1. Now it came to pass, when Jesus had finished these sayings, that He departed from Galilee and came to the region of Judea beyond the Jordan.
2. And great multitudes followed Him, and He healed them there.

Great crowds followed the Lord Jesus once He came to Judea. So it wasn’t only in Galilee that His ministry met with success among the Jews! And the Lord healed the multitudes. Of course, the way you heal a multitude is to heal all the sick among them. You couldn’t just have a few scattered individuals in the crowd who claimed to be healed from things like arthritis and so forth and yet leave the vast majority of those who came to you unhealed. That is the way modern “healers” do it, but that is not the way the Lord did it. Here, as always, He healed all who needed healing without exception.

3. The Pharisees also came to Him, testing Him, and saying to Him, “Is it lawful for a man to divorce his wife for just any reason?”

This was a matter of great debate among the religious leaders of the day. The Pharisees took great license with the command authorizing divorce. Deuteronomy 24:1 says, “When a man takes a wife and marries her, and it happens that she finds no favor in his eyes because he has found some uncleanness in her, and he writes her a certificate of divorce, puts it in her hand, and sends her out of his house…” This verse allows divorce in the case of the finding of some “uncleanness.” The religious leaders had expanded this so a man could divorce his wife for any reason, but some objected to this. Let us see what Christ’s answer is to it.

4. And He answered and said to them, “Have you not read that He Who made them at the beginning ‘made them male and female,’

This is a reference to Genesis 1:27. If evolution is true, then Christ is a liar!

5. “and said, ‘For this reason a man shall leave his father and mother and be joined to his wife, and the two shall become one flesh’?

This is a reference to Genesis 2:24. Again, the Lord appeals to the creation story to back up His teaching. If the creation story be untrue or mythological or even symbolic, as some claim, then His argument holds no weight and He is a fool for making it! The Lord assumes the truth of creation in making this argument. If one does not believe in the creation story, then faith in Christ’s words here is likewise impossible.

6. “So then, they are no longer two but one flesh. Therefore what God has joined together, let not man separate.”

The joining together of two individuals is an important thing. God Himself is instrumental in it, and this is the way He created it to be in the beginning. So once two are made one by God this should be a permanent thing! Some argue that God does not join married couples in our day, but instead men do. It is true that in the kingdom of God, this will meet its complete fulfillment, when God is the government in charge of all marriages. Then no man will be able to separate what God has joined. However, God is the One Who created marriage in the first place, and He meant it to be a permanent union. There can be no doubt that breaking up that union even in our day is a violation of His will! Alas, many are all too willing to do this anyway now in man’s day!

7. They said to Him, “Why then did Moses command to give a certificate of divorce, and to put her away?”

Again, the Pharisees refer to Deuteronomy 24:1. They bring up what was probably at that time the standard counter-argument to anyone who would argue the way the Lord Jesus just had. What is the standard counter-argument used to contradict the Lord’s words here today? Is it an argument that we as His people should be using?

8. He said to them, “Moses, because of the hardness of your hearts, permitted you to divorce your wives, but from the beginning it was not so.

Let it never be said that God refuses to compromise. Divorce was a compromise given to Moses because of the hardness of man’s heart. All who are truly interested in following Him to the fullest, however, will seek to follow the perfect will of God, not the compromise. Yet we cannot deny that the compromise exists, and as long as there is a “loophole” there are those who will take it, and take advantage of it.

9. “And I say to you, whoever divorces his wife, except for sexual immorality, and marries another, commits adultery; and whoever marries her who is divorced commits adultery.”

Sexual immorality, either before or after the marriage, was the only reason for the divorce compromise that God had given. The Lord makes it clear that this is what He had originally meant in Deuteronomy 24:1 when He mentioned uncleanness. If a man were to marry a woman and find that she was not a virgin when he came to her, he was then allowed to divorce her. Women, of course, had little rights in either case, so no statement was made about them divorcing their husbands. Yet remember that those who were found to have been unfaithful were not just to be divorced, but also were to be killed! Deuteronomy 22:22 says, “If a man is found lying with a woman married to a husband, then both of them shall die, both the man that lay with the woman, and the woman; so you shall put away the evil person from Israel.” So divorce should have been relatively uncommon if it was based on sexual “uncleanness.”

Adultery in the Israelite mind had an implication that it does not have today. They had a system of inheritance set up by God for the land that they had received from Him. Any child who was the result of unfaithfulness would be “adulterating” the bloodline and thus would be passing the inheritance of the Lord on to a child who did not deserve to receive it. This was not the only thing wrong with unfaithfulness, of course, but it was one of the concerns they would have had at that time that we do not have today.

10. His disciples said to Him, “If such is the case of the man with his wife, it is better not to marry.”

Some people today would agree with the disciples, I think…that, if you were stuck with the same person all your life if you got married, then it would be better not to get married. This is not the attitude of one whose thoughts and actions are dictated by God’s love, however. For one who truly loves, then it is a well-known fact that true love never fails.

11. But He said to them, “All cannot accept this saying, but only those to whom it has been given:

The Lord admits that there are some who are not able to keep this saying. In other words God will make allowance for those who cannot keep this saying, so that, if they sin, He will give them an allowance for it. You know, it would be easy for anyone considering divorce or remarriage to simply say that, “I can’t stand to stay with this person” or “I can’t stand to not get remarried” and then suppose that God has to allow them. However, we need to understand that there were those in that day who quite simply COULD NOT LIVE if they did not remarry after a divorce. Women particularly in that day could not work, unless it was to help with their husbands’ or fathers’ businesses. The only work for a single woman without a man to care for her was beggarhood or prostitution. For women left divorced then without a father to return to, it was often a case of remarry or perish. Can anyone in our day really say that they CANNOT accept Christ’s teaching in regards to divorce, then? Or would a better phrase be “will not”?

However, Christ does say that it is only GIVEN to some to accept it. Perhaps there is more at work here than we can understand.

12. “For there are eunuchs who were born thus from their mother’s womb, and there are eunuchs who were made eunuchs by men, and there are eunuchs who have made themselves eunuchs for the kingdom of heaven’s sake. He who is able to accept it, let him accept it.”

Christ says here that there are some who are BORN without the ability to have sex, there are some who are MADE BY MEN to not have the ability to have sex, and there are likewise some who BY CHOICE do not have sex for the sake of the Kingdom of God. We have to take this in context, of course, of those who do not choose to remarry after a divorce. In this case, they would choose to live a lonely life knowing that the reward for their faithfulness would be given in the Kingdom of God, though they may never receive a thing for it in this life. Anyone who can accept this burden to receive this reward should accept it.

Note that this passage is NOT talking about mere celibacy, however, as some have claimed, but celibacy after a divorce. There is NO time in the Bible where celibacy itself and abstaining from marriage period is said to have a reward. The Catholics and others who promote celibacy as a gift or something deserving a reward are teaching the doctrine of demons (I Timothy 4:1-3).

13. Then little children were brought to Him that He might put His hands on them and pray, but the disciples rebuked them.

The needs of little children were almost as neglected in that time as they are today. Children were not given much consideration, and particularly girl children were not favored at all. In our day, we are rapidly losing the concept of childhood as well. Children are viewed as an inconvenience to be institutionalized while their parents do more important things. The pressures and wickedness of our society are driving away the innocence of children, and soon, if those who promote amorality in our society have their way, even pedophilia will no longer be considered wrong. Although children may not have had it so great back then, maybe they had it better at least than many of our children do today!

14. But Jesus said, “Let the little children come to Me, and do not forbid them; for of such is the kingdom of heaven.”
15. And He laid His hands on them and departed from there.

The Lord would have none of this. He was not too busy to spend time with these children, and He took the time that was necessary to bless them. There are people in our day who need to consider if they are giving the time to little children that they should be…particularly when those little children are their own.

16. Now behold, one came and said to Him, “Good Teacher, what good thing shall I do that I may have eternal life?”

This man was interested in receiving eternal life. Yet was he really interested in serving God, or was he only concerned with assuring himself a place in the life to come? This is the question the Lord will seek to answer by His questioning.

“Eternal life” here is “zoe aionios” or “life eonian.” It is speaking of a life that flows from God in everything that would make life forever worth living.

17. So He said to him, “Why do you call Me good? No one is good but One, that is, God. But if you want to enter into life, keep the commandments.”

The Lord starts leading this man to faith. The Lord did not deny that He was good. He only pointed out that there is no one good but God. This young man needed to realize that the One he was talking to was God Himself!

To those of us who have grown up with an evangelical mindset, the idea that keeping commandments could bring eternal life seems foreign and just plain wrong. Yet this was consistent with Old Testament teaching. Leviticus 18:5 states, “You shall therefore keep My statutes and My judgments, which if a man does, he shall live by them: I am the Lord.” Life was promised based on obedience.

18. He said to Him, “Which ones?” Jesus said, “’You shall not murder,’ ‘You shall not commit adultery,’ ‘You shall not steal,’ ‘You shall not bear false witness,’
19. “’Honor your father and your mother,’ and, ‘You shall love your neighbor as yourself.’”

The young man seeks to justify himself, and asks which commandments the Lord was referring to. The Lord lists five of the Ten Commandments, the sixth, seventh, eighth, ninth, and fifth. He finished the list with a quote of Leviticus 19:18 about loving your neighbor as yourself. Notice which commandments He significantly avoids, however. He does not list the tenth commandment about coveting. He also fails to mention the commandment that He Himself would later call the most important commandment in Matthew 22:37, that “You shall love the LORD your God with all your heart, with all your soul, and with all your mind.” His omission is noteworthy, for these commandments are the very ones that this man is about to fail to keep!

20. The young man said to Him, “All these things I have kept from my youth. What do I still lack?”

This was probably the sort of answer this man was looking for, and he was all ready with his claim that he had kept them all. No doubt he was quite proud of this, and this is indeed no small accomplishment, if his claim was true!

21. Jesus said to him, “If you want to be perfect, go, sell what you have and give to the poor, and you will have treasure in heaven; and come, follow Me.”

There was one thing this young man lacked. That was faith. And the Lord gives him an opportunity for faith by telling him to sell all he has, give it to the poor, and come and follow Him. This may sound like a difficult request, but remember that it is not nearly as difficult as admitting that you are a dog, as the Canaanite woman was willing to do at Jesus’ word. Can this young man generate the faith needed to believe and obey the word of God?

22. But when the young man heard that saying, he went away sorrowful, for he had great possessions.

Sadly, the young man goes away. His faith was not strong enough for him to follow the Lord’s request. Not only did he fail in faith, but he proved that he had missed out on keeping the most important command of all: to love God with all his strength. He loved his possessions more, and thus he also broke the tenth commandment, for he loved that which he should have given to God, and thus was covetous. His love of money kept him from eternal life. I wonder of how many others this will be true?

23. Then Jesus said to His disciples, “Assuredly, I say to you that it is hard for a rich man to enter the kingdom of heaven.

The Lord admits to His disciples that it is extremely difficult for a rich man to be saved. Of course, the rich in His day were a ruling class of people and not merely those who had money. Their love for money and power was all-consuming, and therefore being willing to yield to the King and His Kingdom was almost an impossible task for them.

24. “And again I say to you, it is easier for a camel to go through the eye of a needle than for a rich man to enter the kingdom of God.”

Some would suggest here that this “eye of a needle” was the name of a small gate into Jerusalem. They claim that a camel could only make it through this gate if he was totally unloaded of all burdens, and then could squeeze through. This is a great lesson then that the rich need to get rid of all the burdens of their worldly possessions before they can enter the kingdom. I have known few who have been willing to take this lesson truly to heart, however, and actually unburden themselves from all worldly possessions! The fact is that the Lord was setting up an impossibility, as we can see from His words in verse 26. Moreover, there seems to be no archeological evidence that such a tiny gate actually existed. Whether the Lord was referring to the literal eye of a needle or a very tiny gate, the fact was that He meant that getting a camel through it was impossible, and thus stories about unloading it are just changing the point of what He was trying to say. For men, getting a camel through the eye of a needle is impossible.

25. When His disciples heard it, they were exceedingly amazed, saying, “Who then can be saved?”

The rich class were looked up to and greatly respected by the common people. That it would be so difficult to save one of them made it seem to the disciples like no one else could have a chance! They were probably wrong in this, for often those who are not convinced of their own superiority are far easier to convince to submit to God than those who think of themselves as great.

26. But Jesus looked at them and said to them, “With men this is impossible, but with God all things are possible.”

The Lord tells us that this is an impossibility with men, and we need to agree with Him and admit that this is so. Unburdening oneself of worldly possessions will never do the trick! However, though saving one of the rich class might have been impossible for men, it was very possible with God. Consider a young rich man named Saul, for example…

27. Then Peter answered and said to Him, “See, we have left all and followed You. Therefore what shall we have?”

Peter demonstrates a little greediness here in hopefully pointing out their own sacrifice and asking if they then would receive a reward.

28. So Jesus said to them, “Assuredly I say to you, that in the regeneration, when the Son of Man sits on the throne of His glory, you who have followed Me will also sit on twelve thrones, judging the twelve tribes of Israel.

In spite of the self-serving nature of Peter’s comment, the Lord Jesus does not rebuke him, but tells him that, in the Regeneration, he and all the other disciples will sit on twelve thrones judging the twelve tribes of Israel. The Regeneration is another name for the Kingdom of God, and emphasizes the regeneration of all things that will take place in that day. This is yet another great blessing that Christ promised to His disciples that is obviously not promised to us today. Why, if we do not try to usurp this blessing from the disciples, do we feel justified in stealing others for ourselves, such as the right to bind a thing on earth and it will be bound in heaven?

29. “And everyone who has left houses or brothers or sisters or father or mother or wife or children or lands, for My name’s sake, shall receive a hundredfold, and inherit everlasting life.

God will be no man’s debtor. Everyone who has put God before everything else in his life will receive the reward for doing so in that Day.

30. “But many who are first will be last, and the last first.

This verse is connected, not with this chapter, but with the next, and is explained by the following parable in Matthew 20:1-16. Many think that this passage is using “last” and “first” figuratively for “least important” and “most important,” respectively. This is not correct, however. “Last” when it is used figuratively means “most important,” not least important, whereas “first” means “best” when used figuratively, such as in the term “firstfruits.” Thus Christ is the “first” and the “last,” the best and the most important. Therefore, “first” and “last” here are not figurative, but literal. We will see exactly what Christ is talking about in the following parable.