Theme: Riches and Blessing
This week’s lesson teaches us how sacrifice brings blessing.
“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. But many who are first will be last, and the last first.
There is disagreement among commentators as to what Jesus meant when he promised that the disciples would “sit on twelve thrones, judging the twelve tribes of Israel” (v.28). Some refer it to a literal rule by the disciples over Israel under Christ’s overall messianic rule during a future earthly millennium. Others think of it as a participation of all the saved in the judgment of Christ to be exercised at the last day. Still others refer it to some kind of rule by Christians in this present age. I think the words “at the renewal of all things” and Christ’s “glorious throne” decide the matter in terms of a future millennial age, however that may be conceived.
But that is not the most significant thing. What is profoundly striking, is Christ‘s premise of blessing in the present age. All along, Jesus has been telling his listeners that in order to be disciples they must deny themselves and give up what they possess. He has done it in the case of the rich young filler in this very chapter. Now Jesus says that if his disciples do that, they will receive a hundred times as much as what was given up, and not only in some future life, but now.
In Matthew, Jesus’ exact words are: “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.” (vv. 28-29).
He ends with the paradoxical statement, “But many who are first will be last, and the last first” (v. 30), meaning, I suppose, that those who have most here will not necessarily have the most in heaven.
This statement becomes more and more astonishing as we study it. It is surprising that it speaks of rewards, first of all, since there is nothing in the mere notion of discipleship that requires them. At best we are unprofitable servants. However, in addition to speaking of rewards (perhaps spiritual rewards would suffice), it speaks specifically of homes, brothers, sisters, mothers, fathers, children, and even fields.
And what about a hundred times as much? Even Job received only double his possessions after God restored his prosperity.
We must exercise some caution at this point, of course. For one thing, nothing in Christ’s teachings would encourage us to think of this in crass materialistic terms, as if Jesus were here merely giving a formula for sure wealth. Even this saying is ludicrous if taken in that way. If this is a formula for wealth, then what we should do is, first, earn all we can (taking years to do it if necessary); second, give up those earnings for Jesus and then, finally, wait for Jesus to multiply our charitable gift by one hundred. That would discourage discipleship rather than promote it.
Again, this promise does not necessarily apply to every individual. It is clear that some believers (though not all) are called to poverty. No matter how much they have and give up, they will always have only the most modest means, because that is what God has called them to have. I suppose that most of the disciples were in this category.
Still the text is a true promise, and it does have to do with earthly relationships and material possessions. At the least, it means that the true follower of Christ will not lack for any good thing (“My cup overflows,” Psalm 23:6) and that, in normal circumstances, a Christian will be blessed with earthly goods abundantly. Personally, I am convinced that Jesus gives us every good thing that he can possibly give us without rendering us unfit for his work or destroying our souls. The reason why many of us do not have more is that the Lord knows we would misuse it.
What is the significant message from Christ’s mention of the twelve tribes?
What does Christ mean by the phrase, “the first shall be last, and the last first”?
How might verse 29 be misinterpreted?
Review the text in Matthew 13:28-30. What is the meaning of the paradox?