Matthew 19: What Shall I Do to Have Eternal Life?

New Testament: Student Study guide, (2003), 27–28


The Jews of Jesus’ day were in a state of apostasy. As a group they had fallen away from the true practice of their religion as revealed by God to Moses. There were many individuals who still lived as righteously as they knew how—such as Mary, Joseph, and John the Baptist. Those who held positions of power and leadership in the Jewish faith, such as the scribes, the Pharisees, and the Sadducees, were especially notable for their apostasy from the truth. They were more concerned with preserving their positions of leadership than with true righteousness. Jesus’ message must have cut straight to their hearts as He condemned their pride and hypocrisy.As you read Matthew 19 and the next few chapters, notice how the Jewish leaders continued to attack and try to embarrass Jesus, while Jesus continued to challenge them by defining what true righteousness is.

Understanding the Scriptures

Matthew 19

Cleave (v. 5)Stay with, be closely attached to 
Eunuchs (v. 12)Unmarried men who were physically incapable of fathering children (see Bible Dictionary, “eunuch,” p. 667) 
Forsaken (vv. 27, 29)Left, given up 
Regeneration (v. 28)Resurrection (see the Joseph Smith Translation for this verse) 
bride and groom by temple

“For this cause shall a man leave father and mother, and shall cleave to his wife: and they twain shall be one flesh.”

Matthew 19:3–12—Jesus’ Counsel on Marriage and Divorce

The question the Pharisees asked Jesus was a question debated among the different groups of the Jewish faith. The Lord allowed divorce in the law of Moses (see Deuteronomy 24:1–2), which some interpreted to mean that a man could divorce his wife for nearly any reason. Those with impure hearts used this interpretation of the law to divorce and remarry many times to fulfill their lustful desires. Jesus condemned this practice in particular and called it adultery (see Matthew 5:31–32; 19:9).

Elder Bruce R. McConkie wrote, “Divorce is not part of the gospel plan. … Under the most perfect conditions there would be no divorce permitted except where sex sin was involved. In this day … divorced persons are permitted by the Church to marry again without the stain of immorality which under a higher system [which Jesus taught] would attend such a course” (Doctrinal New Testament Commentary, 1:547).

Because Jesus spoke so strongly against divorce, some disciples apparently wondered if it was better not to marry at all. In answer, Jesus recognized that some will not receive that opportunity, but noted that it was an exception that God would somehow make an allowance for (see Matthew 19:10–12). The Lord has revealed in our day that “marriage is ordained of God” (D&C 49:15; see also “The Family: A Proclamation to the World,” Ensign, Nov. 1995, p. 102).

Studying the Scriptures

Do either activity A or B as you study Matthew 19.

Activity A iconDivorce

wedding photo torn in half

In Matthew 19:3–9 we read how Jesus responded when the Pharisees asked Him if it was alright for a man to divorce his wife for any reason. With a currently increasing number of divorces, the question seems important for today as well.

Based upon the response Jesus gave and the explanation found in the “Understanding the Scriptures” section above, write a brief statement that explains the Lord’s views on divorce that you would like someone who was considering divorce to read and think about.

Activity B iconA Rich Young Man

  1. 1.

    Why did the young man in the story in Matthew 19:16–22 decide not to follow Jesus?

  2. 2.

    What blessings did Jesus promise to those who made the sacrifice to follow Him? (see vv. 23–30).

  3. 3.

    Based on what Jesus and His disciples said after the young man left (see vv. 23–30), write a letter as if you were writing to this young man and try to help him understand why he should reconsider his decision.