47 Then one said to Him, “Look, Your mother and Your brothers are standing outside, seeking to speak with You.” 48 But He answered and said to the one who told Him, “Who is My mother and who are My brothers?” 49 And He stretched out His hand toward His disciples and said, “Here are My mother and My brothers! 50 For whoever does the will of My Father in heaven is My brother and sister and mother.” (Matthew 12:47–50, NKJV)
Family relations are very important to us, and that is a good thing. But, relations of the flesh do not supersede the spiritual relationship we must have with Jesus Christ. That is the fundamental lesson of this passage. John the apostle introduced his gospel by affirming this truth. He wrote, “But as many as received Him, to them He gave the right to become children of God, to those who believe in His name: who were born, not of blood, nor of the will of the flesh, nor of the will of man, but of God” (John 1:12-13). Being in the kingdom of God is not based on your fleshly birth and heritage, but on being born again of “water and the Spirit” (John 3:3-5). This enlightens our understanding that being a disciple of Christ demands loving Him more than our own family members (Matthew 10:37; Luke 14:26). This also supports the truth that the church is the Israel of God today, not physical Israel (Romans 2:28-29; Galatians 6:16). Be sure you are doing the will of God and that your loyalties are to Christ before every other fleshly relation (v. 50).
But many who are first will be last, and the last first. (Matthew 19:30, NKJV)
Jesus had corrected the apostles’ implication that only the rich could enter the kingdom of God and have the blessings of salvation and honor (Matthew 19:23-28). All who sacrificially give their lives to faithfully serve Jesus are blessed now and eternally (Matthew 19:29). Jesus summed up this exchange with His apostles by reverting to where it began. Those who seek and expect places of honor from men will not find it in the kingdom of God. Such will not enter His kingdom with that as their expectation. The humble in heart, who do the will of the Father, are “first” (blessed) in the kingdom. Jesus had earlier taught the one who humbles himself as a little child “is the greatest in the kingdom of heaven” (Matthew 18:4). Let us remove every vestige of prideful expectation from our hearts and seek first the kingdom of God and His righteousness (Matthew 6:33). Remember, the kingdom of Christ is not of this world (John 18:36). We must not expect it to conform to our expectations. Kingdom citizens conform themselves to the king’s will, and are eternally blessed for doing so (Romans 12:2).
And everyone who has left houses or brothers or sisters or father or mother or wife or children or lands, for My name’s sake, shall receive a hundredfold, and inherit eternal life. (Matthew 19:29, NKJV)
Jesus had previously explained the kingdom of God is not entered by the power of money and human expectations, but by the power of God (Matthew 19:23-26). After assuring the apostles of their reward of service in the kingdom, Jesus went on to explain how kingdom entrance requires sacrifice and devotion by everyone who wants kingdom citizenship (19:29). One is not entitled to kingdom citizenship who does not enter it correctly. I cannot simply enter the kingdom by expecting citizenship. Everyone who wants to be in the kingdom of God must leave behind (forsake, yield up, let go) everything for the sake of Jesus Christ. That’s what Jesus said. Whether it is possessions or people, Christ demands first place in our hearts and lives or we will not be regenerated (born again, saved, and conveyed into the kingdom, cf. Luke 14:33, 26; Colossians 1:13-14). Many spiritual blessings accrue here and now to the disciple of Christ (Ephesians 1:3). And finally, the inheritance of eternal life is the faithful Christian’s reward (2 Timothy 4:8; 1 Peter 1:3-5). Blessings from heaven belong to all who submit to the will of Jesus (Acts 3:19). Every attempt to enter God’s kingdom without doing the will of God will fail (Matthew 7:21).
27 Then Peter answered and said to Him, “See, we have left all and followed You. Therefore what shall we have?” 28 So Jesus said to them, “Assuredly I say to you, that in the regeneration, when the Son of Man sits on the throne of His glory, you who have followed Me will also sit on twelve thrones, judging the twelve tribes of Israel.” (Matthew 19:27–28, NKJV)
The faithful apostles had left their professions and possessions to follow Jesus (Mark 1:16-20; Luke 5:11). Their subsequent work in the kingdom of God justified their sacrificial faith. Christ gave them authority to judge among the “twelve tribes of Israel” (i.e., the people of God, Romans 9:6-8; Galatians 6:16) by the gospel they proclaimed (Mark 16:15; 2 Thessalonians 2:15; Romans 2:16). Christ’s reign and their authority to judge coincide with “the regeneration,” a reference to the time of salvation which began in Acts 2 and continues until His return (Acts 2:29-41; 2 Corinthians 6:1-2; 5:17). Even as the Son of Man now reigns in glory, the apostles’ word is the standard of authority by which souls are regenerated (born again, John 3:3-5; 2 Corinthians 5:17-21). We take comfort and courage in knowing that when we sacrifice all to follow Jesus, He has prepared eternal glory with Him for us (Colossians 3:4).
23 Then Jesus said to His disciples, “Assuredly, I say to you that it is hard for a rich man to enter the kingdom of heaven. 24 And again I say to you, it is easier for a camel to go through the eye of a needle than for a rich man to enter the kingdom of God.” 25 When His disciples heard it, they were greatly astonished, saying, “Who then can be saved?” 26 But Jesus looked at them and said to them, “With men this is impossible, but with God all things are possible.” (Matthew 19:23–26)
The kingdom of Christ is a spiritual realm (John 18:36). It is not defined and evaluated by worldly metrics. The kingdom (the church, Matthew 16:18-19) is not entered based on one’s wealth (verses 23-24). Gold and silver do not give a person ready access through Zion’s gates. Nor is God’s approval manifested by the wealth of a church, although that is the conclusion many draw. This is what men expect, but the kingdom of God is not defined by human expectations (verse 25). Rich people often expect to be given places of honor due to their wealth. That’s how it is in the kingdoms of men. But, only when the rich person humbles himself is he fit for the kingdom of God (Matthew 19:20-22).
38 Now John answered Him, saying, “Teacher, we saw someone who does not follow us casting out demons in Your name, and we forbade him because he does not follow us.” 39 But Jesus said, “Do not forbid him, for no one who works a miracle in My name can soon afterward speak evil of Me. 40 For he who is not against us is on our side. (Mark 9:38–40, NKJV)
The twelve apostles often squabbled among themselves over who was the greatest in the kingdom. It is easy to see how they would discount and try to forbid someone who was not of their immediate circle, even when the evidence of heaven’s approval was staring them in the face. Jesus acknowledged this person was casting out demons in His name (v. 39). John and his fellow apostles were zealous of their positions, which led them to reject someone who was faithfully working in Christ’s name. (Note, John did not say, “He does not follow You,” but rather, “he does not follow us.”) Zeal for their own positions was greater than their zeal for the Lord. This passage does not endorse unity in doctrinal diversity. (The man and the apostles were all working in the name of Christ.) Instead, it urges unity among those who faithfully follow Christ because they all work in His name (do His will by His authority, Colossians 3:17). We act with the Lord’s authority to glorify Christ, not ourselves. Another person doing the will of Christ will also be blessed (Mark 9:41). That person deserves to be accepted, not rejected as separate from us (Mark 9:38-39).
3 But the Lord is faithful, who will establish you and guard you from the evil one. 4 And we have confidence in the Lord concerning you, both that you do and will do the things we command you. (2 Thessalonians 3:3–4, NKJV)
Christians are urged to never doubt the faithfulness of the Lord. “For He Himself has said, ‘I will never leave you nor forsake you’” (Hebrews 13:5). The Lord is always present to strengthen and preserve us from the devil and secure us in times of trial. However, this does not free us from our personal responsibility to watchfully “resist the devil” so that he will flee from us (James 4:7; 1 Peter 5:8). As verse 4 of today’s passage indicates, it is as we obey the commands of Christ’s apostles that our assurance of His strength and protection is realized. Standing fast in the Lord is inseparably connected to holding to the truth handed down to us by the apostles (2 Thessalonians 2:15). It is precisely when we choose not to hold fast this pattern of sounds words that we falter and give the devil an opening to settle into our hearts, much like he did in the life of Judas (2 Timothy 1:13; John 13:2, 27). Although Judas was with Jesus, he fell because he chose defiance and betrayal over trusting obedience to Jesus. Put all your trust in Jesus by obeying His commands. The Lord is faithful to secure you, and all who do so.