A Promise of Reward
Jerry A Collins
v Did Jesus come to the earth to bring peace?
v How does Jesus set people against each other?
v What are the rewards we will receive and not lose?
The thing that usually sustains us in our pursuit of something we dearly desire, is the promise of a reward. That is the motivation for good health for instance or the pursuit of further education or sound financial management or obedience. I am considering beginning my Doctor of Ministry degree and the reason is the promise of a reward—more awareness of cultural, moral, theological issues and concerns today. Developing my ability to communicate as I research, read, write and study. You are also motivated by rewards and those rewards sustain you through the hard and difficult responsibilities you take on in your pursuits. This is also true in our discipleship. The promise of reward as we persevere through the hard pursuit of becoming a disciple of Jesus. Jesus even says so in vs 40 shall receive a prophets reward and in vs 41 shall receive as righteous mans reward, and in vs 42 he shall not lose his reward. So there is a reward for the disciples of Christ. But that is not all. That reward comes with a price and Jesus also takes that up in this passage. The price is family strife and a death march for the true disciple. Jesus said it would come to this.
1. A DISCIPLES FAMILY IS NOT MORE IMPORTANT THAN CHRIST
Jesus coming brings pressures and forces choices. Among the pressures are divisions within families caused by the choice of some for Jesus. The disciple needs to recognize that divisions are possible and that one needs to be emotionally prepared because it can cut deep into those relationships. Commitment to Christ can mean separation from loved ones.
Jesus begins saying Do not think I came to bring peace on the earth. In other words, if you have supposed this, then you are mistaken. People have this image of Jesus. It is all about peace, harmony, tranquility, getting back to nature, love. That is the Jesus way. Well, I think we would need to ask the disciples about that one to get a straight answer. Jesus repeats that in case you did not hear it the first time—twice emphasizes peace. And that lack of peace will exert itself in the most unexpected places we will see. But Jesus simply says a sword! This would be a bold and dramatic statement. The idea is a sudden hurling of the sword where peace was expected. This is the kind of sword that divides and severs. This was the purpose—a sword not peace. There would be family feuds. And all of this to force us to ask the question, am I a disciple? Here is one way to determine that. Jesus coming would divide in two. Jesus lays out four comparisons to heighten the tension of the division following Him produces. Man and father; daughter and mother; daughter-in-law and mother-in-law; and foes in the house. In each case these comparisons reveal that the division runs deep within the family—so deep in fact, that the animosity makes enemies in the household. The word against, repeated three times, explains the outcome of the sword Jesus brings—a severance, a dividing into two. When ones commitment to Christ is determined, that commitment will cause division with loved ones. So Jesus clarifies the issue stating in vs 37 that the division is caused by whom it is you love. The idea is a tender affection for someone like your family members. That is illustrated by a love for dad and mom and son or daughter. If your love for these trumps—goes beyond—your love for Jesus, then you are not worthy of Me Jesus says. This one does not deserve to belong to me—is not suited to me. The competition has made you suspect and you do not measure up. If your family affections get the best of you and overtake your commitment to me, then forget it. Whenever these relationships bring conflict—family and Christ—a disciple will choose Christ. That will cause animosity. The reason is because the wisdom of God appears foolish to the world. God’s Word originates in Revelation and tends to provoke the animosity of worldly thinkers and will never find the affirmation of the world. But this is the only way you can be worthy of being a disciple of Christ. If your family is more important than Christ then you are not a disciple of Jesus. Jesus Christ demands your allegiance. Have you given it?
2. A DISCIPLE’S LIFE IS NOT MORE IMPORTANT THAN CHRIST
Not only must a faithful disciple expect family hatred or separation, he can expect death. Jesus adds in vs 38 and he who does not take up his cross and follow after me. Your cross is your suffering situation. The one you find yourself in right at the moment. It is your death march. Accept your own individual suffering situation as a context from which you are to serve God and follow Christ in that direction. Otherwise you are not worthy of me. You admit Jesus’ right over you life. Jesus continues the description of a disciple with he who has found his life shall lose it. If you wish to control your life or to pursue your own life, whether thru self-actualization or business success, or comfort seeking, you will discover there is no value there and you will die grasping for what little pleasure you can hang on to, wishing you were young again. You will lose your life refusing to submit to God. The one thing you want will elude you. However, he who has lost his life for My sake shall find it. So if you give up control giving your spiritual, physical and personal welfare over to Him, then you will receive life. It is about who gets to call the shots in your life. Do you believe that Jesus Christ has your best interests at heart or not? Then carry your cross, that suffering situation for His sake, in His will, for His glory and you will find what it is you are looking for. You life can only be saved this way. To lose one’s life is to gain one’s spiritual welfare. To seek to keep one’s life and spiritual fate in one’s own hands is to risk forfeiting all. It is possible to gain the whole world and have nothing spiritually but is a tragic trade-off.
3. A DISCIPLE’S COMMITMENT TO CHRIST WILL BE REWARDED
We receive little reward this side of the grave for our discipleship. In one way, then, 40-42 may be projecting to the future rewards given by Christ. But we can anticipate these and enjoy them in faith and hope now. First, they will come to he who receives you receives me…receives Him who sent Me 40. Accepting the gospel and the ones who deliver it brings reward. There is no such thing as believing in God the Father without believing in God the Son 40b. He who receives a prophet…he who receives a righteous man 41—both, will receive reward. God will give His rewards to every person who receives His people because they are His people—a prophet and a righteous man. Even a cup of cold water given to these little or humble ones—the ones who are prophets with a word or righteous men with a deed—these who seem insignificant or unimportant—Jesus point being that any service done to any of His people in His name amounts to service to Him and will be rewarded! That reward will never be forfeited. The least believer can share the blessings of the greatest and no one’s good work will go unrewarded.
1 Your commitment to Jesus must be unrivaled. 2. Your commitment to Jesus must include any kind of sacrifice.
3. Your commitment to Christ must be beyond the grave.