Matthew 19

Matthew 19 has some strong words about marriage and following Christ.  It begins with the Pharisees coming to Him and asking questions about divorce.  Jesus reminds them that divorce was not God’s idea, but man’s.  It didn’t exist until Moses allowed it.  They pressed him further and Jesus gives a single statement about the topic.  “Whoever divorces his wife, except for sexual immorality, and marries another, commits adultery”.  There is a lot of ambiguity around the area of divorce.  And we can argue all day about what makes it allowable or the right outcome.

The focus needs to be on the sanctity of marriage and how much God wants that to be strong and secure, not what situations will allow us to end a marriage and move on to someone or something else.  God designed marriage.  He created man and woman and brought them together for a purpose in the garden.  We need to focus on the things that keep people together, not look for the things that will allow them to be separated.  It isn’t that divorce is not ever justified.  Jesus says it is.  But the first response to challenges or trials needs to focus on building marriage, not tearing it apart.  That’s harder work, and requires people to focus on what matters rather than their own interests first, but it is God’s design.

Jesus then teaches His disciples about priorities.  They were chasing parents and children away who were trying to come to Jesus.  He stops them in their tracks and says “Let the little children come to me and do not hinder them, for to such belongs the kingdom of heaven”.  All people matter to Jesus – no matter their age or race or problems.  Sometimes we tend to think that Jesus only cares about the people like us.  But He loves all people of every shape, size, creed or other trait.  In fact, He died for each and every person that has or is or will ever be on the face of this planet.  He loves them all.  Jesus loves the little children – all the children of the world!

The chapter ends with a very important interaction between a man who comes with a simple question, and the Master who has the difficult answer.  “Teacher, what good deed must I do to have eternal life”?  It is a question many have asked.  Jesus gives a direct and simple answer: “If you would enter life, keep the commandments”.  Pretty straight forward.  All we have to do to have eternal life is live an obedient and perfect life obeying the commandments.  Which is where things break down for most of us.  This man felt he had followed those completely.  Most of us will have failed the test already.  But Jesus gives him the next requirement.

If you would be perfect, go, sell what you possess and give to the poor, and you will have treasure in heaven; and come, follow me”.  This man had gone through the motions of obedience but hadn’t given his life to following Christ.  That is the requirement that we need to cover our sins and give us access to the Father for eternity.  “When the young man heard this he went away sorrowful, for he had great possessions”.  The man was going through the external motions but his heart was not right with God.  He was missing the inward surrender to the Savior.

When the disciples heard this, they were greatly astonished, saying, Who then can be saved”?  It seems impossible to gain eternal life.  And left to our own efforts, quite frankly it is.  “But Jesus looked at them and said, With man this is impossible, but with God all things are possible”.  This is the good news of the gospel.  We’re doomed left on our own.  We can’t possibly obey all that is required and we will miss the mark and fall short of God’s requirements to enter heaven.  But Jesus paid the price on the cross that gives us access through Him.  When we receive His gift of grace through confession, repentance and believing, we can confidently stand before God as one who has been redeemed by the blood of the Lamb!  That’s how we can do the impossible – put our faith in Jesus!

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