Matthew 19:27–30 ESV
27 Then Peter said in reply, “See, we have left everything and followed you. What then will we have?” 28 Jesus said to them, “Truly, I say to you, in the new world, when the Son of Man will sit on his glorious throne, you who have followed me will also sit on 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 lands, for my name’s sake, will receive a hundredfold and will inherit eternal life. 30 But many who are first will be last, and the last first.
The miracle of salvation that each of you claim to possess is a divine intrusion of the infinite upon the frame of the finite. It is a miracle in every way.
Paul tells us in,
1 Corinthians 6:19–20 ESV
19 Or do you not know that your body is a temple of the Holy Spirit within you, whom you have from God? You are not your own, 20 for you were bought with a price. So glorify God in your body.
This is not mere symbolism but a supernatural incursion upon the human flesh.
The Christian life is a life so alien to the world, it is a miraculous life. Do you know that you are deemed righteous when you are not. The life you live is as a substitute, a second-hand life purchased for you by one who alone is worthy of the abundance of life.
The hope you have is a hope that has been given to you as an inheritance, not as a reward so that no man may boast.
The word ‘vicarious’ comes from the Latin word ‘vicar’ which means ‘substitute’. The word is used to refer to an act done on behalf of someone else or for another. This is why Christ’s work of salvation is also called as the Vicarious Atonement. Because Jesus died and rose from the grave for our sake. But the word also means to experience something second-hand through the first-hand experience of another. Such is the experience of the Christian life.
Romans 6:3–5 ESV
3 Do you not know that all of us who have been baptized into Christ Jesus were baptized into his death? 4 We were buried therefore with him by baptism into death, in order that, just as Christ was raised from the dead by the glory of the Father, we too might walk in newness of life. 5 For if we have been united with him in a death like his, we shall certainly be united with him in a resurrection like his.
This then, is the vicarious Christian life. A life born because of the vicarious atonement of Christ for us, and a life lived in and through the person of Christ himself.
Beloved, we are not our own! This is how He carries us from the darkness of this world to beyond the veil where there is no shadow. Wrapped by the glorious appearance of Christ, our glorified bodies will not cast shadows upon the streets of heaven, but light.
Consequently, we do not get to decide the path of this Christian life. We are not our own! We are ever leaning towards the will of God to illumine our path and show us the way we must go.
Isaiah 30:21 ESV
21 And your ears shall hear a word behind you, saying, “This is the way, walk in it,” when you turn to the right or when you turn to the left.
The vicarious Christian life is the life of a slave, not a slave of an unrighteous master, but the willing slave of God himself. The vicarious Christian life is the life of a son or a daughter who lives under the authority of their Father in heaven.
The Christian who lives for himself is a contradiction in terms.
This is why theology is of such pre-eminence in the Christian life because you cannot have a vivid picture of this reality without knowing such truth. This then is also another meaning of the word vicarious, which is a vivid imagination, experience the reality of something in the mind.
Therefore, a sound theology enables the Christian to vicariously experience the vicarious Christian life wrought in the vicarious atonement of Christ.
So I mean to show you all of this from the passage that is before us today.
After last week’s sermon, I felt pushed by the Spirit of God to linger one more week on the closing part of Matthew 19.
I pray and hope that the text encourages you as much as it has encouraged me.
Matthew 19:27 ESV
27 Then Peter said in reply, “See, we have left everything and followed you. What then will we have?”
• This is a strange question, almost alien to most Christians who’ve had to leave very little in following Christ. We talk about the cost, the price of following Jesus often through many sorrows, yet we possess so much.
The danger here is not in what we have, but in what we hold dear to our hearts. We have all that we have because of the grace and mercy of God. We drive our cars, ride our bikes, hold our jobs, provide for our families, buy new gadgets, build our homes, hug our families, meet comfortably in this hall; and all of it is God’s provision.
The question is not why we have all these things, but what happens if these things are taken away from us. The question is not what we possess, but what possesses our hearts. The question is not why we are masters over so much, but why so many things have mastered us.
When Peter says that they left everything, they left everything. This is the heart of the Christian soul that finds Christ. Out of the joy of the value of this treasure, he sells all that he has and buys the field (Matthew 13:44). They dropped their nets, their livelihood, their security, main source of provision, their families, their needs because Jesus called them to an explicit ministry that required them to be with him and go with him.
The question is not if we should quit our jobs and go into the mission field. The question is if you would if he were to bid you to follow him there.
When a man turns to Christ, he is letting go of the world and cleaving to Christ as his greatest treasure.
Philippians 3:8 ESV
8 Indeed, I count everything as loss because of the surpassing worth of knowing Christ Jesus my Lord. For his sake I have suffered the loss of all things and count them as rubbish, in order that I may gain Christ
• left everything – The phrase that Peter uses in saying that they left everything, has two words. The first word is ‘to leave behind’ or ‘to send away’.
We often use the words ‘let-go’ or ‘leave’ as a temporary abandon, always leaving ourselves the room to take it back again. We know this, how we are daily called one way or another to the abandon of something that our flesh so desires, yet there is rarely a finality in our abandon of these things. We lay down things in the name of Jesus only to pick them up again.
Don’t we say that we’ve let go of the need to know why God allows certain things and wind up brooding over the very thing we’ve claimed to have let go? Have you really let-go of that pride, that bitterness, that anger, that lust, that desire for worldly possessions, that insatiable need to have your husband to do everything your way, or that ego that refuses to listen to the wisdom of a godly wife.
We are drug addicts that say we’ve gotten clean by leaving our stash safely under the bed. In this God-given age of comfort and plenty, we cry over papercuts, quarrel over spilled milk, and boast about our abandon of meat in our diet for the glory of God.
The second word for everything is better translated as ‘each and every’. It is not a word that pictures the whole devoid of the individual parts that make up the whole. Rather, it is a sum of the specific parts that make up the whole, it is a focus on the specifics.
So, when Peter is saying that they left ‘everything’, he has every little detail flooding through his mind. The cost was so dear. Missing his family, the anniversary celebration, birthdays, not being able to hold his child’s hands when they’re breaking a fever, and fishing, paying off the taxes and ensuring the security of his household himself. How were they going to manage between his travels? His wife would go with him sometimes and at other times? So many uncertainties, doubts and confusions.
Such was the cost for those who followed the Messiah when he came on the earth. The high call of the Apostleship was a hard call.
• followed you – Now, this isn’t the ascetic life of a monk who denies the world in hopes of finding spiritual peace. It is not the abandon of things that brings peace but the pursuit of God.
People have this so mixed up in our generation. How often have I heard people tell me that they want to do this or that simply because they want to get away from this or that? The Christian life isn’t centred on the abandon of the world but on the desire to have Christ. The abandon of the world is the joyful price one is willing to pay in pursuing Christ.
Sacrifices do not lead you to Christ, Christ leads you to sacrifice for the joy of knowing him and glorifying him. The Christian hates suffering and loves Jesus. This is why he is sorrowful yet always rejoicing. For when Christ leads him on the road of suffering, he trusts him enough to abandon the world and follow joyfully.
• What then will we have? – Paul tells us in 1 Corinthians 15:19, that
1 Corinthians 15:19 ESV
19 If in Christ we have hope in this life only, we are of all people most to be pitied.
We are as creatures made for hope and desire. Our hearts are always straining away for the glorious outcome of all our pursuits. The hope of Peter rises in the question, “what then will we have?”.
Jesus does not chide his question or his manner of thought. Christ does not bid us to follow him for the utter loss of everything. No, he bids us to come not for loss, but gain, true gain. The redemption of Christ is the grace of God that gives us abundance, not to leave us impoverished. But true gain must come at the cost of false gain. In order to fully enjoy that which is truly treasure, we must abandon the lesser treasures that have captured our hearts.
This is why Christianity spreads like a wild-fire in the face of persecution. Because the more they strip away from us, the more we rely on that which truly matters. Because there is something that they cannot strip away from us. Romans 8:35-39
Romans 8:35–39 ESV
35 Who shall separate us from the love of Christ? Shall tribulation, or distress, or persecution, or famine, or nakedness, or danger, or sword? 36 As it is written, “For your sake we are being killed all the day long; we are regarded as sheep to be slaughtered.” 37 No, in all these things we are more than conquerors through him who loved us. 38 For I am sure that neither death nor life, nor angels nor rulers, nor things present nor things to come, nor powers, 39 nor height nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God in Christ Jesus our Lord.
Matthew 19:28 ESV
28 Jesus said to them, “Truly, I say to you, in the new world, when the Son of Man will sit on his glorious throne, you who have followed me will also sit on twelve thrones, judging the twelve tribes of Israel.
• Hear now the reward of the righteous. Watch the last becoming the first. From the likes of fishermen and tax-collectors in Galilee to judges in the Kingdom of Heaven. As reformed theologians, it will be a tragic failure on our part if all our contemplation is of our justification and sanctification, and not of our glorification.
Paul calls us pitiful if we do not hope in the resurrection.
Romans 8:18 ESV
18 For I consider that the sufferings of this present time are not worth comparing with the glory that is to be revealed to us.
• Truly, I say to you – Jesus responds with all that too familiar a phrase that emphasises the sincerity of his words. This is Christ, the sinless man. There is no lie in him and he has never lied. There is no reason for him to emphasise any of his promises for they are the promises that will not fail. Yet, he urges them, he reassures them, doubling his unfailing word to say this.
• In the new world – Beloved, Jesus came to make the world new.
5 And he who was seated on the throne said, “Behold, I am making all things new.” ….
This then is the redemptive work of God, to restore that which was broken by sin. It is not God’s intention to destroy the earth and all that is living because of our sinful abuse of life. Rather, it is his divine intention to redeem and to restore. He does this by predestining his elect to salvation.
Romans 8:19 ESV
19 For the creation waits with eager longing for the revealing of the sons of God.
Romans 8:22–24 ESV
22 For we know that the whole creation has been groaning together in the pains of childbirth until now. 23 And not only the creation, but we ourselves, who have the first fruits of the Spirit, groan inwardly as we wait eagerly for adoption as sons, the redemption of our bodies. 24 For in this hope we were saved. Now hope that is seen is not hope. For who hopes for what he sees?
This is the new world fully realised, but we are inhabitants of the new world inaugurated. This is the new world inaugurated by the first advent of Christ. And we are his ambassadors commissioned with the baptising of the nations as we await the second advent of Christ which will be the new world fully established.
• The phrase which translators have taken the liberty to coin as ‘in the new world’ is more directly translated from the Greek as ‘in the regeneration’. This word for regeneration is used to refer to the rebirth of all Christians at conversion, but also to refer to the final restoration of all things at the coming of Christ.
As Matthew Henry put it , “All that partake of the regeneration in grace (Jn. 3:3) shall partake of the regeneration in glory; for as grace is the first resurrection (Rev. 20:6), so glory is the second regeneration.”
In the fullness of that revelation, we will see,
• the Son of Man sitting on his glorious throne – The enthronement of Christ here refers to the fulfilment of all things where all things are subject under his feet.
Psalm 110:1 ESV
1 The Lord says to my Lord: “Sit at my right hand, until I make your enemies your footstool.”
1 Corinthians 15:25 ESV
25 For he must reign until he has put all his enemies under his feet.
Have no question about it. Jesus is reigning in this age but the revelation of his glorious throne will be visible to all at the defeat of the last enemy. 1 Corinthians 15:26
1 Corinthians 15:26 ESV
26 The last enemy to be destroyed is death.
• It is one thing for us to compliment the artistry of an individual and another for Da-Vinci to offer the same compliment to someone. It is one thing for me to exalt a theologian and another when John Piper says the same of someone. This is because the closer one is to the fuller understanding of thing that they compliment, the greater the weight of that compliment.
And here, Jesus calls his throne ‘glorious’. This is not John or Paul or Moses or Isaiah making this claim. This is the King of Glory making a glorious claim regarding his glorious throne. This is the throne of glory, bearing upon it the full weight of the infinite glory of God.
It is one thing for us to call something glorious, and another for Christ to call glorious. The scintillating magnificence of that scene is beyond the capabilities of our imagination to grasp.
• you who have followed me will also sit on twelve thrones – The offer of Christ to the 12 who followed him was to be seated on thrones in the new world. The 12 were the first of those who followed Jesus and are given the pre-eminence of those thrones.
Seated on the throne of glory, see the King of glory who deserves all honour, glory and praise, who alone is worthy of honour, abounding in such grace where he honours his disciples by seating them on thrones.
In the new world fully realised, the King will honour us who follow him.
• judging the twelve tribes of Israel – It is difficult for us to say for sure what this means.
But this we know, that from the day of Pentecost, we see the rise of the twelve, as they served in many ways as the judges of the NT, as they proclaimed and taught the oracles of Christ. They grew in power and faith, and served the Lord all the way to the grave, filling up the afflictions of Christ.
And in that final regeneration, they will hold an authority in the realisation of God’s Kingdom. 1 Corinthians 6:2-3
1 Corinthians 6:2–3 ESV
2 Or do you not know that the saints will judge the world? And if the world is to be judged by you, are you incompetent to try trivial cases?
3 Do you not know that we are to judge angels? How much more, then, matters pertaining to this life!
We do not understand the specifics of these things in this life, but we are given a glorious picture of the glory that awaits us in the realm of heaven.
Matthew 19:29 ESV
29 And everyone who has left houses or brothers or sisters or father or mother or children or lands, for my name’s sake, will receive a hundredfold and will inherit eternal life.
• Do not miss the emphasis of this verse, which is not in the abandon of houses or brothers or sisters, but in the phrase ‘for my name’s sake’. You can abandon all these things for many reasons, but it is only one reason that stands.
The heart of a Christian does not suffer loss in denying himself and picking up his cross daily and following Jesus, only in order to amass the wealth of heaven. The promised reward is a reward, not the prize in and of itself. The Christian heart is captivated by something far greater than the jewels of heaven, far more valuable than the promised thrones. The Christian heart is captivated by Christ. For the sake of his name.
So that the name of Jesus might be magnified. That’s the heart behind everything that the Christian spirit pursues. Our desire is never centred around us but around the glorious Son who has made himself known to us.
Do not misunderstand this verse, beloved. Jesus is rewarding those whose primary goal in life is the pursuit of God, not the pursuit of the rewards that accompany this goal. Any desire and joy over the gifts given by this divine Giver, must first be established in the delight over the Giver.
• And all who in such abandon has followed Christ, are promised two rewards. One, that they will receive a hundredfold. The other synoptics add ‘in this lifetime’. We know that a linear understanding of this promise is erroneous because the loss of a house does not result in a hundred houses, and the loss of a wife does not result in a hundred wives. That is not the emphasis of the text, but rather that God will reward the faithful abandon of his saint in this life.
The weight of that reward will be a hundredfold. God will bless you in a hundred different ways for every loss you incur for his name’s sake. Beloved, this then is a far better investment than mutual funds. It is not a 7% interest return but a hundredfold. The rich King of glory rewards richly those who follow him.
The second promise, is that they will inherit eternal life. Not merit eternal life, but inherit. Inheritance is a gift and not a reward for a job well done. Every Christian is promised this inheritance upon their conversion and none can stay the hand of this promise. So, the point of the text is that such an eternal inheritance is assured for those whose lives are a witness to the glory of God in holy abandon and faithful pursuit.
Matthew 19:30 ESV
30 But many who are first will be last, and the last first.
This is why the Biblical worldview is so counter-cultural. This is why the Christian faith always appears to be kicking against the current of the times. What in the world’s eye is first, is last in heaven’s eyes and what the world deems as least is first.
• See the slave sold in the wilderness come to the house of Potiphar. See the hand of God that raises him in stature. See him imprisoned for his lack of diplomacy and tact. Then see him raised as a prince in the land of Egypt.
• See the baby wrapped in a basket drift along the current of the Nile, become the shepherd whose staff split open the seas and lead the Israelites out of captivity.
• See the lowly shepherd boy in the fields, overlooked by his own family become the anointed king after God’s own heart.
• See the unimportant farmer ploughing his field upon whose head the mantle of Elijah’s twice magnified power fall.
• See the poor fishermen become the fishers of men, judges over the twelve tribes of Israel.
• See that baby wrapped in a manger, a poor carpenter’s son, become the salvation of the world, the King whose government shall never cease.
Matthew 20:26 ESV
26 It shall not be so among you. But whoever would be great among you must be your servant,
Matthew 18:4 ESV
4 Whoever humbles himself like this child is the greatest in the kingdom of heaven.
Hebrews 11:1 ESV
1 Now faith is the assurance of things hoped for, the conviction of things not seen.
Paul teaches us in Romans 8:24 that hope that is seen is not really hope. So much of the Christian life is anchored upon the invisible and yet, we are transformed from slaves of the flesh to sons of Christ.
Such a life is vicariously lived through the revelation of God in the renewed mind. Romans 12:1-2
Romans 12:1–2 ESV
1 I appeal to you therefore, brothers, by the mercies of God, to present your bodies as a living sacrifice, holy and acceptable to God, which is your spiritual worship. 2 Do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewal of your mind, that by testing you may discern what is the will of God, what is good and acceptable and perfect.
Romans 10:17 ESV
17 So faith comes from hearing, and hearing through the word of Christ.
Our hope is what is written, not what is seen.
Our faith is rooted in what is written, not what is seen.
Our actions and pursuits are rooted in what is written, not in culture.
Our ambitions are rooted in what is written, not in that which the world deems as first.
Our glory is rooted in what is written, not in what the world sells us.
Our pleasures are rooted in what is written, not in mammon.
How then, can you O Christian live, if you don’t know what is written? How can you O Christian live without reading God’s word?
Christ, the eternal Word bids you to come and live, to live in his word, to live the vicarious Christian life, where the least shall be the first.