In the Gospel reading yesterday, the rich young man is unable to part with his possessions, at least at that time, and walks away from Jesus (Mark 10:22). Today’s Gospel reading begins with Simon Peter saying to Jesus “We have given up everything and followed you.” It is easy to get nervous when Peter speaks, but we usually learn something profound immediately after. The passage today is no different.
Jesus provides assurance of God’s promise to reward those who follow the Savior. How comforting this is in dark times. God does not ask everyone to make the same sacrifices. We are not all called to a foreign mission field or to monastic life. But answering the call to follow Christ will cost something. We can see something more, though, in this passage. The Christian life for some will be a great sacrifice. Choosing the path of life will sometimes divide families. This is another hard truth of Jesus’ teachings; not everyone will be thrilled about Him. Jesus is an existential threat to every worldly desire and temporal kingship. The threat extends to those who held a higher position than God in our lives. When we respond to the grace of God in Jesus Christ, our lives are radically reoriented. We can easily misunderstand how radical the change is. If our lives are oriented in a profoundly different direction from others, including our family and friends, there will inevitably be conflict. Jesus provides words of comfort to those who pay a heavy price for the sake of the Gospel.
Great comfort is had in the manifold reward that comes later. Certainly, it seems like a long time to us now. But when we look back on it, the time-lapse will seem but an instance. What we do not see in this passage today is an input/output model, where we are encouraged to act in a self-interested way, like a financial transaction. To think this way is to miss the point. Instead, the reward we seek is Christ alone. We enjoy Him now, seeing through the glass darkly, as it were (1 Corinthians 13:12). As Thomas Aquinas is reported to have said when asked what he would have as a reward for his faithful and diligent labors “non nise te, Domine” (nothing if not you, Lord). It is the having of Christ, beholding Him in all His glory and splendor, as Peter, James, and John did at the Transfiguration, that becomes our great reward. The fullness of our participation in the divine life in the age to come joins us with brothers and sisters, parents, and children. We are rejoined with our loved ones in a higher plane of existence. And we also gain many new family members as well. All of this is a state of non-competition and harmony, void of any concern or worry.