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Week 19: Matthew 19-20, Mark 10, & Luke 18

For those of you who waited patiently for me to continue, Thank You. The last week I made a commentary for Come Follow, Me was week 13. With a five-week hiatus, I am now ready to come back and provide the commentaries as a service.


Verse 1: Jesus is making his way back to Jerusalem for the last time. We are approaching his scourging and crucifixion. 

Verses 3-9: In these verses, the Lord answers the Pharisees with the Lord's standard of marriage. In the Lord's way, there is no such thing as divorce. The Savior does leave the door open a little bit when he says divorce may be permissible if fornication has been committed. The interesting point to me in these verses is what the Savior says in verse 8. Apparently, loosed access to divorce was permitted by the Lord through Moses because of the hardness of the hearts of the people. This begs the following question. Is it possible that some of the things the Lord changes or implements in our day are a result of our growing wickedness? That is apparently why easier access to divorce was introduced through the law of Moses. McConkie gives some clarifying commentary:
"Divorce is not part of the gospel plan no matter what kind of marriage is involved. But because men in practice do not always live in harmony with gospel standards, the Lord permits divorce for one reason or another, depending upon the spiritual stability of the people involved. In ancient Israel men had power to divorce their wives for relatively insignificant reasons. (Deut. 24:1- 4.) Under the most perfect conditions there would be no divorce permitted except where sex sin was involved. In this day divorces are permitted in accordance with civil statutes, and the divorced persons are permitted by the Church to marry again without the stain of immorality which under a higher system would attend such a course." (DNTC, digital copy, p. 469)

Verses 10-12: These are hard verses to make sense of. Thomas Wayment expresses the idea that the use of eunuchs is "a general criticism of celibacy" (NT: TFLDS, p. 42). It is possible the Lord is providing a contrast of polar opposites. He first speaks of a higher law of marriage and that only some people can receive it (i.e. the new and everlasting covenant of marriage). He provides a contrast with the eunuchs who have such a corrupted view of marriage that they practice celibacy as a form of holiness. The Lord concludes his teaching here with phraseology often associated with the Holy Temple, "Whoever is able to receive it, let that person receive it".

Verses 13-15: The blessing of little children here by the Savior is interesting. The various commentaries I have access to like to explain these verses as evidence as to why the baptizing of little children is a heresy. These verses serve as good evidence for that when confronting modern Christianity, but it doesn't explain why the disciples (probably as a result of ancient Jewish traditions) rebuked the children from coming unto Jesus. The scholarship appears to be hazy as to the context and the reasons why. It could simply be the disciples had their mind focused on more 'adult' things and did not want the savior 'distracted' by the affairs of little children. I am a believer, though, that heresies are usually recycled over and over again throughout time. It could be that some ancient apostate Deuteronomist tradition had something negative to say about little children in the Kingdom of God. Evidence of this might be gleaned from the apostate view they had of marriage and divorce earlier. This suggests that their view of the nuclear family was less than ideal, at least in part.

Verses 16-22: This is a classic story that has so many overlooked and unknown details. For example, what does the Savior mean in verse 17? This saying of the Savior sort of flies at our conventional wisdom about the Savior being perfect. I believe the Savior was and is perfect, but some reworking of how we understand Him is in order. For more information about that, I write about such themes here. In summary, though, I believe that Christ was going the process of growing from grace to grace and had not yet received a fulness yet. I believe that is what Christ means here when he says that only the Father is good.

The rich young man proceeds to tell Jesus that he has been faithful in keeping many of the commandments, which is when Jesus challenges the young man with a covenant of consecration (Please don't let these verses distort your understanding of consecration. When the Savior tells the young man to sell all he has I believe he is telling him to consecrate his property the same way ancient saints did and the way it was done earlier in this dispensation.) The Savior says this is a prerequisite if one wants to be perfect. The word perfect in this verse comes from the same Greek word used in Matthew 5:48. 'Teleios' in its unpacked meaning refers to one who has become fully initiated into the rituals of the temple. This is consistent with consecration being a covenant one takes upon oneself in the endowment.

In verse 22 we usually assume the young man went away for good. In reality, Luke recites this same story and doesn't say the young man leaves; only that he becomes sad. Is it possible that this young man simply had to wrestle with the higher and holier aspects of the gospel before he could fully commit? In other words, I think all of us are like the young rich man in this aspect. In our heart of hearts, we know what the Savior wants. For most of us, it takes a while to build up to it.

What appears to be an exchange between the disciples and Jesus about the events that just transpired occurs next. Jesus uses a metaphor that causes the disciples to think the same way many of us do. "With all these commandments and things to do and be, who on earth is good enough to be saved?" In typical fashion, the Savior points out they do not understand his words when he says, "For humans this is impossible, but for God everything is possible" (Wayment translation). This is making the point that salvation is not something gained, period. Salvation is not something we can tally up good deeds and then turn it reward points for. No man is saved without Christ. There is a plan to keep all within the saving power of the Saviors grace.


Verses 1-16: The following commentary can blow the eyes of our understanding open:
"Joseph Smith then recalled images from the astronomical Chain of Being and juxtaposed them with Jesus’ parable of the laborers in the vineyard. In the New Testament parable, poor agricultural workers start their labors at different times of day but ultimately receive the same wage, a denarius. Readers have interpreted the parable in many different ways over the centuries. Some have seen the reassurance that Gentiles could share in the same salvation as natural-born Israelites others have seen the promise of heavenly reward to all who believe in Christ still others have seen the absolute equality of the saved. In most interpretations, this parable recalls that of the prodigal son, emphasizing the power Christ had to save all, however lost or fallen. Even the worker who does not begin work until the very last hour, even the son who has squandered his inheritance, can find a place through Christ in the kingdom of God.
Joseph and the early Saints were open to all these interpretations, but the Olive Leaf opened a vista on a broader, if somewhat paradoxical, view of the parable. All would be saved in the family of heaven, but the “time” one began to labor in the vineyard represented one’s place in that family. According to the parable, each different agricultural worker had a specific “time” or “season” (see v. 42), echoes of the planetary orbits that defined such seasons and times, to receive the Light of Christ. In this revelatory exegesis, the person who was called early in the morning was assigned that time as a reflection of his place in the process of sacred history. The times and seasons of the Olive Leaf’s reading of the parable brought to mind the passage of generations the relationships between ancestors, present individuals, and descendants far in the future and the sense that each generation entered the world at a particular time for a particular purpose. When the Prophet Joseph brought the seven angels and seals of Revelation into conversation with the reinterpreted parable of the laborers, he drew attention to the role that angelic beings had in marking out sacred history. Those dispensational angels too were called at different points in the day, at different periods of human history. Those angelic beings, in their divine order, pointed toward a great final integration of humans into divine history, of human beings into divine beings. At the appearance of the seventh and final angel, Joseph Smith declared, “the saints shall be filled with his glory, and receive their inheritance and be made equal with him God"...
One immediate meaning of the Olive Leaf’s explanation of the parable of the laborers was that some missionaries, the “first laborers in this last kingdom,” would be called to initiate the work in a new dispensation while others would follow in their footsteps. The dispensations of sacred time, marked by the seven seals and angels, mirrored the kingdoms of heaven, which themselves mirrored the order of celestial bodies... oseph Smith took a parable that was generally understood as describing the complete lack of hierarchy, and he used it to highlight the revised chain. In doing so, Joseph emphasized the paradox at the center of the restored Chain of Belonging. Because the family of heaven was endless in extent, all would ultimately be equal; all would be the spiritual progenitors of a numberless kindred. The Chain of Belonging was a hierarchy of equality, a network of connection among equals, all sealed by the sacred tie of missionary and convert, parent and child. The head of that family was God. Understanding the temporal component of the Chain of Belonging is important. Because the chain was a family tree and members of it all advanced together, eventually everyone would pass through the phase of glory once associated with divine beings, such as God. The point of the parable of the laborers was that even though all had different times when they were called to act or arrive, they would all be a part of the kingdom and the chain. This meant that they would participate in the eternal progression that the Chain of Belonging promised." - Samuel Morris Brown ("The Olive Leaf and the Family of Heaven", BYU RSC)
In short, the parable is meant to open our minds further to the idea of the nature of eternity. The family of Adam comes to earth in their own season to labor in the vineyard. The last shall be first and the first shall be last because they will all be sealed together as "one great grand family with our father Adam at the head" (Joseph Fielding Smith, In Conference Report, Oct. 1911, p. 122).

The last laborer is us. We all agreed to come to our time and season in the pre-earth life to accomplish the same gospel plan. The pay is the same. Those who have been laboring longer might refer to the various ministry of angels and translated beings as Dr. Brown hints at above.

**Disclaimer** other interpretations of this parable are good. This is just a more light intensive one I prefer.

Verses 17-19: This is the third time that Jesus foretells his death.

Verses 20-28: These verses ought to be seen in the context of Jesus' previous prophecy of his death and eventual triumph. This probably sparked the following exchange between Him and John and Jacob's mother. Elder Holland offers some great insight into these verses that might give us a glimpse perhaps as to why Matthew places the exchange shortly after the parable of the laborers:
"In that most sober and foreboding sequence of events, the Savior–who singly and solitarily alone knew what lay ahead of him and just how difficult the commitments of his final hours would be—was approached by the mother of two of his chief disciples, James and John. She rather straightforwardly asked a favor of the Son of God. She said, “Grant that these my two sons may sit, the one on thy right hand, and the other on the left, in thy kingdom” (Matthew 20:21).
This good mother, and perhaps most of the little band who had faithfully followed Jesus, were obviously preoccupied by the dream and expectation of that time when this, their Messiah, would rule and reign in splendor, when, as the scripture says, “the kingdom of God should immediately appear” (Luke 19:11). The question was one more of ignorance than impropriety, and Christ uttered not a word of rebuke. He gently answered as one who always considered the consequence of any commitment.
“Ye know not,” he said quietly, “what ye ask. Are ye able to drink of the cup that I shall drink of? ” (Matthew 20:22; emphasis added). This startling question did not seem to take James and John by surprise. Promptly and firmly they replied, “We are able.” And Jesus’s response to them was, “Ye shall drink indeed of my cup, and be baptized with the baptism that I am baptized with” (Matthew 20:23).
Without any reference to the glory or special privilege they seem to have been seeking, this may strike one as a strange favor the Lord was granting James and John. But he was not mocking them by offering the cup of his suffering rather than a throne in his kingdom. No, he had never been more serious. The cup and the throne were inextricably linked and could not be given separately.
I am sure that you and I, being not only less worthy than Christ but also less worthy than apostles like James and John, would leave such troublesome issues alone if they would only leave us alone. As a rule we usually do not seek the bitter cup and the bloody baptism, but sometimes they seek us. The fact of the matter is God does draft men and women into the spiritual warfare of this world, and if any of us come to genuine religious faith and conviction as a result of that—as many a drafted soldier has done—it will nevertheless be a faith and a conviction that in the first flames of the battle we did not enjoy and certainly did not expect." (The Bitter Cup and the Bloody Baptism, BYU Speeches)
In verses 27-28, Wayment points out that the use of the word slave comes from the same Greek noun used for Deacon. This is not to say Jesus is referring to 12-year-olds, but more pointing out how priesthood works. Namely, to minister and to serve is how one receives power in their priesthood.

Verses 30-34: I can't help but think, after such a light intensive chapter, that this short story is thrown in to make a wonderful point. The blind men, despite the loud calls and cares of the crowd/world, persisted in their desire to have their eyes opened. This is very moving to me as to how we should approach the Savior and how we should receive further light and knowledge from Him.

Mark 10 is skipped over here as virtually all the material in that chapter is covered in Matthew chapters 19-20 (This is not to say that differences in the telling of the same events do not exist in these accounts)


Verses 1-8: The Lord adds a little Matthew 7:11 flavor to this parable as the Judge, who is evil, seeks to bless those who weary him. How much more will God bless those of us who weary Him? Joseph Smith once said, “God is not a respecter of persons, we all have the same privilege. Come to God weary him until he blesses you & we are entitled to the same blessings” (The Words of Joseph Smith, p. 15).

It also is worth noting how long the widow went without getting an answer to her petition. This is a mighty lesson for us.

The rest of Luke 18 covers material already covered above. The following books are readings I would recommend to supplement your study of the themes discussed above and your study of the New Testament:


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