The Reading: Matthew 19:23-30
“Everyone who has left … will receive … and inherit eternal life” (v.29) NRSV
Last week we mentioned that those who leave all for Christ’s sake will inherit “the earth” (Matthew 5:5). But this week’s emphasis is different. The expression “eternal life” (v.29) has an emphasis on quality rather than place. It is also to do with depth and not length; that is to say, it is not so much about ‘everlasting life’ as about ‘eternal life’.
As John tells us in his Gospel, we have already passed from death to life; eternal life (the new age) has already begun for those who believe in Jesus (e.g. John 6:47). John’s emphasis is on the here and now, rather than some distant future. The quality of life, abundant life begins now. We are already, as St Paul puts it “sit(ting) with him in the heavenly places in Christ Jesus” (Ephesians 2:6).
This is what the resurrection of Jesus brings to us. This is what salvation is: eternal life. This is a life in fellowship with God and with one another; it is a life where we are provided for and in which ‘shalom’ reigns. Shalom is that community experience of peace, harmony, health and wholeness. It is the best possible description of the life, abundant life that God brings.
This is the Kingdom in which God reigns and things are brought into submission under his good and kindly rule. Unfortunately this is far from apparent at this present time. It has however begun where God has been enthroned in the hearts of his followers.
Eternal life is not easily entered. It means that we have to lose our life! As Jesus said, “He who loses his life for my sake will find it” (Matthew 10:39). This does not mean literal martyrdom, but a yielding of our ‘self’ so that we can say, “not my will but thine be done” (Luke 22:42).
O Lord, save me from holding onto the things of this world and so losing my soul. May I trust you with all that I have and all that I am. Amen.
1 Who enter the Kingdom, eternal life?
2 What cannot enter the Kingdom, eternal life?