In my Bible reading this morning, I read the following in Mark 10:
Peter began to say to him, “See, we have left everything and followed you.” 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 lands, for my sake and for the gospel, who will not receive a hundredfold now in this time, houses and brothers and sisters and mothers and children and lands, with persecutions, and in the age to come eternal life. (Mark 10:28-30 ESV)
The Bible I took off the shelf to read happened to be a MacArthur study Bible, and MacArthur notes in regard to this passage, “Following Jesus brings rewards in this present age and when Messiah’s glorious kingdom comes.” Doubtless–although Jesus tended to emphasize the privations more than the rewards. But it seems to me important to distinguish between one receiving for oneself as personal acquisitions the things mentioned (which could be read into MacArthur’s “rewards”) and recognizing that, given the broad scope of the NT, Jesus is much more likely speaking of what we receive in being part of Christ’s church. It is not so much that I receive as private possessions houses and lands, as it is that what other believers have been granted by God is at my disposal as God moves them to follow the example of Christ and give what they have to supply my lack. It is not so much God providing a hundredfold out of thin air (although he may do that) so much as he provides through his people.
This is, of course, the sort of thing we see as such a prominent hallmark of the Jerusalem church in its early days: “And all who believed were together and had all things in common. And they were selling their possessions and belongings and distributing the proceeds to all, as any had need.” (Acts 2:44-45 ESV) The apostle John takes a look at it from a negative perspective: “But if anyone has the world’s goods and sees his brother in need, yet closes his heart against him, how does God’s love abide in him? Little children, let us not love in word or talk but in deed and in truth.” (1 John 3:17-18 ESV)
And that is merely in the realm of possessions. Jesus also indicates we will receive a hundredfold in the realm of relationships–“brothers and sisters and mothers and children”–and given the familial language used of the church, this is truly fulfilled in the church. Athenagoras, a second-century Christian, writes “according to age, we recognise some as sons and daughters, others we regard as brothers and sisters, and to the more advanced in life we give the honour due to fathers and mothers.” Has one left his household? He is now part of the household of God (1Ti 3:15). When Jesus’ mother and brothers questioned his sanity (Mark 3:20-21) and wanted to speak with him (3:31), Jesus’ response was “”Who are my mother and my brothers?’ And looking about at those who sat around him, he said, ‘Here are my mother and my brothers! For whoever does the will of God, he is my brother and sister and mother’” (3:33-35).