Key Text: Mark 10:28-31
Then Peter spoke up, “We have left everything to follow you!”
“Truly I tell you,” Jesus replied, “no one who has left home or brothers or sisters or mother or father or children or fields for me and the gospel will fail to receive a hundred times as much in this present age: homes, brothers, sisters, mothers, children and fields—along with persecutions—and in the age to come eternal life. But many who are first will be last, and the last first.”
As a Master Teacher, our LORD Jesus employed many techniques by which he communicated truth. Sometimes he spoke in parables and proverbs. Sometimes he used miracles. Other times, he gave lengthy exhortation and instruction like the Sermon on the Mount. In this chapter he employed a method of teaching called the paradox. Alone in this chapter we see five paradoxes. A paradox is a statement or proposition that seems self-contradictory or absurd but in reality expresses a possible truth. It is an opinion or statement contrary to commonly accepted opinion. This morning I just want to touch on two paradoxes; that is; ‘you gain what you lose’ and ‘the last shall be first.’
What is the best investment you can make with your life? The Gospel presents us with a paradox; we lose what we keep and we gain what we give away. When we lose our lives for Jesus, we gain a priceless treasure, and an inheritance that last forever. Whatever we give to God comes back a hundredfold. What can we learn from this portion of Scripture?
1. The Sacrifice
The three verse that I have just read to you comes right after a rich young man refused to follow Jesus. Then come along Peter which I want to concentrate on this morning. I like Peter because he is as human as anyone of us in his relationship and service to God. We can identify with Peter because he is brash, impulsive, jealous and yet sincere and honest when it comes to serving God. Peter somewhat crudely wants to know what he and the other disciples would get out of it since they have left all to follow Jesus. This portion of scripture starts with a statement made by him who declared, “we who have left everything’. Let’s go into the mind of Peter and into some of ours. Peter was saying ‘, ‘God I have left everything and followed you.’ Peter added ‘what then shall we have?’ in Mark 1:18 we are told ‘they left their nets and followed him. To be honest they paid a high price. The Greek word for ‘left everything’ is ‘aphekamen’. It implied a once for all act. They had done what the rich young man had been unwilling to do. They had abandoned their former lives, leaving their homes, and jobs and secure futures. Peter is asking the commercial view of the Christian life. Of course Peter’s motive is questionable. But Jesus did not chide him. Jesus actually gave him a comforting answer. God forgive us for we know in our heart we also have a commercial view of the Christian life. What is the commercial benefits? Like Peter, we need reassurance. Maybe you have sacrificed a lot to follow Jesus. Some of us may have asked the same thing. I have given up a lot; careers, families, jobs, status, pride – in our spiritual journey. Is it really worth it? I do not know about you. Maybe I am not as holy as you. In moments of testing I can be very human crying to God because I felt the loss of so many things in life and yet I had to believe in God in spite of me seemingly losing everything. Of course this happens to us when things are not going according as what the bible promises and in weakness of faith we wonder. Then God will come in and I will see this verse and say to him, ‘And now you promise that you will return to me 100 times in this life and in the life to come eternal. I believe your word and you are encouraging me that seemingly I am losing all things and I am last but actually I will gain many times more and I will be first.
Let’s look at the things disciples of Jesus have given up to follow Jesus. The list of things to be given up is impressive. Let’s not belittle the things given up as it was Jesus himself who detailed the things given up.
But Jesus’ promise to those who give up these for Him and the Gospel is equally impressive. The criteria is it is given to those who have chosen Jesus above all else, even above their dearest relatives, above their cherished possessions. These people have made sacrifices.
There are two time zones mentioned by Jesus. Hundredfold now in this time, with persecution and in the life to come eternal. Some bible commentator says one hundredfold is actually 10000 percent. In some commentary it means many times over. Amplified Version puts it at a hundred times. The truth is Jesus promises at least a hundredfold return on the investment. I am reminded of a scripture verse in Genesis where we are told ‘Isaac sowed in that land, and in that year he reaped a hundred times what was sown. The LORD blessed him.’ The hundredfold blessing implied God’s favour and grace goodness with that person.
Gerhad Lohfink suggests that the list is not a random list of things normally considered valuable, nor is the promised return to be understood as a guarantee that in the end nothing is ever really given up. The list is not randomly chosen and the things given up are given up. The promise return is not saying that in the end nothing is ever really given up. No. Things given up are given up. This list understood in the first century terms, is a list of life’s essentials. Let’ look at the impact of things given up.
Home is not just where I happen to live now, nor is it a large financial investment. Home is where I belong. Many times Jan would say, ‘I want to go home’, she is not referring to Singapore, she is referring to Iloilo, where she belong; her parents are here, her childhood lives is lived here, her church, etc. Some of you today are not home because of Jesus.
Brothers and sisters represents not merely siblings, but my clan, my people. They represent those to whom I belong. There are believer who are totally ostracised by family clan as a result of following Jesus. They are chased out, ex-communicated as a result of following Jesus. Of course missionaries are not with their brothers and sisters, their clan to him they belong. Pastor Rosemarie was asking me permission if her mum can visit her in Libertad. Pastor Rosemarie, years and year is not with her clan to whom she belong because of the Gospel.
Mother and Father stand not merely for “parents’ but my connection to my ancestry. They represent who I am.
Children stands for more than merely those I have given birth. They count as evidence of God’s blessing, and they are a potential source of support in old age. They represent my security.
Fields/lands are not merely economic potential and meaningful work. Fields are lands, ‘the promised land’. They represent God’s promises, they represent the visible inheritance.
2. The Promise
What is Jesus’ response to all these lists of things we have given up?
Jesus said, “Mark my words,’ in the Message bible. ‘Mark my words’ means ‘read my lips’, ‘I tell you the truth.’ I remember a famous saying of former President George Bush, who declared ‘Read my lips,’ He was promising a policy in his time of Presidency but actually he failed to keep that policy promise. Not our Jesus. In another translation it is ‘Assuredly I tell you’. The usage of this phrase, ‘assuredly I tell you’ occurs throughout the Gospel and it was employed as a formula that always introduced truthful and authoritative words from Jesus. It is a solemn affirmation – I tell you the truth. Jesus acknowledge that their allegiance to Him and the Gospel entail a break with the old ties – homes, loved ones, property. And Jesus commended their sacrifice, by affirming ‘ I tell you the truth’. But to anyone who makes the break Jesus promises that all these things will be replaced a hundredfold by new ties in this present Age, then, in the Age to come, each will receive the ultimate recompense – eternal life. This promise is for all true believers who have left everything to follow Jesus. It is not a promise only to the 12 disciples, to the senior Pastor, to the missionary, to the church planters; it is a promise to all who have truly given up a lot for Jesus.
Jesus said, “Mark my words, no one who sacrifices house, brothers, sisters, mother, father, children, land—whatever—because of me and the Message will lose out. They’ll get their returns, but multiplied many times in homes, brothers, sisters, mothers, children, and land—but also in troubles. And then the bonus of eternal life! This is once again the Great Reversal: Many who are first will end up last, and the last first.” (Mark 10:29-31 MSG)
I choose to believe Jesus had in mind material as well as spiritual blessing. Of course Jesus is not promising 100 fields. He has not promised to make everyone wealthy. Of course that can happen, but not everybody. But from the text it seems to indicate that Jesus promises Peter that he will have many material resources and a far great family than he ever had. We must not spiritualize the rewards of Jesus. Actually there are extensive promises found here in the Word of God. In the New Testament, there is only a few promises which holds to us such encouragement for the life that now is. Let everyone who is fearful and faint hearted in Christ’s service look at these promises. Let all who endure hardness and tribulation for Christ’s sake study these promises well and drink out of its comfort. To all who makes sacrifices on account of the Gospel, Jesus promises a hundred times as much in this present age. They will not only have pardon and glory in the age to come. They will have even here on earth hopes and joys and tangible comforts sufficient to make up for all that they lose. They will find in the communion of saints new friends, new relations, new companions, more loving and valuable than any they had before their conversion.
If my house gets burned down tonight, I can confidently say that many in this church will rush to my house and even let me stayed in your place tonight. If my car cannot start afterward, some of you will willingly offer to send me home. I have many houses and cars and family members. So do you. The more we give the more we enjoyed the benefits of the entire kingdom – the hospitality, love, support, networking, strength, and community of our brothers and sisters in Christ. Yes there is persecution. But the extent to which we give is the extent to which our needs will be met in this life, and to which heaven will be enjoyed.
We should not be surprised because Jesus has foretold about persecution. So should I be surprised if I lose favour and experience ridicule, intimidation, and injury simply because of the Gospel, Jesus does not guarantee an easy life. But even our trials has spiritual value to our benefits. He promises an identity, a support system, and security in abundance, sufficient even for times of persecution. The word ‘persecution’ is added realistically. If you are concern about persecution, remember; Great blessings often accompany great persecutions.
The next paradox is ‘the first shall be last, and the last first’. Honestly I was very troubled by this verse; I was saying, God, I serve you and once I became the chairman of the organisation and now I am no more in that organisation, have I become the last. Then God told me and Pastor Lily clearly that this is not what the scripture meant. It meant that because we became missionaries, we seemed to be last compared to all our contemporaries who became so successful in the secular world; yet God told us that we will be first in the end. Jesus’ final paradoxical statement about the first being last and the last being first (10:31) is designed to challenge the disciples and the readers to focus on God’s perspective, not on human perspectives. We are reminded of the word of Jehovah that he does not see as man sees. The first are those highly regarded because of their wealth, education, position, prestige, talents, and are highly regarded by men in general, sometimes even by God’s children. But since God sees and knows the heart of many of these people, many even be excluded from the hall of glory. As there are degrees of sufferings in hell, there are also degrees of glory in the restored universe. Therefore there will be surprises. Not only are those regarded as the pillars of the church be last, but also many who never made the headlines shall be first. Here I am reminded of those considered superstars in the churches today; I wonder where they stand one day. The rich are not the ones closest to heaven (as the disciples have supposed, v. 24). On the contrary, they might well be the farthest away. Those who are facing hardship for the sake of God’s kingdom can be reassured that God has not forgotten them and left them somewhere near the back of the line. They may well be among those who are nearest to their final eternal reward.
3. The Challenge
Coming back to Peter, we must remember that Peter actually failed miserably in the end in spite of his total sacrifices for Jesus. He was guilty of a most cowardly denial when he rebuffed his acquaintance with Jesus three times. He went back to his fishing profession. But there is one person who did not fail in his great investment in life and that is our Lord Jesus Christ. What Jesus asked of us, he himself did! He gave up everything to come to us. And He accomplished that as a man, like us, ‘acquainted with all our infirmities’, tempted like any one of us. The bible tells us that he left his land, which is heaven, left his father, his home, to invest in the kingdom of God. And he succeeded and God was so proud of him and said, ‘this is my beloved Son in whom I am well pleased.’ And God rewarded Him a hundredfold according to the promise. He is seated right now with God and He is crowned King of Kings and Lord of Lords. Peter gave up his all to follow Jesus, but being a fallen human, he faltered and failed but Jesus continued to pursue him without giving up on him. And He saw in Peter, like he sees in us, a person, who he believes in. Actually the original name of Peter was Simeon but Jesus renamed him Peter (Petros, which means “rock,” meant to describe his eventual strength and stability. He sees our strength like he sees Peter’s strengths. He knows we are dedicated followers, but quite impulsive. He knows we attempted acts of faith, but often failed. He knows we are brave and willing to die. After His resurrection, Jesus addressed Peter personally as the discredited leader of the twelve disciple and provided an opportunity for repentance and restoration to leadership. And he came alongside to Peter at the seashore to challenge him and we asking ‘Loveth me more than these’. Like Peter we answered, ‘Lord you know that I loved thee.’ Jesus did not belittle our sacrifices and our love and service for him. He knows our heart. And more than that, Peter was not disqualified from the reward though he faltered was because Jesus died to pay the penalties for Peter’s failures so that the reward Jesus earned through his righteousness become Peter’s in spite of his failure. The same is true with us. We will fail in the journey but we count on the righteousness of Jesus for the reward, not our performance. And we continue to give our all to him because of what Jesus has done for us, and not because we have the ability to earn for ourselves the promised reward. As he came back and challenge Peter to continue his investment in the Kingdom of God, he is challenging us in our investment in the Kingdom of God. He has shown himself as the example of one who has made the correct investment in life and now He is the victor, the King of Kings and Lord of Lords. Jesus said, “Mark my words, no one who sacrifices house, brothers, sisters, mother, father, children, land—whatever—because of me and the Message will lose out. They’ll get their returns, but multiplied many times in homes, brothers, sisters, mothers, children, and land—but also in troubles. And then the bonus of eternal life! This is once again the Great Reversal: Many who are first will end up last, and the last first.” (Mark 10:29-31 MSG). And he also solemnly warns, “No one who puts a hand to the plow and looks back is fit for service in the kingdom of God.” Jesus has given us all the resources, the Holy Spirit, the encouragement needed for us to continue in this investment in the Kingdom of God. He urges us to continue and a crown is waiting for us.