27 Then Peter said to Him, "Behold, we have left everything and followed you; what then will there be for us?"
28 And Jesus said to them, "Truly I say to you, that you who have followed Me, in the regeneration when the Son of Man will sit on His glorious throne, you also shall sit upon twelve thrones, judging the twelve tribes of Israel.
29 "And everyone who has left houses or brothers or sisters or father or mother or children or farms for My name's sake, will recieve many times as much, and will inherit eternal life.
30 "But many who are first will be last; and the last, first."
Last time, we examined the story of the man known as the Rich Young Ruler to study the salvation message. Today's passage is an off-shoot of that.
The disciples' question is justified. Jesus had just said that even a man considered to be very holy in his society did not deserve heaven, so they - low-class men not considered by society to be very spiritual - surely felt insecure. So, they poined out what they had given up for Jesus, and asked what they would be given in return.
Jesus's response, of course, hinges on the fact that salvation cannot ever be earned, but that God's grace goes even further in giving us undeserved rewards for faith. But still, it makes sense that since God graciously offers salvation to all His followers, he would give a still greater (but still undeserved!) reward to particularly dedicated followers...a special, eternal recognition for their sacrifice.
But let's get back to the issue of the question, not the answer.
Living as Christ did guarantees a hard life - and that's a major understatement! And while we are going through a hard life, it often helps to remember why we are striving so hard, our end goal - eternity. And Jesus gave the disciples a wonderful picture of what to look forward to...
There are a wide variety of heavenly rewards in the form of "crowns" - check out this post to learn all about that. But in this specific case, Jesus promised the twelve men who he was speaking to a position of authority in the heavenly kingdom. This is a great parallel to the original set-up where humans had dominion over the entire world, before Satan was given authority after the Fall.
While the twelve are given that special distinction, the concept of rewards for sacrifice extends to all us believers, as Christ promised in verse 29. We can trust with absolute certainty that no matter what God asks us to give up for Him - it may be our time, our money, a hobby, a job, an opportunity, a relationship, or even our very lives - He will make it beyond worth our while. Besides, we don't live for Christ as a way to earn salvation (that is impossible) - we do it as a way to thank Him for dying for us.
Finally, just as we've just discussed that we can't look at it in terms of an investment, we must also not think in terms of seeking eternal recognition to be lifted up above others. We are to live as servants to others - following Christ's example of humbling ourselves to the greatest extreme. A bit later in the next chapter, we'll read a particularly strong elaboration on this, but because Jesus repeated the point so much, we know it's an absolutely critical one to remind ourselves of every time we encounter it.
Questions for You
When have you had a particularly hard time in life, and God (or another believer in your life) reminded you of what you were pressing on toward?
What things in your life has God asked you to give up for Him?
Not that I have already obtained it or have already become perfect, but I press on so that I may lay hold of that for which also I was laid hold of by Christ Jesus. Brethren, I do not regard myself as having laid hold of it yet; but one thing I do: forgetting what lies behind and reaching forward to what lies ahead, I press on toward the goal for the prize of the upward call of God in Christ Jesus. Let us therefore, as many as are perfect, have this attitude.
- Philippians 3:12-15a