This passage follows on yesterday’s Gospel text on the call to discipleship, and the dangers of wealth. Although the text comes immediately after, it is probable that these verses come from another context, and are placed here to encourage those members in the early Church community who gave up their possessions to live as Jesus’s disciples. It is also probable that the passage was put together in times of great persecution.
The question is articulated by Peter, a symbol of the Church’s pastors, and whose words are authoritative. Peter asks: “What about us, your disciples? What will we get?”
Jesus replies: You will receive a hundred times as much as you have given up!
We have often remarked that the cost of discipleship meant the giving up of two things all of us hold very dear: our material possessions, and our family relationships. This is what Jesus demanded of his followers, and he was aware of how hard this was. To live a life of austerity and complete reliance on God is no easy task. Nor is it easy to give up the security of one’s family and the emotional ties which bind.
This is why – in another place – Jesus compares discipleship to a person “denying himself, taking up his cross and coming after me”; and again, “whoever destroys himself for my sake and the sake of the Gospel, will save himself.” It is idle to ask whether this ‘hundred times as much’ refers to material wealth or spiritual blessings: the point is the disciple can expect to be rewarded beyond his wildest imaginings, provided only he has embraced persecution and pain as his Master had before him.
The final sentence in this passage again comes from a different source, but it confirms the promise made to the disciples: they were “the last” – among the most insignificant in the society of their day – but they will counted among “the first,” the blessed ones who gave up everything to follow their Master.