This passage opens with the religious leaders trying to test Jesus’ Biblical interpretation, using marriage and divorce as the topic of debate. Jesus passes their test, but not in the way they expected. He didn’t engage in the standard problems of interpretation.
Instead, he pointed to the deeper meaning of each issue related to divorce (Matthew 19:8). This included God’s original intent for marriage, the hardness of the human heart, and the unique call to celibacy.
Next, a wealthy young man approaches and asks Jesus: “What good deed must I do to have eternal life?” (Matthew 19:16). After the man claims that he has kept God’s commandments, Jesus asks the man to give up what matters most to him: his great wealth (Matthew 19:21).
This man wanted to earn eternal life. So Jesus used something he knew the man wouldn’t give up, to show him that eternal life is something he cannot earn.
To further illustrate this, Jesus tells a parable about a master who hires workers for his vineyard. The workers aren’t paid on merit, but on the promised wage of a generous master (Matthew 20:15).
Jesus, once again, emphasizes the importance of humility after the mother of two disciples asks Jesus to grant her sons a position of honor in his kingdom (Matthew 20:21). Those who want to be great, must serve. After all, Jesus came to be the servant of all by giving up his life to save others (Matthew 20:28).
Jesus demonstrates his servant heart twice in this passage. First, by welcoming children others dismissed (Matthew 19:14). Second, by healing two blind men others ignored (Matthew 20:34).
Why is this Good News?
Just as Jesus pointed to the deeper meaning under the laws about marriage and divorce, we must see the bigger picture marriage is meant to show us. The marriage between a man and a woman is a symbol of Jesus’ marriage of his church (Ephesians 5:25).
God does not want man and woman to divorce because his marriage to us never ends. Our earthly marriages are to be a reflection of the eternal, unbreakable bond Jesus makes with his people, the church.
When the young rich man asks Jesus what good thing he can do to earn eternal life, Jesus responds that only One is good (Matthew 19:17). Really, Jesus could have said, “Only I am good.” Because only Jesus could do every good thing required to earn salvation. Human effort cannot accomplish it. As Jesus said, “With man, this is impossible.” The good news is that he followed his statement about impossibility with this one: “But with God, all things are possible.”
This is possible because of how Jesus served us on the cross. Jesus said he would give his life as a ransom for many (Matthew 20:28). A ransom is the price of freedom for an enslaved individual. And by giving his one life on the cross, Jesus has won freedom for the many.
See For Yourself
I pray that the Holy Spirit will open your eyes to see the God who does not give us the wages we deserve, and Jesus as the one who earns for us the grace we don’t.