Wednesday 23 November 2011

Bible Book:

"Many who are first will be last, and the last will be first." (v. 30)

Matthew 19:23-30 Wednesday 23 November 2011


We may have heard these passages hundreds of times, but still westruggle to get past the obvious meaning; the same meaning that therich young ruler has only just struggled with earlier in the chapter. We can assume that theGospel-writer Matthew meant for these passages to enlighten eachother, and so we happily take the meaning that wealth, possessionsor luggage will stop us from entering God's kingdom. But the finalverse of chapter 19 (see above) makes a further point, whichalthough explained in chapter 20 through a parable (Matthew20:1-16), is curious for its placement here. The disciples aretold by Jesus that their places in heaven are secure, and in fact,their roles will be very important - to judge the 12 tribes ofIsrael. The assumption here is that they have been in a lowlyposition and suffered accordingly, and their reward after the"renewal of all things" (v. 28) will be perhaps the highest rolesin heaven aside from that of the Trinity.

The philosopher Nietzsche felt particularly irate aboutthis teaching. Nietzsche felt that Christ's teachings were at oddswith his own thoughts about self-motivation. While Nietzsche wasvery insistent that the weak would only learn to be strong throughsuffering and hardships, he felt that Jesus' teaching here, and inother parts of the Gospels allowed 'the last' of society to 'takeit easy', assured of their salvation, and in fact, their place atthe head of the heavenly queue. However, as much as we might admireNietzsche's self-motivation, we have to note that this isn't whatJesus has said here - he very clearly shows the costs of followinghim; leaving houses, mothers, fathers, sisters and brothers (verse29). And furthermore, it's very clear that the disciples did notchoose this path because of what Jesus had promised them in theafterlife. Peter's question in verse 27 appears to have a desperatetone, as he is suddenly faced with the prospect of nothing, andwith nothing to fall back on. But of course, Jesus tells hisfriends "for God all things are possible" (v. 26).

The obvious meaning of this text is clear - we should not value ourthings above our journey with God. But the underlying message iseven more thorough. We should not value anything above our journeywith God. All else can go, or fail or let us down, but God's pathremains throughout. If we trust that, then no matter how differentour world may look in the future, or may now look compared to whatwe envisaged, that most steadfast of foundations will always be inplace, and our lives, in God's love, can never be lost in the midstof circumstance.

To Ponder

What motivates you? How does it make you feel toknow that whatever else changes, Christ will always remain?

If you do suffer hardships, how does Jesus' lifehelp you to be consoled?

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