“When You Follow Jesus” (Mark 10:29-30 sermon)

I saw an ad the other day which indicated that a subscription I am very interested in was only $2 for two months — which was a very good deal! But when I read the fine print, it said that after that initial time period it goes up to $37 a month! So I’m glad I read the conditions. You don’t want surprises like that; even if you are willing to pay it, you want to know what you’re getting into up front. 

Well Jesus was very “up front” with those He called to follow Him. He did not just “lure” people in with glowing promises. He always told His hearers what they could expect as His disciples, both good and bad. We see that here in Mark 10:29-30: 

“Jesus said, ‘Truly I say to you, there is no one who has left house or brothers or sisters or mother or father or children or farms, for My sake and for the gospel’s sake, but that he will receive a hundred times as much now in the present age, houses and brothers and sisters and mothers and children and farms, along with persecutions; and in the age to come, eternal life.”

Jesus shows us “up front” here what we can expect when we follow Him:

THE CONTEXT

The first thing we need to do is look at what Jesus said here, in context. We always need to look at scripture in context. The context here — as we read a bit earlier — is that Jesus had just encountered the Rich Young Ruler. He told him that if he wanted to know for sure that he had eternal life, he needed to sell all his possessions and follow Him — but the Bible says that young man “went away grieving, for he was one who owned much property.” He thought that was too high a price to pay for following Jesus. 

Now, to be clear: Jesus did not ask everyone who followed Him to sell all their possessions — we don’t see Him do that when He called other people. But He does make it clear that if you want to be His disciple, He must be your LORD — He must be #1 in your life. You are to put no other purpose, person, or possession ahead of Him. Jesus knew that this man loved his “things,” and so He asked them to give them up, in order to follow Him. REALIZE THIS: Jesus may ask something like that from you; He may ask for the dearest thing in your life, so that you can show that He truly is #1, the Lord of your life. And if He really IS your Lord, you will surrender that thing to Him. If you don’t surrender it, then He is not the Lord of your life; no matter what you say. That other person, or possession, or purpose is. But understand this for sure: being a true disciple of Jesus doesn’t mean just “coming to church for an hour a week,” it means following Him as His disciple, and being willing to give up anything He asks you for.

So THAT is the context here: Jesus commands us to give up whatever He asks us, and follow Him. So in response to that Peter says in :28, “Behold, we HAVE left everything and followed You.” He was like, “Hey, we DID do that … so what is going to happen to us? What do we get?” So in these verses, Jesus answers that question: what do you get when you follow Him? And although He lists a number of things here, it basically breaks down into 3 categories:

I. Multiplied Blessings In This Life

A number of the things that Jesus said we could expect if we follow Him can all be grouped together into one “category” if you will: the multiplied blessings we will receive in this life from following Him. Jesus said “There is no one who has left house or brothers or sisters or mother or father or children or farms for My sake and the gospel’s sake, but that he will receive a hundred times as much now in the present age …”. Jesus is saying, if you will leave all and follow Me, there are multiplied blessings that will come your way even in this life.

Now, we need to be very careful with this passage. We don’t want to abuse it, like the American “prosperity” evangelist who wrote about these verses: 

“Give $10 and receive $1000; give $1000 and receive $100,000. … how tremendous the hundredfold return is … Give one house and receive a hundred houses — or one house worth 100 times as much! Give one airplane and receive 100 times the value of the airplane. Give one car and the return would furnish you a lifetime of cars. In short, Mark 10:30 is a very good deal.”

This is a horrible interpretation of Mark 10. Jesus didn’t intend for us take out a calculator and make sure we “get a good deal” on what we “invest” in His kingdom. In fact, as one interpreter pointed out, money is never mentioned here at all. As we saw a minute ago, Jesus calls us to forsake all and follow Him. Sometimes you are going to have to leave your home, and your family, or your business or farm or place of employment (like the disciples left their boats and nets to follow Him) and Jesus is saying there are multiplied rewards and blessings even in this life when you follow Him like that. 

We need to hear that, because a lot of times we focus on our reward in “heaven” if we follow Jesus — and there certainly is that, as we shall see. But Jesus is saying that there are also multiplied blessings for us in this life when we follow Christ, and we don’t want to miss the promise of those.  

I saw an interesting review this week on the new Apostle Paul movie. I haven’t seen it yet, but a number of people have told me that it was very good. This reviewer also liked the movie, but he said the one thing he would change about it is that it really emphasized the hardships Paul went through: his sufferings, imprisonment, and so on — but he said, Paul also had some of the greatest relationships, the greatest joy in traveling the world and seeing people saved, and he said there wasn’t really much of a focus in the movie on the blessings he received and the joy he had as he served the Lord.

Jesus says here that there ARE sufferings as we follow Him (we’ll look at that in a minute) but He also says there are great benefits to following Him — even in this life. Especially in relationships, which is what this verse really focuses on. One of the greatest blessings of following Jesus is the “family” we come into, as we join the family of God. 

Think of all the people the Apostle Paul mentions in his letters who were so special to him that he referred to them just like family:  

— In I Timothy 1:2 Paul called Timothy “my true child in the faith.” In :18 he called him, “My son.” He called him that a couple more times in II Timothy. Paul referred to Timothy with such terms of endearment that somebody might think that perhaps Timothy was Paul’s actual son. But Acts 16 makes it clear: Timothy was from Lystra, and his mother was a Jew, and his father was a Greek. Paul was not his earthly father. But spiritually he was his father. He was so close to him as a disciple, in the church, that he could refer to him as “my son.” They had that close of a relationship.

— Paul calls Titus “my true child” (Titus 1:4); he called Philemon “our beloved brother (:3) and Apphia “our sister” (:3) and Onesimus “my child” (:10). Again these were not his “natural” family members, but he was saying they were like his family in Christ! 

— He told Timothy that in the church, to appeal to older men “as a father, to the younger men as brothers, the older women as mothers, and the younger women as sisters, in all purity.”  

What Paul is saying over and over here is that in the church WE ARE FAMILY! One of the greatest blessings of following Jesus is that even if you have to sever some relationships to follow Christ, you become a part of this great family of God that is many times larger than the family you had to leave. 

Rifqa Bary was a Muslim teenager who lived in Columbus Ohio. A few years ago, she was led to the Lord by one of her friends. But she had to pray in secret at home, because she knew that her parents  were vehemently opposed to Christianity. And she eventually had to leave her home, and went to live with a Christian pastor and his wife, because she said her parents had told her they would kill her if she followed Christ. 

That kind of thing really happens. And Jesus said we need to be willing to leave father and mother and family if we have to, to follow Him. And then  sometimes as we grow in the Lord our physical family grows apart from us, because they are not following Him like we are. That happens too. Or maybe like our kids, they follow Jesus in ministry several states away, to where we hardly ever see them anymore. But Jesus says for whatever reason, when you lose family for His sake, yet you also GAIN many others: “brothers and sisters and mothers and children” — because all the people who are serving Jesus like you are, become YOUR family.

Earlier in our Mark reading (Mark 3) it had said that Jesus’ family had thought that He had lost His senses and they were coming to get Him. So when they arrived the people told Jesus: “Behold, Your mother and your brothers are outside looking for you.” But Jesus looked around at those who were following Him and said: “Behold My mother and my brothers. For whoever does the will of God, he is My brother and sister and mother.” Jesus was saying, the most important relationships in His life here on earth were not necessarily His “flesh & blood” family, but those who were really following Him. 

A lot of us who are following Jesus can say that same thing: as a Christian, the closest people to you may or may not be your natural family. If you are really following Jesus, the people with whom you have the closest fellowship with are probably going to be other people who are also  following Jesus. They are like your mothers, your brothers and sisters and grandfathers and nieces and nephews. In fact that is one of the great benefits you can expect when you follow Jesus: you will become a part of the greatest family there is: the family of God, who can more than make up for the family you left — or the family you never had.  

— I had no brothers in my home as I grew up; only three sisters — but in the church I have dozens of brothers! 

— You may not have children physically, but in the church you can have plenty of spiritual children, whom you can teach, and disciple, and love!

— You may have left family to serve the Lord — or maybe your family has left YOU, like our kids who have gone to serve the Lord on mission. They’ve done just what Jesus said: they have left father and mother, and Grandmommie & Boompa; but Jesus says they’re gonna have church family there to love them, and we are gonna have church family here to love: sons and daughters and babies and grandbabies!  

That’s true for all of us in the church. When you join Pleasant Ridge you become part of a great church family — as loving a church family as I’ve ever been a part of. And not only that; when you follow Jesus you instantly have a “family fellowship” with all Christians everywhere — what a sweet fellowship with have with our Romanian church family — and with other Christians in churches all over the world! This fellowship with each other as church family is one of the multiplied blessings of following Jesus in this life.

 

BeaII. PERSECUTIONS

Having a large family in Christ is certainly a blessing of following Jesus. But Jesus also made it clear that there are also negative things to expect when you follow Him: after talking about all the new “family of God” you get, He added, “along with persecutions.” 

Jesus never hid the fact of persecution from His followers. In fact, He pretty much leads with it:

— In the Beatitudes, the first set of verses in the first sermon He preached in the first book of the New Testament, Jesus said: “Blessed are those who have been persecuted for the sake of righteousness, for theirs is the Kingdom of Heaven. Blessed are you, when men revile you, and persecute you, and say all kinds of evil against you, falsely, on account of Me. Rejoice and be glad, for your reward in heaven is great; for so they persecuted the prophets who were before you.” (Matthew 5:10-12)

— He told His first disciples in Matthew 10, “I send you out as sheep in the midst of wolves … they will hand you over to the courts, and scourge you in the synagogues … you will be hated by all because of My name, but it is the one who has endured to the end who will be saved. (10:16-21)

— He said to them: “Do not think that I came to bring peace on the earth; I did not come to bring peace, but a sword. For I came to set a man against his father, and a daughter against her mother, and a daughter-in-law against her mother-in-law; and a man’s enemies will be the members of his household. He who loves father and mother more than Me is not worthy of Me; and he who loves son and daughter more than Me is not worthy of Me. And he who does not take his cross and follow after Me is not worthy of Me.” (10:34-39)

These were some of the first things Jesus taught His disciples in Matthew. He was very “up front” about it: this is what you can expect if you are My disciple. 

The Apostle Paul put it plainly in II Timothy 3:12, “All who desire to live godly in Christ Jesus will be persecuted.”

And there has indeed been persecution from the earliest days of Christianity until today: Jesus Himself was crucified; history and tradition tell us that 11 of the 12 Apostles were killed for their faith; the Early Church did suffer the persecution that Jesus promised — and persecution of Christians continues to this day, in many places around the world:

Andrew Brunson is from Black Mountain, North Carolina, and he has served for over 20 years as a missionary pastor in Turkey — until he was arrested on charges of being part of a “terrorist” group, because he is a Christian in a majority Muslim country. Pastor Brunson has been in a Turkish prison for some time now, and he said “It is an honor to suffer for Jesus Christ,” but they also tell us that his health is beginning to fail.

In China, pastor Cao (who pastored a Chinese American church here in North Carolina a few years ago) was just arrested for going across a 30-foot river to Myanmar to share Christ with people there.

Now, not all persecution is physical. Last week there was an article in the New Yorker online magazine condemning Chick-Fil-A, a marvelous restaurant that has just become the 3rd-largest fast food restaurant in the United States, behind McDonalds and Starbucks. The headline of the article says it all. It was entitled, “Chick-Fil-A’s Creepy Infiltration of New York City.” This article just totally criticized Chick-Fil-A, which has such high quality food, and is marked by exceptional customer service — for ONE reason: their Christian family values. The author said when you go into Chick-Fil-A, it’s like going into a megachurch, and he lambasted them for donating to groups that support Biblical values for marriage. 

So persecution of Christians is going on all over the world. For most Christians, this is typical; this is just what you expect. That’s what Jesus was saying, expect persecutions as you follow Me. But the pertinent question is: is this happening to YOU? Are YOU being persecuted for following Jesus? Physically; verbally; peer pressure; — at ALL? Have you ever had a door slammed in your face for witnessing? Have you ever been called “holier than thou” because you stood up for something the Bible said? Have you ever feared for your life because you were teaching the Bible or witnessing? 

If you have not been persecuted for following Jesus, then you need to ask yourself, “AM I following Jesus?” Is the reason you’ve never had a door slammed in your face for witnessing, that you never witness? Is the reason no one says you’re “holier than thou” because you never stand up for Biblical values? Is the reason why you’ve never felt in danger on mission because you’ve never BEEN on mission?! 

Listen, we are never to SEEK persecution. As some of the early martyrs of the Church began to be celebrated, some people began to seek to be persecuted and to have a “glorious” death. There are always those kinds of people who seek attention; who love to stir up controversy, and who bring trouble on themselves. As Christians we are NOT to seek that. I Timothy 2 says we are to pray to “lead a tranquil and quiet life with all godliness and dignity.” We are never to seek to be persecuted. But the fact is, Jesus says if you are living for Him, you will be. And if you aren’t, then you need to ask yourself WHY NOT? Why are you not being persecuted for your faith in Christ? Are you following so far away from Jesus that no one who hates Him, hates you? Or are you not really following Him at all? 

Many of us need to ask ourselves the question of that great hymn we learned a few Wednesday nights ago: 

“Am I a solider of the cross? A follower of the Lamb? 

And shall I fear to own His cause, or blush to speak His name?”

Jesus said you can expect persecution if you follow Him. If you are not experiencing any persecution, then you need to wonder if you are really following Him. 

 

III.  ETERNAL LIFE

The third thing Jesus says you have to gain from following Him, is “in the age to come, eternal life.”

This is by far the greatest thing we have to expect from following Jesus. And the truth is, if we didn’t gain anything else from it, this one thing alone would be worth it: “eternal life.”  

Eternal life is “the big prize.” This is what everyone is looking for, and hoping for, and what so many are working for.

This is what the Rich Young Ruler was seeking earlier in this chapter: he wanted to know how could have eternal life. This is so significant: you’d think this guy would have had everything necessary in order to be happy: he was rich; he was young; he had a position; he had everything this world had to offer; and yet, he knew he “lacked” something. He knew that something was missing. He knew that eternal life was necessary for him to be truly happy.  

So if it’s that important, what IS eternal life? 

— Eternal life not only means that you will live forever and ever — length of life alone may or may not be that great, as many people will tell you

— but eternal life also means an eternal quality of life: life that is lived in the presence of God. Jesus said in John 17:3, “This is eternal life; that they may know You, the only true God, and Jesus Christ whom You have sent.” Eternal life means living forever in the presence of God; being made eternally happy in His presence, just as Psalm 16:11 says: “In Your presence is fullness of joy; in Your right hand there are pleasures forever.” “Pleasures forever” in the presence of God; THAT is eternal life!  THAT is the most important thing you need to know that you have. And THAT is exactly what you can expect to receive when you truly follow Jesus. 

And Jesus says this eternal life is worth giving up everything else for:

— He told that Rich Young Ruler that eternal life was worth selling all his possessions for; 

— He said eternal life was worth giving everything he had to the poor.

— He told him that eternal life was worth all the hardships of following Him

I don’t know who coined the expression a generations ago that “you don’t have to give up anything to follow Jesus,” but whoever said it did a lot of damage, and has misled a lot of people. NOWHERE does Jesus ever say, “You don’t have to give up anything to follow Me.” He told people all the time to give up things and follow Him:

— He told people to “repent” and follow Him — so there are sins you have to give up to follow Him. 

— He tells us here in this passage that people may have to give up family and jobs to follow Him. 

— We may have to give up the dearest, most important thing in our life to follow Him, just like He told the Rich Young Ruler. 

Jesus never said we wouldn’t have to give up anything to follow Him. He just said IT WOULD BE WORTH IT! And we are fools if we don’t trade in whatever He asks, and follow Him, to gain eternal life. 

I can imagine the scene of the Rich Young Ruler being played out, as if it were a game show, with all the angels of heaven as the audience. Here’s this Rich Young Ruler, who is the “contestant,” and he’s got all his “stuff” in his hands: his money, and his power, and his position. And Jesus says to him: are you willing to trade all that you have in your hands, for what I have for you behind that curtain? He says, you can’t see it, but I will tell you: it’s everything you’ve ever wanted; it’s eternal life. That young man can’t really “see” what’s behind that curtain. But all the angels in heaven can! And like the crowd in a game show, they’re all calling out: “Take the curtain! Take the curtain!” (Only he can’t hear them.) Those angels know what our eyes haven’t seen, and what our ears haven’t heard, and what has not even entered into our hearts which God has waiting for us behind that “curtain” in heaven. There’s much there that all the riches and power and position that the young man is holding on to, is just like a cheap toaster in his hand, when there’s a new house and a new car and ten million dollars on the other side of the curtain. So the angels are all shouting, “Take the curtain! Take the curtain!” Except he doesn’t. He says, “I think I’ll just keep what I have.” And the Bible says “he went away sorrowful.” But he was not the only one who was sorrowful: all of heaven groans and weeps: “NOOO!!! You don’t know what you just gave up behind that curtain!”

See, faith is just like that game show. Except it isn’t a show. And it isn’t a game. God made you to know Him, but you sinned and walked away from Him. You deserve to spend eternity separated from fellowship with Him in hell. But Jesus, God the Son Himself, came to earth, died on the cross and paid for your sins, and rose from the dead, and He says to you and to me, just like He did to Peter, James, John, and the Rich Young Ruler: “Follow Me.” Follow Me, and I will give you eternal life! If you could only hear it, all of heaven is shouting to you: “Take the curtain. Follow Jesus.” It will be far worth giving up whatever He asks you; anything you are holding in your hand; to follow Him. Because you’ll gain a new family, and all kinds of blessings — even right here on this earth. And yes, if you really follow Him, you will also have some persecutions. But most importantly, and far above anything you can imagine: when you follow Jesus, you will also gain eternal life!  

About Shawn Thomas

My blog, shawnethomas.com, provides brief devotions from own personal daily Bible reading, as well as some of my sermons, book reviews, and family life experiences.
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