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A Hundredfold?

05/28/2012

I need a little help with something. I have read Mark 10:29-31 numerous times in my life, heard sermons on it, and even taught it to half-awake freshman in college at 8:00 a.m. But, I must confess, I don’t understand these words.

“Truly I tell you,” Jesus replied, “no one who has left home or brothers or sisters or mother or father or children or fields for me and the gospel will fail to receive a hundred times as much in this present age: homes, brothers, sisters, mothers, children and fields—along with persecutions—and in the age to come eternal life. But many who are first will be last, and the last first.” (Mark 10:29-31 NIV)

There was a time in which I thought I had it figured out, but that time has passed. I’ve recently read a couple things about this text and listened to a sermon podcast that mentioned it. They all used the text in the same way I once did, but I don’t read it that way any longer. In fact, I am perplexed by it. Can someone please explain to me what in the world Jesus is saying? Seriously, I would love to hear what you think.

Here’s the thing. As a missionary, few verses have been uttered to me more often than this verse. I mean, this is a missionary’s verse, right? Missionaries up and leave friends and family and home, thus it makes it sense that this verse should apply. Because of that, I have often heard people encourage us in the midst of leaving our home with the promise of receiving a hundredfold. And I was encouraged.

The problem is that my experience has not aligned with this promise. I am not aware of a hundredfold of anything, whatever that might mean. I left, and, honestly, nothing has replaced those things, not to mention a hundred times over. It’s not that it is so hard to be away; it’s just that I want so much more here.

Some might say that I just need to be patient. Possibly. Maybe my hundredfold has a 5-year maturation period. I might just be jumping the gun. But, if we’re honest, I don’t think that’s the case. Because (and here’s the real problem with how this text often gets used) if we really did believe that we will receive a hundredfold by leaving, then who wouldn’t go? That is Investing 101.

I started wrestling with this a few months ago when each member of our team took a day to spend in solitude. We were to reflect on the “You’ve heard it said…” passages in the Sermon on the Mount. Our task was to come up with a new “You’ve heard it said…” that would call us to even greatest discipleship. We were to think of common ideas we hear, and think about how Jesus might recast them.

As I thought about these passages, I realized how we have often done to Jesus’ own words what people in Jesus’ day did to Torah. We have taken radical words of Jesus and domesticated them, rationalized them, and sentimentalized them. So, I started to think about what Jesus might say to us if he preached the Sermon on the Mount in the 21st century. These were my first couple of drafts. “You’ve heard it said, ‘Blessed are the poor.’ But I say, “Let’s not be silly, this is not about you. I meant blessed are those who are actually poor.” Or, “You’ve heard it said, ‘Love your enemies and turn the other cheek.’ But I say, ‘No seriously, I meant that. Love them. For real. That didn’t mean love them in that I’m-gonna-kill-you-if-you-mess-with-me kind of way.”

After a few other attempts, I began to focus on the Mark 10 passage and started to wonder if we have missed something. So, I wrote, “You’ve heard it said, ‘Go, leave all those things and you will receive a hundred times more. The first shall be last and the last shall be first.’ But I say, ‘Go, leave all those things. The first shall be last and the last shall be first.'”

I wrote this because I wonder if we, or more specifically if I, would still go without the hundredfold. Is it worth leaving all those things without the promise of a return on your investment? Is going just because you feel sent reason enough to go and sufficient to make you stay? If we go only because we will reap some benefit for ourselves, then we may not have a reason to stay when we don’t see a return.

With all that said, I still wonder what that passage means? Any ideas?

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3 comments

  1. Derran,
    My wife, two boys, and I recently left the mainland to go to the mission field here in Hawaii, and we have quoted this verse to each other. For me, I have not thought of it as an investment but a promise. Rick Joyner wrote a crazy book about the end times called “The Final Battle,” and his descriptions of Heaven and our reward in heaven helped me develop my own understanding of this verse. So, I don’t know if this fits or if you’ve heard this before, but I believe the 100 fold return comes in the form of a new spiritual family. These can be people who are like mothers and fathers, brothers and sisters, sons and daughters. Of more importance, they become new co-heirs with us to Christ. You may have used this as your own understanding before, and if so please accept my apologies for re-iterating it. I definitely appreciate your openness about your struggle with these verses, and I in no way think my understanding is 100% accurate.
    Blessings,
    Greg


    • Sorry, I just realized that I misspelled your name man.


    • Thanks Greg. And you spelled my name correctly. So, no sweat. That is great to hear about your mission work in Hawaii. Blessings on your efforts.
      My post was more just sharing my own internal monologue about wrestling with the seeming contrast between what the text is supposed to mean and my experience at times. And I was using the term “investment” playfully. I agree with you that it is more about a promise. Thanks for sharing.



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