Fuller

Jesus Offers Even More Than Heaven

January 23, 2022 • Life for Leaders

Scripture – Luke 18:28-30 (NRSV)

Then Peter said, “Look, we have left our homes and followed you.” And he said to them, “Truly I tell you, there is no one who has left house or wife or brothers or parents or children, for the sake of the kingdom of God, who will not get back very much more in this age, and in the age to come eternal life.”

Focus

Following Jesus requires sacrifice. He makes that clear. But with the sacrifice come plentiful benefits. One is eternal life in the age to come. But Jesus offers more than heaven after death. He promises “very much more in this age.” When we’re in a relationship with Jesus through faith, we are adopted into his family, a family defined by shared grace and mutual love. That’s one of the richest rewards Jesus offers.

Today’s devotion is part of the series Following Jesus Today.

Devotion

In order to appreciate today’s biblical passage, we need to remember the context in Luke 18. A ruler approached Jesus, asking what he needed to do to inherit eternal life. Their conversation led to Jesus calling the man to sell his possessions, giving the proceeds to the poor and following Jesus. The result, according to Jesus, would be “treasure in heaven” (Luke 18:22). But the man had plenty of earthly treasure, so he was saddened by Jesus’s invitation and rejected it. Jesus noted that it’s hard for a rich person to enter the kingdom of God. When the disciples asked, “Then who can be saved?” Jesus answered, “What is impossible for mortals is possible for God” (18:26-27).

Jesus’s teaching on salvation unsettled his disciples. They wanted to be sure that they had done enough to get into the kingdom of God. So Peter, representing his cohort, said to Jesus, “Look, we have left our homes and followed you” (Luke 18:28). The disciples may not have sold all their stuff and given the proceeds to the poor, but they had given up a lot, to be sure. They had left, not just the places where they had lived, but also the relationships associated with those places: family, friends, neighbors, synagogue community, etc. Peter wanted to be sure he and his fellow disciples had done enough to satisfy Jesus.

In dealing with the rich ruler, Jesus made the point that human effort is not adequate to gain the kingdom of God. But with Peter and the disciples, however, he chose to offer reassurance rather than correction. “Truly I tell you,” he said, “there is no one who has left house or wife or brothers or parents or children, for the sake of the kingdom of God, who will not get back very much more in this age, and in the age to come eternal life” (Luke 18:29-30). In effect, Jesus was saying, “Don’t worry Peter. You’re going to be fine, both in this age and in the age to come.” Notice that Jesus did not say, “You’re in the kingdom because you left your home.” But he did reassure Peter and the others about the rewards associated with their participation in the kingdom of God.

I find it helpful to reflect on these rewards. One of them I have heard about for almost my whole life. Fifty-eight years ago, at a Billy Graham crusade, I learned about eternal life in the age to come. I understood that if I were to die after believing in Jesus, I would not disappear into nothingness or, even worse, descend into a pit of fire. Rather, I would go to heaven where I would experience what was then called “everlasting life.” I would live forever in heaven with God. Though I was young, and death seemed far away, I was nevertheless glad to know that someday I would receive my heavenly reward.

As I think back to my youthful experience of church, I remember hearing much about heaven, but little about “very much more in this age,” to quote Jesus (Luke 18:30). Though we were told that there is joy in having a “personal relationship with Christ,” there wasn’t much talk about what else might come with that relationship. In time, however, the leaders of my church began to teach about other implications of putting our faith in Christ. These implications were mainly personal. They were things like peace of mind, healing for body and soul, power for ministry, and so forth.

As I reflect today on what Jesus promised to his disciples, I’m impressed by the way in which “very much more in this age” has to do with relationships among the people of God. Jesus talked about those who “left house or wife or brothers or parents or children” (Luke 18:29). It was a significant sacrifice to give up such close and essential relationships. But those who left the most important people in their past lives entered into a new family of brothers and sisters in Christ. A significant part of the reward for following Jesus was belonging to the community of his people.

As a Christian for six decades and a pastor for three, I’m well aware of the limitations and liabilities that come with being part of a church. I’ve experienced many of these and, I’m sad to say, contributed to many as well. The community of Christ isn’t perfect, by any means. But I must also say that I have experienced some of the “very much more in this age” promised by Jesus through the relationships I’ve had with my Christian siblings. Even though I’ve never had to give up my natural family connections, I’ve been blessed with some amazing sisters and brothers in the family of God. I experienced, among other things: faithful support, sensitive listening, robust encouragement, consistent prayer, caring accountability, merciful forgiveness, service opportunities, extraordinary generosity, and self-giving love.

Following Jesus requires sacrifice. He makes that clear. But with the sacrifice come plentiful benefits. One is eternal life in the age to come. But Jesus offers more than heaven after death. He promises “very much more in this age.” When we’re in a relationship with Jesus through faith, we are adopted into his family, a family defined by shared grace and mutual love. That’s one of the richest rewards Jesus offers.

Reflect

When you first decided to put your faith in Jesus, why did you do it? What did you believe you would gain by doing this?

How much does the reward of eternal life after death matter to you now?

In what ways have you experienced the “very much more in this age” promised by Jesus?

Act

Reach out to a brother or sister in Christ this week, just to connect and strengthen your relationship with that person.

Pray

Lord Jesus, thank you for the reassurance that you gave to Peter and the other disciples. Thank you for the promise that, in following you, there are wonderful rewards. Thank you for the hope of life beyond this life. Thank you for the “very much more” we can experience today.

In particular, thank you for the blessings of Christian community. Sometimes we focus so much on our failings that we forget to pay attention to the blessings of being in your family. Help us, Lord, to see and appreciate these blessings.

Help us also, we pray, to be more and more the family you have called us to be. Churches are sometimes places of extraordinary love and grace—and sometimes not! I pray for my own family of faith that we will grow to be more and more like you as we relate to each other and as we relate to our neighbors. Amen.

Find all Life for Leaders devotions here. Explore what the Bible has to say about work at the unique website of our partners, the Theology of Work Project. Commentary on today’s Life for Leaders theme can be found here: Concern for the Wealthy (Luke 6:25; 12:13-21; 18:18-30)


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