On Your Mark by Dr. George O. Wood
First and Last
“I tell you the truth,” Jesus replied, “no one who has left home or brothers or sisters or mother or father or children or fields for me and the gospel 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. But many who are first will be last, and the last first.” (Mark 10:29-31, NIV)
The rich young ruler had just walked away, unwilling to divest himself of everything and follow Jesus.
The disciples had watched the entire exchange. Peter speaks for them when he proclaims that they have done what the young man did not: “We have left everything to follow You!” Could it be that some of them, if not all, were having second thoughts about their commitment? After all, Jesus increasingly was focusing on dark days ahead, for Him and them. Should we have left family and vocation to follow Him? I hear them wondering.
Whenever we are tempted to think of what we give up to follow Jesus, we must turn our attention to His response. He tells us we gain far more than we have relinquished.
To the original Twelve, Jesus says, “So you gave up family to follow Me? I’m giving you a new family in return.”
It’s His promise — that in Christ we have in the Church a community not composed of strangers, but of fathers, mothers, brothers and sisters. The local church must always remember this — that the goal is not to collect an audience where people come and go as in a concert, where relationships between people in the seats are not essential since the focus is on the stage. In the church, we are not meant to be holders of tickets for a seat at the Sunday morning “show.” We are meant to be in relationship with one another.
In addition to gaining a new family, we also gain property — which Jesus calls “fields.” Fields produce food, the necessary sustenance for life. Thus, in Christian community we care for one another and are never to go without provision because we are family and we do not let our family members starve, become homeless, and become underclothed or naked. These are the “fields” we gain through the community of believers.
We get three big wins: family, field, eternal life — and one downside: persecutions.
We live in a time when there perhaps have never been more martyrs for the gospel and more persecution. Even in the democratic Western countries of Europe and the United States, culture and politicians seek to marginalize, caricaturize, demonize and ridicule Christians. There is a price to be paid for following our Lord.
Jesus closes this incident with the rich young ruler and the follow-up conversation with His disciples by talking about the first being last, and the last, first.
The rich young ruler in this life was always first. Everything was at his beck and call. He never had to wait in line, always sat at the head table, and servants ensured his easy entrance and exit.
The tables are turned in the age to come. Many who thought they had it made in this age will find they have nothing in the age to come. But those who endure persecutions will find that their trial is momentary in comparison to the weight of glory that is coming.
A prayer of response
GEORGE O. WOOD is general superintendent of the Assemblies of God.
On Your Mark