Peter and the other disciples heard Jesus tell the rich, young ruler, “Go and sell that thou hast, and give to the poor, and thou shalt have treasure in heaven: and come and follow me” (Matt. 19:21). Hard words for a rich man! Peter and the others had forsaken all and followed Jesus. If the rich, young ruler would have treasure in heaven, Peter wanted to know what he and the others should have. I would have thought the same thing, though I would not have so honestly expressed my thoughts. But our Lord continues, “28 Jesus said unto them, Verily I say unto you, That ye which have followed me, in the regeneration when the Son of man shall sit in the throne of his glory, ye also shall sit upon twelve thrones, judging the twelve tribes of Israel. 29 And every one that hath forsaken houses, or brethren, or sisters, or father, or mother, or wife, or children, or lands, for my name's sake, shall receive an hundredfold, and shall inherit everlasting life” (Matt. 19:28-29). What Jesus recognized in His reply was that the disciples had followed Him. Like the poor widow who cast two mites into the treasury, and in so doing cast in all her living, the disciples had very little to give on an absolute scale by comparison to the rich, young ruler. But they had this gift of God’s grace: they could not live without Christ! That is why they followed Him (John 6:68-69).
Remember when Jesus washed the disciple’s feet? Peter at first recoiled in refusal. But when Jesus said, “If I wash thee not, thou hast no part with me” (John 13:8), Peter immediately reversed his reluctance in earnest appeal to Christ, “Lord, not my feet only, but also my hands and my head” (John 13:9)! Christ had given the eleven what He gives to every believer: “take all that I have but give me Christ!” With Peter, every believer freely cries out, "Lord, if I have no part with you except you wash my feet, then wash me all over!" The disciples truly followed Jesus. What does it mean to follow Him? It means that by faith we look to Him for all things, and submit to Him as poor, needy, helpless sinners who find no comfort, no peace, no joy, no righteousness, no life, but what we find in Him! Disciples -- believing sinners -- cannot do without Christ. That is the work of grace that produces in them a reciprocating "work of faith and labor of love" (1 Thess. 1:3; 2 Tim. 2:15; Gal. 5:6).
By His “verily, verily I say unto you,” Jesus solemnly affirmed that everyone, who for His sake forsakes all of the possessions and relations listed in v29, would receive an hundredfold in this life (Mark 10:30; Luke 18:30), and in the world to come, everlasting life. This is the amazing grace of God! The Lord requires of us what we cannot give. Then He gives us grace to receive what only He could do. And when we, by God-given grace, are enabled to lay hold on all that Christ is and has done in His redeeming work as our Mediator, forsaking all that is ours, then He rewards us for the grace that He gives! "With men this is impossible; but with God, all things are possible" (Matt. 19:26)!
It was impossible for the rich, young ruler to forsake his possessions and follow Christ. But to enter the kingdom of heaven, as one preacher put it, we must be stripped, utterly naked! Jesus made it clear, “With men this is impossible; but with God all things are possible” (Matt. 19:26). Christ accomplished our salvation by His life and death. We are saved by His obedience in all things, culminating in His offering Himself to God for His people (Matt. 5:17; 20:28; John 10:15,17-18; 17:4; 19:30; Rom. 5:19; Php. 2:5-8). This work of Christ for us saved all of His people from all of their sins and justified them before God, without any contribution from us, having accomplished all entirely outside of, and apart from, our own personal experience (Rom. 3:24). But the application of this accomplished work for us requires something else that is impossible to us: it requires bringing us down, humbling us, revealing something to us of our poverty of spirit (Matt. 5:3; Ps. 34:18). And that work in us causes us to cry out of the blindness (Matt. 20:30-31) and captivity (Matt. 17:15; Ps. 64:3; Luke 1:71; Eph. 4:8) and shame and filth (Ps. 51) of our sin to the Lord Jesus Christ to save us for His name’s sake alone. There is no other reason than the perfections of His nature that can be found to move Him to do so! Only then can we see that our salvation must be entirely worked out by Christ alone!
Now, the realization of this, the persuasion of it in our souls, is grace in this life, which is worth worlds to realize! As Peter could not bear the thought of having no part with Christ, as he, like Paul, “counted all things loss” and “but dung” to win Christ (Php. 3:7-9), so every believer will say from the low bottom of his heart, “I would trade all the wealth of this world and repudiate the esteem of all men in it for grace from God to know in my soul that Christ is my all, and enjoy the joy and peace in believing, Him” (Rom. 15:13)! The cry of God-given faith is: “Take the world, but give me Jesus!” This is following Christ. And that is what Jesus took note of in His reply.
It is clear, then, that in this life the believer’s treasure is Christ dwelling in me by faith (Col. 1:27). Paul prayed this blessing on all who would believe on Christ through the Gospel He preached. “16 That he would grant you, according to the riches of his glory, to be strengthened with might by his Spirit in the inner man; 17 That Christ may dwell in your hearts by faith; that ye, being rooted and grounded in love, 18 May be able to comprehend with all saints what is the breadth, and length, and depth, and height; 19 And to know the love of Christ, which passeth knowledge, that ye might be filled with all the fulness of God” (Eph. 3:16-19). The reward of Christ, therefore, can only be a reward of His grace! He calls us to follow Him. He inclines us with irresistible grace to do so. He rewards that grace which He gives with grace to know Him and possess peace and joy in believing (Isa. 26:1-3). Christ thus dwells in our hearts by faith! And in this, we are filled with all the fulness of God! God is our God! We are His people (Heb. 8:11)! “My beloved is mine, and I am His” (Song 2:16; 6:3). “The LORD is the portion of mine inheritance” (Ps. 16:5). “Whom have I in heaven but thee? and there is none upon earth that I desire beside thee” (Ps. 73:25)! “I am thy shield, and thy exceeding great reward” (Gen. 15:1).
And yet there is a reward to come! That reward is called “eternal inheritance” (Heb. 9:15), “eternal life” (1 John 2:25), and “eternal glory” (2 Tim. 2:10; 1 Pet. 5:10). And we know that “this life is in His Son” (1 John 5:11). Now, if Christ is our inheritance; if this is eternal life; if God gives every believer all things with His dear Son (Rom. 8:32); then we know assuredly that every reward, whether in this life or in the next, is a reward of our inheritance in Christ, a reward of pure grace (Eph. 1:11)! What?! Can we ever think to first give to God that it may be given to us in return (Rom. 11:35-36)?! Perish the thought!! What one thing of all that God, by His grace, gives, can we ever think to earn by something we do or contribute or in which we participate?! Repentance? Forgiveness of sins? These are the gift of our reigning Savior (Acts 5:31)! Righteousness? This is the gift of God’s grace (Rom. 5:17)! Faith? This too is the gift of His grace and cannot originate in us (Eph. 2:8)! Eternal life? It is the gift of God (Rom. 6:23)! Would we dare say that our adoption as sons of God is somehow owing to our will or our work (John 1:12-13; 1 John 5:1; Eph. 1:4-6)?! Back, back, O foul thought and wicked heart to suggest such a thing! Or, could any think to merit the gift of the indwelling Spirit of God Himself!? O, how sinfully lifted up these proud hearts of ours can be! And what of the gift of God’s own dear Son, given up to filth and shame and cursing and death under the wrath of God?! No! We could never earn one thing from God. On the contrary! We owe an eternal, infinite debt, and yet we have “nothing to pay” (Luke 7:42)! Any thought, therefore, of earning rewards must be crushed as the vile offspring of the serpent! Only a covetous, envious, proud, idolatrous heart would imagine a relative greatness for himself in the kingdom of heaven (Matt. 20:26-28)! Gracious Father, save us from this evil propensity to think that our thoughts or words or labor should earn us anything from you! May we rather be forgiven of the wickedness of our heart for ever thinking we should receive anything but what you have graciously and freely given in our Lord and Savior, your only begotten Son, in whom alone you are well pleased (Matt. 17:5)!