Mark 10:28-31Today's Gospel reading from the lectionary follows right on from yesterday. You may remember from yesterday's Gospel reading the rich man walking away grieving because he did not want to give up his many possessions to follow Jesus. Now Peter says to the Lord, "Look, we have left everything and followed you." The sub-text of this seems to be an inherent question on Peter's part, something like, "Well, what do we get for giving up everything and following you Jesus?"
Peter began to say to Jesus, "Look, we have left everything and followed you." Jesus said, "Truly I tell you, there is no one who has left house or brothers or sisters or mother or father or children or fields, for my sake and for the sake of the good news, who will not receive a hundredfold now in this age--houses, brothers and sisters, mothers and children, and fields with persecutions--and in the age to come eternal life. But many who are first will be last, and the last will be first."
Jesus does not shy away from this sort of cost-benefit analysis when it comes to the choice of following him. Rather, he tells Peter and us that if we give up all to follow him then we will receive one-hundred fold whatever we have given up--whether it be houses or family or fields. In other words, as has often been said, we cannot out-give God. Whatever we have to give up to follow Jesus is nothing in comparison to what we will get in return. As Paul says,
Eye hath not seen, nor ear heard, neither have entered into the heart of man, the things which God hath prepared for them that love him. (1 Corinthians 2:9 KJV)In other words, we are going to receive one-hundred fold not just in this life, but in the life to come. Eternity provides a counter-balance to all we experience in this life, so much so, that we need to make all of our decisions here and now in light of eternity with God.
But Jesus is very honest with Peter, and us, as well. He does not hide the fact that if we follow him there will be persecution of some kind. Of course, most of us in the Western world do not have to face real persecution for our faith as many Christians have down through the ages, and many Christians are facing in other parts of the world right now. Most of us will probably never have to give up our lives at the point of a gun or be on the receiving end of some instrument of torture for our faith. But that does not change the fact that following Christ in this world is never simply comfortable.
Maybe Peter was beginning to feel a bit of that discomfort. Maybe he was feeling like he was at the end of the parade instead of the beginning. Perhaps that is why Jesus adds this note: "But many who are first will be last, and the last will be first."
This statement of Jesus suggests that many who seem to be happy and successful and well-adjusted now, may not be that way in the end. But if we are experiencing discomfort in our life now because of following Christ, we can rest assured: that discomfort will not last forever. As Paul says in 2 Corinthians 4:16-18...
So we do not lose heart. Even though our outer nature is wasting away, our inner nature is being renewed day by day. For this slight momentary affliction is preparing us for an eternal weight of glory beyond all measure, because we look not at what can be seen but at what cannot be seen; for what can be seen is temporary, but what cannot be seen is eternal.