Text: Matthew 19
Event(s): Jesus speaks about marriage and divorce; Jesus teaches on celibacy; Jesus blesses little children; Jesus counsels the rich young ruler; With God, all things are possible Matthew 19:8 “because of the hardness of your hearts” In the discussion of divorce, Jesus takes the Pharisees all the way back. Not just to the Law, but before the Law. When the covenant of marriage was originally instituted. And of course, we find the divorce was never a part of the plan. No where did God ever actually “mandate” divorce. But it was taking place. And sometimes for the most frivolous of reasons. Therefore, the Law had to be created – not to make divorce easier, not to say when it was “okay” to divorce. But rather it was to put some restrictions on it – to prescribe some boundaries that would mainly give the wife some protection. (To make it a little easier to follow along with this dialogue, I recommend reading vs 1-12 in the MSG Bible.)
Matthew 19:13 “Let the little children come to Me” In Luke’s account, we read these were “infants”. (Luke 18:15) In the parallel account recorded in Mark, we find Jesus was actually quite displeased with the initial reaction of the disciples to send the children away. They most likely considered them to be “less than important” to warrant Jesus’ attention. But Jesus felt very differently. Not just because He valued children, but also because He knew it was a sign to all those who stood by watching. “Let the children come unto Me” because when you see little children come to Me, you’re getting a picture of what it looks like when people with these same child-like characteristics come to Me. And to watch Jesus, with such nurture and care, take them up in His arms and blessed them, we get a picture of how exactly how God receives us.
Matthew 19:20 “What do I still lack?” A life that is built on things, or accomplishments will forever feel lacking. The only way to be fulfilled in life is through relationships with God through Jesus Christ.
Matthew 19:21 “go sell what you have” Jesus was not declaring that in order to follow Him, all of us need to go sell everything we have and live in poverty. We’re not to make a doctrine out of this. Poverty doesn’t produce automatic spirituality. Instead, Jesus could see that what was really first place in this young man’s heart was his possessions. To answer his question, for him to have the eternal life he was looking for, his riches had to be cut away so that he could find freedom and follow Jesus because his possessions actually possessed him. In your life, in my life, there may be another issue altogether that we have to let go of – that perhaps others may not have to – but that if we didn’t, would keep us from our relationship with our God and following Him wholeheartedly.
Matthew 19:23 “it is hard for a rich man to enter the kingdom of heaven.” The parallel account in the Gospel of Mark records that Jesus went on to say, “Children, how hard it is for those who trust in riches to enter the kingdom of God!” (Mark 10:24)
Today’s Takeaway: How much can I get away with? How little can I do? This is the underlying tone I hear beneath much of the dialogue in today’s passage. When it came to the issue of divorce, the question was, When can I abandon God’s way and choose divorce? When faced with little children, the question became, When can I abandon the command to show love and attention? At what age does that become necessary? When it came to the issue of the rich young ruler, the question was, How much can I focus on all the thing I’m doing without considering what is really taking first place in my heart? At the root of all the questions is self. Oh, how much our heart strays when we focus on self! The questions we begin to ask are not even the right questions. How easy it is to slip into this pattern, but how gracious and loving and patient is our God to steer us back on course. Today, let us come to God with an open heart, asking Him to reveal to us any area where we may be growing inward.
Additional (Optional) Reading: The synoptic/parallel accounts of today’s events can be found in Mark 10:1-31 and Luke 18:15-30