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.”
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…