If you have your Bibles, I would invite you to turn with me to Matthew chapter 19. We’ll begin in verse 27 and go to the end of the chapter. Last week we looked together at the story of the rich young ruler. And in the midst of the many great truths that are found in that passage, we especially saw that the problem that the ruler had was that his heart was so wrapped up in the material possessions that he owned, that he had been separated in his fellowship from God. And when he was confronted by the Lord Jesus about that, he was unwilling to leave his possessions in order to have fellowship with God and to follow the Lord Jesus Christ. And that very exchange really shook the disciples up because here is a man who clearly had spiritual interests, he was asking spiritual questions, and he was a man who was highly regarded by his contemporaries. He was a ruler, perhaps a ruler of his local synagogue. He was recognized as a person who was spiritual, and he was wealthy, which was very often taken as a sign of God’s blessing. Who has the cattle on the thousand hills? The Lord. Well, if the Lord has the cattle on the thousand hills, and this man is a spiritual man, perhaps the Lord has poured His wealth on him as a sign of His blessing. And here’s the Lord Jesus Christ saying, ‘You know disciples, it’s hard for a rich man to even enter into the kingdom of heaven.’ And the disciples are shook up by this. And they’re talking to one another about this: “My, here’s a fine young man, spiritually minded, blessed with much wealth and here’s the Lord Jesus saying to us things like, ‘Well, it’s impossible for such a man to enter into the kingdom of heaven.’” And it really disturbs the disciples. And this is the link between that parable and the passage we’re going to read today. It is that question and implications of it which cause the disciples and Peter, of course, is the spokesman, to come and bring the question to Jesus with which we open our passage today. Let’s then look to God’s word in Matthew 19 beginning in verse 27 and hear His holy word.
Father, as we come to this word, we ask that we would not only hear and understand its explanation, but that by the power and grace of the Spirit, our hearts might be transformed so as not only to apprehend its truth, but be changed to the character of Your Son. We ask, O Lord, that You would make us willing, willing disciples and hopeful disciples because of the truth of this word. We ask it in Jesus’ name. Amen.
One of the great messages of the story of the rich young ruler is simply this: Christ separates us from the world; or, the world separates us from Christ. It really is that way, isn’t it? Either, the world separates us from Christ or Christ separates us from the world. There are really only two kinds of people in the world, aren’t they? There are those who have been separated by Christ from the world. There are those who have been separated by the world from Christ. That’s it. Either we love Christ so much that the world does not have hold on our hearts, or we love the world so much that Christ does not have hold on our hearts and we lose hold of Him. This is one of the great lessons of the rich young ruler, and Peter and the other disciples grasp that important lesson. And because they grasp that lesson, it sent them asking some other questions.
This man’s worldly wealth had cost him fellowship with God. It had cost him his heavenly reward. And so the disciples begin to wonder about their standing in the kingdom: ‘Lord, You ask him to give up his wealth and follow You. We gave up what we had. We didn’t have what he had, but we did give up everything, and we did follow You. What reward is there for us? Is there really a reward for us? I mean, are you calling on us to give up everything for nothing in return?’ The disciples begin to wonder this as they see this man separated by his wealth from God. Now understand, it was not ultimately the fault of his wealth. It was the fault of his heart. He loved his wealth. It is the love of money that is the root of all kinds of evil. We can name wealthy men in the Bible who are not separated from God. Abraham had great wealth and was a friend of God. But his wealth was not the priority of his life. God was. Even when God called on him to sacrifice that thing which was most precious to him in life, his only son, he did not withhold him from God. You see, he held the things of this world loosely so that he could hold on to God Himself. And so he was a friend of God.
But this rich, young ruler was not that kind of a person. He cared so much about his possessions that he could not let them go even for eternal life. And so, Peter and the disciples want to ask a question. Lord, we have left everything and followed you. They want to ask the question: Are there kingdom rewards for faithful disciples? That’s the question they want to ask, and I’d like you to see Jesus’ three-part response to that question.
I.Are there kingdom rewards for faithful disciples?
You see, Peter’s question in verse 27. He is asking, ‘Lord are there kingdom rewards for faithful disciples? When you call on us in discipleship to leave all and follow you, may we expect to be rewarded for that? Is there some compensation for that when you call us to that in discipleship?’ Peter, in light of what Jesus had just pronounced about the rich man, is asking about the status of the disciples. Notice he uses we and us. He doesn’t say, ‘Lord, what about me?’ He says, ‘what about us Lord? We left everything and followed You. What about us? What is our status in Your kingdom?’ In other words, he’s saying, ‘Lord, if we have lost the world for Your sake, I mean, if we have risked being kicked out of synagogues, if we have risked losing our family connections, if we have risked our trade, our vocation, our material ability to provide for our families for Your sake, can we expect there to be some sort of reward? Have we done this in vain?’ Friends, this is a vital question, no matter what we think of Peter’s motivation. And commentators argue about that. Is this a mercenary question? Is this a bold statement of self-interest on the part of peter or is this really a well meant good and proper question? Commentators argue about that.
I would suggest to you that just like in most of the other questions of the apostles, there was a mixture. Some good motives. Some bad motives. Some proprieties. Some improprieties. But let me say that the question is vital. It is vital because the Lord does call not just His twelve apostles, but all those who followed Him, all those who are His disciples, to leave everything and follow Him. And that means, at least, that there can be nothing in this life that has a priority over Him. That’s the nature of the call to discipleship.
If we were to go back and study today passages like Matthew chapter 4 verses 20 through 22, when the first disciples were called, we will recall Matthew’s words that “They left their boats and they followed Him.” Now in light of what Matthew is saying here, we have to see the significance of that saying. Matthew is saying that these disciples themselves heeded the call of the Lord Jesus to leave all and follow Him.
Even in Matthew’s account of his own call to discipleship, in Matthew chapter 9:9, we see that Jesus sees the man Matthew sitting in the tax collector’s booth, and he says He called out to him, “Follow Me.” He got up; he left; he followed Him. Matthew is giving us a picture of this disciple’s own response to the call to the discipleship. They were ready to leave and follow. And friends, this isn’t even a New Testament pattern of discipleship. This is an Old Testament pattern of discipleship.
Go back to Jacob’s blessing of his sons, recorded for us in Deuteronomy 33:9. As the tribes are brought before for blessing, we read these words of Levi, the tribe which was called to give up its claim to a land inheritance in order to be a priestly tribe to minister to their brothers and sisters in Israel. And we read these words. Levi said of his father and his mother, “I did not consider them. And he did not acknowledge his brothers nor did he regard his own sons for they observed Your word and kept Your covenant.” Do you hear what is being said there? Think about the fact that they were having to leave behind an inheritance of land like the other tribes. They only thought about the fact that the Lord had commanded them to serve their brothers and therefore, Levi followed in the way. That’s just the way of discipleship. When the Lord calls us to discipleship, He calls us to leave everything and follow Christ. That does not mean that we leave our marriages, or that we leave our trade. It does not mean that we leave all wealth behind and take a vow of poverty. But it does mean that nothing in life has a right to vie with the supremacy of God in Christ. In that sense, we leave all and follow him.
But corresponding to that call, to self-abandonment in discipleship, there are many biblical assurances of finding favor with God even in what we lose in this world. For instance, Paul can say in 1 Corinthians 15:19, “If we have hoped in Christ in this life only, then we are of all men to be pitied.” What’s Paul saying? Paul is saying, Christ doesn’t just call you to give up everything for Him and then you end up with nothing. He’s saying no, if you give up everything for Christ and there is no ultimate reward in the resurrection, then you ought to be pitied. The most piteous of all people are you. Why? Because God does not call His people to serve without blessing. He does not call us to serve without reward. And everything that He gives up, calls on us to give up, He is prepared to compensate in blessing. This issue of God’s rewards in the call to discipleship is vital for every one of us, because each of us, at times in life when we are called to sacrifice, are tempted to be bitter about it. There are things that we may want to do, that we know that we cannot do because we are disciples of the Lord Jesus Christ and sometimes we are bitter about that. And we think, “You know, we’re being robbed of the fun that we could have here.” And if we do not believe that God’s blessings outweigh everything that we could possibly give up for Him, we will be lacking the motivation necessary to walk in His way.
Think of it, young folks here today. Perhaps you’re a student, high school or a college student. And, um, you’ve been evaluating whether you should go out with this young man who’s been paying you a lot of attention. He is intelligent. He is handsome. He’s cute. He’s very popular. Comes from a very nice family. He’s gonna be a doctor one day. Provide for you very well. But He doesn’t know of the Lord Jesus Christ, and you do. He’s been showing you a lot of attention and, boy, it would be nice to go out with him. All your girlfriends have been going absolutely crazy about the fact that he’s been showing you a lot of attention. And you think, “No I can’t do that. He doesn’t love my Lord.” You see, your allegiance to Christ in discipleship dictates that there are some things that you cannot do. You have to give them up. And if we do not realize that when we do that, God will bless us far more than we would have been blessed if we had done what we wanted to do, then we will be bitter about the things that we have to give up.
You’re a young man. Again, perhaps a college or a high school student and you have been desirous of being a part of the in crowd. The leaders of the pack. And to do that, you would have to associate with certain people who do not love your Lord the way you love your Lord. And perhaps to engage in certain activities which you know your Lord would not approve of. To go places, to do things that would not be becoming of your testimony and you have to say to yourself, “No, Lord, I’m Your disciple. I will not do that. It would be inconsistent with your call to me to be Your follower.” But you see, if you don’t realize that when you give that up, God blesses you far more than you could have been blessed by doing what you want to do. You will be tempted to give in or you’ll be bitter about what you give up.
You see, all of us in the Christian life are called upon from time to time to sacrifice certain things. “Well, everybody’s doing it,” you say to your parents. And they say, “Well you’re not everybody and you’re a Christian.” And you see, you feel like something is being taken from you that’s going to make your life less rich, less full, less fun. And the Lord Jesus Christ is waiting for His disciples to say to them, ‘There is nothing that you give up in this life that is worth losing the reward that I have for you. And there is no reward that I give to you that anything in this life even vaguely compares to.’
See my friends, if we don’t understand that, if we don’t understand why Peter is asking this question, we will not be able to be loyal to Jesus Christ when He calls on us to give up some things that everybody around us are doing. Let’s look then at Jesus’ answer to this question in verses 28 and 29 and 30. It’s a three-part answer and part one of Jesus’ answer is found in verse 28.
II. There will be future glory in the kingdom for Jesus’ disciples.
He says to His disciples, ‘Let me assure you that there will be future glory for you in My kingdom. When you see Me coming on My glorious throne, you too will reign, judging over the twelve tribes of the restored Israel. You will have a place of honor in My kingdom.’ Jesus is saying to the disciples that their service of Him will not be without reward in kingdom come. He is asking them to look at their lives now and to judge their losses in light of the blessings that He is going to give them in the future. No man is ever ultimately a loser when you serve Christ. No matter what you lose in serving him. We never ultimately lose when what we lose, we lose for God. Because God is the rewarder of His people.
And it is vital for us, just as it was vital for the disciples, to recognize that nothing that we sacrifice here can possibly compare to the glory that awaits us. That’s why Paul can say, “I count all things to be rubbish in view of the surpassing value of knowing Christ Jesus my Lord for whom I have suffered the loss of all things and count them rubbish so that I may gain Christ.” You see, Paul understood that nothing he could lose here could measure up to what God was going to give him, and therefore, he was ready to make that sacrifice. That’s why it is true what the Puritans used to say and what Jim Elliott once quoted from the Puritans: “He is no fool who gives up what he cannot keep to gain that which he cannot lose.” The reason that is true is because there is nothing here that can compare with the blessings that God is going to heap upon us. And so, Jesus teaches his disciples here that there will be future glory for them.
III. There will be blessing here and hereafter for all who follow Christ.
But that’s not all, part two of the answer in verse 29 makes it clear that that blessing is not just for His twelve disciples; it’s for every disciple of His. Every Christian. Everyone who follows Him. And that blessing is not just hereafter. It’s here. I want you to hear me there. Jesus says, ‘My blessing of you, when you give up for Me, is not just in the hereafter, it’s here. It’s not pie in the sky by and by. This is not some trick that preachers are trying to play on you in order to keep you in line. No. The blessing you receive is here and hereafter. You already get a taste of the blessings of God even now.’ That’s what He says. All who follow Christ find blessing here and hereafter. This is not just a principal for the disciples. It’s not just a promise to the twelve apostles. All faithful believers may anticipate blessings here and hereafter. Here’s what John Calvin says about this passage: “He who voluntarily loses all this (and whatever it is for you, whatever it is that dearest thing that God may call on you to give up for his sake) whoever voluntarily loses all this for Christ’s sake will have greater joys in this life than if he had kept them.” Do you hear that? Greater joys in this life than if he had kept them and above all a reward is laid up for him in heaven. Jesus is saying to the disciples, ‘The reward that I give is a reward that you even begin to experience now.’
But He also wants the disciples to understand that this reward is not some sort of a bald quid pro quo. This is not some sort of an exchange of merit. You know, if you do this, I will give you the corresponding reward for that. No, in fact, God’s reward is a reward of grace. God rewards us far more than what our actions deserve. That’s amazing. That’s what Jesus is saying. Notice what He says here in this verse: “Whoever leaves houses or brothers or sisters or father or mother or children or farms for My name’s sake, will receive many times as much and will inherit eternal life.” Now, two things.
First of all, the parallel passages in Mark and Luke make it very clear that what Jesus is saying is that you will receive many times as much in this life, and will receive eternal life in the life to come.
Secondly, the parallel passage to this in Mark and Luke make it very clear that Jesus is saying not just two times or three times, but a hundred fold. The blessings that God gives you will outweigh significantly, overwhelmingly those things that you give up. Don Carson summarizes this beautifully, he says, “Here was Peter asking in effect, what He would receive in exchange for his sacrifices; and here was Jesus saying that although there would indeed be a special role for Peter, he must understand that that kingdom of God does not operate on the basis of exchange or merit, but on the basis of grace.” And so the person who loses, say, a father for Christ’s sake, gains a hundred fathers, not to mention eternal life.
Now I want you to listen and take seriously what Jesus is saying here, because He’s saying that for the believer, our gains always outweigh our losses. Now I want you to stop right now and I want you to think of those losses which have hurt you the deepest in this life. Perhaps it’s a relationship that you lost for Christ's sake. Perhaps it’s advancement or vocation or position or influence or prominence or power or wealth that you have lost for Christ’s sake. Whatever you have lost for his sake. And Jesus is saying, ‘You can’t even compare the blessings that you receive in exchange for that with what you’ve lost.’ God’s rewards for our faithfulness are disproportionately large in comparison to what we are asked to do or lose or suffer. That’s what Jesus is saying. You cannot outgive God. You cannot suffer for God to the point that He can’t compensate you. John Trapp, the puritan commentator makes a sort of a jab at the disciples here when Peter says the words, “Lord we’ve left everything for You.” And Trapp says, “They’ve given up all? A great all it was. Sure, a few broken boats, some nets and some household stuff.”
Now I don’t want to make fun of the disciples’ sacrifice. They left home and family for the Lord Jesus Christ. And many of them gave their lives for Him. I don’t want to make fun of their sacrifice, but I do think that Trapp‘s point is well taken if you’ll compare our sacrifices in comparison to Christ’s sacrifice for us. I mean, which of us on the last day is going to say, “Lord let me show You a sacrifice just as big as the Lord Jesus’ for me.” Which one of us is going to say that?
And not just is it that the sacrifice of Christ outweighs our sacrifice, it’s that the blessing of God, the reward of God, outweighs what we’ve done. Eternal life. Who can earn that? I mean, who can ever do enough to earn eternal life? And yet God says, ‘I’m going to give it freely to those who follow Me as My disciples.’ Many of you have read about the great missionary, David Livingston. Many of you have read a biography about him or some passage about him. He was such an inspiration to Christians for so many years. He was asked once about his sacrifices. And he made this incredible statement, he said, “I have made no sacrifices.” Now that took my breath away. If you know anything about David Livingston, to hear those words, “I have made no sacrifices,” absolutely causes you to gasp for air. What do you mean? I mean if you haven’t made any sacrifices, have I made one yet? And yet Livingston understood that the blessings that God had given him and that the sacrifice for the Lord Jesus Christ caused his sacrifices to be nothing in the sight of the exchange. The disciples had given nothing up for God in comparison to what God had given up for them. And the rewards that He now proposed for them in this life and in the life to come bore absolutely no relation in their extravagance to what they had done.
You see, the Lord Jesus isn’t just saying this to His disciples. He’s saying it to you. Because He knows that over and over and over the world wants to offer you something which it says, if you don’t have this, you can’t have richness and satisfaction and contentment in your life. And you know in your heart of hearts that you can’t do those things because you follow Him. And the world and Satan himself is going to whisper in your ear and he’s going to say, ‘If you give that up, you are going to miss satisfaction in this life.’ And the Lord Jesus is saying to you, ‘Let me tell you, you’re not going to know satisfaction unless you give it up.’ You see, it’s not that Jesus is saying, ‘No look, you just pull yourself up by the bootstraps and you just flog yourself a few more times, and you grit your teeth, and you get through it.’ Jesus is saying, ‘You can’t taste how good it is until you give it up. You have no idea of the blessing that you will squander if you will not deny yourself.’ You see that’s the final word of warning that He gives in verse 30.
IV. By way of warning, many who are perceived to be highly blessed shall be outranked.
He says by way of warning, many who are perceived to be highly blessed in this life, by the world, even by Christians. Many who are perceived to be highly blessed in this life will be outranked in the kingdom to come. He’s warning His disciples. They’re just starting out in their pilgrimage and they’re already wanting to know what the reward is going to be. Calvin says this: “Although they had hardly started the race, the apostles were already clamoring for a prize.” It’s the same way with us, isn’t it? Why does He say, “That the first will be last, and the last first”? William Hendriksen puts it beautifully when he says, “The first are those who because of their wealth or education or position or prestige or talents are highly regarded by men in general, and even Christians in particular. But since God sees and knows the heart, many of these very people are by Him, assigned to a position behind the others and some may even be altogether excluded from the halls of glory.” He’s saying, ‘Look disciples, I don’t judge the way men judge. I judge the heart. I don’t judge by outward appearances. And it is your real heart commitment to discipleship and it is your real heart sacrifices. Not the things that you do in front of men for the praise of men. But those real heart sacrifices of discipleship. That will determine your reward in the kingdom.’
God’s grace rewards will not be assigned according to the wisdom or the perception of men. The person who seeks self-interest never finds fulfillment in this life. Hear me. The person who seeks self-interest never finds fulfillment in this life. The reach always exceeds the grasp. And the law of diminishing returns means that once we get what we thought was going to be so rich, we get tired of it after a while. And then we move on to thinking something else will provide us the ultimate satisfaction. It is only the person who disowns self-interest and who cherishes Christ’s interest who discovers that even here, God is a God of grace and He repays it in countless ways granting eternal life far beyond anything that we have earned or deserved. What a message Jesus’ words are for us. The world is holding out contentment in many forms and saying: take, eat, drink be content. And Christ is saying, ‘If you do that, you’ll die. Because contentment is not there and you will miss a greater blessing. Not just in the life to come. But now.’
Do you believe it? Christ is calling us today to believe this truth and by the grace of the Spirit to have our whole lives transformed because of it. May the Lord bless this word. Let us pray.
Our Lord and our God we ask that You would enable us to hear and respond in our hearts to this, the truth of Your word. For Christ’s sake, we ask it. Amen.