Here is a section of my sermon notes from Sunday. I preached on Matthew 19:27-20:16. This passage follows directly after the rich young ruler, pictured at the left.
Sometimes the Bible emphasizes our need to do our duty without an eye towards rewards. For example in Luke 17:7-10 Jesus says that after all we have done we are just unworthy servants. So we understand that rewards are not deserved. They are the rewards of grace. However, the Scriptures still frequently put the theme of rewards before us. It is a constant in the Old Testament. If you keep my covenant, I will reward you. Sometimes this reward is the land. Sometimes it is victory over the enemies. The ultimate reward was always God and his city. (Hebrews 11:13-16). But rewards are recurring note in the Old Testament
This does not change in the New Testament. Let me say that one more time, just so we get it. Rewards are held out before us just as much in the New Testament as in the Old Testament. Even in Matthew we have already seen this over and over again. Blessed are the poor in spirit. Why? Are we supposed to poor in spirit just because God says? No! If we are poor in spirit we shall obtain the kingdom of heaven. If we are meek we shall inherit the earth. In chapter 6 Jesus tells us to not do our good deeds, such as giving of alms and praying, before men. Why? God will reward us if our deeds are done secretly. At the end of Matthew 10 Jesus says that even a cup of cold water given to a disciple will be rewarded. He will say something very similar in a few chapters when he says those who fed and clothed the least of these will inherit the Kingdom (25:34-40).
We could go to other parts of the Scriptures, such as I Corinthians 15:58 where we are told our labor is not in vain in the Lord. Or the letters to the churches in Revelation where the churches are promised certain rewards if they overcome. Why would we follow after Jesus if there was nothing in it for us? Some of you may feel this is crass and ungodly. But you are doing battle with the Bible not with me. The Bible is clear. We follow Jesus because in the end it is best for us. The sacrifices we make in this life for our Lord will be rewarded a hundredfold in the next life.
In Matthew 19:27-29 Jesus is telling us to labor for the rewards of grace.