In Mark 10:28-31 Peter said, ”We have left everything to follow you.” Wow! Where did that come from? Mark 10:17-23 relate details of the encounter between a rich young ruler and Jesus, and merits reading before we proceed. The pivot of this story is in Mark 10:21. “Jesus looked at him and loved him. “One thing you lack, ”he said. “Go, sell everything you have and give to the poor, and you will have treasure in heaven. Then come, follow me.” The young man found this challenge too difficult, and did not follow Jesus. This is the context in which Peter spoke on behalf of the Disciples.
What did they mean by this statement? Was it even necessary for them to say it? Were they providing Jesus with information of which He was unaware? Or were they dropping a hint, and implying that Jesus was indebted to them, even if only because they had “passed the test” that he had just laid down for the rich young ruler.
From Jesus’ answer, it is fair to conclude that Jesus knew that they were implying that they were entitled to some sort of reward, and definitely to the eternal life reward that was being sought by the rich young ruler. In His response Jesus not only confirms their implicit assertion that they had satisfied the qualification for discipleship by leaving all and following Him, but He told them a lot more.
The word “relationship” requires at least two persons to participate, and there can be no relationship of one. For that relationship to work, it is critical for all parties involved to clearly understand the different contributions of each to the relationship. In our relationship with God, we must never be so deceived as to feel that it is based on equal contributions by both sides. God would have us understand that it is His inexplicable love for us that caused Him to enter into a relationship with us in which He does everything for us, and we share what He has done for us with others like us. In Psalm 50:12 we read, “If I were hungry I would not tell you, for the world is mine, and all that is in it.” And David got it right when he said, in 1 Chronicles 29:14, “But who am I, and who are my people, that we should be able to give as generously as this? Everything comes from you, and we have given you only what comes from your hand.” Our Eternal, Omnipotent God will never be in our debt. On the contrary, we will always be in His. Even our worship, praise and adoration that God requires and desires, is arguably more for our benefit than it is for His.
We understand the words of Jesus in vs 29-30 to be a mix of the conceptual and literal, but none are misleading. The literal parts are adequately reinforced in other Scriptures, and are, “in this present age… persecutions”, and, “in the age to come, eternal life.” However, an under-reported component of the rewards for following Jesus is that all that God requires of us is inherently beneficial to us in this life. There are built-in physical and socio-economic rewards for subscribing to all of God’s health and moral laws, and negative consequences for breaking them. Even our laws mirror God’s. Can you identify a single long-term earthly reward or benefit from subscribing to any of the “works of the flesh” in Galatians 5:19-21? Even if there were no heaven, it pays on earth to obey God. Everything else mentioned are bonuses.
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