By Elizabeth Baumann
A Reading from the Gospel of Matthew 19:23-30
23 Then Jesus said to his disciples, “Truly I tell you, it will be hard for a rich person to enter the kingdom of heaven. 24 Again I tell you, it is easier for a camel to go through the eye of a needle than for someone who is rich to enter the kingdom of God.” 25 When the disciples heard this, they were greatly astounded and said, “Then who can be saved?” 26 But Jesus looked at them and said, “For mortals it is impossible, but for God all things are possible.”
27 Then Peter said in reply, “Look, we have left everything and followed you. What then will we have?” 28 Jesus said to them, “Truly I tell you, at the renewal of all things, when the Son of Man is seated on the throne of his glory, 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 wife or children or fields 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 will be first.”
We live in the midst of riotous prosperity. Even with inflation. Even with everything wrong in the world. The very fact that you are reading this means you receive email. You have an internet connection. That alone puts you in the top bracket of people with the most stuff who have ever lived. It might be tempting to read this lesson and identify with the disciples — but check that. We’re a lot more like the rich man. We’ve been accustomed to live with a lot of comforts, a lot of safety nets. The grace we need to become perfect, to qualify for heaven, is not insignificant.
But here’s what boggles me in this lesson: when the disciples are dismayed that no one (not even the poorest) will be able to enter heaven, Jesus replies, as Gabriel to Mary, that nothing is impossible for God. And Peter, instead of sighing with relief and being satisfied, replies, “We’ve left everything for you. What’s in it for us?” To which I expect Jesus to say sarcastically, “Abundant grace and eternal life isn’t enough for you?” But Jesus doesn’t say that at all. He has a concrete answer, not just about the honors to be accorded to his twelve disciples, but the rewards to be given to all who follow him and leave anything behind. Like Job, whose many possessions and even children were restored to him, and then some, after he lost everything in a test of faith, Jesus promises that anything we let go of for his sake will be paid back to us at an interest rate of a hundredfold. And you can take that to the (heavenly) bank.
Elizabeth Baumann is a seminary graduate, a priest’s wife, and the mother of two small daughters. A transplant from the West Coast, she now lives in “the middle of nowhere” in the Midwest with too many cats.
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Daily Devotional Cycle of Prayer
Today we pray for:
The Diocese of Makueni – The Anglican Church of Kenya
St. Francis in the Fields Episcopal Church, Harrod’s Creek, Ky.