Matthew 19
Pulpit Commentary Homiletics
Note here a contrast: multitudes following Christ for healing, Pharisees pursuing him for mischief. Satan will be among the sons of God. Jesus turns the contradiction of sinners into instructions for his disciples. Let us consider -


1. The occasion.

(1) It was commonly practised. Josephus recites Deuteronomy 24:1, and relates that he divorced his own wife because he was not pleased with her manners and behaviour ('Ant.,' bk. 4, 100, 8).

(2) The practice had the sanction of scribes. While the school of Schammah were strict in their interpretation of the Law, the school of Hillel were lax.

(3) 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 Matthew 22:15). "In evil things Satan separates the end from the means; in good things the means from the end" (Philip Henry).

2. The reply.

(1) Note: It takes no notice of the scribes. Human authority is nowhere when put into competition with the Word of God.

(2) It 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.

(3) "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. Note: This argument is equally conclusive against polygamy.

(4) "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 his wife.

(5) "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. 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." "They twain shall be one;" so there must be but one wife (cf. Malachi 2:15).

(6) "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.


1. The concession.

(1) "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. 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.

(2) 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. God's permission of lesser evil is evermore to prevent greater.

2. Its repeal.

(1) 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 (cf. Luke 18:17, 18). God who gave the law had a right to relax it.

(2) 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.

(3) 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 ver. 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 (cf. Galatians 3:19).


1. They viewed it in the light of selfishness. "If the case of a man is so," etc. (ver. 10). God said, "It is not good for man to be alone," i.e. unmarried; the disciples, blinded by the prejudices of their race, said, "It is not good to marry."

2. Jesus put it in its true light.

(1) 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.

(2) Others have not the gift of continence. For such celibacy is not expedient. "It is better to marry than to burn."

(3) For those who have this gift celibacy may be expedient in times of persecution and suffering (cf. 1 Corinthians 7:26).

(4) 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 mort serviceable to the salvation of men (cf. 1 Corinthians 7:32; 1 Corinthians 9:5, 12). - J.A.M.

The readiness with which the marriage tie is dissolved in some countries, and the daring questions on the subject that have been raised in England, 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.


1. 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.

2. 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.

II. THE OBLIGATIONS OF IRREVOCABLE MARRIAGE TIES. Jesus Christ saw the terrible evils that resulted from great freedom of divorce in his day, and he distinctly opposed this dangerous licence. Let us consider some of the grave objections to it.

1. 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.

2. 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.

3. It leads to numberless evils.

(1) It ruins the home. Discordant sentiments may also ruin it; but they indicate failure to reach an ideal. Freedom of divorce destroys the very ideal. The home which may be broken up at any moment is no home.

(2) 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.

(3) 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. - W.F.A.

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 wilfulness 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 -

I. CRUELTIES. It became necessary for woman to have some defence 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.

II. INFIDELITIES. This subject needs to be touched very wisely in a 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. - R.T.

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 ver. 9. It may be the exclamation of the disciples in ver. 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.

I. RECEPTIVENESS DEPENDS ON NATURAL DISPOSITION. There 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.

II. RECEPTIVENESS DEPENDS ON MORAL DISCIPLINE. While the 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-centred, self-satisfied - a man who can learn nothing, and grow no better. - R.T.

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.

I. THE MOTHERS. The word "then," with which the paragraph opens, is deeply significant, because it closely connects this paragraph with that which precedes. Jesus had been vindicating the sanctity of marriage. The degenerate Jews bad 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. 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.

II. THE CHILDREN. They showed certain traits of character.

1. Obedience. The children came at their mothers' bidding. Obedience to parents is the root of obedience to God.

2. 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 favour. 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.

III. THE DISCIPLES. They rebuked the mothers. Why?

1. 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 acceptably.

2. 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 observe:

(1) Children will come to Christ if we will suffer them. It is our part to remove every hindrance from their approach to him.

(2) All children need Christ's blessing.

(3) Very young children are old enough to receive it.

IV. CHRIST. He appears as the children's Friend and the Champion of their mothers. This well known incident reveals him to us in his most winning grace.

1. 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 their Friend.

2. Childlikeness. Jesus is drawn to the children by a natural affinity.

3. Gracious kindness. He blesses the children. This he does with personal touch, putting his hands upon them. Christ will take trouble to help and save children. - W.F.A.

Here we have the kingdom of heaven, its children, and its King.


1. This is a name for the invisible Church of God.

(1) It is the Catholic Church. 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).

(2) It is the one Church of all the ages. It comprises the aristocracy of virtue under every dispensation. Christians from all climes sit down in the kingdom of God with all the prophets of the Mosaic dispensation, and with the patriarchs of still more ancient times (cf. Matthew 8:11; Luke 13:28, 29).

2. This is also a name for the collective Christian Church.

(1) In this restricted sense it does not include the kingdom of Israel or the Mosaic Church. The Baptist spoke of it as future to him; so also did the seventy disciples speak of it as future to them (see Matthew 3:2; Matthew 4:17; Matthew 10:7).

(2) 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.


1. These are the disciples who are childlike.

(1) Those who are without this resemblance have no place in this kingdom (see Matthew 18:1-4).

(2) In the innocence and simplicity of childhood we see in outline what a man will become when born again and created anew.

2. These are also little children proper.

(1) 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 Luke 18:15).

(2) These he received as belonging to the kingdom of God. There would 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.

(3) 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; 1 Corinthians 15:22). Christ loves little children, because he loves simplicity and innocence.

(4) The prominent place infants have in the gospel is in keeping with the incarnation of innocence itself in the infant Saviour.


1. Jesus is present to welcome the little ones.

(1) Infants belonged to the Church of the covenant under its more exclusive dispensations of the past. By circumcision they were anciently admitted.

(2) Are they now to be excluded from the same Church of the covenant under the more liberal Christian dispensation? Baptism is the circumcision of Christianity (see Colossians 2:11, 12).

(3) If little children belonged to the kingdom of heaven in the invisible sense of which the visible Church is the type, why should they not also be welcomed into the typical kingdom? Why should water be forbidden to those who have received the Holy Ghost (cf. Isaiah 44:3; Acts 10:47)?

2. Present to rebuke those who would keep them from him.

(1) He who had recently defended the rights of marriage (vers. 3-12) now defends those of children. In rebuking his disciples he commended the parents.

(2) There are still those who would keep the little ones from Christ, not only through their irreligion and neglect, but also under false zeal for the dignity of the Lord.

(3) Notably those disciples who refuse them baptism because they cannot voluntarily believe. May not those baptized in infancy believe when they grow up? "The strongest believer loves not so much by apprehending Christ, as by being apprehended of him" (cf. Galatians 4:9; Philippians 3:12).

3. He is there to bless them.

(1) 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 (cf. Genesis 48:14, 20).

(2) Jesus is not said to have prayed, as he was asked to do (ver. 13); probably because those who asked him had no knowledge of his Oneness with the Father.

(3) But it is recorded that he "blessed them" (see Mark 11:16). Little children, then, are capable of receiving blessing from Christ.

(4) Let us humble ourselves to the simplicity of the child that we also may receive the blessing of the Lord. - J.A.M.

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 honoured 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. Fixing attention on the persons prominent in the incident of the text, see -


1. 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.

2. Their mental culture. Age of education; danger of overstrain; and of thinking learning more important than character.

3. Their social position. So they try to secure for them right companions, good society, advantageous connections.

4. Their moral character. This ought to come first. Beginnings of character and piety are reverence, truthfulness, obedience, trustfulness.

II. WHAT DISCIPLES MAY WANT FOR THE CHILDREN. These 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.


1. To come to him for their own sakes. And "coming to Christ" is simply this - setting our love upon him.

2. To come to him for their mothers' sakes; because, through them, he can get a gracious influence on the mothers.

3. 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. - R.T.

The young man who won the love of Christ by his ardour 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.

I. HIS WISE QUESTION. It is much for a man to have a definite object 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 Samaria (John 4:14). It is right to come to Christ for this boon.

II. HIS MISTAKEN ADDRESS. He called our Lord "Good Master." 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.

III. HIS MORAL CONDUCT. Christ began with the first elements of 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.

IV. HIS NEW DUTY. He is told to renounce his wealth - a hard, a 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 - and he is not altogether an easy Master to serve.

V. HIS SAD FAILURE. The young ruler could not rise up to the sacrifice. 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? - W.F.A.

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?"


1. The ruler, in a sense, discerned this.

(1) He addressed him as "good Master" (cf. Mark 10:17; Luke 18:18). He also evinced his veneration by "kneeling," as stated in Mark.

(2) 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."

2. But he discerned it falsely.

(1) 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).

(2) 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.

(3) 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).


1. This is expressed in the instruction of Christ.

(1) "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.

(2) Keeping the commandments must, however, include faith in Jesus Christ (see 1 John 3:23). Moses gave it amongst his commandments that we should hear the great Prophet to be raised up like unto him.

2. The ruler observed the commandments in the letter.

(1) 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.

(2) 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 neighbour (cf. 1 John 4:20, 21). "Our light burns in love to God, but it shines in love to our neighbour" (Henry).

(3) "All these things have I observed" (cf. Philippians 3:6).

3. He failed to keep them in the spirit.

(1) "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, 14; Romans 3:27).

(2) 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 heaven to hell; Christians prefer heaven to earth.

(3) 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.


1. It promises eternal life in Christ. "Thou shalt have treasure in heaven: and come, follow me."

(1) In the school of Christ we learn the doctrine of justification by faith in his sufficient atonement.

(2) The connection with that atonement of the work of the Holy Spirit in the heart.

(3) His teaching, moreover, shows us the connection between faith and obedience unto the fulfilling of the Law.

2. But it exacts an absolute submission.

(1) "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.

(2) Virtually we have to sell all. We must be willing to part with everything that may hinder our salvation.

3. Those who refuse submission accept sorrow.

(1) "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 (cf. Matthew 4:19; Matthew 8:22; Matthew 9:9; Mark 2:14; Mark 10:21).

(2) 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! Mariners act prudently when, to save their lives, they throw overboard rich bales of silk and precious things. - J.A.M.

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 skilfully dealt with individuals. "He needed not that any should testify of man; for he knew what was in man." He was "a discerner of the thoughts and intents of the heart." In the ruler's abrupt and impulsive question we may trace three forms of mistake.

I. A MISTAKE ABOUT CHRIST. He applied the word "good" to him, 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.

1. 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.

2. 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.

II. A MISTAKE CONCERNING HIMSELF. This took a twofold form. 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 soul.

III. A MISTAKE CONCERNING THE FUTURE. Feeling himself well 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." A man's wealth is his character; that is true of this life, but much more true of the life to come. - R.T.

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.

I. RIGHT ATTITUDE TOWARDS PARENTS IS THE BEGINNING OF 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." Honouring includes:

1. Cherishing high thoughts concerning. To a child, father and mother ought to be embodiments of all excellence.

2. Loving dependence on. The confidence that the goodness will be adequate to all emergencies.

3. Perfect response to. Involving the patting of the parents' will before the child's own.

4. 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.

II. RIGHT ATTITUDE TOWARDS PARENTS ENSURES 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 to God. - R.T.

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. Remark -

I. HOW ENTIRELY EVEN AN INTELLIGENT MAN MAY 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 dreamt he was ungodly till he found he preferred his few acres of land to that Person whom he had confessed to be Incarnate Goodness.

II. A MAN MAY NOT ONLY MISAPPREHEND HIS ATTAINMENT, 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.

III. BETWEEN OUR PRESENT ATTAINMENT AND PERFECTION 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.

IV. FOR THE ONE THING ESSENTIAL, IF WE ARE TO ATTAIN 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 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 devotedness to Christ.

V. OTHER THINGS MAY ALSO BE LACKING, AS, FOR EXAMPLE, 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 awanting. 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 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 awanting. 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.

VI. Remark, in conclusion, that THE LACK OF ONE THING MAY MAKE ALL OTHER, ATTAINMENTS USELESS. One mistake vitiates 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. - D.

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.

I. THE EXPLANATION OF THE DIFFICULTY. It is wholly on the side 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 favour the rich to the neglect of the poor; and he does not favour the poor and deal harshly with the rich. He is just and fair with all. But the rich man has hindrances in himself.

1. 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.

2. The deceitful promise of riches. Jesus spoke of the deceitfulness of riches as one of the weeds that spring up and choke the Word (Matthew 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 market.

3. 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 may be a miserable coward, sensual sot, a senseless fool. Yet the disgraceful sycophancy of the world teaches him to regard himself as a superior person. Now, pride is the most effectual harrier to the entrance of the kingdom of heaven. Only the lowly and humble and childlike can creep through its humble doorway.

4. 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 cross.


1. 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 wealth?

2. 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 dangerous temptation.

3. 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.

4. 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. Therefore

(1) the rich should have the gospel preached to them;

(2) we should pray for the rich;

(3) we should rejoice greatly that there are rich men in the kingdom of God. - W.F.A.

Behold, one came to Jesus (see ver. 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," etc. Learn -


5. That it is outside the ravage of ordinary probability is evinced in the case of the ruler.

(1) His circumstances were exceptionably favourable. Observe:

(a) The seriousness of his inquiry after eternal life.

(b) The respectfulness of his approach to Christ.

(c) The excellence of his moral character.

(d) The affection with which our Lord regarded him.

(e) The sorrowful struggle of spirit with which he departed.

(2) Yet for all this he was overcome by the influence of his "great possessions."

(3) The silence respecting him afterwards renders it probable that, in gaining the world, he lost his soul.

2. That it is outside the ravage of ordinary probability is declared by Christ.

(1) "It is hard," etc. (ver. 23). And this is emphasized by a "verily."

(2) The assertion is strengthened by what follows (ver. 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 into the kingdom of God'" (Gadsby). Note: The way 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.

(3) What our Lord adds does not soften his earlier words (see ver. 26); for it makes the salvation of the rich an utmost effort of omnipotence.

3. The salvation of the rich is imperilled by the deceitfulness of riches.

(1) It is not riches themselves, but the sordid love of them, that our Lord condemns (cf. 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.

(2) But those who have riches naturally love them and trust them (cf. Matthew 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 (cf. Psalm 49:6, 7; Psalm 52:7; 1 Timothy 6:17).

(3) Yet how few see that to be rich is a misfortune! Even when Christ intimated this, his own disciples were "astonished exceedingly" (ver. 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.

4. Still with God the salvation of the rich is possible.

(1) 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.

(2) 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 ver. 21).

(3) 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.


1. In this present life.

(1) Peter said, "Lo, we have left all, and followed thee." The disciples had but little; yet it was their all (cf. Mark 12:43, 44).

(2) Peter speaks of their giving up all (ver. 27); Jesus speaks of their following him (ver. 28). "To obey is better than to sacrifice." Obedience includes sacrifice. "The philosopher forsakes all without following Christ; most Christians follow Christ without forsaking all; to do both is apostolic perfection" (Bengel).

(3) 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 (ver. 29; see 2 Corinthians 8:12).

(4) 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!

2. In the life to come.

(2) "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 (cf. Isaiah 1:26). Irenaeus says that the reward of the hundredfold is to happen in the millennium (cf. Isaiah 32:1; Daniel 7:18, 27; Matthew 26:29; Acts 3:20, 21; Revelation 20.).

(2) 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" (cf. Luke 20:36; Romans 8:23; 1 John 3:2).

(3) 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." - J.A.M.

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 things?

I. RICHES HAVE A SEPARATING INFLUENCE ON MEN. They tend 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 levelling. 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.

II. RICHES HAVE A SATISFYING INFLUENCE ON MEN. They bring 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.

III. RICHES HAVE A HARDENING INFLUENCE ON MEN. This is most true, most strange, and most sad. It can be illustrated in eases 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. - R.T.

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.

I. MEN CANNOT SAVE THEMSELVES. The disciples are made to see 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.

1. 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.

2. 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.

3. 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.

4. The circumstances of life prevent men from saving themselves. Riches keep back the wealthy. Poverty, with its cares and anxieties, oppresses the destitute. Various calls and distractions, fascinations and delusions, hinder other men.


1. 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.

2. 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. - W.F.A.

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 impossibilities.

I. GOD CAN SAVE RICH MEN, BECAUSE HE CAN TAKE AWAY 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 trusted.

II. GOD CAN SAVE RICH MEN BY TAKING THEM AWAY FROM 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;" and under that convincement a man will surely be liberated from the enslaving of worldly possessions. - R.T.

St. 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 favours, like school prizes, not wages due and paid on demands of justice. The rewards are both heavenly and earthly.

I. THE HEAVENLY REWARD. This is presented to us in two forms.

1. 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 splendour 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." This means more than future joy, a mere elysium of delights; it involves power, honour, responsibility - like the man who had gained ten pounds being appointed to rule over tea cities (Luke 19:17).

2. Eternal life. The first reward was external; it pointed to status, function, honour. 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.

II. THE EARTHLY REWARD. Their reward is to be a great reward on earth. In St. 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 difficulty is to see how this can be on earth. Now, we cannot take the words of Christ literally, for no one would wish to have hundreds of fathers and mothers. But as Christ owned kinship with all who do God's will (Matthew 12:50), so may Christians. The Church should be the new family for those who have been cast out of their old home on account of their Christian confession. 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. - W.F.A.

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.

I. THE REGENERATION TREATED AS THE ESTABLISHMENT OF 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;" and then the glorious work of regenerating the world was initiated. The new creation, to be completed finally in "the restitution of all things," was commenced. The outpouring of the Spirit on the Day of Pentecost, the miracles performed by his apostles, the destruction of Jerusalem and of "those his enemies who would not that he should reign over them," and the abolition of the Mosaic economy, were the palpable proofs of his exaltation.

II. THE REGENERATION TREATED AS INDICATING THE MISSION OF THE KINGDOM. The "kingdom" was to be the supreme renovating, renewing, regenerating force in the world. The "regeneration" may be taken as the time following on our Lord's resurrection.

1. It was primarily centred in our Lord's own renovated Person; for he then put off the servant form, and put on his immortality.

2. 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 appointed.

3. The Church was renewed and regenerated from the old to the new dispensation. The types and shadows had departed, the reign of the kingdom of God with power was begun." There is to be a new birth for 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." - R.T.

Shall receive an hundredfold, and shall inherit everlasting life. St. Peter (1 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.

I. THE SPIRITUAL THINGS A DISCIPLE NOW HAS. Things answering to "houses and lands," and to "wife and children." Man here on earth has two supreme satisfactions - they are found in "things possessed," and in "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 St. 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"! Riches and objects of affection depend on the faculties wakened in us. Discipleship wakens new and nobler faculties; and these Christ provides for.

II. THE SPIRITUAL THINGS A DISCIPLE EXPECTS. Lest there 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 - "many mansions," "crowns," "harps," "palms." But the apostles help to liberate and raise our thoughts, for they speak of a "crown of righteousness," a "crown of life," a "crown of glory." "Godliness has the promise of the life that now is, and of that which is to come." The Christian makes "the best of both worlds." - R.T.

Many that are first shall be last. There is a story of a poor man who, in distant ages, had stood aloof from the sacrifices to Varuna, the goddess of the waters, but had been eventually signalized by her as her most devoted worshipper - his omission to join in a certain rite having only arisen from the intensity of his heartfelt adoration. So the last proved to be first. 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."

I. PRESENT ESTIMATES ARE SPOILED BY SELF-CENTREDNESS. Men make themselves their standards; and then easily make themselves better than their neighbours; and put their neighbours low down. Certain phases of religious doctrine encourage self-centredness, and make a man think that he is a special favourite of Heaven; and of all disagreeable people, favourites - court favourites and others - are the worst. A man never estimates either himself or others aright until he makes God his standard.

II. PRESENT ESTIMATES ARE SPOILED BY JEALOUSIES. Who of us is fully and honourably 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.

III. PRESENT ESTIMATES ARE DEPENDENT ON APPEARANCES. 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. - R.T.

The Pulpit Commentary, Electronic Database.
Copyright © 2001, 2003, 2005, 2006, 2010 by Biblesoft, Inc.
All rights reserved. Used by permission.

Bible Hub
Matthew 18
Top of Page
Top of Page