Matthew Bible Study (The Gospel of the King and the Kingdom of Heaven)

Matthew 19:27-20:16, Understanding Jesus’ Reward


We ended last week in the middle of a text where Jesus is teaching about receiving eternal life and inheriting the eternal reward. Jesus has knocked down the idea that there is something good we can do to have eternal life. The disciples were astonished and asked, “Who then can be saved?” (Matthew 19:25). Jesus responds that if salvation depends on us, then it is impossible. But since salvation depends on God, then all things are possible. In the middle of this teaching Jesus also gave a very hard teaching that it is very difficult for the rich to enter the kingdom of heaven. Jesus exposes the holes in our holiness and does so with this young man who had many possessions. Jesus tells him to sell all that he has, give it to the poor, and to follow him. The problem is that the more we have, the harder it is to deny ourselves. The more we have, the more likely we will value what we have higher than Jesus. The young man in Matthew 19:16-22 went away grieving because he would not give up what he treasured. But this sets up Peter’s question and Jesus’ answer to him. Open your copies of God’s word to Matthew 19:27.

Great Reward (19:27-30)

Peter says, “See, we have left everything and followed you. What then will we have?” (19:27). You can see that Peter is connecting what Jesus asked the young man to do with what the disciples have done. Jesus told the young man to sell his possessions but he refused. Peter takes note of this. We have left everything to follow you. We often do not appreciate everything the disciples gave up. They truly gave up everything. They gave up their fishing careers, which was the means of their income. They gave up their homes and are following Jesus all over Israel. They gave up their families. We do not read anything to indicate that the disciples’ families came with them. They gave up their life plans. They gave up their aspirations. They gave up their comforts. You will notice that Jesus does not argue with Peter’s assessment. Jesus does not tell Peter that he has not given up everything. Peter and the apostles have given up everything to follow Jesus. But this leads to the question. Since we have given up everything, is there a reward for us? What will we have?

Jesus gives his answer in verses 28-30 and he says much. First, in the renewal of all things, when the Son of Man sits on his glorious throne, you who have followed will also sit on twelve thrones, judging the twelve tribes of Israel. Now I do not want us to only think of the very end at the culmination of all things. The scriptures tell us that when Jesus rose from the dead and ascended to heaven, he sat down on the throne at the right hand of God and will remain there until all his enemies are put under his feet (cf. Acts 2:33-35; 3:19-21; 1 Corinthians 15:20-28). So as we read this paragraph I want us to think about how Jesus is showing present rewards and future rewards.

Part of our future reward is reigning with Christ. It is really shocking to think about. The apostle Paul proclaimed that if we endure, we will reign with him (2 Timothy 2:12). The apostle John wrote the praise of the heavenly beings in God’s throne room, proclaiming, “You have made them a kingdom and priests to our God, and they shall reign on the earth” (Revelation 5:10). The book of Revelation ends proclaiming that the servants of God will reign forever and ever (Revelation 22:5). The apostle Paul even declared that we would judge the world (1 Corinthians 6:2) and judge angels (1 Corinthians 6:3).

Not only this, but verse 29 shows that those who have decided to deny themselves, take up their crosses, and follow Jesus will receive a hundred times more and will inherit eternal life. Mark’s account makes it clear that Jesus means that right now we will have houses, brothers, mothers, children, and lands (Mark 10:30). Now how can we say this? Friends, I want you to know I have more than 100 homes. Now before you panic and start wondering what you are paying me, let me explain what I mean. If I were to lose my house for Jesus’ sake, I know that I would have a home with you. I know I would have a home with every Christian I know. I have many brothers and sisters. I have many mothers and fathers. I have a large family all over this country. If you will truly follow the way Jesus says, you will have every relationship and every physical need given to you. Not only this, you will inherit eternal life. But Jesus ends this moment by saying there are going to be a lot of surprises about who belongs. Jesus says that many who are first will be last and the last will be first (19:30). The apostles thought someone like the young man was in. But he was out of the kingdom and would not inherit eternal life because he valued his possessions instead of valuing Jesus. Jesus wants us to open our eyes and see all that we have.

Explaining the Kingdom Reward (20:1-16)

Chapter 20 is important to connect to this discussion. This is a horrible chapter break because this parable is an explanation about what Jesus just taught. The first word of the first verse of chapter 20 is, “For.” This parable is not disconnected and the parable cannot be properly understood when disconnected from what Jesus is teaching about the reward he offers. So let’s read the parable in Matthew 20:1-16 and then we can see how Jesus is answering Peter’s question about leaving it all to follow him.

Jesus says that the kingdom of heaven is like a landowner going out early in the morning to hire laborers for his vineyard. He agrees with the laborers to pay a day’s wage and sends them into the vineyard (20:1-2). At nine in the morning the landowner sees more workers and asks them to go work in his vineyard. He tells them that he will pay them whatever is right. At noon, the same thing happens again. At three in the afternoon the same thing happens again. This happens yet again at five in the afternoon. The landowner keeps hiring laborers to work in his vineyard and promises them to give them what is right (20:3-7).

In verse 8 we read that the end of the day comes. He has his manager call in the laborers to receive their pay but he wants to pay them in a different order. He wants to pay first the people he hired last and then end with the people he hired first. So the five in the afternoon come for payment and they receive a day’s wage. This is really good because they only worked for about one hour. Now look at verse 10. The laborers who were hired early in the morning expected to receive more. But they also received a day’s wage. Now what do you think happened? Verse 11 tells us that those who laborers began to complain to the landowner. He has made those who only worked one hour equal to those who have worked all day long.

Look at the landowner’s response. First, he tells them that he did not do them any wrong (20:13-14). They agreed to work all day for a day’s wage. The landowner did not short them. The landowner did not change the terms of the agreement. Second, the landowner has a right to do what he wants with his money (20:15). If the landowner wants to pay everyone a day’s wage, he can do that. He can pay people who worked one hour in the vineyard the same amount as those who worked all day if he wants to. He has not done one person any wrong. Third, the landowner notes the point. “Do you begrudge my generosity?” (20:15). Are you envious because he is generous? Your problem is that the landowner is generous and you are mad about that.

Then Jesus ends with the same ending he had at the end of chapter 19. The last will be first, and the first will be last (20:16). Now how is this an answer to Peter’s question? Let’s remember how all of this started. Peter states that he and the apostles have given up everything to follow him. Jesus proclaims what the reward will be. They will sit on twelve thrones. They will reign with him. They have houses, mothers, brothers, and sisters. They will have eternal life. So what is Jesus saying with this parable?


First, the reward given to Peter and the apostles is the same reward given to us. Peter asks since they have given everything up to follow, “What then will we have?” (19:26). This is Jesus’ answer. What you will have is the same as what everyone else will have. The reward you will receive is the same reward everyone else will receive. This is an awesome thought. The Gentiles are the latecomers, if you will. But they will receive the same reward as those who started with Jesus from the very beginning. No one is going to be like what some times happens on Christmas Day. We open our gifts and someone received more than we did or received something better than we received. We are not going to be enjoying eternity with Christ on a reward ladder. The reward for eternity is equal for all who will come to him.

Second, entrance into the kingdom of heaven is not earned. You see that the parable puts its finger on the problem. The laborers who went into the vineyard first are looking at how much work they have done. They think they deserve more because they gave up more. They worked for longer. But Jesus has made a key point about the nature of the kingdom. Entrance into the kingdom is not earned. The way we will enter the kingdom is not by measuring how many good deeds we did for how long. This returns us to the problem that the young man had in his thinking. He asked, “What good must I do to have eternal life?” (19:16). Remember that Jesus showed us that if we start looking at how much we have worked, then we are going to miss eternal life. You do not get yourself into eternal life. You are just grateful to be hired to be a worker in his kingdom. Peter and the apostles had given up everything to follow Jesus. But that does not put them on a different plane.

The end of the Gospel of John hits this idea very well. Jesus tells Peter that he is not going to live a long life and die in his sleep. Peter is going to be arrested and not be allowed to go where he wants to go. He is going to be imprisoned and he is going to die that way (John 21:18-19). This causes Peter to ask about what will happen to John. Listen to what Jesus says: “If it is my will that he remain until I come, what is that to you. You follow me!” (John 21:21-22). Do you see how the point is the same? Some of us are going to have to lose our family for Christ. Some of us will have to lose our possessions for Christ. Some of us will suffer for Christ. Some of us will lose our lives for Christ. We are all going to have different experiences as God exposes the holes in our holiness. We are going to deal with all kinds of different hardships as God shows us our idols. But what is that to you. You follow Jesus. What we give for the cause of Christ will be different but we will all receive the same reward.

Finally, God is exposing our hearts if we begrudge his generosity. If you are upset that your path to eternal life is harder than others, then you have a heart problem. God is not doing you any wrong. You have agreed to follow. You have agreed to the reward. Eternity is based only on God’s generosity. God does not owes us any more than what he has promised. He has not promised an easy life. Whatever God asks you to give up, give it up and follow him. We should be glad to see as many as possible enjoy eternal life. As soon as we might have jealousy or begrudge his generosity, then think about how the people of the past could think this toward us. We did not have to be sold into slavery like Joseph. We did not have lose our heads like John the Baptist. We did not have to be removed from our home to live in exile in a foreign land like Ezekiel. We did not have to imprisoned like Jeremiah. We did not have to be killed like Peter and Paul. Let us never begrudge God’s generosity. Peter asked, “What then will we have?” We will have everything God has promised to those who are faithful to him.

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