Matthew 19:1-12 Part 1

Some time ago (eight months), as we entered into chapter seventeen, it was said that we were dealing with events that were only two or three months away from the trial and crucifixion of Jesus.  At that point in time, Jesus and His disciples left Galilee (Capernaum) and traveled Northeast into the upper regions of Phillip’s tetrarchy, which had been shaped sometime during the seventy or seventy-five years of Rome’s rule over the area.

And in that tetrarchy was a Syrian town named Paneus (built by the Greeks over a hundred years before) – a place so-named because of its beauty and because of its reason for existence.  It was representative of the mythical “pantheon” of idolatrous, satanically inspired religion of the Gentile world.

It was near here, on a very high mountain (probably Herman), that our Lord was transformed - indicating that the mountain of God was about to be moved from Israel to the nations, and that salvation was near to the peoples of the world.

Then, in His last prophetic act among the heathen, He drove a devil out of a Gentile boy who, himself, was indicative of the demonism infesting the entire world order, Salvation was “nigh” unto the Gentiles!

Just as a quick “aside” here, history has proved, in its first two thousand years since the Resurrection of Christ, that everywhere in the world that the King saves His people and exercises His rule, civilization and life is greatly enhanced!  As demonic authorities are forced out (as with the boy at Paneus), and salvation and Godly rule are imposed, civilization is healed, revived and invigorated!

As “coveys” and “legions” of freewheeling devilish angels are flushed out of the wildernesses of the world by the Gospel, men are set free to life and obedience and dominion!  Wildness and chaos and tyranny and malevolence are sent into the “deep,” and men are “loosed” from imprisonment and blindness and disease.

One of the best examples possible of this great Christian phenomenon arises out of the recent civil turbulence that we’ve had in this country.  Americans of third-world heritage have cried out against white, Western civilization!  They decry the fact that their own heritage and culture have been destroyed, because everywhere “white” people go, they preempt the society and culture of non-whites!  Whatever is wrong, according to them, is attributable to western whites who enslave and subjugate people and destroy all that’s good in their former heritage.  To them, white culture is the fundamental evil in their lives!  It is the “source” of all that is wrong.

But nothing could be further from the reality!  The whole analysis is wrong.  To begin with, none of that is attributable to the fact that our skin is white; neither is it attributable to our culture; nor is it the fact that were western European! (At least these are not the “root” reasons.)   It is all attributable to Christianity!  White, western civilization was blessed with the King’s salvation and His rule!  By Grace!  And that’s what third-world immigrants are fighting against!

And they don’t realize that their heritage, which they want so badly to recapture and retain, has its roots in demonism, death, squalor, cannibalism, deception, infidelity, slavery and inhumane tribalism.  Outside the Kingdom of Christ there is no thought of one woman/one man fidelity (as in our text today).  African sexual practices are among the most perverted and deviant in the world, which, in turn, leads to the worst disease problem in the world.  Illness and starvation and oppression and tyranny are commonplace. There is as much (or more) slavery in Africa and other third world countries as there ever was.  Human life is ever near to having no value in many places in the world.

Yet, that is the heritage and culture to which they wish to return as they struggle against the rule of Christ!  White, European culture and society is the object of their disdain, and the “whipping boy,” and the proverbial straw house!”  But it is not now, and never has been, the real problem.  Underneath all lies the antagonism to, and the conflict with, the rule of Christ!

It is the grace of God in Christ – it is Christianity - that has given life, and vitality, and wellness, and freedom to many Gentile nations (including ours); and it is so ironic that the breath and bread of life, the Light of men, the Quickening Spirit, is that which is so repugnant.  And that it is that which is rejected in favor of a return to a third-world heritage and culture which is steeped in hedonistic polytheism.

But having exercised authority over the demons in the Gentile world, the Lord and His disciples departed there, and they returned to Galilee. And it was at Jesus’ house in Capernaum that the conflict arose between Peter and the other eleven disciples which gave way to the great teaching of Christ (in chapter eighteen) concerning the nature of the Kingdom and the required rebirth.  “You must be changed”, He told His disciples. You must have a new “genesis” to even enter the Kingdom!  You must be born anew – even as the babes are new.

And the identification of newborn hairs with their New Adam is so close that when they are received, Christ is received!  And that’s the relationship that gives way to the brotherhood and discipline that exists in the Church – that not one of these newborns is to be diminished in his significance (despised). They are all brothers; and each one is secured in the Kingdom by the sacrifice of Christ; and all are to be accorded the value placed upon hem by God!  When one sins, he is to be “put to the proof” by the Word of Truth.  And the infinite compassion of Christ is to be shown one another, because not one of them can pay his own debt!  Not one is to be held to human standards, because God is his Savior, Lord and Judge!

Now, as we enter into chapter nineteen, it is now only days before the trial and crucifixion of Christ.  Jesus leaves His home in Capernaum for the last time in order to enter the “regions of Judea,” as we see in verse one.

Let’s read it again:  


“And it came to pass when Jesus finished these words, He departed front Galilee and came into the regions of Judea on the other side of the Jordan.”


Now, as we read this verse, it is not necessary to read into it that, as soon as Jesus finished speaking, He got right up and left the house in order to travel to Judea. It might seem that way if one were reading impersonally.  But Matthew writes in terms of events.  So the next event in the life of Jesus follows the last one of great significance.  The “teaching” of His disciples in His house concerning the rebirth is followed by the departure from Galilee – in order that He might go to Judea.

Jesus had already told His disciples that it was necessary for Him to go to Jerusalem and suffer many things at the hands of the elders and priests and Scribes, and to be killed, and to be raised again on the third day.  And if we were to read ahead a little bit, we would know that it is the time for Passover.  The hour has come for the Lamb of God to be slain for the sins of many.

The disciples don’t know it yet, but this is their last trip with Jesus.  In a matter of just a few days the crucifixion of Christ would take place.

But after whatever preparations there were to be made, Jesus and His disciples departed Galilee and came into the regions of Judea on the other side of the Jordan.  As they traveled, more than likely they crossed over the Jordan River somewhere south of the Sea of Galilee and used the less mountainous route along the river, bypassing Samaria.  As verse two says, large crowds were following Him – probably many were Jews. And, more than likely, many of them were non-Jews from the regions to the east of the Jordan.

The text says that they came into the “regions” of Judea.  What this means is that right across the river from where they arrived was Judea, within which was the tribe of Judah and the city of Jerusalem.  This is approximately the same spot at the river at which the nation of Israel first crossed over the Jordan to get to the promised land. The first city to be seen after crossing over the river at this point was Jericho, which is just north of the entrance into the Dead Sea.  And several more miles of climbing through the mountains of eastern Judea was required in order to get to Jerusalem.

Now, a number of things happen on the east side of the Jordan, and on the way through Jericho into Bethany and Jerusalem. And, beginning today and continuing for the next weeks and months, we will see Jesus healing the crowds, contending with the Pharisees, being confronted by the mother of two of the disciples, speaking with the rich, young ruler, speaking the parable of the vineyard, prophesying His death and resurrection and meeting the blind men of Jericho.  So we have a lot to do before the triumphal entry of Christ into the city.  But this text begins the final few days before that great event by which the world is saved from the eternal judgment of God.

Now, as far as verse two is concerned, I just want to remind you of some of the things which have been said in the past concerning Jesus’ healing of the people.  Other than the obvious compassion which our Lord had for those who were suffering there are two primary reasons for the many thousands of healing miracles that Jesus performed.  (And, remember, these are extra­ordinary events accomplished by the God of creation and the Lord of Heaven and Earth.  He controls history and all the events of history; so these “healings” are not to be seen as some “transcendent” deity breaking in and interrupting history that exists separate from and in addition to Him!  So, to Jesus, the healing “miracles” are not miraculous at all.  He is God Who already controls History!  They are simply extraordinary subjection of the Creation for specific purpose.)

But the purpose was two-fold.  First, the healing of the multitudes in their impoverished condition is a condemnation upon the nation and its leaders, who, although they were to be the shepherds of the sheep and the teachers of the Covenant, led the people away from the Covenant – the result being the sanctions promised by God in Deuteronomy!  Those sanctions perfectly prophesied the condition of a people disobedient to God’s Covenant!  The nation had become worse than the surrounding pagan nations; it was under the tyrannous rule of another pagan nation; the people were blind and deaf and dumb and palsied and crooked and leprous and impoverished and afflicted with demons; they were blind being led by blind! So the first purpose of the healings is the condemnation of the entire, protracted leadership of Israel.  He did what they would not, and could not, do.  So, first, the miracles of healing were of judgmental significance!

The second purpose for the healing of the multitudes was, of course, the “overcoming,” or “reversal” of all of that which had been done to the people.  By payment of the debt, and the forgiveness of sin, Jesus Christ reverses the curse and restores His people!  So the “miracles” of healing were indicative of the coming of the “restorer,” THE MESSIAH, as prophesied in the Older Testament.

So the Lord Jesus Christ came to the regions of Judea and healed the multitudes, signifying that all these things had now come to pass.

Now, also, let me say that the indication here is that this was no ordinary crowd of people.  Verse two says that “great crowds followed Him.  So we’re not to understand that there were dozens, or even hundreds, of people – but thousands!  They were everywhere; and they were from everywhere!  And the farther He went, the more there were.  And they came with their litters for the sick, and their beasts of burden. And, so, there were the sights and sounds we would associate with huge multitudes of people – possibly strung out for miles down the road behind Him, all trying to reach Him and gain His attention!  And when He stopped at the river across from Jericho and began to heal them, it is reasonable to assume that, at the healing of each one, there was a thunderous roar of approval!

So it didn’t take very long for word to reach Jerusalem that Jesus was across the river from Judea, and that enormous crowds of people were with Him, and that He was healing them! The Pharisees didn’t like this - with Passover coming up, and people (important people) from all over the world were coming into Jerusalem for the celebration, the embarrassment over this man from Nazareth, the very tenuous political situation between Jerusalem and Rome; and the numbers of people who were following Him and their clamoring for Him to be king of Israel – they didn’t like it at all.

So, upon hearing of what was happening on the east bank, they sent out a delegation (again) to expose Him for what He was (in their opinion) – a preposterous imposter!  In order to do this, they had to unveil inconsistencies and invalidate His influence before the people.  They had to show the people, in public, that His doctrine was in opposition to the teaching of the Scribes and Pharisees; and they had to shame Him – knowing that once a leader is disparaged, and people begin to laugh at him, he is stripped of his power!

Verse three says, “and Pharisees approached Him testing Him and saying….”  So the delegation arrived, and, as usual, assumed a dominant position among the crowd. And approaching Jesus, they asked Him this question:


“Is it permitted a man to dismiss his wife down to every cause?”


Now the import of that question, and Jesus’ answer we’ll leave until next Lord’s Day.  But, while we still have a little time want to say a few things about the Pharisees and about the condition of our own society, viz a viz marriage and divorce.

But the entire system of ecclesiastical and political life in Israel were alien zizanium over-sowed in God’s Garden.  They were pretenders and hypocrites who had reinterpreted God’s Truth – primarily for their own benefit.  And their collected “wisdom,” from down through the generations (Midrashim), had formed the very basis for every function of the society.  And it was all upside-down and perverted!

And the law system that had been established for divorce and remarriage is a perfect example of all that collected “wisdom.”  We’ll get into this in more depth next time, but the generations of ecclesiastical and Theological leaders had developed a long list of acceptable causes, or reasons, because of which a man could dismiss his wife.  That’s why their question is worded the way it is.  “Is it permitted a man to dismiss his wife down to every cause?”  In other words, would Jesus have opposition to the list of causes of divorce which the scholars of Israel have developed – down to the last cause?

The Scribes and Pharisees were, according to them, the final arbiters as to what was a just cause for divorce.  And, included in the list were such things as “burned food!”  Of course, the Law of God had been perverted, and the system set up, so that the pious could legally pursue “other sexual interests.”  So, rather than God’s Law being the Standard, the writings of generations of Pharisees became the standard! And the church/state of Israel took on the role of providing for its own perversions.

As I close here, let me also say that the perverted leaders and hypocrites of our own society have given the state a role which God never commanded that it have.  It has claimed the authority of God, and infallibility for human decisions.  By its own power it grants divorces, and it does so in huge numbers.  And it now does so for any trivial reason.  Alienation of affection; irreconcilable differences; no-fault divorce!  And the society is shattering and splintering under the weight of its own, immorality.  And our third-world immigrants are perfectly “at home” with that!

The leadership of the country, just like the Pharisees of Jesus’ time, want these laws – just like the people do! They wart them because, when the state takes on the authority of God, both leadership and populace are more free to take up their own perversions.  If they can pass the laws and make the people believe that it has that authority, and that it has their best interests at heart, then everyone can then go and pursue his own impiety.

Like Israel, this is antagonism and warfare against God’s Truth and against the Light of Christ!  And, like Israel, we are perhaps on the verge of being impoverished blind, deaf dumb, cancer and plague-infested, demon-possessed and lost.

Next Lord’s Day, the import of the Pharisees’ question, and the Lord’s answer.  And that answer is one that upholds the Truth of God’s Word, and, when obeyed, it preserves the Godliness and sanctity of marriage; and the piety of leadership; and the morality, stability and progress of a society.