Matthew tells us that the young man went away sad, but I think Jesus must have been sad too, for he commented on what had happened by saying to the disciples, Truly, I say to you, only with difficulty with a 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” (Mt.19.23-24). It is difficult for any sinner to enter heaven, of course; in fact, it is impossible without a radical change of heart and faith in Christ. But we are not talking about other sins here. We are talking about the love of money, and we cannot forget that this is a chief, if not the chief, characteristic of our intensely commercial age.
Whenever you study the Bible, if you study it thoughtfully, you will find things that are wonderfully reasonable and balanced. On the other hand, we sometimes find material that is startling and even jarring such as in Matthew 19.
Chastity before marriage, fidelity after marriage, and a lifelong commitment of one married partner to the other with no thought of divorce! What a high standard that is! No wonder the disciples reacted with the cynical comment: “If such is the case of a man and his wife, it is better not to marry” (Mt.19.10). We hear something very much like that today, especially from people who often say, “I have never known a happily married couple; therefore, I am not going to get married.”
The Pharisees seemed to anticipate Jesus’ answer to their question about divorce (Matthew 9.3,7). They were ready with a follow-up question. “Why then, did Moses command one to give her a certificate of divorce and send her away?” They were talking about Deuteronomy 24.1–4, of course, and they were suggesting that Jesus must be wrong in His interpretation of Genesis 1 and 2, since later in the law, in Deuteronomy, Moses “commanded” divorce.
Jesus went away from Galilee and entered the region of Judea. Large crowds followed Him. The Pharisees asked, “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.”
In conclusion to Peter’s question, “Lord, how often should I forgive?” Jesus said: “So also my heavenly Father will do to every one of you, if you do not forgive your brother from your heart.” (Matthew 18.35). It seems to imply a “works” salvation – if you forgive others (a work), you will be forgiven.