When his disciples heard it, they were exceedingly amazed, saying, Who then can be saved?
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EXPOSITORY (ENGLISH BIBLE)Who then can be saved?—There is an almost child-like naïveté in the question thus asked by the disciples. They, whether among their own people or among strangers, had found the desire of wealth to be the universal passion. Even they themselves, when they had forsaken their earthly goods, had done so (as Peter’s question showed but too plainly, Matthew 19:27) as with a far-sighted calculation. They were counting on outward riches in that kingdom as well as outward glory. And now they heard what seemed to them a sweeping condemnation, excluding all who possessed, and, by implication, all who sought after, riches from the kingdom. The feeling which thus showed itself in the disciples has, curiously enough, affected the text of the narrative in St. Mark. What seems an explanatory and softened statement, “How hardly shall they that trust in riches enter into the kingdom of God!” (Mark 10:24), is not found in the best MSS. The omission may have been an accidental error of the copyists, but it is scarcely probable; and its absence from St. Matthew and St. Luke, not less than that it is not our Lord’s usual method to soften or explain His teaching, leads to the conclusion that a marginal note, added by some one who felt as the disciples felt, has here found its way into the text.Matthew 19:25-26. When his disciples heard it, they were exceedingly amazed — The disciples, who had followed their Master in expectation of becoming rich and great, were exceedingly astonished when they heard him declare that it was next to impossible for a rich man to enter into the kingdom of God. They thought if the rich and the great could not enter his kingdom, he never could have any kingdom at all; and, therefore, they asked one another with great surprise, Who then can be saved — If rich men with all their advantages cannot? “Who? A poor man: a peasant: a beggar: — ten thousand of them,” says Mr. Wesley, “sooner than one that is rich.” But Jesus beheld them — Mark says, looking upon them — To compose their hurried spirits. O what a speaking look was there! Said to them — With the utmost sweetness; With men this is impossible — It is observable, he does not retract what he had said; no, nor soften it in the least degree, but rather strengthens it, by representing the salvation of a rich man as the utmost effort of Omnipotence. The energy of divine grace is able to make a man despise the world, with all that it contains, when no efforts of man, no arguments, eloquence, or persuasions are able to do it.
To denote that a thing was impossible or exceedingly difficult, they said that a camel or an elephant might as soon walk through a needle's eye. In the use of such proverbs it is not necessary to understand them literally. They merely denote the extreme difficulty of the case.
A camel - A beast of burden much used in Eastern countries. It is about the size of the largest ox, with one or two bunches on his back, with long neck and legs, no horns, and with feet adapted to the hot and dry sand. They are capable of carrying heavy burdens, will travel sometimes faster than the fleetest horse, and are provided with a stomach which they fill with water, by means of which I they can live four or five days without drink. They are very mild and tame, and kneel down to receive and unload their burden. They are chiefly used in deserts and hot climates, where other beasts of burden are with difficulty kept alive.
A rich man - This rather means one who loves his riches and makes an idol of them, or one who supremely desires to be rich. Mark says Mark 10:24 "How hard is it for them that trust in riches." While a man has this feeling - relying on his wealth alone - it is literally impossible that he should be a Christian; for religion is a love of God rather than the world - the love of Jesus and his cause more than gold. Still a man may have much property, and not have this feeling. He may have great wealth, and love God more; as a poor man may have little, and love that little more than God. The difficulties in the way of the salvation of a rich man are:
1. that riches engross the affections.
2. that people consider wealth as the chief good, and when this is obtained they think they have gained all.
3. that they are proud of their wealth, and unwilling to be numbered with the poor and despised followers of Jesus.
4. that riches engross the time, and fill the mind with cares and anxieties, and leave little for God.
5. that they often produce luxury, dissipation, and vice. that it is difficult to obtain wealth without sin, without avarice, without covetousness, fraud, and oppression, 1 Timothy 6:9-10, 1 Timothy 6:17; James 5:1-5; Luke 12:16-21; Luke 16:19-31.
Still, Jesus says Matthew 19:26, all these may be overcome. God can give grace to do it. Though to people it may appear impossible, yet it is easy for God.
For the exposition, see on Lu 18:18-30.See Poole on "Matthew 19:26".
they were exceedingly amazed. They were surprised at his first words; but when he confirmed them by the proverb of a camel's passing through the eye of a needle, they were, as Mark says, "astonished out of measure": they did not imagine there was any difficulty of rich men coming into the kingdom of the Messiah, which they took to be a worldly one, and would be filled with rich men; for so they understood Christ; though he meant by the kingdom of heaven a spiritual kingdom, a Gospel church state here, or the heavenly glory, or both; but when he expressed, by the proverb, the impracticableness of such men becoming the subjects thereof, their amazement increased;
saying, as in Mark, "among themselves", privately to one another,
who then can be saved? meaning, not with a spiritual and everlasting salvation, but a temporal one: for upon Christ's so saying, they might reason with themselves, that if rich men did not come into the kingdom of the Messiah, they would oppose him and his kingdom, with all their force and strength; and then what would become of such poor men as themselves, who would not be able to stand against them? nor could they hope to be safe long, or enjoy any continued happiness in the expected kingdom, should this be the case.When his disciples heard it, they were exceedingly amazed, saying, Who then can be saved?
EXEGETICAL (ORIGINAL LANGUAGES)Matthew 19:25. Τίς ἄρα] who therefore, if the difficulty is so great in the case of the rich, who have the means of doing much good. The inference of the disciples is a majoribus ad minores. The general expression τίς cannot be intended to mean what rich man (Euthymius Zigabenus, Weiss), as is further evident from what is said by Jesus in Matthew 19:23-24.Matthew 19:25. ἐξεπλήσσοντο σφόδρα: the severity of the Master’s doctrine on wealth as on divorce (Matthew 19:12) was more than the disciples could bear. It took their breath away, so to speak.—τίς ἄρα, etc.: it seemed to them to raise the question as to the possibility of salvation generally. The question may represent the cumulative effect of the austere teaching of the Master since the day of Caesarea. The imperfect tense of ἐξεπλήσσοντο may point to a continuous mood, culminating at that moment.25. Who then can be saved?] Salvation seemed to belong by right to the rulers of synagogues and other rich people. It was a notable fact that the gospel should be preached to the poor. The thought of the disciples still lives. Wealth and intellect make men seem better, “Sometimes even supplying the absence of real good with what looks extremely like it.” See a Sermon by Prof. Mozley, on The Reversal of Human Judgment, pp. 85–87.Matthew 19:25. Ἀκούσαντες δὲ οἱ μαθηταὶ αὐτοῦ, κ.τ.λ., but when His disciples heard it, etc.) Scripture everywhere shows a middle path between excessive confidence and excessive timidity. See Matthew 19:26; Matthew 19:28; Matthew 19:30; 1 Peter 5:7, compared with 6, 8.—τίς ἄρα, κ.τ.λ., who then, etc.) The disciples were anxious, either for themselves, lest other obstacles should equally impede them, or because they entertained the hope of acquiring wealth (see Matthew 19:27), or else for others: which fear is far more laudable. Cf. Revelation 5:4.Verse 25. - Exceedingly amazed. The stern teaching of vers. 23 and 24 thoroughly dismayed and perhaps offended them. Temporal prosperity had in their Law been held forth as the reward of righteousness and obedience, a foretaste of future happiness. They must unlearn this principle. Here, as they understood it, was a doctrine novel, unheard of, unnatural! Fancy the astonishment that would be displayed nowadays if such a sentiment were solemnly propounded in the Stock Exchange, the bank, the market! The apostles could not minimize its import, or say that it might suit other days and other states of society, but was inapplicable to their age and nation. We can do this in the case of many seemingly stringent requirements of the gospel; but they accepted the announcement in its full and simple meaning, and asked in sorrowful wonder, Who then can be saved? If the way to heaven is barred to the rich man, how shall the poor pass therein? The difficulty seemed to apply to everybody. All who are not rich are hoping and struggling to become rich, and therefore fall under the same category. If the apostles thought not of themselves in this question, they were grieved at the reflection that, under the circumstances, the majority of mankind were recklessly endangering their eternal salvation. With their views of a temporal kingdom, the apostles probably were thinking of their own prospects.
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