You can be sure that when the Son of Man sits on his glorious throne in the New Age, then you twelve followers of mine will also sit on thrones, to rule the twelve tribes of Israel. And everyone who has left houses or brothers or sisters or father or mother or children or fields for my sake, will receive a hundred times more and will be given eternal life.
But many who now are first will be last, and many who now are last will be first.
For the past three days I have reflected on the man who came to Jesus and asked him “what good thing” he could do to gain eternal life. Jesus told him that there was no specific “good thing,” but that he should obey the commandments, especially those that promote love, peace, and harmony. The man said that he obeyed all of the commandments, but wanted to know what else he must do. Jesus tells him to sell everything he owns and give the money to the poor, but the young man went away sad because he was very rich and apparently unwilling to follow Jesus’ advice. But Jesus tells the disciples that the man may still be given eternal life because for God everything is possible.
Jesus has repeatedly told the disciples that they are going to go to Jerusalem, where he will be killed. The future does not look that bright. In light of all this Peter asks Jesus a question: “Look,” he said, “we have left everything and followed you. What will we have?”
Peter wants to know how it will all turn out. He needs some reassurance that he and the rest of the disciples have made the right choice by giving up all they had to follow Jesus. He may also be a little irritated at the notion that the rich young man and others like him may receive eternal life even though they have rejected Jesus’ advice and give up nothing.
Jesus reassures Peter with a description of a glorious future for his disciples. He says, “You can be sure that when the Son of Man sits on his glorious throne in the New Age, then you twelve followers of mine will also sit on thrones, to rule the twelve tribes of Israel. And everyone who has left houses or brothers or sisters or father or mother or children or fields for my sake, will receive a hundred times more and will be given eternal life.” Jesus once again reminds his disciples that although they are forgoing opportunities for riches here in this world, they are storing up the treasures in heaven that he talked about in the Sermon on the Mount (See Day 45).
Then Jesus tells them not to be deterred when it seems like there isn’t any justice here on earth. He says, “But many who now are first will be last, and many who now are last will be first.” He says that success here on earth is no indication of success in the world to come because the rules are not the same.
I always notice how the rules defining success change at funerals. Between being a church member, a pastor’s wife, and a church musician I’ve been to quite a few funerals over the years. Despite the fact that we live in a highly competitive, materialistic, success-oriented society I’ve never heard these things elevated as virtues at a funeral. I’ve never heard anyone testify that the deceased was an inspiration and example to us all because of his ruthless competitive spirit, his relentless pursuit of material wealth, or his ability to defeat those who got in his way. No, even though we reward these attributes in life, we ignore them at funerals. At funerals the deceased are all fun-loving, generous, funny, wise, loyal, ethical, helpful, unselfish, creative, courageous — things like that. The characteristics that determine earthly success and admiration in the living are no longer respected at life’s end. The rules seem to change at the time of death. The success-oriented people are pitied and those who savored life and were kind to others are revered. Those on the top of the ladder fall to the bottom, and those at the bottom are lifted to the heavens.
So any time it seems like you are getting ahead, Jesus says to watch out. If you are in the front of the line right now you will probably get sent to the back somewhere along the line. I guess it doesn’t pay to push too hard or to be in too much of a rush to get ahead. In the end there is justice. It all sorts itself out in the end.
What does this scripture say to you?