. Yet His grace comes to all infants through his relation to
them as the second Adam (see Romans 5:14-15; I Corinthians 15:22). Christ loves little children, because He loves simplicity and innocence.
o The prominent place infants have in the gospel is in keeping with
the incarnation of innocence itself in the infant Saviour.
Ø Jesus is present to welcome the little ones.
Ø Present to rebuke those who would keep them from Him.
o He who had recently defended the rights of marriage (vs. 3-12) now
defends those of children. In rebuking His disciples He commended
Ø He is there to bless them.
o The little ones were brought to Jesus expressly for this purpose. The
Jews to this day bring their young children to their rabbis for their blessing. The custom seems to have been very ancient (compare
Genesis 48:14, 20).
o Jesus is not said to have prayed, as he was asked to do (v. 13);
probably because those who asked Him had no knowledge of
His Oneness with the Father.
o But it is recorded that He “blessed them” (see Mark 10:16). Little
children, then, are capable of receiving blessing from Christ.
o Let us humble ourselves to the simplicity of the child that we also
may receive the blessing of the Lord.
Answer to the Inquiry of the Rich Young Ruler concerning Eternal Life
16 "And, behold, one came and said unto Him, Good Master, what good thing shall
I do, that I may have eternal life?" And, behold. The exclamation, as usual, denotes
the suddenness and unexpected nature of the occurrence. It took place probably on the
next day after the blessing of the children. One came (εϊς προσελθών - heis proselthon -
one approaching). This is more emphatic than the enclitic τις, and we learn from Luke
that he was "a ruler," i.e. of the synagogue, and he must have been of noted piety and
worth to have arrived at this dignity while still a youth (v. 22). Mark 10:17 gives more
details - he "came running, and kneeled to Him." He was eager for an answer to his
question, and recognized in Jesus a Rabbi worthy of all honor and veneration, though
he saw in Him nothing more. He comes with no sinister intention, as the Pharisees
did, but in all good faith, hoping to have a religious difficulty solved. Good Master.
Thus the received text in the three synoptists. The epithet "good" is omitted by
many excellent manuscripts, and has been expunged by most modern editors.
It is required if the received text of the next verse is retained. It occurs in Mark
and Luke without variation. The young man may have used the expression with
the view of winning Christ's favor, or, at any rate, with the idea of showing
the light in which he regarded Him. What good thing shall I do, that I may
have eternal life? His notion was that eternal happiness was obtained by the
performance of certain acts, and he is not sure that he has done enough for
the reward, and wishes to know particularly what further good work will
secure it. The other synoptists have merely, "What shall I do?" but of course,
"good work"is implied, if not expressed. This was a question much mooted
in the rabbinical schools, and one to which the answers were as various as
they were childish. Some taught that the commandments were not equally
important, and that what they deemed the lesser might be violated with
impunity, if the others were observed. Some made the gift of perfection
to depend on the daily recitation of certain prayers or psalms, others on
giving due honor to the aged. Amid such perplexing rules, the youth desires
an authoritative decision, which he may put in practice, and thus be sure of a
happy place in Messiah's kingdom - be, as the Jews termed it, "a son of the
age to come."
The Ruler’s Mistakes (v. 16)
The assumption that this ruler was a youth has no foundation. The man
could not have been a ruler if he had been a youth. He must have been in
what we should call the prime of life; but he evidently retained something
of the impetuousness of youth. His mistakes suggest the impulsive
temperament, that readily yields to emotion, and is wont to act before it
thinks. Our Lord skillfully dealt with individuals. “He needed not that any
should testify of man; for He knew what was in man.” (John 2:25) He was
“a discerner of the thoughts and intents of the heart.” (Hebrews 4:12) In the
ruler’s abrupt and impulsive question we may trace three forms of mistake.
and yet he had no adequate ideas concerning goodness. If he had really
meant anything worth meaning, he would have recognized in Christ the
infinitely Good One, the Son of God; for none is good save God. This
mistake Jesus corrected in two ways.
Ø By reference to God. “None is good save one, that is, God.” You do
not call God good because He does good, but because HE IS GOOD!
Ø By a severe and searching test, which reveals to the man the
imperfectness of his own goodness. He would never be able to get
right ideas of God or Christ from himself.
He thought he was good; and he thought he could do good, if only he was
told what to do. Jesus showed him a good thing that he could not do; and
so set his conscience suggesting, that perhaps he was not as good as he had
thought. We may think ourselves good while we arrange the forms that our
goodness shall take; but we may learn our mistake when God arranges the
forms for us. The question betrays the man’s self-righteous spirit. He is
indirectly paying a compliment to himself — to his own goodness; or, at
any rate, to human goodness, that idol which he worshipped with his whole
provided for in all that concerned this life, he wanted to be as safely and as
well off in the next life. He would inherit eternal life; he would have it as
something coming to him; he wanted as much right to it as he had to his
worldly possessions. How much he had to learn! A man’s life here
“consisteth not in the abundance of the things he possesses.” (Luke
112:15) A man’s wealth is his character; that is true of this life, but much
more true of the life to come.
17 "And He said unto him, Why callest thou me good? there is none good but
one, that is, God: but if thou wilt enter into life, keep the commandments."
Why callest thou me good? Such is the reading of the received text here, and without
any variation in the parallel passages of Mark and Luke. Our Lord takes the ruler to
task for applying this epithet to Him. unless the youth believed in His Divinity.
You think of me only as a learned Teacher: how, then, can you speak of me in a
term which can really be predicated of no child of man? Christ answers the ruler's
address before He touches the subject of his interrogation, reproving him for using
a form of words without realizing its full import. This is all plain enough; but
many good manuscripts, including א B, D, etc., Vulgate, and other versions, read,
Why askest thou me concerning the good? Most modern editors and the Revised
Version have adopted this reading, which they hold to be genuine, and to have
been altered subsequently in order to conform it to the other synoptists. If this
is so, it is difficult to see whence Mark and Luke obtained their wording, unless,
which is improbable, our Lord used both interrogations on the same occasion. The
revised reading expresses Christ's astonishment at having this question asked; and
it may be taken, as Bengel suggests, "He who is good ought to be interrogated
about the good;" or, "What is right to do, you ought to know; it can only be
obedience to the Author of all goodness." There is none good but one, that is, God.
Here again the reading varies. The other synoptists agree with the received text of
Matthew, except that Luke has εῖς Θεὸς – heis Theos – One God - instead of εῖς Θεός.
Late editors, following א, B, D, etc., have printed, εῖς ἐστὶν ὁ ἀγαθός – heis estin ho
agathos - one there is who is good, or one is the good. GOD ALONE is the absolutely
good; He alone can instruct you and put you certainly in the right way. Persons have
been found to argue from this sentence that Christ renounces all claim to be God
Almighty. But it is not so. He replies to what was in the young man's mind. The
ruler regarded Jesus as man only; Jesus intimates that, in comparison with God,
no man is good. He does not deny the applicability of the epithet to Himself, but
turns the questioner's thoughts to THE SOURCE OF ALL GOOD! He will not
have Himself regarded simply as a pre-eminently good man, but as Son of God,
ONE WITH THE FATHER. If thou wilt (θέλεις – theleis - willest to; you are
willing) enter into life; i.e. enjoy eternal life. Christ uses a term equivalent to
that of the ruler in v. 16. So Christ said on another occasion to a lawyer who
tempted Him. "This do, and thou shalt live" (Luke 10:28). There is no real life
without obedience. Keep the commandments of Him who is good. The Law was
given to prepare men to receive Christianity, and in proportion as they carefully
observed it, so were they made ready to inherit the life which Christ gives. No mere
external compliance without faith is here approved, but it is laid down that, in order
to win eternal life, there must be strict observance of God's laws - not some one
extraordinary performance, but constant attention to known duties from the highest
motive. Faith, indeed, is belief in action, and is dead and profitless if inoperative; so
that true obedience is the outcome of true faith.
18 “He saith unto him, Which? Jesus said, Thou shalt do no murder, Thou shalt
not commit adultery, Thou shalt not steal, Thou shalt not bear false witness,”
Which (ποίας – poias)? Christ's answer was disappointing to the inquirer; it was too
vague and general to satisfy his thought. He expected to hear (as the rabbis taught)
of some special precept or precepts, difficult of accomplishment, and not usually
regarded, by observance of which he could obtain his great reward. So he asks with
laudable persistence, "Of what sort are these commandments which I have to obey?"
He is far from thinking of the common duties of the Decalogue, though doubtless he
had been taught that these varied greatly in meritoriousness. Christ, in reply, notifies,
as examples, the chief enactments of what we call the second table of the Decalogue,
quoting the sixth, seventh,eighth, ninth, and fifth. He enunciates nothing uncommon,
nothing new; and, by prefixing the definite article τὸ - to – the - to the enumeration,
He makes the whole a substantial unity, comprising the moral law of duty to one's
neighbor. Perhaps Christ confines His list to the second table in order to make the
man feel his imperfection in these ordinary matters, or to bring out his self-righteous
spirit. There could be no doubt that infringement of the first table involved the loss
of eternal life. V. 17 virtually includes the spirit of this table. It was round these
last six commandments chiefly that rabbinical traditions and interpretations had
gathered, so that their plain meaning was obscured or depraved. Whoever
observed the second table in spirit and truth, kept also the first (Romans 13:9-10);
and it is easier to love one's neighbor than to love God, as the apostle witnesses
(see I John 4:20); and without love of our neighbor there cannot be true love of God.
19 “Honour thy father and thy mother: and, Thou shalt love thy neighbor as
thyself.” Honor, etc. Lange considers that in this verse we have a summary of the
two tables, "Honor thy father and mother," summing up the commandments of the
first; and "Thou shalt love thy neighbour as thyself," those of the second (Leviticus
19:18). Thou shalt love thy neighbor as thyself. Mark and Luke omit this clause;
the latter adds, "Defraud not." According to our text, Christ gives four negative
and two positive commands: the last being a summary taken from Leviticus 19:18
omits the tenth commandment (as we call it) from the catalogue. Virtually He
introduces it in v. 21; but He may have refrained from formally mentioning it
because covetousness was the ruler's besetting sin, and the marked omission of
this precept might force the man to reflect upon this failing, which would wreck
his spiritual life. On the other hand, it may be that Christ is not intending to give
an epitome of man's duty; but affording merely an outline of the same, He
naturally passes over some portion without special mention.
Right Attitude towards Parents (v. 19)
“Honour thy father and thy mother.” It is significant that the old Law did
not say, “Obey thy father and mother,” or even “Love thy father and
mother.” Perhaps we are intended to see that obeying and loving have no
will necessarily in them. We obey in simple yielding to the force that
commands; we love our parents in the animal sort of way that characterizes
all young creatures. “Honour thy father” suggests active intelligence,
careful estimates, operative will, personal decision. Reverence, and show
reverence for, thy father, both because he is thy father, and because of
what he is in his fatherliness.
MORALS AND RELIGION. Our father and mother represent the power
above us that we first know. We know parents before we know God. And
we know God through our parents. He begins life with an almost
overwhelming disability who has parents whom he cannot “honour.”
Ø Cherishing high thoughts concerning. To a child, father and mother
ought to be embodiments of all excellence.
Ø Loving dependence on. The confidence that the goodness will be
adequate to all emergencies.
Ø Perfect response to. Involving the putting of the parents’ will before the
Ø Tender care of. Expressed in all thoughtful and self-denying attentions.
It may be shown how this attitude prepares the child to gain RIGHT
THOUGHTS OF GOD who should be to us our glorified, idealized
father and mother; not father only, not mother only, but a Being
realizing in Himself the perfections of both.
OBEDIENCE INSPIRED BY FEELING. Obedience is not just one thing.
It is various, according to the motive inspiring it. We should obey our
Master from a sense of duty, whether he be gentle or froward, and whether
we like to obey or not. But obedience to parents belongs to a higher type
of obedience. It is prompted by feeling: it is inspired by love. And it is
through the obedience of our parents that we learn TRUE OBEDIENCE
20 “The young man saith unto Him, All these things have I kept from my youth
up: what lack I yet? All these things have I kept [from my youth up]. The bracketed
words are omitted in some good manuscripts, and by most modern editors; but they
have high authority, and are found in most versions, and in the parallel passages of
Mark and Luke. They accurately express the ruler's view of his conduct. He could
say without hesitation or mental reservation that he had scrupulously observed the
duties of the Decalogue from the time that he knew right from wrong. Of course,
we accuse one who could make such a statement of self-righteousness, of ignorance
of the spirit of the Law which he claimed to have obeyed; and if one of us spoke
thus presumptuously, we should rightly condemn him; we should say that outward
service and legal notions of duty were of little worth, and could not secure
eternal life. But our Lord treated the young man differently. He did not blame him
as boastful and self-deceiving; He had no reproof for his seemingly presumptuous
assertion; He recognized his simplicity, honesty, and sincerity, and Mark tells us
that "Jesus beholding [looking upon, or into] him, loved him." (Mark 10:21)
He read the youth's heart, saw how pure and guileless it was, recognized in him
the possibility of great things, and that he was worthy of the saintly life. The ruler
felt that there was more to come; hence he asks, What lack I yet? Τί ἔτι ὑστερῶ\ -
Ti epi hustero – what still am I wanting; in what respect am I still deficient?
How do I come short of eternal life? He had still a sense of want. All that he
had done had not given him peace of mind. Hence his inquiry. From a Christian
the question would savor of ignorance and unspirituality; but this man asked it
in all sincerity, desiring earnestly to know what more was required of him, and
being ready, as he thought, to undergo any pain, make any, even the most painful
effort, if by so doing he might win the prize on which his soul was set.
The Rich Young Man (v. 20)
“What lack I yet?” Plainly the young man who put this question was in
earnest. He was not one of those who approached Jesus merely from
curiosity, or for the sake of measuring themselves with this renowned
Dialectician and Teacher. With him the search for life eternal was an
important personal matter. He went away sorrowful, with no heart to
prolong the conversation, as soon as his own case was pronounced upon.
Probably he had an idea that our Lord would recommend him to build a
synagogue, or ransom some of his countrymen who were slaves, or do
some striking religious act. For when our Lord replies, “Keep the
commandments,” he asks, “What commandments?” — fancying he might
refer to some rules for the attainment of extraordinary saintliness not
divulged to the common people. And so, when Jesus merely repeated the
time-worn Decalogue, the young man was disappointed, and impatiently
exclaimed, “All these have I kept from my youth up,” not so much
vaunting his blamelessness of life as indicating that he had had these
commandments in view all his life, and that to refer him to them was to
give him no satisfaction. All the help they could give he had already got.
“What lack I yet?” He belonged to the “Tell-me-something-more-to-do and-
I-will do-it” class of Pharisees. He thought he was ready to make any
sacrifice, or do any great thing which would advance his spiritual interests.
MISAPPREHEND HIS OWN SPIRITUAL ATTAINMENT. It was
natural this young man should over-estimate himself. He was not only well
disposed, very much the model of what a rich young man should be, but
was interested in religion, as too few wealthy young men are. He was
generally esteemed, and had already become a ruler of the synagogue. He
came to Jesus, not to be taught the rudiments, but to receive the finishing
touches of a religious character — and he is told he is wrong to the
foundation. He is in the position of a person who goes to his medical
adviser complaining of a slight uneasiness which he supposes a tonic will
remove, and is told that he has heart disease or cancer. Or he is in the
position of a sanguine inventor, who has spent years on the elaboration of a
machine, and at last puts it into the hands of the practical man, merely to
get steam applied and the fittings adjusted, and is told by the practical man
that the whole thing is wrong in conception, and can by no possibility ever
be made to work. He sees himself as he never saw himself before. He never
knew how much he loved his money till he found he would risk his soul
rather than part with his money. He never knew how little he cared for the
poor till he found he was not prepared to help them by becoming one of
them. He never dreamed he was ungodly till he found he preferred his few
acres of land to that Person whom he had confessed to be Incarnate
BUT HIS WILLINGNESS TO ATTAIN. This young man fancied he
would welcome any light upon duty. He thought himself willing to do
anything that would advance his spiritual condition. He finds he is by no
means willing. Thousands are in this state. “Give us,” they would say,
“something tangible to do, and we will do it; but religion seems always so
much in the clouds, we do not know where to begin.” Put present duty to
such persons in an attainable form, and it is not always so welcome as they
expected. Tell them that to be holy is, in their case, to say ten words of
apology to some one they have injured, to set apart some fixed time daily
for thought and prayer, to abandon some indulgence, or spend money for a
relative; and they turn sullenly away, like this young man.
THERE MAY BE A SACRIFICE EQUIVALENT TO CUTTING OFF A
RIGHT HAND OR PLUCKING OUT A RIGHT EYE. This young man
was plainly told that, in order to attain life eternal, he must abandon his
pleasant home, his position in society, all his comforts and prospects, and
become a poor wanderer. It seems a hard demand to make of a well-
intentioned youth. But it was no doubt justified by his state. Riches are not
the only hindrance to attainment, and we may ourselves be in need of
treatment as sharp. To begin the world with a penny would be no great
trial to some of us; it would, indeed, be precisely what some of us are
already doing; and there are probably few who would not gladly sell all
they have if the price would buy perfection of character and life everlasting.
But it is no such bargain our Lord means. He merely means that to us, as
to this young man, salvation is impossible IF IT BE NOT THE FIRST
THING! This young man’s possessions happened to be that which prevented
him from following Christ; but some pursuit of ours, or some cherished
intention, or some evil habit, or mere indifference, may be as effectually preventing us from holding true fellowship with Him and becoming like Him. And discipline as penetrating and sore may in our case be required.
PERFECTION, IS THE FOLLOWING OF CHRIST. This young man
respected Christ, and was no doubt willing to do much to please Him. He
would probably have given up half his possessions, but he could not give
up all for Christ. He did not scoff or argue: he “went away sorrowful,”
feeling that the demand of Christ was reasonable, and that by not
responding to it he was condemned. But he had not love enough to obey.
It is not our judgment, but our affections, our real tastes and likings, which
make us what we are, and determine where we shall ultimately be. Love to
Christ, which will compel us to cleave to Him in preference to all else, —
that alone is security that we shall reach perfection. This is the answer to
the question which we all ask, “What lack I yet? What is it that prevents
me from becoming a purer, stronger, holier, more useful man than I am?
I desire growth, and I pray for it; but still it is chiefly my natural propensities
that appear in my life. I do not seem to get the help promised; I do not
make the growth required. Why is this? What is it that always keeps me at
the same point? What is it that always thwarts and baffles me?” Radically,
it is the lack of DEEP and GENUINE DEVOTION TO CHRIST!
DETERMINATION TO BE HOLY. It is in religion, in growth of
character, as in other things, we succeed when we are determined to
succeed; we fail when this determination is wanting. In certain physical
and mental attainments, indeed, determination carries no efficacy. No
amount of determination will make you as tall as some other man, or as
long sighted, or as imaginative, or as witty. But to determine to be holy
(which is in the ability of every man, woman or child – CY – 2017)
is already to be holy in will, that is, in the spring of all amendment of
character and conduct. Determination is everything, on the human side, in
the matter of sanctification. It is needless, therefore, seeking for mysterious
causes of failure, if this first and last requisite be lacking. Are you
determined to be holy? Are you bent upon this? Because if you are not
determined, common sense should forbid you to wonder why you do not
grow in character. If you are not determined to be holy, the very root of
the matter is still lacking in you.
ATTAINMENTS USELESS. One mistake spoils a whole calculation. One disease is enough to kill a man; his brain may be sound, his lungs untouched,
all his organs but one may be healthy; but if one vital organ be attacked, all the other healthy organs will not save him. So it is in character. One vice destroys
the whole, if a man is malicious, it does not avail that he is temperate. If his
heart is set on the world, attention to religion or domestic virtue will not save
him. Many do cultivate all points but one. How often do we say, “What a pity
so good a man should give way in this or that one respect!” So may it be said
by others of ourselves. To some this question, “What lack I yet?” may come
with a tone of irony. “What lack I?” we are tempted to say, “What have I,
rather, that is not stained with sin, spotted by the world, unsafe, unproductive? When shall the time come when I shall be able in sincerity to say, ‘What lack I
yet?’ when so much good shall have been achieved by me that I shall be at
a loss to see whether further attainment is possible? My youth was very
different from this young man’s. Instead of the ingenuousness, the
unbroken hope and ardent aspiration of youth, there was its passion, its
untamed desires, its selfish love of pleasure, its impatience, its folly.” There
is, at least, the same choice now laid before you that was laid before him.
To YOU Jesus says, “Follow me.” He will infallibly lead you to perfection;
He sees to it that every one who forsakes aught for His sake receives in this
life a hundredfold, and in the world to come LIFE EVERLASTING!
21 “Jesus said unto him, If thou wilt be perfect, go and sell that thou hast, and give
to the poor, and thou shalt have treasure in heaven: and come and follow me.
If thou wilt (θέλεις – theleis – you are willing) be perfect. I believe what you tell me.
You have led a religious life in the ordinary way; now you aspire to higher things;
you have a noble ambition to serve God more completely; you have the power, if
you have the will, to do so; I will tell you how. To be "perfect" is to be lacking in
nothing that is required for life eternal. It is spoken of Noah and Job; it is required
of Christ's disciples (ch.5:48). Christ is here giving a counsel of perfection, as it is
called, not of obligation on all men, but suited to the idiosyncrasy of this particular
inquirer, and of others who are capable of such absolute self-surrender and
trustfulness. Go and sell that thou hast. Go back to thy home, and sell all thy
substance, all thy possessions. This was the counsel which Jesus gave, denoting
the stumbling block which lay in the way of the ruler's endeavors after perfection.
He was voluntarily to deprive himself of the earthly thing to which he fondly clung,
his wealth, and to embrace a life of poverty and hardship. Give to the poor. The
money obtained by the sale of his possessions he was to distribute, not to relations
and friends, who might make some return, but to the poor, from whom he could
Thou shalt obtain that which thou desirest, eternal life. Not that stripping one's
self of goods and giving to the poor does necessarily ensure the great reward,
but, in this youth's case, such a sacrifice, such a victory over the besetting sin,
would be the turning point in his character, and enable him to conquer all lesser
temptations, and win the prize of his high calling. Here was to be proved love of
man. But there was one more element in the required perfection, viz. love of God.
Come and follow me. Mark 10:21 adds, "take up the cross." If he would have
apostolic perfection, he must embrace the apostolic life. He must give up wealth,
position, earthly ties, earthly occupations, must cast in his lot with the despised
Jesus, suffer with Him, and, if necessary, die with Him. The twelve apostles had
accepted Christ's call on these terms; from him was demanded the same sacrifice
the same test of sincerity. He had wished to be exceptionally good; exceptional
conduct was required from him in order to reach this high standard. The condition
imposed, severe as it undoubtedly was, exactly suited the case, showed the weak
spot in the ruler's character, and, if accepted fully and heartily, would have led
him to perfection. Reading these words of our Lord, St. Anthony was so stricken
in heart and conscience that he obeyed them literally, stripped himself of
everything that he had, distributed to the needy, and went forth poor and naked,
trusting to God to provide for him. Many in all ages, inspired by ardent love of
life eternal, have done the same. We shall do well to recognize that there are two
ways of serving God acceptably - there is the good life required from all religious
Christians, and there is the life of perfection to which some, by God's special
grace, are called, and which they embrace and fulfill. It was the latter life that
Christ put before this young man.
22 “But when the young man heard that saying, he went away sorrowful:
for he had great possessions.” When the young man heard that saying. Such an
injunction was wholly unexpected; it completely staggered him; it appealed to the
one point in his character which was weak and imperfect. He would have endured
any amount of legal requirements or of vexatious and painful observances; he would
gladly have become a disciple of Christ; but the previous sacrifice was too great;
he could not make it; not that he was specially covetous or avaricious, but his heart
was set on his riches; he had a wealthy man's tastes and position and self-confidence,
and he could not bring himself to cast away these even at Christ's word. Such
supreme self-denial, such absolute devotion, he would not embrace. So he went
away sorrowful. He saw the right road, but he turned away from it. Without any
further word, casting aside all hope of the saintly life, yet grieved and dejected at
the thought of what he was losing, he returned to his home. It was hard to disobey
the wise and loving Teacher who had endeavored to lead him to the noblest aims
and the highest ambition; but it was harder to follow His severe counsels. The
evangelist gives the reason of this unhappy decision. For he had great possessions;
η΅ν γὰρ ἔχων κτήματα πολλά - aen gar echon ktaemata polla – he was for having
acquisitions many - erat enim habens multas possessiones; he was one that had
many possessions, or had and continued to have, implying possession and retention.
This fact was the snare that trapped him, the stumbling block over which he fell.
The possession of riches proved fatal to saintliness. It is this truth that our Lord
emphasizes in the following discourse. They who are unconscious of having been
tried as this young man was tried may condemn him as worldly, covetous, and
insincere. A true Christian, who knows his own heart, may well feel that he can
throw no stone at this defaulter; that he, any more than the Jew, could not give
up all that he held dear for Christ's sake; that, had the alternative been set before
him in this blunt, palpable fashion, he too would have gone away sorrowful.
The Great Refusal (vs. 16-22)
The young man who won the love of Christ by his ardor and enthusiasm,
and who grieved our Lord by his refusal to make an unexpected sacrifice,
stands before us in vivid portraiture — an example, and yet a warning. Let
us consider the successive traits of his character revealed by his conduct.
before him; it is more for him to choose a worthy pursuit. Of all personal
things the young ruler chose the very best. He had wealth, but that did not
satisfy him. He had the means of acquiring pleasure; but he rose above the
idea of making worldly amusement the end and aim of existence. He craved
the life of God, which is eternal. Surely we may imitate him in this.
Moreover, he did well in inquiring of Christ. Jesus is the Way to life, and
we can find its
source in Him, as He told the woman of
Thomas (John 4:14; 14:6). It is right to come to Christ for this boon.
Jesus takes up the phrase at once, and asks what it means. This was no act
of captious criticism. The young man did not really know the deep
signification of the word “good.” He used language conventionally. There
is a great danger for those who are brought up among religious
associations that they will employ the greatest words without entering into
their true meaning.
morality. We cannot go on to perfection until we have mastered these
elements. It is impossible to be a thief in the world and a saint in the
Church. Yet there is a subtle temptation that dogs the footsteps of those
who aspire after superior spiritual attainments — a temptation to fall away
from common morality. The young man had avoided this temptation. He
was no hollow sentimentalist. His virtue was solid. Yet it was not enough.
startling requirement. Jesus does not give this commandment to all rich
men, though He never encourages the acquisition of wealth. But He saw
that the young ruler’s snare was his riches. It was necessary, therefore, that
the riches should be given up. Now, although it was not his duty before
this thus to renounce all he possessed, the word of Christ — if he would
become a disciple — made it his duty. Whenever Christ tells any man to
sell all he has and give the proceeds to the poor, that man is under an
obligation to obey if he would own the Lordship of Christ. The essential
duty is not poverty, but obedience. The duty may take the same form with
any of us if we are convinced on good grounds that Christ desires us to
make the same sacrifice. But whether absolute poverty be required or not,
whatever we own is only ours subject to the bidding of Christ to use it as
He directs — (David said, “...for all things come of thee, and of thine
own have we given thee.” I Chronicles 29:14) and He is not altogether an easy Master to serve.
His wealth was his undoing. It was not a golden key opening the kingdom
of heaven, but a golden bar holding the gate shut. The young ruler might
have become a great Christian leader, saint, or martyr. His refusal dropped
him into obscurity. We cannot but pity him, for his was a hard test. Could
we stand it? Have we shrunk back from even a milder test?
The Perfection of Goodness (vs. 16-22)
To attain to this should be the aim of every rational being. In quest of it we
should be willing to do anything and to sacrifice anything. “Who will show
us any good? Lord, lift thou up the light of thy countenance upon us.”
Ø The ruler, in a sense, discerned this.
o He addressed him as “good Master” (compare Mark 10:17;
Luke 18:18). He also evinced his veneration by “kneeling,”
as stated in Mark.
o He sought to Jesus for instruction as to how he might attain to
“eternal life,” viz. by finding that perfect goodness of which
eternal life is the reward. His question was, in effect, “How may I become like thee?” Note: What the young man calls “eternal life,” Christ calls “life,” for eternal life is the only true life. Without this,
“in the midst of life we are in death.”
Ø But he discerned it falsely.
o He did not recognize the Divinity of Christ. Hence the question,
“Why askest thou me concerning that which is good?” Suppose an emphasis on the word thou. So He proceeds, “One there is who is good;” equivalent to “None is good save One, even God” (Mark
10:18; Luke 18:19).
o The rebuke here is for ascribing goodness to Christ without discerning
His Divinity as its source. The title is not inapplicable, for our Lord
calls Himself the “good Shepherd” (John 10:11). The fault was that
it was improperly applied.
o The teaching, then, is that it is vain to seek goodness apart from God.
HE ALONE IS GOOD, essentially, originally, everlastingly. “God”
is “good.” Therefore we should transfer to God all praise which is
given to us. All crowns must lie before His throne (see James 1:17).
Ø This is expressed in the instruction of Christ.
o “If thou wouldest enter into life, keep the commandments.” This is
not irony, but sober truth. To keep the commandments from a
principle of loving faith is undoubtedly the way to eternal life.
Those who are justified by faith must keep the commandments
before they can enter into life and be finally saved.
o Keeping the commandments must, however, include faith in Jesus
Christ (see I John 3:23). Moses gave it amongst his commandments
that we should hear the great Prophet to be raised up like unto him.
Ø The ruler observed the commandments in the letter.
o The inquiry “Which?” was probably occasioned by the confusion
introduced by the scribes, who mixed up the traditions of the elders
with the precepts of Moses; and who magnified the ritual observances
so as to neglect the moral rules — the “weightier matters of the Law,” justice, mercy, and charity. (ch. 23:23)
o The answer put the moral law in the foremost place. The particular
commandments which our Lord selects are but adduced as instances
of moral, in opposition to ritual, obedience. Nor does He cite the
commandments in their order, probably to show, as the Jews themselves
express it, “that there is neither first nor last in the Law” — that every
precept is so perfect that it matters not whether it be taken first or last. He mentions only the duties of the second table, summing them up, however, with the precept from Leviticus 19:18, for the love of God
can only be made manifest by love to our neighbor. (“If a man
say, I love God, and hateth his brother, he is a liar: for he that
loveth not his brother whom he hath seen, how can he love
God whom he hath not seen?” I John 4:20-21). “Our light
burns in love to God, but it shines in love to our neighbor”
o “All these things have I observed” (compare Philippians 3:6).
Ø He failed to keep them in the spirit.
o “What lack I yet?” He was convinced that he yet needed something.
He had too much of that boasting which is excluded by the law of
faith, and which excludes from justification (Luke 18:11-12, 14;
o The Lord soon discovered to him the covetousness and earthliness
of his heart. He found how he over-estimated his obedience when
he was unwilling to part with his possessions for the benefit of the
poor, and preferred earthly to heavenly treasure. Note:
§ Worldly men prefer earth to heaven ;
§ Christians prefer heaven to earth.
o We cannot become perfect without becoming spiritual So a man may
be free from gross sin, yet come short of the life of grace and glory.
(“For all have sinned, and come short of the glory of God.”
Ø It promises eternal life in Christ. “Thou shalt have treasure in heaven:
and come, follow me.” In the Sermon on the Mount Jesus said, “Lay
not up for yourselves treasures upon earth, where moth and rust doth
corrupt, and where thieves break through and steal: But lay up for
yourselves treasures in heaven, where neither moth nor rust doth
corrupt, and where thieves do not break through nor steal. For
where your treasure is, there will your heart be also.” (ch. 6:19-21)
in His sufficient atonement. “Whom God hath set forth to be a
propitiation through faith in His blood, to declare His righteousness
for the remission of sins that are past, through the forbearance
of God; To declare, I say, at this time His righteousness: that He
might be just, and the justifier of him which believeth in Jesus.”
o We learn the connection with that atonement of the work of the
Holy Spirit in the heart.
o His teaching, moreover, shows us the connection between faith and
obedience unto the fulfilling of the Law.
Ø But it exacts an absolute submission.
o “Sell all.” This was literally required in the case of the ruler. Christ did
not lighten his cross, because “He loved him.” Note: This reason
should sustain us under our crosses.
o Virtually we have to sell all. We must be willing to part with
everything that may hinder our salvation. (“For we brought
nothing into this world, and it is certain we can carry nothing
out.” - I Timothy 6:7)
Ø Those who refuse submission accept sorrow.
o “He went away sorrowful.” What an opportunity he missed! The
offer to him was to become one of Christ’s more intimate disciples;
to be specially trained by Him in the knowledge of spiritual things,
and to preach His gospel (compare ch. 4:19; 8:22; 9:9; Mark 2:14; 10:21).
o Many are ruined by the sin they commit with reluctance. What would
be the ruler’s sorrow in the sequel to find his wealth gone and ETERNAL LIFE along with it! (He lost both! “What shall it
profit a man if he gain the whole world and lose his own soul?”
Mark 8:36 – CY – 2017) Mariners act prudently when, to save their lives, they throw overboard rich bales of silk and precious things.
The Dangers of Riches and the Blessings of Self-Denial (vs. 23-30)
23 “Then said Jesus unto His disciples, Verily I say unto you, That a rich man
shall hardly enter into the kingdom of heaven.” Then said Jesus. He derives an
important lesson from the sad result of the above incident. Luke connects it with
what had just preceded: "When Jesus saw that he [the ruler] was very sorrowful,
he said." (Luke 18:24) It was a strange and most emphatic assertion, quite alien
from general opinion and sentiment. A rich man shall hardly (δυσκόλως –
duskolos - with difficulty) enter into the kingdom of heaven. Remembering that
Christ had just invited the young ruler to range himself on His side and become
His disciple, we see that the primary meaning of the term, "kingdom of heaven,"
here is the Christian Church, the society which Jesus came to establish. It was
indeed difficult for a man wealthy, honored, dignified, to strip himself of his
riches and rank, and openly cast in his lot with the despised Jesus and His
followers, voluntarily surrendering all that hitherto had made life beautiful and
worth living (so Satan would have you think – CY – 2017). It is difficult for a
rich man in any case to serve God acceptably, as Christ shows with reiterated
The Hindering Power of Worldly Possessions (v. 23)
“He went away sorrowful: for he had great possessions.” “A rich man shall
hardly [or, ‘with difficulty’] enter into the kingdom of heaven.” The figure
of the “camel and needle’s eye” is a proverbial one, and no precise facts
answering to it need be sought for. There are other proverbs very similar.
It strikingly expresses that which is almost impossible, but not quite
impossible. This sentence is taken from the Koran: “The impious shall find
the gates of heaven shut; nor shall he enter there till a camel shall pass
through the eye of a needle.” Our Lord teaches that the rich man may enter
the kingdom, but he will surely find that his riches will stand in his way,
and make it very hard work for him, as they made it hard work for this rich
ruler. What is it in worldly possessions that makes them such hindering
to put men in classes; those having the riches claiming to be a superior
class, and demanding special consideration and treatment. This tends to
induce the idea that the way of salvation for rich people ought to be a
special provision. The rich man does not care to be saved just as the poor
man is. He finds the gospel too leveling. If he cannot have a way of his
own, he will have no way. It is difficult for him to realize that God takes no
count of riches; and whoever would come to Him must come in at the one
strait gate, which is big enough to take the man, but not big enough to take
anything that he would carry in with him.
with them a sense of security. The rich man can have all he wants, and
there will be no future, he thinks, in which he will have any needs that
cannot be met. The poor have a basis for religion in their daily need and
daily dependence, The rich have no basis for religion. It is their misery, that
body, mind, and soul never have any wants. They have got the riches: what
more can they want? This kind of feeling provides the gravest of
hindrances to entrance into the kingdom.
most true, most strange, and most sad. It can be illustrated in cases we all
know, of self-sacrificing generosity while persons were poor, which
changed at once into selfish meanness when wealth came to them. It is that
hardening which makes it so difficult for a rich man to enter the kingdom.
24 “And again I say unto you, It is easier for a camel to go through the eye of a
needle, than for a
rich man to enter into the
unto you. The disciples, Mark notes, "were astonished at His words" (Mark
10:24), so He proceeds to state the startling proposition more unreservedly and
energetically. It is easier for a camel, etc. This is a proverbial expression for an
impossibility. A similar proverb is found in many countries, only substituting
another great animal instead of the camel, e.g., the elephant. From taking a too
literal view of the passage, some commentators have invented
a gate at
low and narrow, designed only for foot passengers, which was called "the needle's
eye." Others have remedied the supposed absurdity by reading κάμιλος – kamilos –
(if, indeed, there is such a word) rope, for κάμηλος – kamaelos - camel, as if we
were to say cable instead of camel. But there is no difficulty in the expression. Such
hyperboles and paradoxes are common in all languages (compare ch. 23:24).
The impossibility, indeed (as v. 26 shows), is relative, but the warning is none the
less real and terrible. The Lord says that the possession of riches prevents the
owner from following Him, and endangers his eternal salvation; for that is what it
comes to. In Mark 10:23 (whether the words are genuine or not is uncertain) we find
a limitation introduced: "How hard it is for them that trust in riches!" Now, this is
the effect of riches; men learn to trust in them, to deem that their earthly state is
secure, that change and chance will not affect them, that they are, so to speak,
so pleasant in their eyes, and they have no earnest longing for a better home.
Such is the natural consequence of the possession of wealth, and that which makes
the impossibility of entrance into the kingdom.
The Rich Man’s Difficulty (vs. 23-24)
Jesus draws a lesson of sad warning from the failure of the young ruler
who could not bring himself to make the great sacrifice required as a
condition of his obtaining eternal life. He points out the exceeding difficulty
of a rich man’s entrance into the kingdom of heaven.
of the man who is hindered and hampered by his wealth. God has opened
the gate and invited all who will to enter. HE IS NO RESPECTER OF
PERSONS! He does not favor the rich to the neglect of the poor; and He
does not favor the poor and deal harshly with the rich. He is just and fair
with all. But the rich man has hindrances in himself.
Ø The absorbing interest of riches. The danger is that the wealthy man
should be satisfied with his possessions; or, as that is impossible unless he
is partially stupefied by them, that they should so fill his life that he should
not have time or thought for better things. He may be buried under the load
of his own goods, lost in the mazes of his forest of possessions.
Ø The deceitful promise of riches. Jesus spoke of the deceitfulness of
riches as one of the weeds that spring up and choke the Word (ch. 13:22).
If wealth does not yet satisfy, still it promises future satisfaction. The rich
man comes to think he can buy all he wants, if only he can find the right
Ø The foolish pride of riches. If ever a man has a right to be proud, it is on
account of what he is, not because of what he has. The owner of millions
o a miserable coward,
o a sensual sot, or
o a senseless fool.
Yet the disgraceful sycophancy of the world teaches him to regard himself as a
superior person. Now, pride is a most effectual barrier to the entrance of
the kingdom of heaven. Only the lowly and humble and childlike can creep
through its humble doorway.
Ø The hardening selfishness of riches. Wealth, though it gives the means
of helping others, tends to seal up the fountains of generosity and destroy
the springs of sympathy. The self-indulgent man cannot enter that
kingdom, the citizens of which have to deny themselves and carry the
Ø The folly of covetousness. Why should we make haste to be rich, if
riches may become a curse to us? If in any case they are likely to bring
fresh difficulties, should we be so anxious to acquire them? How is it that
so many Christian people are to be found eagerly pursuing the race for
Ø The duty of contentment. We may never get riches. What of that if we
have the kingdom of heaven, which is far better? Perhaps we are spared a
Ø The need of sympathy with the difficulties of rich men. Jesus did not
denounce the young man who made the great refusal. He loved him and
pitied him. If rich men fail, we should remember that they were beset with
temptations that do not fall to the lot of most of us.
Ø Faith in the power of God. The rich man is gravely warned. He is in
serious danger. He may fail miserably, crushed by the load of his own
wealth. His salvation would be a miracle. But God can work miracles.
Though it be as hard for a rich man to save himself as for a camel to pass
like a thread through a needle’s eye, God can save him for “He is able
also to save them to the uttermost that come unto God by Him” (Jesus
Christ – Hebrews 7:25). Therefore:
o the rich should have the gospel preached to them;
o we should pray for the rich;
o we should rejoice greatly that there are rich men in the kingdom
25 “When His disciples heard it, they were exceedingly amazed, saying, Who
then can be saved?” Exceedingly amazed. The stern teaching of vs. 23-24
thoroughly dismayed and perhaps offended them. Temporal prosperity had in their
Law been held forth as the reward of righteousness and obedience, a foretaste of
future happiness. They must unlearn this principle. Here, as they understood it, was
a doctrine novel, unheard of, unnatural! Fancy the astonishment that would be
displayed nowadays if such a sentiment were solemnly propounded in the Stock
Exchange, the bank, the market! The apostles could not minimize its import,
or say that it might suit other days and other states of society, but was inapplicable
to their age and nation. We can do this in the case of many seemingly stringent
requirements of the gospel; but they accepted the announcement in its full and
simple meaning, and asked in sorrowful wonder, Who then can be saved? If the
way to heaven is barred to the rich man, how shall the poor pass therein? The
difficulty seemed to apply to everybody. All who are not rich are hoping and
struggling to become rich, and therefore fall under the same category. If the
apostles thought not of themselves in this question, they were grieved at the
reflection that, under the circumstances, the majority of mankind were recklessly
endangering their eternal salvation. With their views of a temporal kingdom,
the apostles probably were thinking of their own prospects.
26 “But Jesus beheld them, and said unto them, With men this is impossible;
but with God all things are possible.” But Jesus beheld them (ἐμβλέψας –
emblepsas - looking upon them). He turned on His disciples a look full of
earnestness, sympathy, and love, soothing their fears and claiming their full
attention for a spiritual truth. With men (παρὰ ἀνθρώποις – para anthropois)
this is impossible. Men in their own strength, relying on their own natural powers,
cannot save their souls or rise superior to the snare of riches. From the entanglements
occasioned by wealth, and the lowering effects of its pursuit and enjoyment, the
natural man is wholly unable to extricate himself. With God all things are possible.
Here is the only solution of the difficulty. With the grace of God, and embracing
the calls of His providence, the rich man may be delivered from his dangers, may
keep a heart unspotted, may use his wealth to God's glory and his own eternal good.
So the impossibility is a conditional one, to be overcome by due recourse to the
help of God and the strong hope of the future life. How a rich man may be
disciplined and elevated we see in the case of Zacchaeus (Luke 19:8). Many such
instances have occurred in our own days, as in all Christian times.
The Impossible made Possible (v. 26)
This is the solution of the rich man’s difficulty; and it is the solution of
many another difficulty. When we look away from man TO GOD,
THE IMPOSSIBLE BECOMES POSSIBLE!
this truth in the case of the rich, whose difficulties are peculiarly great. But
that is only the extreme instance of what really applies to people in all
conditions of life.
Ø In experience we see that men do not save themselves. We may preach
the dignity and capacity of humanity. We may argue on the faculty and
scope of free will. But when we leave the pulpit and the lecture room, what
we see is a world of continuous bafflement and failure. The young man
starts well, but if he is left to himself and trusts to himself, he soon
discovers his weakness. Good resolutions seem only to be made in order to
be broken. (And end up often like the man described in ch. 12:44-45!
CY – 2017)
Ø The indwelling sin of men prevents them from saving themselves. The
evil is within. The prisoner might cut his way out of a stone dungeon, and
the exile might escape from the ocean island; but the man whose own
nature is his dungeon and his place of exile cannot escape from himself. In
himself man has no lever by which he can lift himself above himself.
Ø The depth of ruin prevents men from saving themselves. The Fall is so
awful, the offended Law is so majestic, that self-salvation is hopeless.
Ø The circumstances of life prevent men from saving themselves.
o Riches keep back the wealthy.
o Poverty, with its cares and anxieties, oppresses the destitute.
o Various calls and distractions, fascinations and delusions, hinder
Ø HE DOES SAVE! This is His work. He creates, and He renews. He gives
life, and He regenerates. The Creator is the Saviour. We have not got a glimmer of the meaning of “the glorious gospel of the blessed God” until we have begun to perceive this great truth. All the doctrines and ethics of
Christianity are of little use while we are blind to its fundamental principle.
This principle is not to be lost in any figure of speech. We have to see that
God puts forth real power to change and renew His children. Helpless and
ruined in themselves, WHEN THEY TURN TO HIS GRACE HIS
STRONG ARM SAVES THEM! This is as actual a fact as the fact that the summer sun makes the vegetation of the earth to grow and ripen. Every true Christian can testify to it from PERSONAL EXPERIENCE!
Ø There is no limit to His saving power. There can be no limit if He is God,
for GOD IS ALMIGHTY! We see difficulties, but they all vanish as smoke when He puts forth His power. The Divine method of salvation is not as
simple and easy as we might have expected. It involves the expenditure of
God’s only begotten Son. Christ must come to earth, and CHRIST MUST
DIE, if man is to be saved. But Christ has come and died; GOD HAS
DONE ALL THAT IS NECESSARY! THE SALVATION IS PERFECT! Now it only rests with us to open our hearts to receive its renewing grace.
There is one thing that God never does — He never overrides a rebellious will.
If we refuse, HE CANNOT SAVE US! It is for the willing that THERE
IS NO LIMIT TO HIS SAVING POWER!
Salvation Possible because it is God’s Work (v. 26)
As the disciples understood their Lord, He seemed to them to make it
impossible for a rich man to become a Christian; and if a rich man could
not be a Christian, who could be? They mistook their Master, who, as an
effective Teacher, sometimes stated things very strongly, and withheld the
qualifications in order to excite thought. The “immensely difficult” is not
the “impossible.” The impossible, if you can only reckon upon human
forces, is not impossible, if you can bring in Divine forces. And, in relation
to moral salvations, you have to take account of what God can do. “With
men this is impossible; but with God all things are possible.” This very
large and unqualified statement concerning the absolute ability of God has
often been misrepresented and misused, because it has been applied to
things of which our Lord was not thinking. It is said — God cannot make
two things fill one space, or make two and two count five. But these are
not “impossibilities;” they are “absurdities,” proved such by the conditions
of human language. God cannot do what is manifestly absurd in the very
statement. Our Lord was speaking strictly of moral possibilities and
THEIR RICHES. And so remove their hindrance. Man cannot do this; but
all wealth is absolutely in the Divine control. This is forcibly illustrated in
the story of Job; all whose worldly possessions take wings and fly away in
a single overwhelming day. The rich ruler would not put his possessions
away in order to enter the kingdom; but, if it had pleased Christ so to do,
he could have taken them away, and so have given him his opportunity.
Many a man has been brought to God by losing the riches in which he had
THEIR RICHES. Drawing them away from their confidences. God has
power over the minds and souls of men. By His Spirit he can awaken such
soul anxieties that a man may become indifferent to death, put his fingers in
his ears, and cry, “What must I do to be saved?” God, by His Spirit, can
“convince of sin, of righteousness, and of judgment” (John 16:8-11) and
under that convincement a man will surely be liberated from the enslaving
of worldly possessions.
27 “Then answered Peter and said unto Him, Behold, we have forsaken all,
and followed thee; what shall we have therefore?”Then answered Peter.
This was not so much a reply to any direct word of Jesus, as to the general purport
of His late utterances. He had intimated that self-renunciation was the passport to
eternal life; that a just reward awaited those who gave up all for Jesus' sake. This,
Peter says, is exactly what the apostles had done. We have forsaken all, and followed
thee. It was not much that they had left, but it was all they had, their whole means of
subsistence, old habits, old associations, to which the poor cling as tenaciously as the
wealthy. All this, at a simple word of Christ, they had relinquished unreservedly,
without regret or complaint. They had reduced themselves to the condition which
Christ had enjoined. What shall we have therefore? The question showed the usual
ignorance of the nature of the
temporal advancement and promotion, of success and dignity in an earthly realm.
Even after their Master's crucifixion and resurrection they had asked, "Lord, wilt
thou at this time restore again the kingdom to
after the effusion of the Holy Spirit at Pentecost that their imperfect view was
corrected, and they understood what Christ meant when He said, "My kingdom is
not of this world." (John 18:36) But what a revulsion of feeling must have taken
place in those who a few minutes before had despairingly thought that salvation
was unattainable, and now asked what their reward would be for the sacrifices which
they had made! The older commentators have regarded Peter's inquiry as referring to
eternal life after death, to which their acts had given them a claim. But it must be
remembered that the Jews had very vague ideas about the beatified state in the
other world, which, as many thought, was to be inaugurated at the close of the
Messianic era, and which others put off indefinitely to the unknown day of judgment.
It was never generally and popularly anything more than an uncertain hope, and was
not regarded as a stimulant to life and action on earth. While, on the other hand, the
terrestrial proceedings of the Messiah were a subject of the keenest expectation, and
the ground of national aspirations. It is not probable that the apostles' notions had at
this time risen superior to the popular view. Peter's question, therefore, was
doubtless prompted by the national conception of Messiah's reign.
28 “And Jesus said unto them, Verily I say unto you, That ye which have followed
me, in the regeneration when the Son of man shall sit in the throne of His glory,
ye also shall sit
upon twelve thrones, judging the twelve tribes of
Verily I say unto you. Christ does not reprove the apostle for his seemingly bold
self-assertion, but, replying to Peter's question, He gives a grand promise to him and
his fellow disciples. Ye which have followed me, excluding all the half-hearted,
the self-seeking, the Judaizers. In the regeneration (τῇ παλιγγενεσίᾳ - tae
paliggenesia - new birth, renovation, renewal. It occurs in Titus 3:5 in reference
to baptism, “through the washing [laver] of regeneration." It has been variously
interpreted in the present passage. Some have connected it with the participle
preceding, "ye who have followed me in the regeneration," and explained it to
mean the reformation and spiritual renovation commencing with the preaching of
John the Baptist, and carried on by the ministry of Christ. But more generally and
correctly it is taken with what follows, Ye shall sit, etc. The meaning, however, is
still disputed. Some say that the Christian dispensation is intended, and an intimation
is given of the work of the apostles in the unseen world in directing and guarding the
Church. But this seems hardly to satisfy the language of the promise. Others regard
the term as signifying the resurrection, when the mortal shall put on immortality,
and we shall be changed, remade, reconstituted. This is true; but it seems more
suitable to refer the term to the new creation, the new heaven and the new earth
3:10,13). This is the reparation of the whole creation described by Paul (Romans
8:19, etc.), which is to take place at the great consummation, and which, remedying
all the evils which sin has impressed on the material and spiritual world, on man and
his habitation, may well be called new birth. This is the mysterious period when
Christ's promise shall be accomplished. Shall sit. It is not "when he shall come,"
but when He shall have taken His seat (ἐπὶ - epi - on, with genitive) as Judge upon His
glorious throne. Ye also (ὑμεῖς... καὶ ὑμεῖς – humeis.....kai humeis – ye.....also ye). The
pronoun is repeated to give greater emphasis to the amazing assertion. Shall sit upon
(καθίσεσθε ἐπὶ - kathisesthe epi – shall be sitting on - with accusative); shall be
promoted to, taken and placed upon. Twelve thrones. Judas forfeited his position;
Matthias and Paul and Barnabas were afterwards added to the apostolic band; so
that the number twelve must not be pressed as defining and limiting. Rather it
expresses the completeness of the judicial body, regarding not so much the persons
as the position of its members. With reference to papal claims, it may be observed
that Peter has no pre-eminence here, no throne to himself; he merely shares with
his colleagues in the session. The apostles and those who have been proved to be
of like mind with them (for the number is not limited) shall be assessors with Christ,
as in an earthly court, where the judge or the prince sits in the center, and on either
side of him are posted his councilors and ministers. Judging. So in Daniel we hear
of thrones being placed, and judgment given to the saints (Daniel 7:9, 22);
"Know ye not," says Paul (I Corinthians 6:2-3), "that the saints shall judge the world...
that we shall judge angels?" (compare Revelation 20:4). Of course, THE GREAT
JUDGE IS CHRIST HIMSELF! What part His assessors shall take is not revealed.
The verb "judge" sometimes signifies "govern or direct," and perhaps may be here
used to denote that the saints shall, in the new Messianic kingdom, be Christ's
vicegerents and exercise His authority. The
twelve tribes of
considerable difficulty in interpreting this portion of the promise. If it means
that the beatified apostles shall judge the actual descendants of Abraham, then
we must believe that the distinction between Jew and Gentile will be maintained
in this regeneration - an opinion which seems to be opposed to other texts of
would be condemnation of them for not receiving the gospel. One does not see
how this can be held forth as a great and happy reward, however high a position it
may imply. More probably
the Church; and the number twelve (as above) imports the complete number of
those who are to be judged. They who have followed Christ devotedly and sincerely,
as His disciples, shall be placed next to Him in His glory, shall have pre-eminence
over all others, and be associated with Him in assigning their due portion to all
believers, or in governing the Church. Nothing is here said about the final judgment
of unbelievers and heathen.
The Regeneration (v. 28)
This may be but another name for the setting up of the kingdom of heaven.
As the apostles were to be directly connected with it, the final “restitution
of all things” can hardly be meant. It is usual to refer such expressions to
the “second coming of Christ;” but He appears to have had in mind the
starting of the Messianic kingdom at Pentecost. Understanding Christ to be
using Eastern figures of speech, we may see His meaning to be simply this
— Those who truly and self-sacrificingly follow Him shall occupy the chief
places of influence in the new kingdom which he proposed soon to establish.
THE KINGDOM. Christ sat upon the throne of His glory when He ascended
into “heaven, and sat on the right hand of God.” Then was “all power given
to Him in heaven and in earth” (ch. 28:18); and then the glorious work of
regenerating the world was initiated. The new creation, to be completed
finally in “the restitution of all things” (Acts 3:21), was commenced. The outpouring of the Spirit on the Day of Pentecost, the miracles performed by
His apostles, the destruction of
would not that He should reign over them” (Luke 19:27), and the abolition
of the Mosaic economy, were the palpable proofs of His exaltation.
renovating, renewing, regenerating force in the world. The “regeneration”
may be taken as the time following on our Lord’s resurrection.
Ø It was primarily centered in our Lord’s own renovated Person; for
He then put off the servant form, and put on HIS IMMORTALITY!
Ø That renovation overspread and included His followers, especially His
twelve apostles. By the Pentecostal Spirit they were endowed with
power from on high; they entered on possession of the kingdom
Ø The Church was renewed and regenerated from the old to the new
dispensation. The types and shadows had departed, the reign of the
mankind. Christ exalted and living, Christ working through His
Church and in the might of His Spirit, is now established as the regenerating force of humanity; and these are the times of the “regeneration.”
29 “And every one that hath forsaken houses, or brethren, or sisters, or father,
or mother, or wife, or children, or lands, for my name's sake, shall receive an
hundredfold, and shall inherit everlasting life. Every one that hath forsaken.
The Lord extends the promise. Even those who have not risen to the utter self-sacrifice
of apostles, who have not surrendered so much as they, shall have their reward, though
nothing to be compared to the unspeakable recompense of the twelve. Houses... lands.
Some manuscripts, followed by some modern editors, omit or wife, the omission being
probably first made by some critical scribe, who deemed that a wife should never be
left. The Lord enumerates the persons and objects upon which men's hearts are most
commonly and firmly fixed. He begins and ends the list with material possessions –
houses and lands, and between them introduces in gradation the most cherished
members of the family circle. "Forsaking wife and children" may be understood
as abstaining from marriage in order the better to serve God. For my Name's sake.
In consequence of belief in Christ, rather than do despite to His grace, or in order
to confess and follow Him more completely. In times of persecution, under many
different cases of pressure, or where his friends were heathens or infidels, a Christian
might feel himself constrained to relinquish the dearest ties, to cast off all old
associations, to put himself wholly in God's hands, freed from all worldly things;
such a one should receive ample reward in the present life. An hundredfold. Some
read "manifold," as in Luke 18:30. The spiritual relationship into which religion
would introduce him largely compensates for the loss of earthly connections.
He shall have brothers and sisters in the faith - hundreds who will show him
the affection of father and mother, hundreds who will love him as well as wife
and children. And if he suffer temporal loss, this shall be made up by the charity
of the Christian society, all whose resources are at his command, and he shall
enjoy that peace and comfort of heart which no worldly possessions can give,
and which are superior to all changes of fortune. And it may well be that the
relief from the cares and distractions caused by wealth brings a hundredfold
more real happiness than its possession ever supplied. "Godliness is profitable
for all things, having the promise of the life which now is, and of that which
The Christian Possession and Christian Heritage (v. 30)
“Shall receive an hundredfold, and shall inherit everlasting life.” Peter
(I Peter 1:4, 9) speaks of “receiving the end of your faith, even the
salvation of your souls;” and of our lively hope of the “inheritance
incorruptible and undefiled, and that fadeth not away.” We may unduly fix
our thoughts on that which we gain now by becoming Christians. But many
fail of due appreciation of present blessings, because they are absorbed in
anticipation of the good things that are to come. Our Lord had to deal with
disciples who were very easily led to think about what they should get by
being disciples. In this passage He seeks to deliver them from material
notions of getting, and to help them in forming worthy estimates of the
spiritual blessings of discipleship.
answering to “houses and lands,” and to “wife and children.” Man here
on earth has two supreme satisfactions — they are found in:
Ø “things possessed,” and in
Ø “objects of affection.”
Discipleship to Christ provides no sort of guarantee for a hundredfold more
in number of possessions or objects of affection. It does guarantee a
hundredfold better in quality. There are answering soul possessions;
there are answering soul affections. How firmly Paul declares of the
Christian, “All things are yours, whether Paul, or Apollos, or Cephas,
or the world, or life, or death, or things present, or things to come;
all are yours, and ye are Christ’s, and Christ is God’s!” (I Corinthians
3:22-23) Riches and objects of affection depend on the faculties wakened
in us. Discipleship wakens new and nobler faculties; and these
Christ provides for.
should be any mistake, our Lord distinctly speaks of the future as higher,
nobler, sublimer life — “everlasting life.” We are in danger of
materializing the heavenly, because we can only get apprehensions of it
with the aid of sensible figures:
Ø “many mansions,”
But the apostles help to liberate and raise our thoughts, for they speak of:
Ø a “crown of righteousness,” (II Timothy 4:8)
Ø a “crown of life,” (James 1:12)
Ø a “crown of glory.” (I Peter 5:4)
“Godliness has the promise of the life that now is, and of that which is to
come.” (I Timothy 4:8) The Christian makes “the best of both worlds.”
Many that are first. This proverbial saying, which Christ uses
more than once (see ch. 20:16; Luke 13:30), is illustrated by
the parable in the next chapter, and would be better placed at its
commencement. Here it conveys a warning that man’s estimation is liable to
error, and it must not be thought that those who are first in privilege are
therefore highest in God’s favor. The Lord may have had in view the case
of Judas, who was an early apostle, and had the care of the bag, and fell by
reason of covetousness; and that of one like Paul, who was called late,
and yet labored more abundantly than all that were before him. The
application may be made with perfect truth to many professors of religion.
The Young Ruler (vs. 16-30)
Ø His question. Christ was “gone forth into the way” (Mark 10:17); He
was leaving Peraea; His ministry there was ended. But there was a
young man, a ruler of the synagogue, a man of large possessions and of blameless life, who came running and kneeled to Him. Perhaps he had already felt the supreme goodness of Christ, the holiness of His
teaching; but his position, his Jewish prejudices, had hitherto prevented him from becoming a disciple of the Lord. Now the Lord was departing;
if he hesitated longer, he would be too late. He had lived an upright, honorable life, but he felt that there was something lacking yet; there was a void in his heart, a yearning which he could not satisfy. Perhaps this great Teacher might help him. There was no time to lose; he hastily made up his mind, and ran after Christ. Thus far he is an example to us. Earthly rank, earthly riches, will not fill the heart; we need something more — WE NEED CHRIST! We may be late in seeking Him; we
have wasted much time and lost many opportunities. The Lord is
long suffering; He is still near at hand; but it may soon be too late.
“Seek ye the Lord while He may be found; call ye upon Him while
He is near.” (Isaiah 55:6) Come running, kneeling to
Him in lowly supplication; He will tarry on
His way; He will listen to the suppliant’s prayer. So the young ruler came now. “Good Master,” he said, “what good thing shall I do, that I may
have eternal life?” (v. 16) It sounds like the
question of the jailor at
Lord had so highly commended. He thought too much of his past uprightness. He thought, apparently, that eternal life might be earned
by some great and noble deed.
Ø The Lord’s answer. “Why askest thou me concerning that which is
good? One there is who is good!” GOD ONLY IS GOOD! Love Him;
do His holy will; take Him for thy Portion. Eternal life is His gift; it is given to them who walk with God, who live in and for God, who keep
His commandments. Mark and Luke have the words which some ancient authorities read in Matthew also, “Why callest thou me good? there is none good but One, that is, God.” (v. 17; Mark 10:18; Luke 18:19)
The Lord had forbidden the apostles to tell men that He was the Christ, because the Jews looked for a human Messiah, an earthly king.
In the same spirit He would not accept the title “Good” from this ruler, who regarded Him simply as a wise Teacher, a great Rabbi. He bade
him keep the commandments. The young ruler had been expecting to
hear something lofty and extraordinary from so great a Prophet; he was surprised at a direction so simple and commonplace, as he doubtless thought it. He was disappointed again when, in answer to his inquiry,
the Lord simply recited five commandments of the Decalogue, adding
that general principle in which the whole second table is briefly comprehended, “Thou shalt love thy neighbour as thyself.” (v. 19)
The Lord had indicated the first and great commandment of the Law
in His first answer. He now mentions those duties towards our neighbor which flow out of our duty towards our God. He would lead the young man to examine himself, to discover his deficiencies, to see for himself that he had not yet entered on the way that leadeth to eternal life.
Ø The young ruler’s rejoinder. He had done all this, he said; he knew it all;
he wanted something more than elementary teaching. “All these things
have I kept from my youth up: what lack I yet?” (v. 20) He spoke the truth according to his light. He had been brought up in the narrow school of the rabbis, and, according to the mechanical interpretations of the scribes, was, like Saul the Pharisee, “touching the righteousness which
is in the Law, blameless.” (Philippians 3:6) He had lived all his days a life of external obedience, and he did not understand the spiritual
meaning of these commandments as taught by our Lord in His great Sermon on the Mount. He did not realize the wide range, the deep
reach of that second commandment, which became, when
illustrated by our Lord’s example, the new commandment, the mark and
test of Christ’s disciples. He had kept the commandments as far as he
understood them, as far as he had been taught; but he was conscious of
a deficiency. He felt that something, he knew not what, but certainly
something higher than this external obedience, was necessary for the
attainment of that eternal life which he sought. “What lack I yet?”
he said. It was a fine character as far as it went; unspotted moral
rectitude joined with aspirations for something better and nobler.
The Lord saw the promise of much good. “He beheld him,” Mark
10:21 says. It was a deep searching look that read his heart; and He
loved him — He regarded him with something of that esteem which
any degree of real goodness produces in the good. “Goodness,” Bishop Butler says, “implies the love of itself, an affection for goodness. The really good recognize any spark of goodness in others, and cannot fail
to love it.” This special drawing forth of the Lord’s love was a great honor to the young ruler; it showed the natural excellence of his character.
Ø The Lord’s commandment. “Go, sell that thou hast, and give to the
poor.” (v. 21) It is not a counsel of perfection, not advice, but a commandment. This self-sacrifice was necessary for the young man — necessary for the attainment of that eternal life which he sought. “One thing thou lackest,” the Lord said, according to the report of the conversation given by Mark and Luke (Mark 10:21; Luke 18:22). It
must mean that when the Lord read the young man’s soul, He saw
much that was lovable; but He also saw that the love of money, which
is the root of all evil, was poisoning what should have been a
very fine and noble character. It was necessary for him to make this
great venture of faith. He periled his salvation by not doing so at the time; he may have done it afterwards. The Lord had a high reward for
him — treasure in heaven hereafter, and in this life a place near to Himself: “Come, follow me,” He said. (v. 21) It may be that the Lord
saw in that young ruler the making of an apostle. He might have stood high in the roll of saints; perhaps afterwards he did. Can he have been
lost whom the Lord Jesus distinguished with His love? But now he
went away. He could not make the sacrifice required of him. He had thought that he might do some great thing, some noble deed, to gain eternal life, and the Lord had taken him at his word; but this was too
great, too difficult; he could not bring himself to it. He went away sorrowful, not angry; he felt that the Lord was right. There was
something good and noble in his character which responded to
the Lord’s invitation. He felt the supreme holiness of Christ, the
powerful attraction of His gracious love. He owned in his heart
that to be near to Christ the Lord, to follow Him, to live in close communion with Him, was a privilege exceeding precious, a privilege
not too dearly bought at the cost of all earthly riches, all earthly
comforts. He knew that the Lord had not asked too much; his heart
told him so; but he had not the strength, the courage. He could not
part with his large possessions; he could not take up the cross (Mark 10:21). He was sad at that saying, “Take up the cross.” It was a strange and dreadful word; even the apostles could not reconcile themselves to it. And he went away sorrowful, vexed with himself; HE HAD MADE
THE GREAT REFUSAL, and he felt that he done a weak and
cowardly thing. He had judged himself unworthy of that eternal life
(Acts 13:46) which he had sought, and he despised himself. He knew
that those riches for which he had turned away from Christ could not compensate him for the tremendous loss. He was not blinded. He felt
the value of the love of Christ, and the unutterable preciousness of
eternal life. He knew that these great possessions of his were as nothing
in comparison with that priceless treasure which Christ had offered him. He sinned against LIGHT and HE WAS MISERABLE! Perhaps his misery brought him afterwards to a better mind. We hope it was so. We cannot but feel a very deep and real interest in a character so touching, so engaging, in one whom the Lord Jesus Christ loved. We are not all called to make the sacrifice which was required of the young ruler. The Lord did not say the like to Nicodemus or to Joseph of Arimathaea. But all true Christian men must be willing to do so if need be. “Not my will, but thine be done” was the Lord’s own prayer in His agony. “Thy will be done” is the Christian’s daily, it should be his hourly, prayer. And that prayer pledges us to the spirit of ready self-sacrifice for Christ’s sake. We must be ready to give freely, liberally, in proportion to our means, for all holy works. We must be ready to take up our cross; for the Lord says that without the cross we cannot be His disciples. It is not enough to have the word often in our mouths, to have the picture of the cross upon our walls, or to wear the cross for an ornament. The mark of the Christian is the real cross, the inner spiritual cross; and that means self-denial for Christ’s sake, self-denial which is real, which is painful, which is hard to bear; even as the cross which the Lord bore for us was hard and heavy and painful exceedingly. But the cross leadeth to the crown. The
conditions of eternal life are unvarying; they are the same now, in
their real spiritual meaning, as they were when they were presented by
the Lord Himself to the young ruler in Peraea.
Ø The warning. “A rich man shall hardly enter into the kingdom of
heaven.” (v. 23) It is a hard thing, and his temptations are so great; there is so much to draw him to the world. Indeed, he cannot enter the kingdom of heaven as a rich man; he must become poor, that he may be rich indeed.
He must become poor in spirit, poor in the willingness to consecrate all his
wealth to the service of Christ; he must give largely, denying himself in
many things that he may give the more; learning to do God’s will, not his
own; and regarding himself simply as the steward of what really belongs to God. For otherwise his danger is exceeding great. The gate of eternal life is always strait; it becomes like the eye of a needle to the rich man who stands before it, burdened with his riches, like a heavily loaded camel. “They that trust in riches” (see Mark 10:24, though the reading
is somewhat doubtful) “cannot enter in;” and it is very hard for a rich man to cast off his trust in his riches. Yet the strait gate shall be thrown open wide to them that overcome — to the poor who are rich in faith,
and to the rich who are poor in spirit, true disciples of Him who, though
He was rich, yet for our sakes became poor. (II Corinthians 8:9)
Ø The amazement of the apostles. They were startled, almost terror
stricken; it seemed so hard a saying; it seemed to make salvation so very
difficult to attain. Perhaps Peter was thinking of it when long afterwards he wrote, “If the righteous scarcely be saved” (I Peter 4:18). “Who
then can be saved?” (v. 25) they said in their astonishment. All men,
they knew, share the like peril; it is not only the rich who are in danger of
trusting in riches. The poor often care for money quite as much as the rich. The fault lies, not in the fact of having great possessions, but in the trust reposed in them; and there are poor men who trust in their little store quite as much as some rich men trust in their great wealth. “The
love of money is the root of all evil” (I Timothy 6:10), and that love is
a common temptation to all, rich and poor alike. “Who then can be saved?” The Lord saw the perplexity of His apostles; He felt for them
in His sacred heart. He looked at them; those holy eyes were fixed upon them with an earnest, loving, sympathizing look — a look full of human tenderness and Divine compassion. “With men this is impossible,” He said; “but with God all things are possible.” (v. 26) The disciples
were right; they might well say, “Who then can be saved?” Man cannot
save himself; he is too weak, too sinful. “With men this is impossible”
- with all men alike, whether they are rich or poor, whatever may be their
advantages or their temptations; they cannot save themselves; THE
THING IS IMPOSSIBLE! BUT(we may well thank God as we read
the words, and fall down before Him in adoring gratitude) IT IS NOT
IMPOSSIBLE WITH GOD! AND CHRIST IS GOD - “He is able to save them to the uttermost that come unto God by Him.” (Hebrews
7:25) His incarnation, his blessed death upon the cross, has made
that possible which was impossible. “With God all things are possible;” He can bring a clean thing out of an unclean (Job 14:4), He can
o from all unrighteousness (I John 1:9)
o from the degrading love of money,
o from the defiling lusts of the flesh,
o from the subtle temptations of pride and
Only we must trust IN HIM, not in riches, or what seem to be
riches, not in our own fancied merits, not in works of righteousness
which we have done, but only in the cross. “God forbid that I should glory, save in the cross of our Lord Jesus Christ, by whom the world
is crucified unto me, and I unto the world.” (Galatians 6:14)
Ø Peter’s question. The apostles had done what the young ruler shrank
from doing — they had forsaken all. Indeed, they had not so much to
give up as he had; but such as it was, it was their all; they had left all,
and had followed Christ. The Lord had promised treasure in heaven to
His followers. “What shall we have therefore?” Peter said. (v. 27)
He was still too eager; there was too much self-assertion; he laid too
much stress on the reward that was to come. The highest desire of the
soul is to serve Christ for Himself/himself. (I do not know which
to interpret here, Christ Himself or Peter himself – CY – 2017)
(I do know that Christ, like God, to Abram, is our “shield, and.....exceeding great reward!” - Genesis 15:1 – CY – 2017)
“Not for the sake of gaining aught,
Not hoping a reward;
But as thyself hast loved me,
O ever-loving Lord.”
Peter knew afterwards that the love of Christ is its own reward
(I Peter 1:8). Yet he was not wholly wrong; the Lord had promised treasure in heaven; and that blessed hope is an exceeding great help to fainting Christians (Titus 2:13); it is an anchor of the soul both sure
and steadfast (Hebrews 6:19). Moses had respect unto the recompense
of the reward (ibid. ch. 11:26). Paul looked forward to the crown of righteousness laid up in heaven for all who love the appearing of
the Lord (II Timothy 4:8). Christ Himself, our great Example, when
He looked back on His perfect life, said, “Now, O Father, glorify thou me.” (John 17:5); Peter, perhaps, regarded that heavenly blessedness
too much in the light of a reward due to self-denial here; our Lord seems to imply this in the parable of the laborers in ch. 20., though He now repeats His promise and acknowledges the self-sacrifice of His followers.
Ø The Lord’s answer.
o The promise to the apostles. He bade them look forward to the great
regeneration, the time of restitution of all things (Acts 3:21). The
regeneration of individual Christians (of which the Lord speaks in
John 3:3, 5; Ephesians 2;15; and Paul in Titus 3:5) is the gradual beginning, the preparation for the regeneration of the world, when
God will make all things new (Isaiah 65:17-18; Revelation 21:5;
when there shall be “new heavens and a new earth, wherein
dwelleth righteousness” (II Peter 3:13). Then shall the Son of man, whose throne on earth was the cross, sit in that new creation upon the throne of His glory (ch. 25:31). And they who followed Him nearest upon earth, who first bore the cross for His Name’s sake, the twelve chosen apostles, they should sit, He said, upon twelve thrones, judging the twelve tribes of Israel (v. 28). It may be that we shall not certainly understand the meaning of this promise (and other similar passages,
such as Luke 22:30; I Corinthians 6:2-3) till it is fulfilled in the
kingdom of heaven. But perhaps it is safest to adopt the ideal
interpretation. Twelve is the ideal number of the apostolic college.
Judas went to his
own place. By the twelve tribes of
the highest places of honor.
o The promise to all believers. The circle of promise is widened. The
apostles had forsaken all for Christ’s sake; but there were multitudes who
would afterwards make the like sacrifice; multitudes more who would be
willing to make it if it were required of them. To all such the Lord
promises a hundredfold reward — “a hundredfold,” “manifold more,” Mark and Luke say, (Mark 10:30; Luke 18:30), in this present time, and in the world to come, eternal life. “Godliness hath the promise of the life that now is, and of THAT WHICH IS TO COME! (I Timothy 4:8) That holy joy, that peace of God, which is granted unto those who have yielded up their wills to God’s holy will, passeth all understanding
(Philippians 4:7), and altogether outweighs the temporal losses which they may endure for Christ’s sake. Such men, like Paul, count all
things loss for the excellency of the knowledge of Christ Jesus their
Lord (ibid. ch. 3:8). To such to live is Christ, and to die is gain.
(ibid. ch. 1:21) A life of holiness and self-denial for Christ’s sake is
very blessed, for it hath THE PRESENCE OF CHRIST! A holy
death is by much far better; for such a death is the gate of everlasting
life. They who would live that life and die that death must watch and pray, seeking earnestly the grace of perseverance; for many that are
first shall be last, and the last shall be first. Judas was near to Christ when these words were said. “Let him that thinketh he standeth take heed, lest he fall.” (I Corinthians 10:12)
Ø “Work out your own salvation with fear and trembling.”
(Philippians 2:12) It is a difficult work, beyond the strength of man;
but we can do all things through Him that strengtheneth us.
(ibid. ch. 4:13)
Possessions and Life (vs. 23-30)
“Behold, one came” to Jesus (see v. 16). Multitudes of poor persons had
followed Him from the beginning; at length “one” rich man came, and, sad
to say, this one retired sorrowful and unsaved. So, turning to His disciples,
the Lord said, “Verily I say unto you” (v. 23). Learn:
MIRACLE OF MERCY.
Ø That it is outside the ravage of ordinary probability is evinced in the
case of the ruler.
o His circumstances were exceptionably favorable. Observe:
§ The seriousness of his inquiry after eternal life.
§ The respectfulness of his approach to Christ.
§ The excellence of his moral character.
§ The affection with which our Lord regarded him.
§ The sorrowful struggle of spirit with which he departed.
o Yet for all this he was overcome by the influence of his “great
o The silence respecting him afterwards renders it probable that, in
gaining the world, he lost his soul. (Mark 8:36)
Ø That it is outside the ravage of ordinary probability is declared by
o “It is hard,” etc. (v. 23). And this is emphasized by a “verily.”
o The assertion is strengthened by what follows (v. 24). “I incline to the
opinion that at the time the Redeemer spake this parable, He was with
His disciples in one of the public khans, there being no other resting place for them; and there, seeing the people mending their camel
saddles, for which purpose they use a long needle like a straight
packing needle, he pointed to them and said as it were, ‘These
camels can as soon pass through the eye of those needles as a rich
man can enter
to heaven is fitly compared to a needle’s eye, which it is hard to hit;
and a rich man to a camel — a beast of burden. For he has his riches from others, spends them for others, leaves them to others, and is
himself the carrier.
o What our Lord adds does not soften His earlier words (see v. 26); for
it makes the salvation of the rich an utmost effort of omnipotence.
Ø The salvation of the rich is imperiled by the deceitfulness of riches.
o It is not riches themselves, but the sordid love of them, that our Lord
condemns (compare Mark 10:24). So, in the bad sense, a man is rich
in proportion to his attachment to worldly possessions. A rich man, according to this definition, cannot be saved.
o But those who have riches naturally love them and trust them (compare ch. 6:21; Colossians 3:5). They tend to increase pride, covetousness,
and self-indulgence. They purchase flattery and exclude faithful reprovers. They prejudice the mind against the humbling truths and
self-denying precepts of Christ. They increase the number and force
of the obstacles which must be broken through (compare Psalm
49:6-7; 52:7; I Timothy 6:17).
o Yet how few see that to be rich is a misfortune! Even when Christ
intimated this, His own disciples were “astonished exceedingly”
(v. 25); and He had to “look upon them,” penetrating their feeling
of astonishment and perplexity, to convince them that such feelings
as theirs were the peril of the rich; for they were deceived into the
notion that riches gave singular advantages towards salvation.
Ø Still with God the salvation of the rich is possible.
o It needs more than human power to wean the heart of man from
worldly things. No perfection of science can enable him to discern spiritual things; these are above the natural man. God alone can
destroy the love of the world in us. (Our hearts are too big for the
world to fill, ONLY GOD CAN DO THAT! – CY – 2017)
o Omnipotence is displayed in grace as well as in nature. God can
effectually plead the cause of the rich in the presence of the poor, by
pleading the cause of the poor in the presence of the rich (see v. 21).
o The possibility is evinced in the examples of Nicodemus, Joseph of
Arimathaea, Joanna the wife of Chuza, Herod’s steward, and many
more. Man fails when he begins with himself; succeeds, when he
begins with God.
CHRIST WE SHALL BE WONDERFULLY REWARDED.
Ø In this present life.
o Peter said, “Lo, we have left all, and followed thee.” (v. 27)
The disciples had but little; yet it was their all (compare Mark
o Peter speaks of their giving up all; Jesus speaks of their
following Him (v. 28). “To obey is better than to sacrifice.”
(I Samuel 15:22) Obedience includes sacrifice. “The philosopher forsakes all without following Christ; most Christians follow Christ without forsaking all; to do both is apostolic perfection” (Bengel).
o Christ did not estimate the attachment of His disciples to Him by the
quantity of things they relinquished, but from the mind and intention with which they relinquished them. “And every one that hath left houses,” etc., viz. either by giving them up when they could not
retain them with a clear conscience, or by refraining from acquiring them, “for my Name’s sake” (v. 29; see II Corinthians 8:12).
o The compensation then is “a hundredfold,” viz. not in kind, but in
spiritual blessings. Here is cent percent multiplied a hundred times.
Such, even in this life (see Mark 10:30), is the advantage of the
spiritual value gained in this blessed exchange!
Ø In the life to come.
o “The regeneration” commences in the millennium. That will be the
great day of judgment, or reigning. It will be a theocracy, as in the
times of the ancient judges (compare Isaiah 1:26). Irenaeus says that
the reward of the hundredfold is to happen in the millennium (compare Isaiah 32:1; Daniel 7:18, 27; here ch. 26:29; Acts 3:20-21; Revelation 20.).
o The Lord’s glorification is the pattern of human regeneration here; for
those who follow Him are morally risen with Him and resemble Him.
Hereafter also, for we shall in our regeneration from the power of the
grave be in the likeness of His resurrection. So the “redemption of the
body” will be the “manifestation of the sons of God” (compare
Luke 20:36; Romans 8:23; I John 3:2).
o The “regeneration” which commences in the millennium will culminate
in the “new heaven and earth” in which the “new creation,” under the
headship of the second Adam, will be finished. The reward of that glorious state is “LIFE EVERLASTING!” (All my cognizant life
I have heard of “The Millenium” – The reading of the scriptures
cited in this section has cast more light on it than with anything I
have ever been exposed! CY – 2017)
The Great Reward (vs. 27-30)
Peter’s question strikes us as a little low in tone. It often happens that
this disciple, who has been exalted as the prince of the apostles, betrays
some human weakness. And yet it is nowhere suggested to us in Scripture
that all consideration of future rewards are to be suppressed, though
certainly Paley’s feeble conception of Christianity as morality with the
added sanctions of future rewards and punishments revealed in the teaching
and confirmed by the miracles of Christ, is far below the New Testament
standard. Christ claims our service, and unless enthusiasm for Christ draws
us on, mere hopes of payment or fears of penalties will not succeed. But
for those who are won to Christ by the purest influences, all innocent
motives are needed to assist in the difficult task of maintaining their
fidelity. Our Lord, therefore, condescends to encourage us by mentioning
some of the rich rewards of self-denying service. It must be borne in mind
that these rewards are gracious favors, like school prizes, not wages due
and paid on demands of justice. The rewards are both heavenly and earthly.
Ø A glorious throne. The minds of the disciples are full of vague but
splendid Messianic dreams, and Jesus approaches them along the lines of
their own imaginations. The splendor of the throne will not be enjoyed on
earth. Here there is to be sacrifice, toil, poverty, martyrdom. But there will
be a throne in the future world. Not only will Christ reign. His apostles will
reign with Him. Similarly, all Christians are to have a kingly status — to be
both “kings and priests.” (Revelation 1:6) This means more than future joy,
a mere elysium of delights (paradise); it involves power, honor, responsibility
— like the man who had gained ten pounds being appointed to rule over ten cities (Luke 19:17).
Ø Eternal life. The first reward was external; it pointed to status, function,
honor. The second is wholly internal and personal. It is more than bare
existence in the future. It is a new order of life — exalted being, enlarged
capacity. To live in the vast ages of eternity, to live really and truly, not to
dream forever in an indolent paradise, — this is the exhilarating prospect of
the faithful servant of Christ. We do not know what life is as yet. When we
die we shall begin to live. (“Beloved, now are we the sons of God, and it
doth not yet appear what we shall be: but we know that, when He shall
appear, we shall be like Him; for we shall see Him as He is.” (I John 3:2)
earth. In Mark the words, “now in this time,” are added (Mark 10:30).
He who gives to a generous king will certainly receive back far more than he sacrifices. The pearl of great price, the inward life and joy of pardon and renewal and communion with God, — this is A GREAT POSSESSION,
and it may be A PRESENT POSSESSION! It is better to have the peace of
God in a life of sacrifice, than houses and acres with a heart in selfish unrest.
Reversion of Present Estimates (v. 30)
“Many that are first shall be last.” There may be a designed allusion to the rich
ruler who, in his own estimate stood first, but soon was put last, when he came
under the searchings of the Divine Teacher. And there is a more immediate reference
to those disciples who bragged about how much they had given up, and assumed
their claims to first places in the kingdom. Maybe that, at last, “publicans and harlots
would enter the kingdom in front of them.” (ch. 21:31)
Men make themselves their standards; and then easily make themselves
better than their neighbors; and put their neighbors low down. Certain
phases of religious doctrine encourage self-centeredness, and make a man
think that he is a special favorite of Heaven; and of all disagreeable
people, favorites — court favorites and others — are the worst. A man
never estimates either himself or others aright until he makes GOD
us is fully and honorably free from jealousy in forming our estimate of our
fellows? How many are, we think, where we ought to be, if only we had
our rights? All jealousy-tinged estimates will have to be reversed. Our last
may be put first.
Men are always taken with showy gifts. The fluent man is always
overpraised. A cynical writer says, but with some truth in his saying, “So,
in current literature, we find ourselves in an inverted world, where the halt,
and the maimed, and the blind are the magnates of our kingdom; where
heroes are made of the sick, and pets of the stupid, and merit of the weak
man’s nothingness.” A wise man avoids fixing men in order and place, as
first or last; refuses to have a place for himself, and is content to wait for
the Divine appraising.
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