But Jesus beheld them, and said to them, With men this is impossible; but with God all things are possible.
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EXPOSITORY (ENGLISH BIBLE)Jesus beheld them.—We can surely conceive something of the expression of that look. He had gazed thus on the young ruler, and read his inner weakness. Now, in like manner, he reads that of the disciples; and the look, we may believe, tells of wonder, sorrow, tenderness, anxiety. Those feelings utter themselves in the words that follow, partly in direct teaching, partly in symbolic promises, partly in a parable.
With men this is impossible.—General as the words are in their form, we cannot help feeling that they must have seemed to the disciples to have rebuked their hasty judgment, not only as to the conditions of salvation generally, but as to the individual case before them. He, the Teacher, would still hope, as against hope, for one in whom He had seen so much to love and to admire. Their wider teaching is, of course, that wealth, though bringing with it many temptations, may be so used, through God’s grace, as to be a help, not a hindrance, in that deliverance from evil which is implied in the word “salvation.”
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.They were astonished out of measure, saying among themselves, & c. All three evangelists agree in the same substance of the other words. But why are the disciples amazed? or why do they say, Who then can be saved? Are there not in all places more poor than rich persons? The disciples might reasonably conclude, that poor persons were by their poverty also exposed to many great and dangerous temptations; that even they, though they had not riches, yet might too much place felicity in them, and covet what they had not; and from hence collect a difficulty for any to get to heaven. Our Saviour saith unto them,
With men this is impossible; but with God all things are possible. If men indeed were left all to themselves, none would be saved; the blackamoor cannot change his skin, nor the leopard his spots; but God can bring men to heaven by the mighty power of his grace: he can change a rich man’s heart, and take it off from too much love of riches, and make him to despise and contemn his wealth, and to put his trust in the living God; or a poor man’s heart, and make him also poor in spirit and rich in grace.
and said unto them, with men this is impossible. Mark adds, "but not with God; for with God all things are possible"; to be done by him, if he will, which are consistent with the glory and perfections of his nature: for as he could, by his almighty power, if he would, reduce a camel to so small a size, as to be able to go through the eye of a needle, which, with men, is an impossible thing; so by the mighty power of his grace he can work upon a rich man's heart, in such a manner, as to take off his affections from his worldly substance, and cause him to drop his trust and confidence in it: he can so influence and dispose his mind, as to distribute his riches cheerfully among the poor, and largely, and liberally supply their wants, and even part with all, when necessity requires it: he can change his heart, and cause the desires of his soul to be after true riches of grace and glory; and bring him to see his own spiritual poverty, his need of Christ, and salvation by him; and to deny himself, take up the cross, and follow him, by submitting to his most despised ordinances, and by suffering the loss of all things for his sake; and he can carry him through a thousand snares safe to his kingdom and glory, which is Christ's sense; though the thing is impossible upon the foot of human nature, and strength, which can never effect anything of this kind: and as to what the apostles suggested concerning the safety of persons in the Messiah's kingdom, if no rich man could enter there, but should be in opposition to it; our Lord's answer implies, that though, humanly speaking, it was not possible and practicable that they, a company of poor, mean, and despicable men, should be able to stand against the united force of the great and mighty men of the earth; yet God was able to support, and uphold them, succeed, and keep them, and make them both useful and comfortable, amidst all the opposition and persecution they should meet with, until he had finished his whole will and work by them.But Jesus beheld them, and said unto them, With men this is impossible; but with God all things are possible.
EXEGETICAL (ORIGINAL LANGUAGES)Matthew 19:26. Ἐμβλέψας] This circumstance is also noticed by Mark. The look which, during a momentary pause, preceded the following utterance was doubtless one of a telling and significant character, and calculated to impress the startled disciples (Chrysostom, Euthymius Zigabenus: ἡμέρῳ βλέμματι). Comp. Luke 20:17; John 1:43.
παρὰ ἀνθρώποις] so far as men are concerned, i.e. not hominum judicio (Fritzsche, Ewald), but serving to indicate that the impossibility is on the part of man, is owing to human inability, Luke 1:37.
τοῦτο] namely, the σωθῆναι, not: that the rich should be saved. See Matthew 19:25 (in answer to Fritzsche, de Wette). Jesus invites the disciples to turn from the thought of man’s own inability to obtain salvation, to the omnipotence of God’s converting and saving grace.Matthew 19:26. ἐμβλέψας denotes a look of observation and sympathy. Jesus sees that He has made too deep an impression, depressing in effect, and hastens to qualify what He had said: “with mild, meek eye soothing their scared mind, and relieving their distress” (Chrys., Hom. lxiii.).—παρὰ ἀνθρώποις, etc.: practically this reflection amounted to saying that the previous remark was to be taken cum grano, as referring to tendency rather than to fact. He did not mean that it was as impossible for a rich man to be saved as for a camel to pass through a needle-eye, but that the tendency of wealth was to act powerfully as an obstructive to the spiritual life.Matthew 19:26. Ἑμβλέψας, having looked upon) in order to fix the thoughts of the terrified disciples. Jesus taught many things even by His look and by the expression of His countenance. This look first moved Matthew, once a publican.—εἶπεν, said) with the greatest sweetness.—ἀδύνατον, impossible) more even than morally impossible.—πάντα, all things) Therefore even this. The Divine omnipotence is seen, not only in the kingdom of nature, but in those also of grace and glory. That power is more than human by which the human heart is led away from earthly things. The cause of the rich may be pleaded with the greatest, effect by the poor and the scrupulous.—δυνατά, possible) as each of the elect will know.
 In the original, “timoratos.” In illustration and explanation of this barbarous word, the following extract will not be unwelcome:—
“TIMORATUS. Wippo de Vita Chunradi Salici, p. 428: In Dei seruitio Timorata, in orationibus et eleemosynis assidua. Gesta Innocentii iii. p. 77: Deuotus et timoratus. Ditmarns lib. 2: Filiam bene Timoratam, etc. Humiliter et Timorate, apud eumdem lib. 3. Fulbertus Carnot. Epist. 40: Haerebam timorate suspensus et expectans, etc. Occurrit non semel: Gallis Timoré, Dei timidus et a lenibus culpis auersus. Timoratus et totus plenus Deo, in Chronico Noualic. apud Murator, to. 2, part. 2, col. 735. Adde p. 2 de Imit. Christi, c. 10, n. 3, etc.” GLOSSARIUM MANUALE AD SCRIPTORES MEDIÆ ET INFIME LATINITATIS ex magnis Glossariis CABOLI DU FRESNE, DOMINI DU CANGE, et CARPENTARII in compendium redactum multisque verbis et dicendi formulis auctum.—Tom. 6, p. 563, b.—(I. B.)Verse 26. - But Jesus beheld them (ἐμβλέψας, 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) 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.
Not the salvation of rich men, but salvation in general. It is in answer to the question, who can be saved ? Man cannot save himself nor his fellow. God only can save him.
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