The Agora
Bible Commentary

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Matthew 19

Mat 19:1

Mat 19: "The Lord undertakes the final departure from Galilee as his ministry faces another challenge from the leaders of the nation. There is a dispute on divorce, which the Lord counters with a logical and consistent reply. So the narrative presents: (1) The people follow the Master: vv 1,2. (2) Faces a dispute on divorce: vv 3-9. The Master draws attention to the difference between the two great schools of thought on Moses' Law, and shows that 'from the beginning it was not so' -- thus giving the divine interpretation of the ancient instruction. (3) The Lord explains his teaching to his disciples: vv 10-12. (4) Jesus blesses little children: vv 13,14 (5) Jesus instructs a rich young ruler: vv 16-22. (6) Jesus warns his disciples: vv 23-26. (7) The reward of self-sacrifice: vv 27-30" (GEM).

HE LEFT GALILEE: A last look at his boyhood home?

THE REGION OF JUDEA TO THE OTHER SIDE OF THE JORDAN: Possibly, Jesus left Galilee and began to make his way toward Jerusalem, traveling by way of Perea (lit, the "Beyond", ie that region beyond Jordan), thus bypassing Samaria. But it is also possible that "peran tou Iordanou" (lit, "across the Jordan") modifies "Judea" on the west bank -- as though the movements were described from a position on the east bank.

"But though one might conclude from our Evangelist that our Lord went straight from the one region to the other, we know from the other Gospels that a considerable time elapsed between the departure from the one and the arrival at the other, during which many of the most important events in our Lord's public life occurred -- probably a large part of what is recorded in Luk 9:51, onward to Mat 18:15, and part of Joh 7:2-11:54" (JFB).

Mat 19:2

LARGE CROWDS FOLLOWED HIM: Organized pilgrimages?

Mat 19:3

TO TEST HIM: To catch him at his words: Mar 12:14,19; Joh 8:5,6; Mar 2:24.

LAWFUL: That is, lawful according to Moses.

Mat 19:4

Quotes from Gen 1:27 (here) and Gen 2:24 (v 5): from both "accounts" of creation.

MALE AND FEMALE: Lit, A male and A female, ie one of each!

Mat 19:6

See Lesson, Divorce.

Mat 19:8

No "command" (v 7), but rather a "permission" (v 8)!

Mat 19:9

This clause is given only so as to appear not to violate the LM -- it is the answer to v 3: "Is it lawful (ie, according to Moses)?"

Mat 19:10

IT IS BETTER NOT TO MARRY: That is, in the first place.

Mat 19:11

THIS WORD: That is, that it is better not to marry at all (Mat 19:10). In essence, the same advice Paul gives in 1Co 7:27,28: Better to remain single, but not a sin (for a virgin) to marry. This v is explained by // Mar 10:11,12 (Jesus' answer to same question: cp Mat 19:10 with Mar 10:10) -- the teaching of which is unquestionable.

Mat 19:13

// Gen 48:14.

See Lesson, Laying on of hands.

WERE BROUGHT: "Prosphero" = to offer, as a sacrifice! Just previously (Mat 19:1-12; Mar 10:1-12), Jesus was talking about the sanctity of marriage; the children are a large part of his reason.

BUT THE DISCIPLES REBUKED THOSE WHO BROUGHT THEM: Cp Mat 20:11: when others are rewarded, some murmur.

Mat 19:14

Note: faith (Rom 1:17; Gal 3:11; Heb 10:38), not ignorance (Eph 4:18), is essential to salvation.

TO SUCH AS THESE: That is, to those who are similar (in some respect) to these. Similarity? A childlike faith: cp Mat 19:23; Mar 10:23; Luk 18:24; 1Pe 2:2; 1Co 14:20; Mat 18:3,4; Psa 131:2.

"It would be logical to infer from this that the Lord is pleased when parents seek to consecrate their children to him (as Hannah did Samuel) and certainly looks down with blessing on those thus committed to his care. But to infer baptism, which elsewhere invariably FOLLOWS belief, is to go beyond what is written" (HAW).

Mat 19:16

Vv 16-30: The rich young ruler came to the right person, showed the right attitude, asked the right question, received the right answer, but made the wrong response!

Suggestion: the rich young ruler was Joseph Barnabas -- who later does in fact heed the exhortation of Jesus (Acts 4:36,37).

A MAN: "A certain ruler" (Luk 18:18).

WHAT GOOD THING MUST I DO?: Note stress on the word "DO"! A typical Jewish emphasis on works.

Mat 19:17

There was no "good" work, or any combination of "good" works, learned from any "good" rabbi that could EARN eternal life (cp Rom 9:31,32).

Possibly, however, a roundabout argument also: 'But if I really am good, then I must be from GOD!'

Mat 19:21

"What do I still lack?" Jesus, in answer, alludes to Psa 23:1, LXX: "I shall want (or lack) nothing." The rich young man lacked but one thing -- ie Yahweh as his shepherd. Thus he lacked all things, ie all things meaningful. The remedy: "Come, and follow ME."

Mat 19:22

HE HAD GREAT WEALTH: Or rather, his wealth "had" him (Deu 6:10-13). "If your hand offends you, cut it off" (Mar 9:43). Ct Mat 20:34; Mar 10:52; Luk 18:43: the rich man loses all; the poor man gains all. Also ct Zaccheus, a wealthy man who gave it up (Luk 19:6,8).

No matter how much wealth the young man had, he could not ride in a car, have any surgery, turn on a light, buy penicillin, hear a pipe organ, watch TV, use a computer, wash dishes in running water, type a letter, mow a lawn, fly in an airplane, sleep on an innerspring mattress, or talk on the telephone. If he was rich, then what am I?

And how do I react to the words of Jesus?

Mat 19:23

A RICH MAN: Or "those who TRUST in riches" (Mar 10:24). It is possible righteously to have riches, but not to trust in them: Abraham, David, Zaccheus. A theme of Christ's parables: Luk 12:15-21; 16:19-31.

Mat 19:24

IT IS EASIER FOR A CAMEL TO GO THROUGH THE EYE OF A NEEDLE THAN FOR A RICH MAN TO ENTER THE KINGDOM OF GOD: "The proverbial saying... refers to the absolutely impossible... Attempts to weaken this hyperbole by taking 'needle,' not as a sewing needle, but as a small gate through which an unladen camel could just squeeze and only on his knees are misguided. This conjecture may come from some of Jerome's allegorizing" (EBC).

An old Heb proverb: "Open a needle's eye to God, and God will open to you a gate large enough for camels."

"These words of Jesus covered not only the rich but the poor also. The rich man glorying in his riches is far from the Kingdom of God, but the poor man trusting in his hard-earned pittance is no nearer. Indeed the poor man may clutch his few pounds more tightly than a rich man his thousands. The emphasis in each is upon the same thing. Our trust must not be centred upon riches, great or small, or upon honour, or men, but upon God" (MP).

Mat 19:25

For every man of this world is "rich" is something: "rich" in pride, if nothing else.

Mat 19:27

WE: In contrast to this young man (v 22).

Mat 19:28

TWELVE THRONES, JUDGING THE TWELVE TRIBES OF ISRAEL: Solomon had 12 district governors over all Israel: 1Ki 4:7.

The apostles sitting upon twelve thrones is the subject of Psa 122:5. (The twelve tribes of Israel are alluded to in Psa 122:4.)

Mat 19:30

"For whoever exalts himself will be humbled, and whoever humbles himself will be exalted" (Mat 23:12). "So the last will be first, and the first will be last" (Mat 20:16).
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