Matthew 19

Matthew 19

Teaching About Divorce

19 Now when Jesus had finished these sayings, he went away from Galilee and entered the region of Judea beyond the Jordan. And large crowds followed him, and he healed them there.

And Pharisees came up to him and tested him by asking, “Is it lawful to divorce one’s wife for any cause?” He answered, “Have you not read that he who created them from the beginning made them male and female, and said, ‘Therefore a man shall leave his father and his mother and hold fast to his wife, and the two shall become one flesh’? So they are no longer two but one flesh. What therefore God has joined together, let not man separate.” They said to him, “Why then did Moses command one to give a certificate of divorce and to send her away?” He said to them, “Because of your hardness of heart Moses allowed you to divorce your wives, but from the beginning it was not so. And I say to you: whoever divorces his wife, except for sexual immorality, and marries another, commits adultery.”

The disciples said to him, “If such is the case of a man with his wife, it is better not to marry.” But he said to them, “Not everyone can receive this saying, but only those to whom it is given. For there are eunuchs who have been so from birth, and there are eunuchs who have been made eunuchs by men, and there are eunuchs who have made themselves eunuchs for the sake of the kingdom of heaven. Let the one who is able to receive this receive it.”

Let the Children Come to Me

Then children were brought to him that he might lay his hands on them and pray. The disciples rebuked the people, but Jesus said, “Let the little children come to me and do not hinder them, for to such belongs the kingdom of heaven.” And he laid his hands on them and went away.

The Rich Young Man

And behold, a man came up to him, saying, “Teacher, what good deed must I do to have eternal life?” And he said to him, “Why do you ask me about what is good? There is only one who is good. If you would enter life, keep the commandments.” He said to him, “Which ones?” And Jesus said, “You shall not murder, You shall not commit adultery, You shall not steal, You shall not bear false witness, Honor your father and mother, and, You shall love your neighbor as yourself.” The young man said to him, “All these I have kept. What do I still lack?” Jesus said to him, “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.” When the young man heard this he went away sorrowful, for he had great possessions.

And Jesus said to his disciples, “Truly, I say to you, only with difficulty will a rich person enter the kingdom of heaven. Again I tell you, it is easier for a camel to go through the eye of a needle than for a rich person to enter the kingdom of God.” When the disciples heard this, they were greatly astonished, saying, “Who then can be saved?” But Jesus looked at them and said, “With man this is impossible, but with God all things are possible.” Then Peter said in reply, “See, we have left everything and followed you. What then will we have?” Jesus said to them, “Truly, I say to you, in the new world, when the Son of Man will sit on his glorious throne, you who have followed me will also sit on twelve thrones, judging the twelve tribes of Israel. And everyone who has left houses or brothers or sisters or father or mother or children or lands, for my name’s sake, will receive a hundredfold and will inherit eternal life. But many who are first will be last, and the last first.


Matthew 19 Commentary

by Brad Boyles

The topic of divorce was a hot-button issue back in Jesus’ time, and it remains the same today. Back then, it was the issue that ultimately landed John the Baptist in prison shortly before his beheading. Herod had gone to Rome, where he met Herodias, the wife of his half-brother Philip. After seducing Herodius, Herod divorced his own wife and married Herodias. John spoke out against this action.

“For when Herod had John arrested, he bound him and put him in prison because of Herodias, the wife of his brother Philip.  4  For John had been saying to him, “It is not lawful for you to have her.””

Matthew 14:3-4 NASB 

Shammai vs. Hillel

Rabbis were split on the issue of divorce and it basically came down to two schools of thought – the school of Shammai and the school of Hillel. Basically, Shammai was more strict and traditional in their view while Hillel tended to be more lenient. On this particular issue, Shammai taught it was only right for divorce to occur under infidelity while Hillel believed that anything which displeased the husband was grounds for a divorce.

The reason this background is important is because it helps us to understand how the question is posed to Jesus and how his disciples react to the answer. The question the Pharisees ask is a direct reference to the Hillel version because they say, “for any reason at all.” It is uncertain whether they were attacking this view or seeking affirmation for this view, however, in studying the passage it seems most scholars believe the Pharisees framed the question this way because they favored the Hillel teaching.

What can we take from Jesus’ response? He appeals to God’s standard of marriage by making it clear that marriage is intended to be for one man and one woman and is considered the strongest, most permanent covenantal bond ever created. When pushed on the issue of divorce, Jesus appeals to the hardness of the human heart. So what can we ultimately take from this?

God hates divorce, but – and this is important – divorce is not unforgivable. Many today are quick to judge and point the finger at those who have been through divorce forgetting that there is no sin which overcomes the cross. People who have been divorced – for whatever reason – are able to be forgiven and restored. However, they also have the responsibility to evaluate their decisions, and in grace, turn from their old ways. Ultimately, this tough topic comes down to your relationship with God and direction from the Holy Spirit. It’s a sensitive subject that we must talk about with grace and truth.

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