Jesus said, “Truly, I say to you, there is no one who has left house or brothers or sisters or mother or father or children or lands, for my sake and for the gospel, who will not receive a hundredfold now in this time, houses and brothers and sisters and mothers and children and lands, with 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
When a conversation with Jesus about inheriting eternal life ended with a rich young ruler leaving the scene sad because he was unwilling to part with his wealth in order to follow Him, Jesus told His followers that “it is easier to go through the eye of a needle than for a rich person to enter the kingdom of God” (Mark 10:25). In response, Peter, who liked to blurt things out on such occasions, pointed out the sacrifices that he and the other disciples had made to follow Jesus (v 28).
Presumably, Peter was trying to elicit a reassuring word that he and the other disciples were “safe” from Jesus’ warning since they had left behind their possessions. And indeed Jesus replied by offering the encouragement that whoever sacrifices much for His sake and for the gospel will surely receive plenty in return. In other words, God will care for them both in this life and in the age to come. But Jesus wasn’t concerned with simply making His disciples feel good about themselves. So He followed these words with a sting in the tail: “Many who are first will be last, and the last first.”
We can imagine Peter, on hearing those words, comparing himself to the rich young ruler and feeling reassured. But that does not seem to be the point Jesus was making. He had already dealt with riches. Rather, it seems that Jesus was warning His disciples, Be careful that complacency doesn’t get to you. There are those who assume they are “first”—many who are told, by the world or by the church, that they are “first”—who will one day be shocked by Jesus’ assessment of them. It will be those who gave all they had for Him, often in ways unnoticed by others, for whom Jesus reserves the highest praise.
Perhaps we, like Peter, feel protected from Jesus’ challenges about wealth and being “first,” either because we don’t have riches in the first place or because we have sacrificed so much for Jesus already. We can always find someone wealthier than us or who has given up less than us, and base our sense of security on that comparison. But Jesus isn’t concerned with making us feel comfortable. Instead, He calls us from our complacency and into devotedly following Him. Relative poverty is no more a virtue than relative wealth. He has promised to care for us, and He has called us to find our security in His finished work for us, not in what we are doing for Him. Do not give in to complacency born of comparison with others. Instead, hear Jesus’ call to Peter when, on a later occasion, Peter asked his Lord whether John’s life would play out differently from his: “You follow me!” (John 21:22).
Devotional material is taken from Truth For Life: 365 Daily Devotions by Alistair Begg. Copyright © 2021, The Good Book Company. Used by Truth For Life with written permission.