Matthew chapter 19

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What does Matthew chapter 19 mean?

Matthew 19 begins with Jesus leaving Galilee behind for the last time and heading toward Jerusalem. After entering the region of Judea, however, Jesus and the disciples cross over the Jordan to the east, likely into the Jewish region of Perea. Large crowds continue to follow Him, and Jesus continues to heal those who come to Him.

While east of the Jordan, some Pharisees find Jesus, as well, and come to test Him with a difficult and divisive question. They hope to get Jesus to say something that will discredit Him in the eyes of the people. Or, He might give them cause to accuse Him of heresy. They ask Jesus if it is lawful for a man to divorce his wife for any cause. Some Pharisees said infidelity was the only allowable cause; others said a man could divorce his wife for virtually any reason. Christ quotes from Genesis, citing God's plan for marriage. God made human beings to be male and female and decreed that men should leave their parents, hold fast to their wives, and become one flesh in marriage. Men should not separate what God has joined, Jesus concludes (Matthew 19:1–6).

The Pharisees push back by referring to Deuteronomy 24, where Moses permits a man to give his wife a certificate of divorce for "indecency." Jesus insists that Moses allowed this only because human hearts are hard. It was never God's intent for marriage. For that reason, anyone who divorces his wife, except for sexual immorality, commits adultery as soon as he marries another woman. When the disciples suggest that it might be better not to marry if this is the case, Jesus says this is true only for those to whom this ability is given. He makes clear He is speaking of eunuchs by birth, castration, or choice. Celibacy is not holier than marriage, and the decision to eschew all sexuality is not one meant for most people (Matthew 19:7–12).

Jesus overrules His disciples after they rebuke some people for bringing children to Him to lay hands on and pray for. He repeats the idea that the kingdom of heaven belongs to those who are like little children. By this, Jesus refers to their sense of trust and dependence. A humble, faithful approach is required to fully embrace our relationship to God. Blind belief or gullibility are not part of childlike faith, but neither is arrogance (Matthew 19:13–15).

A wealthy young man approaches Jesus, calling Him "good," and asks what he must do to have eternal life. Jesus insists that only one, God, is good—implying that to call Jesus "good" is to call Him God. That implies that whatever Jesus says ought to be obeyed. Christ sets up a unique challenge for the man: telling him to keep the [Ten] Commandments, and gives a sample list of five, if he sincerely wants to enter eternal life. The man asks which commandments and Jesus lists five from the Ten Commandments. The man says he has kept these, and asks what else he's missing (Matthew 19:16–20).

Jesus finally gives the man what he came to ask for—a good thing that will ensure his eternal life in the kingdom of heaven. If the man would be "perfect," Jesus says, he should sell everything he owns, give it to the poor, and come follow Jesus. The point of this statement is not that all people must be poor to be saved. Rather, this is a challenge for this particular person: a way to demonstrate his heart is sincerely committed to following God. The man, we now learn, is enormously wealthy, and he leaves sad. Rather than being happy about having a chance for salvation, he is dejected at the idea of setting aside his riches (Matthew 19:21–22).

Jesus tells His disciples it is easier for a camel to go through the eye of a sewing needle than for a rich person to enter the kingdom of heaven. Wealth—as with many other worldly advantages—tempts people to think they are self-sufficient. Money can numb us to our need for God. This countered conventional wisdom of Jesus' era, which assumed that wealth was a sign of divine approval. Shocked, they ask how anyone could be saved. Jesus tells them salvation is impossible with men—but not with God (Matthew 19:23–26).

Peter then refers to Jesus' promise to the young man that he would have treasure in heaven. He asks Jesus what he and the other disciples will have in heaven, since they have left everything in their former lives to follow Him. Jesus says that the Twelve will occupy twelve thrones when He takes His own throne in the new world. They will judge the twelve tribes of Israel. In addition, all who leave everything for Him will receive it back a hundredfold in heaven, as well as receiving eternal life. He reminds them that one's status in this life does not imply one's status in eternity (Matthew 19:27–30).

Though separated with a chapter break, Jesus will continue to explain this idea with a parable in the very next verse (Matthew 20:1).
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