And he was sad at that saying, and went away grieved: for he had great possessions.…
I. REFLECTIONS TO WHICH THE INCIDENT GAVE RISE.
1. Effect on the young ruler. He went away grieved. He is now brought to see that he cannot obey two masters; he cannot serve God and mammon. "He was sad at that saying." The word στυγνάσας here used is peculiar. In one other place it is applied to the appearance of the sky, and translated lowering; and so a cloud came over the young man's brow. Our Lord esteemed him (ἠγάπησεν), for he undoubtedly manifested several endearing traits of character - he was sincere, ardent, and evidently aspiring to something heroical in religion. For the present, however, he went away.
2. Question about his return. Whether this young man was Lazarus, as some have conjectured from a certain similarity of incidents, such as "One thing is needful," compared with "One thing thou lackest," is of course uncertain, as is also the probability of his afterwards returning to the Savior. "He was having (ῆν ἔχων) great possessions," is a somewhat striking, phrase, and denotes habitual as well as actual possession, His preference was given to worldly things for the present, and was called. by Dante "the great refusal." One thing is certain, that those possessions soon reverted to others; and whether it was force, or fraud, or casuality, or death that at last deprived him of them, they were taken away; and if he continued to cling to them, and to prefer them to the heavenly inheritance, then he could reckon on no reversion in the skies - no portion of which it could be said, "it shall not be taken away from" him.
3. The rich man's difficulty. "It is easier for a camel to go through the eye of a needle, than for a rich man to enter into the kingdom of God." The difficulty of his entrance into the kingdom of heaven is stated
(1) proverbially. This proverb is quite in keeping with the Oriental style of exaggeration, or hyperbolical expression. Some have read
(2) κάμιλον, a rope, instead of κάμηλον, a camel, but without adequate authority. Some, again, understand it to mean
(3) the narrow side-gate for foot-passengers beside the large gates of Eastern cities. This, however, is rather a modern conception to explain an ancient idea. The difficulty is connected with trusting in riches, and arises from the temptations to which riches expose their possessors. The love of riches is the root of the evil. A rich man may sit loose to the riches he possesses, while a poor man may set his heart upon the wealth to which he aspires. The astonishment of the apostles was occasioned partly by the extreme difficulties placed in the way of the rich by the temptations inseparably connected with riches; and partly by temptations of other kinds which they felt as placing difficulties in the way of salvation, specially, perhaps, among these the need of that inward subjective righteousness which is to be wrought out, and which, though it is not the title to, is the meetness for, the heavenly inheritance. The universal desire for wealth, and their own secret expectations of the rich rewards of an earthly kingdom, all of which were reprobated by the words of our Lord, increased the anticipated difficulty and intensified their amazement.
4. The claim preferred by Peter on behalf of himself and fellow-disciples. The refusal of the ruler to take up his cross and follow Christ suggests a comparison. Peter is the mouthpiece, as usual, and gives utterance to his own and the unspoken thoughts of his fellow-apostles. "Lo," he says, "we have left all, and have followed thee;" he draws special attention to the fact by a "Lo," or "Behold." Others soon after did the same, and literally acted out the requirement which our Lord proposed to the ruler as the practical test of that principle of self-denying, self-sacrificing love which is the spring of true obedience; for in Acts 4:34, 35, we read, "As many as were possessed of lands or houses sold them, and brought the prices of the things that were sold, and laid them down at the apostles' feet: and distribution was made unto every man according as he had need." Peter, however, supplements his statement of fact by the inquiry, "What shall we have therefore?" as St. Matthew informs us. Peter reckons on a reward - he calculates on a quid pro quo; and so far forth he shows that he has failed in the spirit of the requirement, though he has fulfilled it in the letter. An earthly kingdom with its attractive rewards was still looming before the eyes of these partially enlightened men.
5. The promised compensation. In the componsatory reward the equivalents for "father" and "wife" are omitted. The reason is not far to seek; we have not many fathers in Christ. As the apostle writes to the Corinthians, "Though ye have ten thousand instructers in Christ, yet have ye not many fathers;" but contrariwise we may have many spiritual mothers, as well as brothers and sisters. Thus Paul reckons among his spiritual mothers the mother of Rufus, when he says (Romans 16:13), "his mother and mine." The jeer of Julian, with respect to a multiplicity of wives, is referred to by Theophylact in the following terms: - "Shall he then also have a hundred wives? Yes. Though the cursed Julian mocked this." Theophylact then proceeds to explain it of the ministry of holy women supplying food and raiment, and relieving the disciples of care about all such things. The compensation of a hundredfold for all we abandon or lose for Christ's sake must be understood figuratively and spiritually - figuratively as to the quantitative proportion, spiritually with regard to quality or kind. The apostles enjoyed the fulfillment of this promise to the utmost in the presence and companionship of their Lord and Master, his instructions, his guidance, and his grace. There is no one who will make a similar sacrifice for his name's sake, according to St. Matthew - that is, as read in the light of the other evangelists, for sake of Christ and his cause, or Christ and his kingdom, not by reason of a calculation of reward - that will not gain what is a hundred times more valuable than all they sacrifice: Divine favor, pardon of sin, purity of heart, peace of conscience, spiritual consolations, friends in Jesus; and all these not only in the present dispensation, but at the present season (καιρῷ); while in the coming dispensation we shall have eternal life; that is to say, every blessing we need in this world, and eternal blessedness in the world to come. One of the items here enumerated is generally understood as a limitation; but μετὰ διωγμ῀ν does not denote
(1) after persecutions, which would require the accusative, nor
(2) amidst persecutions, but
(3) with persecutions,
implying that persecutions have a place among the enumerated blessings, just as in the sermon on the mount we read, "Blessed are they that have been persecuted for righteousness' sake: for theirs is the kingdom of heaven." We should also compare with this promise of the Savior the inventory of the Christian's possessions, as reckoned up by the apostle in 1 Corinthians 3:22, 23. Further, strictly temporal blessings are not excluded, but either directly or indirectly included. Godliness enables us in a certain sense to make the best of both worlds, being profitable for all things, and "having the promise of the life that now is, as well as of that which is to come." The blessing of the Lord maketh rich; for with 'his blessing and the enjoyment of his favor men cultivate those virtues and habits that tend to temporal as well as spiritual well-being, such as industry, thrift, temperance, health, purity, prudent management, proper economy, and consequent credit, all of which bear directly on worldly wealth and present happiness. - J.J.G.
Parallel VersesKJV: And he was sad at that saying, and went away grieved: for he had great possessions.