This account is found also in Mark 10:17-31; Luke 18:18-39.
One came - This was a young man, Matthew 19:20. He was a ruler (Luke); probably a ruler in a synagogue, or of the great council of the nation; a place to which he was chosen on account of his unblemished character and promising talents. He came running (Mark); evincing great earnestness and anxiety, He fell upon his knees (Mark); not to worship him, but to pay the customary respectful salutation; exhibiting the highest regard for Jesus as an extraordinary religious teacher.
Good Master - The word "good" here means, doubtless, most excellent; referring not so much to the moral character of Jesus as to his character as a religious teacher. It was probably a title which the Jews were in the habit of applying to their religious teachers. The word "Master" here means teacher.
What good thing shall I do? - He had attempted to keep all the commandments. He had been taught by his Jewish teachers that people were to be saved by doing something - that is, by their works; and he supposed that this was to be the way under every system of religion. He had lived externally a blameless life, but yet he was not at peace: he was anxious, and he came to ascertain what, in the view of Jesus, was to be done, that his righteousness might be complete. To "have eternal life" means to be saved. The happiness of heaven is called "life," in opposition to the pains of hell, called "death," or an eternal dying, Revelation 2:2; Revelation 20:14. The one is real life, answering the purposes of living - living to the honor of God and in eternal happiness; the other is a failure of the great ends of existence - prolonged, eternal suffering, of which temporal death is but the feeble image.
Why callest thou me good? - Why do you give to me a title that belongs only to God? You suppose me to be only a man, yet you give me an appellation that belongs only to God.
It is improper to use titles in this manner. As you Jews use them they are unmeaning; and though the title may apply to me, yet, you did not intend to use it in the sense in which it is proper, as denoting infinite perfection or divinity; but you intended to use it as a complimentary or a flattering title, applied to me as if I were a mere man - a title which belongs only to God. The intentions, the habit of using mere titles, and applying as a compliment terms belonging only to God, is wrong. Christ did not intend here to disclaim divinity, or to say anything about his own character, but simply to reprove the intention and habit of the young man - a most severe reproof of a foolish habit of compliment and flattery, and seeking pompous titles.
Keep the commandments - That is, do what God has commanded. He in the next verses informs him what he meant by the commandments. Jesus said this, doubtless, to try him, and to convince him that he had by no means kept the commandments, and that in supposing he had he was altogether deceived. The young man thought he had kept them, and was relying on them for salvation. It was of great importance, therefore, to convince him that he was, after all, a sinner. Christ did not mean to say that any man would be saved by the works of the law, for the Bible teaches plainly that such will not be the case, Romans 3:20, Romans 3:28; Romans 4:6; Galatians 2:16; Ephesians 2:9; II Timothy 1:9. At the same time, however, it is true that if a man perfectly complied with the requirements of the law he would be saved, for there would be no reason why he should be condemned. Jesus, therefore, since he saw he was depending on his works, told him that if he would enter into life that is, into heaven - he must keep the commandments; if he was depending on them he must keep them perfectly, and if this was done he would be saved. The reasons why Christ gave him this direction were, probably:
1.Because it was his duty to keep them.
2.Because the young man depended on them, and he ought to understand what was required if he did - that they should be kept perfectly, or that they were not kept at all.
3.Because he wanted to test him, to show him that he did not keep them, and thus to show him his need of a Saviour.
Matthew 19:18, Matthew 19:19
He saith unto him, Which? - In reply to the inquiry of the young man, Jesus directed him to the sixth, seventh, eighth, ninth, and fifth Exodus 20:12-16, as containing the substance of the whole - as containing particularly what he intended to show him that he had not kept. See notes at Matthew 5:21, Matthew 5:27.
Jesus said, Thou shalt do no murder - See the notes at Matthew 5:21-26.
Thou shalt not commit adultery - See the notes at Matthew 5:27-32.
Thou shalt not steal - To steal is to take the property of another without his knowledge or consent.
Thou shalt not bear false witness - Give testimony contrary to truth. This may be done in a court of justice, or by private or public slander. It means to say things of another which are not true.
Honour thy father ... - That is,
1.Obey them, keep their commands, Colossians 3:20; Ephesians 6:1-3.
2.Respect them, show them reverence.
3.Treat their opinions with respect - do not despise them or ridicule them.
4.Treat their habits with respect. Those habits may be different from ours; they may be antiquated, and to us strange, odd, or whimsical; but they are the habits of a parent, and they are not to be ridiculed.
5.Provide for them when sick, weary, old, and infirm. Bear with their weakness, comply with their wishes, speak to them kindly, and deny yourselves of rest, and sleep, and ease, to promote their welfare.
To this he added another - the duty of loving our neighbor, Leviticus 19:18. This Christ declared to be the second great commandment of the law, Matthew 22:39. A neighbor means:
1.Any person who lives near to us.
2.Any person with whom we have dealings.
3.A friend or relative, Matthew 5:43.
4.Any person - friend, relative, countryman, or foe, Mark 12:31.
5.Any person who does us good or confers a favor on us, Luke 10:27-37,
This commandment means, evidently:
1.That we should not injure our neighbor in his person, property, or character.
2.That we should not be selfish, but should seek to do him good.
3.That in a case of debt, difference, or debate, we should do what is right, regarding his interest as much as our own.
4.That we should treat his character, property, etc., as we do our own, according to what is right.
5.That, in order to benefit him, we should practice self-denial, or do as we would wish him to do to us, Matthew 7:12.
It does not mean:
1.That the love of ourselves, according to what we are, or according to truth, is improper. The happiness of myself is of as much importance as that of any other man, and it is as proper that it should be sought.
2.It does not mean that I am to neglect my own business to take care of my neighbor' s. My happiness, salvation, health, and family are committed especially to myself; and, provided I do not interfere with my neighbor' s rights or violate my obligations to him, it is my duty to seek the welfare of my own as my first duty, I Timothy 5:8, I Timothy 5:13; Titus 2:5. Mark adds to these commandments, "Defraud not;" by which he meant, doubtless, to express the substance of this to love our neighbor as ourselves. It means, literally, to take away the property of another by violence or by deceiving him, thus showing that he is not loved as we love ourselves.
All these things have I kept from my youth up - I have made them the rule of my life.
I have endeavored to obey them. Is there anything that I lack - are there any new commandments to be kept? Do you, the Messiah, teach any command besides those which I have learned from the law and from the Jewish teachers, which it is necessary for me to obey in order to be saved?
If thou wilt be perfect - The word "perfect" means complete in all its parts, finished, having no part wanting.
Thus a watch is perfect or complete when it has all its proper wheels, and hands, and casements in order. Job was said to be perfect (see the notes at Job 1:1), not that he was sinless, for he is afterward reproved by God himself Job 38; 39; Job 40:4; but because his piety was properly proportioned, or had a completeness of parts. He was a pious father, a pious magistrate, a pious neighbor, a pious citizen. His religion was not confined to one thing, but it extended to all. Perfect means, sometimes, the filling up, or the carrying out, or the expression of a principle of action. Thus, I John 2:5; "Whoso keepeth his word, in him verily is the love of God perfected." That is, the keeping of the commandments of God is the proper expression, carrying out, or completion of the love of God. This is its meaning here. If thou wilt be perfect, complete, finished - if thou writ show the proper expression of this keeping of the commandments, go, etc. Make the obedience complete. Mark says Mark 10:21, Jesus, beholding him, loved him. He was pleased with his amiableness, his correct character, his frankness, his ingenuousness. Jesus, as a man, was capable of all the emotions of most tender friendship. As a man, we may suppose that his disposition was tender and affectionate, mild and calm. Hence, he loved with special affection the disciple John, eminently endowed with these qualities; and hence he was pleased with the same traits in this young man. Still, with all this amiableness, there is reason to think he was not a Christian, and that the love of mere amiable qualities was all the affection that was ever bestowed on him by the Saviour.
"One thing," adds Mark, "thou lackest." There is one thing missing. You are not complete. This done, you would show that your obedience lacked no essential part, but was complete, finished, proportionate, perfect.
Go and sell that thou hast ... - The young man declared that he had kept the law. That law required, among other things, that he should love his neighbor as himself. It required, also, that he should love the Lord his God supremely; that is, more than all other objects. If he had that true love to God and man - if he loved his Maker and fellow-creatures more than he did his property, he would be willing to give up his wealth to the service of God and of man. Jesus commanded him to do this, therefore, to test his character, and to show him that he had not kept the law as he pretended, and thus to show him that he needed a better righteousness than his own.
Treasure in heaven - See the notes at Matthew 6:20.
Follow me - To follow Jesus then meant to be a personal attendant on his ministry; to go about with him from place to place, as well as to imitate and obey him. Now it means:
1.To obey his commandments.
2.To imitate his example, and to live like him.
He had great possessions - He was very rich.
He made an idol of his wealth. He loved it more than God. He had not kept the commandments from his youth up, nor had he kept them at all; and rather than do good with his treasures, and seek his salvation by obeying God, he chose to turn away from the Saviour and give over his inquiry about eternal life. He probably returned no more. Alas, how many lovely and amiable young persons follow his example!
A rich man shall hardly enter into the kingdom of heaven - Shall with difficulty be saved.
He has much to struggle with, and it will require the greatest of human efforts to break away from his temptations and idols. and to secure his salvation. Compare the notes at I Timothy 6:9-10.
It is easier for a camel ... - This was a proverb in common use among the Jews, and is still common among the Arabians.
To denote that a thing was impossible or exceedingly difficult, they said that a camel or an elephant might as soon walk through a needle' s eye. In the use of such proverbs it is not necessary to understand them literally. They merely denote the extreme difficulty of the case.
A camel - A beast of burden much used in Eastern countries. It is about the size of the largest ox, with one or two bunches on his back, with long neck and legs, no horns, and with feet adapted to the hot and dry sand. They are capable of carrying heavy burdens, will travel sometimes faster than the fleetest horse, and are provided with a stomach which they fill with water, by means of which I they can live four or five days without drink. They are very mild and tame, and kneel down to receive and unload their burden. They are chiefly used in deserts and hot climates, where other beasts of burden are with difficulty kept alive.
A rich man - This rather means one who loves his riches and makes an idol of them, or one who supremely desires to be rich. Mark says Mark 10:24 "How hard is it for them that trust in riches." While a man has this feeling - relying on his wealth alone - it is literally impossible that he should be a Christian; for religion is a love of God rather than the world - the love of Jesus and his cause more than gold. Still a man may have much property, and not have this feeling. He may have great wealth, and love God more; as a poor man may have little, and love that little more than God. The difficulties in the way of the salvation of a rich man are:
1.That riches engross the affections.
2.That people consider wealth as the chief good, and when this is obtained they think they have gained all.
3.That they are proud of their wealth, and unwilling to be numbered with the poor and despised followers of Jesus.
4.That riches engross the time, and fill the mind with cares and anxieties, and leave little for God.
5.That they often produce luxury, dissipation, and vice. that it is difficult to obtain wealth without sin, without avarice, without covetousness, fraud, and oppression, I Timothy 6:9-10, I Timothy 6:17; James 5:1-5; Luke 12:16-21; Luke 16:19-31.
Still, Jesus says Matthew 19:26, all these may be overcome. God can give grace to do it. Though to people it may appear impossible, yet it is easy for God.
We have forsaken all - Probably nothing but their fishing-nets, small boats, and cottages.
But they were their all - their living, their home; and, forsaking them, they had as really shown their sincerity as though they had possessed the gold of Ophir and lived in the palaces of kings.
What shall we have, therefore? - We have done as thou didst command this young man to do. What reward may we expect for it?
Verily I say unto you - Jesus in this verse declares the reward which they would have.
They were not to look for it now, but in a future period.
That ye which have followed me, in the regeneration - This word occurs but once elsewhere in the New Testament, Titus 3:5. It literally means a new birth, or being born again. Applied to man, it denotes the great change when the heart is renewed, or when the sinner begins to be a Christian. This is its meaning, clearly, in the passage referred to in Titus; but this meaning cannot be applied here. Christ was not born again, and in no proper sense could it be said that they had followed him in the new birth; but the word also means any great change, or a restoration of things to a former state or to a better state. In this sense it is probably used here. It refers to that great revolution - that restoration of order in the universe - that universal new birth which will occur when the dead shall rise, and all human things shall be changed, and a new order of things shall start up out of the ruins of the old, when the Son of man shall come to judgment. The passage, then, should be read, "Ye which have followed me shall, as a reward in the great day of the resurrection of the dead, and of forming the new and eternal order of things - the day of judgment, the regeneration - be signally honored and blessed.
When the Son of man shall sit in the throne of his glory - That is, to judge the world. "Throne of glory" means glorious throne or a splendid throne. It is not to be taken literally, but is used to denote his character as a king and judge, and to signify the great dignity and majesty which will be displayed by him. See Matthew 24:30; Matthew 26:64; Acts 1:11; Acts 17:31.
Sit upon twelve thrones - This is figurative. To sit on a throne denotes power and honor, and means here that they would be distinguished above others, and be more highly honored and rewarded.
Judging the twelve tribes of Israel - Jesus will be the Judge of quick and dead. He only is qualified for it, and the Father hath given all judgment to the Son, John 5:22. To be a judge denotes rank, authority, power. The ancient judges of Israel were people of distinguished courage, patriotism, honor, and valor. Hence, the word comes to denote not so much an actual exercise of the power of passing judgment, as the honor attached to the office; and as earthly kings have those around them dignified with honors and office - counselors and judges, so Christ says that his apostles will occupy the same relative station in the great day. They will be honored by him, and by all, as apostles, as having, in the face of persecution, left all; as having laid the foundations of his church, and endured all the persecutions of the world.
The twelve tribes of Israel - This was the number of the ancient tribes. By this name the people of God were denoted. By this name Jesus here denotes his redeemed people. See also James 1:1, where Christians are called the twelve tribes. Here it means also, not the Jews, not the world, not the wicked, not that the apostles are to pronounce sentence on the enemies of God, but the people of God, the redeemed. Among them Jesus says his apostles will be honored in the day of judgment, as earthly kings place in posts of office and honor those who have signally served them. Compare the notes at I Corinthians 6:2.
And every one that hath forsaken houses ... - In the days of Jesus, those who followed him were obliged, generally, to forsake houses and home, and to attend him.
In our time it is not often required that we should literally leave them, except when the life is devoted to him among the pagan; but it is always required that we love them less than we do him, that we give up all that is inconsistent with religion, and that we be ready to give up all when he demands it.
For my name' s sake - From attachment to me. Mark adds, "and for the gospel' s;" that is, from obedience to the requirements of the gospel, and love for the service of the gospel.
Shall receive a hundred-fold - Mark says "a hundred-fold now in this time, houses, and brethren, and sisters," etc. A hundred-fold means a hundred times as much. This is not to be understood literally, but that he will give what will be worth 100 times as much in the peace, and joy, and rewards of religion. It is also literally true that no man' s temporal interest is injured by the love of God. Mark adds, "with persecutions." These are not promised as a part of the reward; but amid their trials and persecutions they should find reward and peace.
This verse should have been connected with the following chapter
The parable there spoken is expressly to illustrate this sentiment. See it explained in the notes at Matthew 20:16.
Remarks On Matthew 19
1. We should not throw ourselves unnecessarily in the way of the enemies of religion, Matthew 19:1. Jesus, to avoid the dangers to which he was exposed, left Jerusalem, and passed over to the other side of the Jordan. If duty calls us to remain in the presence of our enemies and the enemies of religion, we should do it. If we can do them good, we should do it. If our presence will only provoke them to anger and bitterness, then we should turn aside. Compare the notes at Matthew 10:23.
2. People will seek every occasion to ensnare Christians, Matthew 19:3. Questions will be proposed with great art, and with an appearance of sincerity, only for the purpose of leading them into difficulty. Cunning men know well how to propose such questions, and triumph much when they have perplexed believers. This is often the boast of people of some standing, who think they accomplish the great purposes of their existence if they can confound other people, and think it signal triumph if they can make others as miserable as themselves.
3. We should not refuse to answer such persons with mildness, when the Bible has settled the question, Matthew 19:4-6. Jesus answered a captious question, proposed on purpose to ensnare him. We may often do much to confound the enemies of religion, and to recommend it, when without passion we hear their inquiries, and deliberately inform them that the question has been settled by God. We had better, however, far better, say nothing in reply, than to answer in anger or to show that we are irritated. All the object of the enemy is gained if he can make us angry.
4. People will search and pervert the Bible for authority to indulge their sins and to perplex Christians, Matthew 19:7. No device is more common than to produce a passage of Scripture known to be misquoted or perverted, yet plausible, for the purpose of perplexing Christians. In such cases, the best way, often, is to say nothing. If unanswered, people will be ashamed of it; if answered, they gain their point, and are ready for debate and abuse.
5. We learn from this chapter that there is no union so intimate as the marriage connection, Matthew 19:6. Nothing is so tender and endearing as this union appointed by God for the welfare of man.
6. This union should not be entered into slightly or rashly. It involves all the happiness of this life and much of that to come. The union demands:
(1)Congeniality of feeling and disposition;
(2)Of rank or standing in life;
(4)Similarity of acquirements;
It should also be a union on religious feelings and opinions:
(1)Because religion is more important than anything else;
(2)Because it will give more happiness in the married life than anything else;
(3)Because where one only is pious, there is danger that the religion of the other will be obscured and blighted;
(4)Because no prospect is so painful as that of eternal separation;
(5)Because it is paganish, brutal, and mad, to partake the gifts of God in a family and offer no thanksgiving; inexpressibly wicked to live from day to day as if there were no God, no heaven, no hell;
(6)Because death is near, and nothing will soothe the pangs of parting but the hope of meeting in the resurrection of the just.
7. No human legislature has a right to declare divorces except in one single case, Matthew 19:9. If they do, they are accessories to the crime that may follow, and presume to legislate where God has legislated before them.
8. Those thus divorced, or pretended to be divorced, and marrying again, are, by the declaration of Jesus Christ, living in adultery, Matthew 19:9. It is no excuse to say that the law of the land divorced them. The law had no such right. If all the legislatures of the world were to say that it was lawful for a man to steal or to commit murder, it would not make it so, and, in spite of human permission, God would hold a man answerable for theft and murder. So, also, of adultery.
9. The marriage union demands kindness and love, Matthew 19:6. The husband and the wife are one. Love to each other is love to a second self. Hatred, and anger, and quarrels are against ourselves. The evils and quarrels in married life will descend on ourselves, and be gall and wormwood in our own cup.
10. Infants may be brought to Jesus to receive his blessing, Matthew 19:12-15. While on earth, he admitted them to his presence and blessed them with his prayers. If they might be brought then, they may be brought now. Their souls are as precious; their dangers are as great; their salvation is as important. A parent should require the most indubitable evidence that Jesus will not receive his offspring, and will be displeased if the offering is made, to deter him from this inestimable privilege.
11. If children may be brought, they should be brought. It is the solemn duty of a parent to seize upon all possible means of benefiting his children, and of presenting them to God to implore his blessing. In family prayer, in the sanctuary, and in the ordinance of baptism, the blessing of the Redeemer should be sought early and constantly on their precious and immortal souls.
12. Earnestness and deep anxiety are proper in seeking salvation, Matthew 19:16. The young man came running; he kneeled. It was not form and ceremony; it was life and reality. Religion is a great subject. Salvation is important beyond the power of language to express. Eternity is near, and damnation thunders along the path of the guilty. The sinner must be saved soon, or die forever. He cannot be too earnest. He cannot press with too great haste to Jesus. He should come running, and kneeling, and humbled, and lifting the agonizing cry, "What must I do to be saved?"
13. We should come young, Matthew 19:20. No one can come too young. God has the first claim on our affections. He made us, he keeps us, he provides for us, and it is right that we should give our first affections to him. No one who has become a Christian ever yet felt that he had become one too young. No young person that has given his heart to the Redeemer ever yet regretted it. They may give up the frivolous world to do it; they may leave the circles of the dance and the song; they may be exposed to contempt and persecution, but no matter. He who becomes a true Christian, no matter of what age or rank, blesses God that he was inclined to do it, and the time never can come when for one moment he will regret it. Why, then, will not the young give their hearts to the Saviour, and do that which they know they never can for one moment regret?
14. It is no dishonor for those who hold offices, and who are people of rank, to inquire on the subject of religion, Luke 18:18. Men of rank often suppose that it is only the weak, the credulous, and the ignorant that ever feel any anxiety about religion. Never was a greater mistake. It has been only profligate, and weak, and ignorant people that have been thoughtless. Two-thirds of all the profound investigations of the world have been on this very subject. The wisest and best of the pagans have devoted their lives to inquire about God and their own destiny. So in Christian lands. Were Bacon, Newton, Locke, Milton, Hale, and Boerhaave men of weak minds? Yet their deepest thoughts and most anxious inquiries were on this very subject. So in our own land. Were Washington, Ames, Henry, Jay, and Rush men of weak minds? Yet they were professed believers in revelation. And yet young men of rank, and wealth, and learning often think that they show great independence in refusing to think of what occupied the profound attention of these men, and fancy they are great only by refusing to tread in their steps. Never was a greater or more foolish mistake. If anything demands attention, it is, surely, the inquiry whether we are to be happy forever, or wretched; whether there is a God and Saviour; or whether we are "in a forsaken and fatherless world."
15. It is as important for the rich to seek religion as the poor, Matthew 19:22. They will as certainly die; they as much need religion. Without it they cannot be happy. Riches will drive away no pain on a death-bed - will not go with us when we die - will not save us.
16. It is of special importance that wealthy young persons should be Christians. They are exposed to many dangers. The world - the "happy" and flattering world - will lead them astray. Fond of fashion, dress, and amusement, as many of them are, they are exposed to a thousand follies and dangers, from which nothing but religion can secrete them. Besides, they may do much good; and God will hold them answerable for all the good they might have done with their wealth.
17. The amiable, the lovely, the moral, need also an interest in Christ, Mark 10:21. If amiable, we should suppose they would be ready to embrace the Saviour. None was ever so moral, so lovely, so pure as he. If we really loved amiableness, then we should come to him - we should love him. But, alas! how many amiable young persons turn away from him, and refuse to follow him! Can they be really lovers of that which is pure and lovely? If so, then why turn away from the Lamb of God?
18. The amiable and the lovely need a better righteousness than their own. With all this, they may make an idol of the world; they may be proud, sensual, selfish, prayerless, and thoughtless about dying. Externally they appear lovely; but oh, how far is the heart from God!
19. Inquirers about religion usually depend on their own works, Matthew 19:16. They are not willing to trust to Jesus for salvation, and they ask what they shall do; and it is only when they find that they can do nothing - that they are poor, and helpless, and wretched that they east themselves on the mercy of God and find peace.
20. Compliments and flattering titles are evil, Matthew 19:17. They ascribe something to others which we know they do not possess. Often beauty is praised where we know there is no beauty - accomplishment where there is no accomplishment - talent where there is no talent. Such praises are falsehood. We know them to be such. We intend to deceive by them, and we know that they will produce pride and vanity. Often they are used for the purpose of destruction. If a man praises us too much, we should look to our purse or our virtue. We should feel that we are in danger, and the next thing will be a dreadful blow - the heavier for all this flattery. They that use compliments much, expect them from others; are galled and vexed when they are not obtained; and are in danger when they are.
21. If we are to be saved, we must do just what God commands us. Matthew 19:17-18. This is all we have to do. We are not to invent anything of our own. God has marked out the course, and we must follow it.
22. We are easily deceived about keeping the law, Matthew 19:17. We often think we observe it, when it is only the outward form that we have kept. The law is spiritual, and God requires the heart.
23. Riches are a blessing if used aright; if not, they are deceitful, dangerous, ruinous, Matthew 19:23-24. Thousands have lost their souls by the love of riches. None have ever been saved by it.
24. It is our duty to forsake all for Christ, Matthew 19:27-29. Be it little or much, it is all the same to him. It is the heart that he looks at; and we may as really show our love by giving up a fishing-boat and net, as by giving up a palace or a crown. If done in either case, it will be accepted.
25. Religion has its own rewards, Matthew 19:28-29. It gives more than it takes. It more than compensates for all that we surrender. It gives peace, joy, comfort in trial and in death, and heaven beyond. This is the testimony of all Christians of all denominations of all that have lived, and of all that do live that they never knew true peace until they found it in the gospel. The testimony of so many must be true. They have tried the world in all its forms of gaiety, folly, and vice, and they come and say with one voice, Here only is true peace. On any other subject they would be believed. Their testimony here must be true.
26. Those eminent for usefulness here will be received to distinguished honors and rewards in heaven, Matthew 19:28. They that turn many to righteousness shall shine as stars in the firmament forever. See the notes at Daniel 12:3.
Other Barnes' Notes entries containing Matthew 19:24:
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