The first are last

The first are last

Many who are first will be last. – Matthew 19:30

Matthew 19:23-30

 23 And Jesus said to his disciples, “Truly, I say to you, only with difficulty will a rich person enter the kingdom of heaven.
 24 Again I tell you, it is easier for a camel to go through the eye of a needle than for a rich person to enter the kingdom of God.”
 25 When the disciples heard this, they were greatly astonished, saying, “Who then can be saved?”

 27 Then Peter said in reply, “See, we have left everything and followed you. What then will we have?”

 28 Jesus said to them, “Truly, I say to you, in the new world, when the Son of Man will sit on his glorious throne . . .
 29 And everyone who has left houses or brothers or sisters or father or mother or children or lands, for my name’s sake, will receive a hundredfold and will inherit eternal life.
 30 But many who are first will be last, and the last first.

We have a strong personal drive to feel good about ourselves and find meaning and significance. We grow up watching those we are closest to and admire the most. We tend to “catch” their values and goals in the same way that we catch a cold.

In the world, we know how things work. What we want and we strive to get. What really matters most? Success? Possessions? Status? All these things contribute to our sense of well-being. But there is a catch. These very things which provide a measure of comfort, can become an impediment to obtaining what matters the most.

Jesus said that it was very hard for someone who is rich to enter the kingdom of heaven (Matthew 19:23). Why is this so?

If we have learned to depend only on ourselves and found success in this world, why would we need God? Putting it another way, if we trust in who we are, what we do, or have, why would we need to trust God?

Why is it hard for the rich to enter heaven? For the same reason it’s hard for the strong, or the bright, or the politically connected. They tend to rely on their own resources; pride keeps them from trusting God’s resources (Stanley).


In the kingdom of God, the Father has turned things upside down. Losing is winning, winning is losing.

Father I recognize that I have caught my values and my priorities from the world. Encourage me and strengthen me to abandon my earthly, soulish values in exchange for Your heavenly values.


In the kingdom of God things seem backwards. They are turned upside down from what we expect. Jesus stated that, “Many who are first will be last, and the last first” (Matthew 19:30).

We gain by losing. Jim Elliot wrote: “He is no fool who gives what he cannot keep, to gain that which he cannot lose.”

Matthew 10:39 If you cling to your life, you will lose it; but if you give up your life for me, you will find it.

It seems as though that part of the human DNA is competitiveness. We want the best for ourselves and we strive to obtain it. This entire perspective is upside down from what the Father envisions for us. It reflects the values and priorities of the world, not the kingdom of God.

The Last Supper occurred the evening before the crucifixion. This was a crucial time for the Lord Jesus Christ and His disciples. However, the disciples had not yet fully grasped what was going to happen the next day. The Person that they had devoted the last 3 1/2 years of their lives to was about to die a gruesome and horrid death for the sins of the world.

But their focus was entirely on themselves and their prominence and importance. They were totally indifferent to monumental pathos of the moment concerning the Lord Jesus Christ. They were so occupied with themselves; they were totally oblivious to Him.

Luke 22:24-26

 24 Then they began to argue among themselves about who would be the greatest among them.
 25 Jesus told them, “In this world the kings and great men lord it over their people . . .
 26 But among you it will be different. Those who are the greatest among you should take the lowest rank, and the leader should be like a servant.

“It is one of the most poignantly tragic things in the gospel story that the disciples could quarrel about precedence in the very shadow of the cross. The seating arrangements at a Jewish feast were very definite. The table was arranged like a square with one side left open. At the top side of the square, in the center sat the host. On his right sat the guest of first honor; on his left the second guest; second on his right, the third guest; second on his left the fourth guest; and so on round the table.”

“The disciples had been quarrelling about where they were to sit, for they had not yet rid themselves of the idea of an earthly kingdom. Jesus told them bluntly that the standards of his kingdom were not the standards of this world. A king on earth was evaluated by the power he exercised.”

“One of the commonest titles for a king in the middle east was Euergetes, which is the Greek for Benefactor. Jesus said, ‘It is not the king but the servant who obtains that title in my kingdom’” (Barclay).

It is sad that fallen humanity chases after recognition and prominence. As we look within, we may recognize, to our own chagrin, that we probably have done the same thing that night!

To become great in God’s kingdom, you must become the servant of all.


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