So saith Mark, Mar_10:31. We have much the same sentence, Luk_13:30Mat_20:16. The Jews that are counted now the first, nearest to the kingdom of heaven, shall have no place there; and the Gentiles, looked upon as most remote from it, shall be admitted into it. The Pharisees and great doctors, who think themselves first, that is, nearest the kingdom of heaven, shall be last; and those whom they count last, such as shall have nothing to do with heaven, shall be counted the first, shall have the preference, the chiefest place in heaven. It is a general sentence, and may be applied variously. But if we consider what discourse follows, we shall see reason to interpret it as an awakening sentence to the best of men. It is the apostles, those who had forsaken all to follow him, to whom he here saith,
But many that are first shall be last, & c. As much as if he had said, You have forsaken all and followed me, but you had need look, and consider, from what principle, with what love, and to what end you have done it; you had need keep a watch upon yourselves, and see that you hold on, and that you have no confidence in yourselves. For many that are first in, profession, first in the opinion of others, first in their own opinion and confidence, at the day of judgment will be found to be last in mine and my Father’s esteem and reckoning: and many who make not so great a noise, nor have so great a name and repute in the world, and who have the lowest and meanest opinion of themselves, will be found first, and highest in my favour. The day of judgment will frustrate many expectations.