Yesterday we looked at Matthew 19 and Jesus’ use of the exaggerated analogy of a camel going through the eye of a needle. The comparison was to a rich person entering the kingdom of heaven. This comparison surprised the disciples as they believed that wealth was a sign of God’s blessing. Jesus told them that salvation for anyone, rich or poor, is impossible for humans, but with God all things are possible.
This exchange happens right after the rich young man asked Jesus how to inherit eternal life. When Jesus told him to sell all his possessions and give the money to the poor, he “went away sorrowful, for he had great possessions” (Matthew 19:16–22). It is at this point Jesus tells his disciples that it is easier for a camel to go through the eye of a needle than for a rich man to enter the kingdom of heaven. After he told them salvation was impossible for any human but with God all things are possible, Peter asks a related question.
Then Peter said in reply, “See, we have left everything and followed you. What then will we have?” Jesus said to them, “Truly, I say to you, in the new world, when the Son of Man will sit on his glorious throne, you who have followed me will also sit on twelve thrones, judging the twelve tribes of Israel. And everyone who has left houses or brothers or sisters or father or mother or children or lands, for my name’s sake, will receive a hundredfold and will inherit eternal life.”Matthew 19:27–29 ESV
Peter is saying that he and the other disciples have done what the rich young man would not: they have left everything in order to follow Jesus. Here we see why salvation is impossible for humans. Whereas the rich young man would not give up his idol of money and possessions, Peter proudly displays his idol of accomplishment: “Look at us (me!), Jesus! We (I!) have given up everything to follow you!” One idol is just as poor as the other, though Peter’s idol is generally more “acceptable.”
The amazing thing is Jesus does not take the opportunity to rebuke him. He has just declared that the very fact that Peter and the others are following him is a miracle of God; Peter is merely demonstrating the truth of it. Instead of rebuking him, he answers Peter’s question. What about Peter and the Twelve? When the Son of Man sits on his glorious throne, they will “judge” the twelve tribes. This is likely “judging” in the sense of the judges in the time before Israel’s kings. They led and ruled over and governed. Jesus is saying that the Twelve will rule over his kingdom with him.
He then expands his scope. Not only will the Twelve receive blessings, so will everyone who has left everything behind, everything of value, whether family or possessions. He does not mean those who abandon family; should a family disown a person for following Jesus, following Jesus is still the right thing to do. Those who give up everything to follow him will receive a hundredfold—that’s quite a return on investment!
Notice when this return on investment matures: “in the new world.” That word is literally “regeneration.” When the world is born again. When Jesus comes again and recreates the heavens and the earth and the curse is lifted and death is no more and the world is finally what it should have been all along: a place of perfect peace and prosperity and joy and unity and love—and worship.
We are not wrong to wonder “what’s in it for us”. While we do not follow Jesus for what we can get from him, knowing who he is and what he has done can only lead us to wonder what he has in store for us. There is nothing we can give up in this life that is greater than what is to come. Whatever we may cling to in this life, whether it be possessions and money or reputation or a sense of accomplishment (“look at me! see what I’ve done!”), whatever we may cling to in this life will be replaced by something far, far greater in the life to come. Consider Paul’s prayer for the Ephesians:
…that the God of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of glory, may give you the Spirit of wisdom and of revelation in the knowledge of him, having the eyes of your hearts enlightened, that you may know what is the hope to which he has called you, what are the riches of his glorious inheritance in the saints, and what is the immeasurable greatness of his power toward us who believe, according to the working of his great might that he worked in Christ when he raised him from the dead and seated him at his right hand in the heavenly places, far above all rule and authority and power and dominion, and above every name that is named, not only in this age but also in the one to come. And he put all things under his feet and gave him as head over all things to the church, which is his body, the fullness of him who fills all in all.Ephesians 1:17–23 ESV
Paul prays for them to know the riches of their salvation, or as Jesus put it in Matthew 19:29, to inherit eternal life—which is knowing him.
Let’s praise our God and Savior today. Let’s praise him for the miracle of salvation and for the promise of eternity, a life with him on the new earth forever. Let’s pray for one another, that we may be willing to leave everything behind in order to follow Jesus, knowing what waits for us when he comes again. Peter asked what we get for giving up everything in order to follow Jesus. The answer is simple: we get Jesus.