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Matthew 19

May 22nd, 2011 by Vic

Matthew 19

May 22, 2011

“Marriage, Divorce, Remarriage, Singleness, and Riches”

 

The preceding chapter focused on the need for humility and forgiveness in the church.  The western mindset does not value humility and forgiveness.  It’s easier to talk about Christ-like attitudes than it is to live them out like Jesus lived.  It requires a radical change of mind and heart to be Christ-like.

 

This week we went to the Church of the Nazarene District Assembly in McMinnville.  One speaker said, “Forgiveness is like the fragrance of a violet that gives you pleasure after it has been crushed by a careless foot.”

 

God has a high standard.  All have sinned and come short of the glory of God.  We all need love, acceptance, and forgiveness.  The last chapter was on forgiveness.  This one is regarding marriage.  It begins with a question of divorce.  Then Jesus talks of remarriage and singleness and some things money can’t buy.

 

19:1-9

Jesus is leaving Galilee for the last time and heading to Jerusalem and the cross.  And on the way he has time to meet the needs of people.  This occasion is probably on that main traveled route to Jerusalem that went around Samaria.  Large crowds were following Him and He healed them just as He had done in Galilee.

 

The Pharisees come to Jesus to test him.  They don’t want to know the truth.  They are not really concerned about the accuracy of their interpretation of the law.  They only want to trick Jesus into saying something they can use against him.  They ask Him, “Are there any grounds for divorce?”

 

The best way to trick someone is to ask an either/or question.  Do you beat your wife before breakfast or after?  Do you curse God when you are angry or when you feel sudden pain?  There were 2 Jewish schools of thought regarding divorce.  Which would Jesus support?

Divorce was a scandalous topic in religious circles.  It had become tragically common.  The Qumran community said divorce was illicit under all circumstances.  Once God joined a man and a woman together, no one could separate.  The school of Shammai interpreted the “indecency” of Deut 24:1 as primarily adultery and allowed a man to divorce his wife only on the grounds of sexual immorality.  The school of Hillel extended the meaning of indecency to include all kinds of offences to the husband and sanctioned divorce if the wife did not please the husband for any reason.  The frequency of divorce was a public scandal.  The man could divorce the woman, but not vice versa.

 

These Pharisees were hoping Jesus would say something that would elevate the place of women and make the men mad or contradict Jewish law.  Or maybe Jesus would say something that would not please Herod and He would be killed like John the Baptist was.

 

But Jesus did not agree with either the Shammai people or the followers of Hillel.  He did not chose one of their options.  He aligned Himself with Malachi 2:15 and reminds them of the very beginning.  Jesus did not say the wife should be able to divorce the husband.  He did not push women’s rights and social reforms.  He did not pick a side to agree with.  He said think about the beginning.  How did God create you?  How many people were in the garden?  How much of our divorce would be eliminated if we had eyes for only one person?  If this was God’s plan, then all divorce is sin against God.  Marriage is more than a mere civil contract of convenience.

 

Jews considered marriage a sacred duty.  God commanded Adam and Eve to be fruitful and multiply.  (It is interesting that all Jews agreed that desertion and insanity were not grounds for divorce.)  God created marriage and identified it as the uniting of male and female.  It would have been stupid for Adam and Eve to divorce.  God did not set up any escape clauses or exit doors.  If your home is on fire and there are no exit doors, you will spend of lot of effort to put out the flames.

 

The Pharisees were uncomfortable.  They said Moses seems to have assumed that marriage was a contract relationship and he commanded us to use a legal document to dissolve the marriage contract.

 

Jesus said, “Moses permitted a contract arrangement but did not command it.”  Marriage and divorce are not morally neutral legal contractual agreements.  Marriage and divorce are moral relationships, not legal relationships.  Divorce is sin against God and forgivable like all other sin, but must be acknowledged as a serious sin against God.

 

We live in a culture that excuses many sins against God.  We assume there are escape clauses in the marriage contract.  Jesus said let your ‘yes’ be ‘yes’.  God warned that there are consequences for breaking your vows.  I heard marriage compared to 2 pieces of paper.  One piece of paper has the man’s name on it.  The other has the woman’s name.  In marriage you glue the two pieces together and they become one.  Divorce is an attempt to separate those united papers.  Both are damaged and changed.

 

Statistics continually tell us that kids whose parents divorce will grow up to be more lonely and insecure as adults.  Divorce causes severe pain and suffering for the children.  Divorce is a sin against God.  Divorce is not the unpardonable sin.  There must be repentance and confession of sin, not just blame and finger-pointing.  Can a Christian remarry?  Certainly. The Bible promises that if we confess our sin He is faithful and just to forgive us and cleanse us from all unrighteousness.  There are consequences to sin.  We don’t usually have nail scars in our hands and feet, but there are scars.

 

19:10-12

The disciples did not yet understand the power of love and forgiveness that was demonstrated on the cross.  They conclude that this high standard makes marriage unattractive.  The risks of becoming inseparably linked with an unsatisfactory wife were too great in their estimate.  The teaching of Christ requires the presence of Christ in us.  A marriage without Christ in the center will never know the fullness of joy that God has planned in this relationship.  The risks are high without Christ.

 

Jesus simply replies that different people have different reasons for not getting married.  Some are born without a natural desire for the opposite sex.  For them it is better not to marry or remarry.  The word eunuch is used physically and spiritually.  Some chose to be castrated to abstain from sex.  Some were castrated for their job.  Some were castrated for crimes they committed.

 

For the Jews, marriage was a duty, but Jesus is saying that it is OK not to marry.  Paul said those who get married will have trouble.  He felt it was better not to marry.  Some are called to singleness.  Learn to be content.  Godliness with contentment is great gain.

 

In the kingdom of God there is a restoration of the perfection of the Garden of Eden before sin came.  The ethics of the kingdom must be given in ideal terms.  But the disciples and all of us will continue to fall short of the ideal until we have our resurrected body.  Our current bodies suffer the scars of Adam and Eve’s sin.  The creation principle of no divorce is the ideal we are to strive for.

 

 

 

19:13-15

If marriage was not the ideal, then children would be sin, but that is not true.  Jesus placed His hands on the children and prayed for them.  He did not preach to them.  He did not heal them.  He did not entertain them.  He does not lead them to salvation.  He holds them and prays for them.

 

Little children illustrate how the kingdom of God is to be received.  Children are people of the kingdom of heaven.  They have a humility and faith that God desires of us.  Jesus is not too busy, even on the way to the cross to bless the children.

 

19:16-26

This rich man assumed that eternal life was a reality.  He perceived that Jesus was a good teacher.  He assumed that Jesus could tell him how to get eternal life.  He assumed he could know for sure that he had eternal life.  He assumed it involved something he had to do.  Luke tells us he was a ruler; probably a religious ruler.

 

Jews assumed that rich people were very spiritual.  Obviously God’s blessing was on them or they would not be rich.  And the rich were able to help the poor, the widows, and orphans.  God really loved the rich.  The rich also had more time to read the Torah and attend the synagogue.  Rich people make the best church members.  That’s what the Jews thought.

 

This was a good man.  He addressed Jesus respectfully as Teacher and Jesus spoke to him respectfully.  This man was sincere.  He probably had done a lot of good.  He kept all the laws so he generously helped the poor.  Yet he sensed a lack.

 

The Jews said obedience to the Torah would give you eternal life, but this man still sensed a need.  He came to the right person.

 

You can enjoy the respect of all your friends and enjoy the pleasures of wealth yet suffer barrenness of your soul.  You can make the church leaders very happy and still feel empty inside.

 

Jesus asks a rhetorical question that would direct this young man to think a little and realize that Jesus was either God or a bad teacher.  Then Jesus reminds him to keep the commandments.

 

There were hundreds of commandments that the Jews said were required to please God.  So this young man asks, “Which ones?”

 

Jesus mentioned commandments 6, 7, 8, 9, and Leviticus 19:18.  The first 4 commandments deal with our relationship to God, but the last 6 deal with our relationship to one another.  The 10th commandment was a blatant omission.

 

The man said he had kept all the commandments.  Jesus does not dispute his answer, but starts to elaborate the 10th commandment against coveting.

 

The entrance requirements for the kingdom of heaven involve more than literal obedience to the commands.  It requires a heart change that does not break the 10th commandment:  do not covet stuff.  The young man was shocked to hear that the commandment could mean giving away all his wealth.  Jesus was simply inviting him to trust Him.  If Jesus had said, “You are rich and too fond of your money,” the man would have denied it.  Jesus said eternal life is guaranteed by trusting Jesus.  The humility and trust of a child are essential for eternal life.

 

Jesus says, “Come, follow Me.”  It is a radical change in lifestyle.  “Come walk with me and trust me to provide your needs.”  Sometimes that does not make sense.

 

The man walked away unsatisfied and Jesus seemed to grieve too.  It is hard for a rich person to enter into the kingdom of heaven with stuff.  Eternal life is not guaranteed to the rich as most Jews assumed.  You cannot buy your way into the kingdom.  The camel was their largest animal.  They did not have blenders and juicers.  Jesus was saying it was impossible.

 

The disciples were astonished (25) and asked, “If the rich can’t find eternal life, who can?”  Jesus says, “God can save all who trust in Him.”

 

Preoccupation with wealth is a common malady of western man.  The wealthy often get addicted to their wealth and become captive to it.  Wealth is not a measure of discipleship.  Discipleship required undivided commitment and trust in Jesus.

 

If Jesus asked you for total commitment, would it be worth going to hell for your TV or stereo or house or car or retirement plan or savings account or any other toys?

 

When you came into the world what did you have?  When you leave this world what will you take with you?  Everything you have belongs to the Lord.  What are you doing with God’s gifts to you?

 

19:27-30

Peter reminded Jesus that they had left all to follow Him; do they get a special reward?

 

Jesus assures them that the demands of discipleship are great, but the rewards will be far greater.  Jesus seemed to be pleased with Peter’s child-like question and He assures them of a place to sit.  Both the rich and poor who bear the cross will wear the crown.  The 12 thrones represent the true Israel.  They will assume authority over unbelieving Israel.

 

With God nothing is impossible.  All mankind are invited to believe on Jesus and enter the kingdom of heaven.  There are rewards above and beyond the gift of eternal life for those who deny themselves and take up their cross to follow Jesus.  The greatest blessing of all is eternal life and there is more besides.

 

Jesus promises his disciples that everyone who has left homes, family, and fields for Jesus’ sake will receive greater blessings.  This representative list of 7 stands symbolically for all losses.  What have we left for Jesus’ sake?  What are we willing to leave for Jesus’ sake?  We will receive much more.

 

Many who push themselves to the top in the present will in the end find themselves at the bottom.  The world gives them prominence and glory now.  Those on the other hand who are willing to be last by the standards of this world will be exalted to first rank in the coming kingdom.  Those who approach God in childlike trust will have access and reward in the kingdom of heaven.  A fantastic future awaits those who deny themselves, take up the cross and follow Jesus.

 

Jesus may be speaking to your heart right now.  He invites us toe “Come, follow Me.”

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