Jesus, Marriage, and the Disciples’ Reaction

The disciples said to him, “If this is the situation between a husband and wife, it is better not to marry.”

Jesus replied, “Not everyone can accept this word, but only those to whom it has been given. For there are eunuchs who were born that way, and there are eunuchs who have been made eunuchs by others—and there are those who choose to live like eunuchs for the sake of the kingdom of heaven. The one who can accept this should accept it.”

Matthew 19:10-12

After Jesus’ remarks concerning marriage and divorce in 19:3-9, the disciples have questions obviously, as do so many others, yet they didn’t ask any of them, instead making the offhand remark in verse10, “…it’s better not to marry.”

Quite a bit has been written about this remark; theories abound, yet what we can be certain about is that the disciples assumed that easy divorce was a given, that it was part of the deal so to speak. The apparent “taking away” of easy divorce by Jesus in His reply to the Pharisees who were attempting to trip Him up would certainly appear to reflect a different teaching for Israel, but we must remember that in this section, everything is arranged to instruct the disciples, not necessarily the Pharisees or to make new laws for the people. Caution dear reader, please don’t read anything into that statement of mine that I didn’t actually say; Jesus’ comments are of importance to us as well.

In His reply to their remark, Jesus expounds further on his intent, using a eunuch as an illustration, as He makes His point clearer. There were eunuchs who were “born eunuchs” as well as others who were “made” that way, which is to say that there are some who are by physical disability, unable to “become one flesh” in marriage, as well as many in those times who were incapacitated so they could serve in a noble’s household; neither would ever marry. Then there would be those who would choose to never marry so that they could serve more completely the Kingdom of heaven, and Paul comes to mind, as well as Jesus Himself. Some can accept this, i.e. “live that way” and some cannot. If a person can live that way, so much the better, if not, then they should marry wisely. Again, the teaching of Paul on the subject comes to mind.

This is not to suggest that living a celibate life is somehow more holy than not, but it is to say that the priorities of the Kingdom should be preeminent in our lives, and for those who have the gift of celibacy, this will be an easier task (cf. 1 Cor. 7:1-7).

I wonder what the disciples talked about later that day amongst themselves…


About Don Merritt

A long time teacher and writer, Don hopes to share his varied life's experiences in a different way with a Christian perspective.
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12 Responses to Jesus, Marriage, and the Disciples’ Reaction

  1. shellysom91 says:

    I think about this issue time to time. I am a 24 year old woman and have no real interest in marriage. I would never do ‘anything’ (if you know what I mean) outside of marriage, so would be quite fine to live a celibate life and continue to work for God and others. I am open to marriage if the Lord leads me to the right man, but they would have to be someone who would want to further my relationship with God and vice versa. In this day and age, this all seems to be a rarity, but I like to think there are some guys like that out there. =)
    Oh and I have no idea what the disciples would have said later. haha. 😉

    • Don Merritt says:

      I can assure you that there are guys like that out there, but you are right, they are comparatively rare, as are women with that mentality; very sad. I’m sure that if God has such a guy for you, He’ll bring you together when the time is right, and you can serve together, and if not, you can serve as you already are, a great joy either way!

  2. Little Monk says:

    I really enjoy seeing the way you deal with these texts! Well done, Don.

    I recently learned a “new idea” about Jesus’ reference to eunuchs, and thought I’d share it. Not saying this is any “special take” on the situation… just saying these thoughts came to me, and they may fit.

    I was watching a documentary on the Forbidden City, the Imperial stronghold in China.

    There was a good deal of discussion around the role of eunuchs there. They were the only males, besides the Emperor, permitted in the Palace itself. ALL the servants… hundreds of them… were eunuchs, usually voluntary, recruited from all across the Empire. It was a huge honor to be selected for such service, and ONLY eunuchs were trusted in close quarters with the Emperor.

    Why? Because in their culture, “family”… “dynasty”… and “family honor” was EVERYTHING to the social climber. Any other man, married and with or capable of having children, was a potential assassin or political plotter. Such men were valuable to the Kingdom, but kept at a distance from the Emperor Himself.

    The eunuch not only gave up their “manhood”… but gave up their “legacy”… instead, vesting ALL their ambition, hopes, esteem… into the Emperor and the Imperial house.

    I remember thinking what an interesting parallel Jesus drew to select this illustration. To be a “eunuch for God”, is to vest EVERYTHING of worth to the self… honor, potency, praxis, joy, significance, legacy… into the person of God Himself. “I have no dynasty, no legacy, no meaning… beyond God, and Him Alone.”

    Interesting, eh?

    Joy and grace to you! — LM

    • Don Merritt says:

      Yes it is, and that is exactly the point, as long as we remember your word “voluntary”.

      I’m reminded of a certain parallel on this theme from a completely different, and completely evil man: Adof Hitler. His relationship with Eva Braun was “Top Secret” in the Reich because he wanted to be seen as “married to Germany” and actually cited some of the same reasons you mentioned for those eunuchs in days of old. Interesting propaganda for a fraud; amazing reality for the “real deal”.

  3. paulfg says:

    You prompted to me to go “Mounce’ing” – and what a gentle take on a seemingly “take it or leave it” statement:

    “The one who can accept this should accept it.” = The one who is able to regard this cordially should regard this cordially.

    I like that.

  4. pipermac5 says:

    If we compare and contrast this with the Apostle Paul’s clear teachings on the qualifications of church leaders in 1 Timothy 3:1-13, it would appear that being single and a minister of the Gospel was still to be the exception rather than the norm. Jesus never implied that ministers of the Gospel “should” be single.

    I know, from my own experience, that there are some “benefits” to being single, such as not having to take another person’s desires and feelings in consideration when I make decision concerning how or where I live or the ministry, but I can also see great benefit in having a Godly wife as a ministry-partner. I would be far more “relatable” to those I minister to if I did have a wife. That is all in God’s hands.



    • Don Merritt says:

      Quite right Steve, neither Jesus nor Paul tell us that leaders should be one way or the other, instead each implies that we follow His lead in this, as in all things. Excellent observation!

  5. Wally Fry says:

    Your comment about the disciples talking later kind of made me think, especially Peter since he apparently had a wife of his own as I recall. Still liking this trip, Don

  6. Pingback: Jesus, Marriage, and the Disciples’ Reaction « Welcome To Defavouredkings Blog

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