ISHO'DAD OF MERW
COMMENTARY ON MATTHEW 19:11-12
What is this, that all men are not capable for this saying, save he to whom it is given? This is characteristic of our Lord, like that which was said above, that He says some things and prepares other things, and relaxes the lips, and responds to the heart; and is like a man who makes hidden things manifest, that is to say, the soul in the body; thus also here, because the disciples had been thinking, that if to live with a wicked wife be a bitter evil, and a rottenness of the bones, and if to send [her] away be reprehensible with God, it is good for a man not to take a wife at all. But our Lord, looking at the difficulty of the command, and that [it worked] harshly in both its parts, in this that if He had said, yes, it is not right to take a wife, not only would He have contradicted God, but also Himself now; for He said before, What God hath joined together, let not man put asunder; and if He should say that in every way one ought to take [her], He would have destroyed beforehand the law of holiness and of virginity which He Himself was about to bring into the world, and to establish by means of His disciples. He cautiously avoided both, making the reason depend upon God alone; and this was habitual, like this, that that day and that hour knoweth no man; and this, it is not Mine to give; but to those for whom it is prepared of My Father; but He did not thus know this accurately. And He immediately connects, and by means of three classes explains the word, saying, there are eunuchs which were so born from their mother's womb, for this is an accidental thing and a mutilation of Nature; and there are those who have been made eunuchs of men, for this is a violent thing; and there are those who have made themselves eunuchs, for this is a fruit of the will of free men; for He shews by these things, that it is not altogether the abstention from marriage that is worthy of praise, but choosing of our own will from the fear of God the excellence of not marrying; and for this reason He rejects that first class of those from the womb, and the second one, who on account of vain and human glory have cut off their members and made themselves eunuchs; and He praises this [third class], that on account of God they preserve sanctity.
Again, in this, that not every man is capable of this saying, He distributes honour to continence from marriage; for it was more useful henceforth to the disciples of the New Testament; and like this, that unto you it is given to know the mysteries of the kingdom of Heaven.
But again, He yet more honours virginity, in this, Let a man leave his wife, etc. and follow Me. But I say, that unless holiness and purity are graciously established in the saints, they have not acquired every work; but now, though they also cry out with the importunity of the motions within them, asking for a refuge and for help, they respond with difficulty to what breaks their plans and incites them to put them straight. Again, if it is given to him alone who is able for the saying, where is the place for this, Strive to enter in at the strait gate, and for this, In your patience possess ye your souls, and the parable of the unjust judge and the widow? The Interpreter says, those who have chosen continence from marriage; this is a grace from God and not of will, that we have chosen for ourselves that through a work perfecting the thing He may complete things which are higher than Nature; that is not our own; and He shews by means of the parable of the idle man, that not in every way is not marrying worthy of praise, but this, that we should choose of our own will for the sake of the fear of God.