Rev. Slopsema is pastor of First Protestant Reformed Church in Grand Rapids, Michigan.
And Jesus answered and said, Verily I say unto you, There is no man that hath left house, or brethren, or sisters, or father, or mother, or wife, or children, or lands, for my sake, and the gospel’s,
But he shall receive an hundredfold now in this time, houses, and brethren, and sisters, and mothers, and children, and lands, with persecutions; and in the world to come eternal life.
A rich young ruler came to Jesus inquiring what he must do to inherit eternal life. Jesus’ response was that he must sell all that he had and give the proceeds to the poor. Then he would have eternal life. This was to impress upon the rich young ruler that if he would inherit the kingdom he must love his poor neighbor more than his riches. The young man departed, sorrowful. He could not at this time part with his riches. Jesus used this as an opportunity to instruct His disciples. How hardly shall they that have riches enter into the kingdom of God! It is easier for a camel to go through the eye of a needle, than for a rich man to enter into the kingdom of God.
In response Peter said, “Lo, we have left all, and followed thee” (v. 28). This was literally true. They had left family and vocation to follow Jesus as His disciples. Implied in Peter’s statement was a question, which Matthew records in his gospel (19:27), “What shall we receive?”
Jesus’ response to Peter’s question is the subject of this meditation.
Those who leave all behind for His sake and the gospel’s sake shall be handsomely rewarded. They shall receive a hundredfold in this life. And they shall receive eternal life in the world to come.
This instruction is important for us. The Christian life is often one of sacrifice. Many are inclined to compromise or even give up the Christian life because they deem the sacrifices too great. But Jesus assures us that any sacrifice we make for the His sake and the gospel’s will be handsomely rewarded—a hundredfold.
A necessary sacrifice!
Jesus spoke of leaving houses, or brethren, or sister, or father, or mother, or wife, or children, or lands for His sake and that of the gospel.
This is exactly what Jesus’ disciples had done. According to Peter they had left all and followed Jesus (v. 28).
Notice, Peter spoke of following Jesus.
It was common in Bible times for a teacher to gain a following among the people. These would literally follow their teacher though the countryside, sitting at his feet for instruction, living according to his example and instruction.
Jesus also had His followers. Jesus, however, was not just another teacher. He is the Son of God come into our flesh as the chief prophet of God. During His earthly ministry there were the twelve disciples who followed Jesus wherever He went. There were others who did so less consistently. These others received His instruction and lived according to His commandments as His disciples. The twelve who followed Him daily had to leave all behind. They left behind houses and lands, brothers and sisters, fathers and mothers. They even left behind wives and children, by not marrying at this time.
This was all necessary for the sake of following Jesus.
The same holds true for us.
Although Jesus is no longer with us, we are still called to be disciples and followers of Him. One follows Jesus as disciple when he learns, embraces, and confesses the teachings of Jesus as revealed in Scripture. One follows Jesus when he follows the teachings and examples of Jesus by walking in the way of righteousness in the power of Jesus Christ. One follows Jesus when he serves Jesus Christ as Lord.
Such discipleship often requires one to leave many things behind. It may require one to leave his family, job, or home and to relocate to another part of the country as he heeds the Lord’s call of service or as he seeks to join the true church of God. Discipleship may require one to break fellowship with sinful family members and leave them behind. Discipleship may require financial sacrifice to support the gospel, the poor, and the Christian school. Discipleship requires that one cast off all that offends, even that which is as important to you as your eye or your hand. Discipleship also brings persecution. Those who will follow Jesus will suffer persecution (II Tim. 3:12). And that often leads to the forfeiture of house and lands, even father, mother, brother, and sister for Christ’s sake.
A rich compensation!
According to Jesus, those who sacrifice for Christ’s sake shall be richly compensated by receiving a hundredfold in this life.
This seems almost too fantastic to be true. So Jesus confirms it with an oath. Verily (truly) I say unto you.
How is this to be understood?
We certainly are not to understand this in the strictly literal sense. Such an interpretation brings us to absurdities. How is it possible to have a hundred fathers, mothers, brothers, and sisters? Shame on those televangelists who use Jesus’ promise here to assure their listeners of a hundredfold monetary return on any contribution of money sent to their organization. This is nothing but fraud inspired by greed and filthy lucre.
Rather, we are to understand Jesus’ words figuratively. The meaning, therefore, is that you will receive a hundredfold of the joy and pleasure that our homes, lands, and earthly relationships have ever given us. The earthly relationships of which Jesus speaks, as well as our houses and lands, are a source of great joy and pleasure to us. For that reason they are often difficult to give up, even for the sake of Jesus Christ. What Jesus is saying is that whatever joy or pleasure we lose by leaving father, mother, brother, or sister for His sake, we will receive a hundredfold pleasure in return. It is very well possible that 100 is a symbolic number here expressing the idea of fullness.
How is this true?
For every earthly possession or relationship you sacrifice for Christ’s sake and the gospel’s, God will fill the void with the riches of His love, fellowship, and care. This often happens as we turn directly to Him in our need and loss.
In turn, those who forfeit the joy of marriage or family for Christ’s sake will find joy in new relationships with fellow saints who become to us a father, a mother, a brother, a sister.
Those parents who sacrifice for Christian school tuition will have the joy of seeing their children loving and obeying the Lord. The joy they find in their children will far surpass the joys of vacations and the higher standard of living they sacrificed for tuition payments.
Whatever joy and pleasure we lose for Christ’s sake, the Lord will give us a hundredfold in return.
And remember that Jesus confirms this promise with an oath.
But there is more! Those who sacrifice for Christ’s sake will be more fully compensated in the world to come in that they will receive eternal life.
Eternal life is the life of heavenly glory. It consists of living with God and enjoying Him fully as we serve Him in perfection, without the sins that plague us in this life.
The joy of eternal life far surpasses the hundredfold that we will receive in this life.
Of this life there is no end.
All who leave family and possessions for Jesus’ sake shall receive this life.
A glorious incentive!
We must understand that this compensation that God gives for our sacrifice is a reward for faithfulness.
And it is a reward of grace.
There are two kinds of rewards. The one is of merit. This is a reward that you have earned and thus deserve. The other is of grace. This is a reward that is given as an undeserved favor.
Certainly this compensation that God gives us for our sacrifices is not a reward of merit. Our act of self-sacrifice could never merit the great reward God gives to us.
The reward that God gives to those who sacrifice for Christ’s sake and for the sake of the gospel is a reward of grace. It is a reward that has been earned for us by Jesus Christ. It is given to us as an undeserved favor.
But it is given to us as an incentive.
To follow Jesus requires that we give up much.
As an incentive to faithfulness, God promises to compensate us handsomely. Let us lay hold of this by faith, that we may follow Jesus as His disciples. When this discipleship requires, let us willingly forsake family and possessions for Jesus’ and the gospel’s sake.
That we may do so let us keep our eye on the reward.
A hundredfold in this life!
In the world to come, eternal life!