God’s Word for You
Mark 10:28-31 the last will be first
by Pastor Timothy Smith on Tuesday, March 30, 2021
28 Then Peter said to him, “You see that we have left everything to follow you!” 29 “Amen, I tell you,” Jesus said, “there is no one who has left home, brothers or sisters or mother or father or wife or children or fields for my sake and the gospel 30 who will fail to receive a hundred times as much in this present age (homes, brothers, sisters, mothers, children and fields—and with them, persecutions) and in the age to come, eternal life. 31 But many who are first will be last, and the last will be first.”
Jesus and his disciples were in Perea on the way to the ford across from Jericho, a region called Moab in Old Testament times. They were outside the ancient land of Canaan, not far from the spot where Moses preached the sermons of Deuteronomy (Deuteronomy 1:5). Those were Moses’ final sermons, the last things he said before laying down his life in his 120th year, even though “his eyes were not weak nor his strength gone” (Deuteronomy 34:7). These things Jesus was telling his disciples were also some of his final sermons, before he, too, would lay down his life in death, while still in the perfect vigor of manhood.
Peter and the other disciples were thinking about what they had given up for Jesus’ sake. They were outside the land of the Jews in more ways than one. They had given up their businesses, their families, and perhaps some of them had given up even more. Jesus comforted them and us with the promise that what we give up for the sake of the gospel will be given back, both here and in the world to come. But the grace of God is shoved aside whenever anyone leaves home, family, etc., in order to gain something spiritual. This is especially true of monastic orders and in those denominations that have a celibate priesthood. But let’s take the case of any Christian who thinks that they will be a better Christian by leaving their family, their marriage, their fiance, etc. This isn’t what Jesus is saying at all. Rather, if your family tears themselves away from you because of your faith, then you have lost something for the sake of the gospel. Jesus’ promise here is about what we suffer for his sake, not what we throw away, seemingly for his sake. If I am married, I should remain married to glorify God. If I am a father, I should not abandon my children, but continue to be a father. If I have a business (“fields”), I should continue to do my best with that business. If a man is dating a woman, he will not be a better Christian if he gives up on pursuing a godly spouse in order to somehow be a more godly man. “If he feels he ought to marry, he should do as he wants. He is not sinning. They should get married” (1 Corinthians 7:36). So it is not what we give up that Jesus is talking about, but what is torn away from us because of our faith. This, Jesus says, will be given back, a hundredfold, both in this life and in the life of the world to come.
Finally, Jesus says that “many who are first will be last, and the last will be first.” This tells us that God’s view of us is different than man’s view of himself or of other men. There will be great and prominent people who have seemed to be the world’s great spiritual leaders who will be least in God’s kingdom, or who will even be outside of it. But there will those, like the widow Jesus saw in the temple (Mark 12:42-44), who go unnoticed by the world but who will have a place of special favor in eternity. We should seek to serve the Lord, not to get a special place for ourselves. Do whatever you do to God’s glory, to honor him, to serve him, to give glory to him. And if something is taken from you because of your faith in him or because of your faithfulness to the gospel, he will take care of you.
For the moment, churches and ministers are given some small savings by the government. Churches do not pay property tax. When churches buy certain items, they don’t pay sales tax. These are small things in the grand scheme of things. Pastors do pay those things, but we receive a housing allowance—something I’m still trying to figure out with limited success. It might be that in the future, the very near future, these things will be taken away from those pastors or churches who do not conform to the government’s regulations about “hate speech.” This would mean that if I preach or write about any of the Bible’s passages that condemn homosexuality, same-sex marriage, transvestism, or other sexual perversions forbidden by the will of God (Genesis 19:5-6; Leviticus 18:22, 20:13; Deuteronomy 22:5, 23:18; Romans 1:27; 1 Corinthians 6:9-10), I could be fined, jailed, and small privileges like exemption from sales tax could be taken away. Those things don’t matter. What matters is to be faithful to the gospel. We do not change our doctrine because the government makes threats. We do not change our doctrine because other churches water theirs down. If we are ridiculed because of our faith, then we have an opportunity to give glory to God before the world and before the courts. When Paul was persecuted on account of his faith, he did not defend his rights or try to be let off lightly. He took the opportunity to carry the gospel into strange pulpits before the Sanhedrin (Acts 23:1-6), the Athenian philosophers (Acts 17:22-31), Roman governors like Felix and Festus (Acts 24:25), King Herod (Acts 26:4-23), and even Caesar (Acts 27:24). If liberty or treasure or family ties are broken because of the gospel, God will restore or replace what was lost. But the gospel will stand, and Christ our Savior reigns forever. To him be the glory forever. Amen.
Pastor Timothy Smith