A WISE ANSWER TO A MISTAKEN QUESTION
Then Peter said to him, “Look you, we have left everything and have followed you. What then will we get?” Jesus said to him, “When all things are reborn, and when the Son of Man shall sit on the throne of his glory, you too, who have followed me, will also sit on twelve thrones, judging the twelve tribes of Israel. Anyone who has left houses, or brothers, or sisters, or father, or mother, or children, or lands for my name, will receive them a hundred times over, and he will enter into possession of eternal life. But many who were first will be last, and many who were last will be first.”
It would have been very easy for Jesus to dismiss Peter’s question with an impatient rebuke. In a sense, it was entirely the wrong question to ask. To put it bluntly, Peter was asking, “What do we get out of following you?” Jesus could well have said that anyone who followed him in that kind of spirit had no idea what following him meant at all. And yet it was a natural question. True, it had its implicit rebuke in the parable which followed; but Jesus did not scold Peter. He took his question, and out of it laid down three great laws of the Christian life.
(i) It is always true that he who shares Christ’s campaign will share Christ’s victory. In human warfare it has been too often true that the common soldiers who fought the battles were forgotten once the warfare was ended, and the victory won, and their usefulness past. In human warfare it has been too often true that men who fought to make a country in which heroes might live found that that same country had become a place where heroes might starve. It is not so with Jesus Christ. He who shares Christ’s warfare will share Christ’s triumph; and he who bears the Cross will wear the crown.
(ii) It is always true that the Christian will receive far more than ever he has to give up; but what he receives is not new material possessions, but a new fellowship, human and divine.
When a man becomes a Christian he enters into a new human fellowship; so long as there is a Christian Church, a Christian should never be friendless. If his Christian decision has meant that he has had to give up friends, it ought also to mean that he has entered into a wider circle of friendship than ever he knew before. It ought to be true that there is hardly a town or village or city anywhere where the Christian can be lonely. For where there is a Church, there is a fellowship into which he has a right to enter. It may be that the Christian who is a stranger is too shy to make that entry as he ought; it may be that the Church in the place where he is a stranger has become too much of a private clique to open its arms and its doors to him. But if the Christian ideal is being realized there is no place in the world with a Christian Church where the individual Christian should be friendless or lonely. Simply to be a Christian means to have entered into a fellowship which goes out to the ends of the earth.
Further, when a man becomes a Christian, he enters into a new divine fellowship. He enters into possession of eternal life, the life which is the very life of God. From other things a Christian may be separated, but he can never be separated from the love of God in Christ Jesus his Lord.
(iii) Finally, Jesus lays it down that there will be surprises in the final assessment. God’s standards of judgment are not men’s, if for no other reason than that God sees into the hearts of men. There is a new world to redress the balance of the old; there is eternity to adjust the misjudgments of time. And it may be that those who were humble on earth will be great in heaven, and that those who were great in this world will be humbled in the world to come.
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