Matthew 19:1–12: Marriage from the Beginning

by Feb 5, 2024Premium, The Gospel of Matthew

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In Matthew 19, we enter a new section of the Gospel. In this section, Jesus returns to many of the activities that he did earlier in his ministry, especially by teaching and healing. Yet, there is a major difference between Jesus’ earliest ministry and what we see here: the shadow of the cross looms over the section. As Jesus moves toward Jerusalem to be crucified, the cross is never far from his mind (e.g., Matt. 20:17–19). Nevertheless, Jesus still has much to teach before laying down his life at the cross. Here, we learn that Jesus sanctifies us through faithfulness in marriage.

Discussion Questions

1. How does Matthew mark v. 1 as the beginning of a new section in the Gospel? What is changing geographically? What is changing thematically? What is the nature of the controversy in which the Pharisees try to entangle Jesus (v. 3)? How does Matthew portray their actions as similar to Satan (Matt. 4:3)? How does Jesus change the framing of the question about marriage? How does the principle Jesus uses in vv. 4–6 address issues that we face today?

2. What does Deuteronomy 24:1 teach about divorce? How did the Pharisees misuse the verse to justify their efforts to retain the right to divorce undesirable wives? How does Jesus understand the reality of divorce? In other words, how does he acknowledge the reality of divorce, while also insisting that divorce was never part of God’s original plan for marriage? How does Jesus’ teaching here speak to our own culture’s views of marriage and divorce?

3. Why did the disciples conclude from Jesus’ teaching that it would be better to refrain from marrying altogether (v. 10)? Does Jesus agree with them on this point? Who, then, should refrain from marrying, according to Jesus’ teaching (vv. 11–12)? What does it mean for people to “make themselves eunuchs for the sake of the kingdom of heaven” (v. 12)? Why is it important that those who have this gift of continency should “receive it” (v. 12)?

4. What are your views about marriage? How do you think that your views on marriage, divorce, and remarriage may have been shaped by the people around you? Have those closest to you been a good influence about the nature of marriage, or a bad influence? How have you approached pursuing marriage (if single) or pursuing the permanence and flourishing of your marriage (if married)? What particularly strikes you about Jesus’ teaching here?