Posted: 3/22/19 at 2:00pm. Column by Ed Jordan.
Do you remember watching game shows? One of my favorites was “Let’s Make a Deal,” where the contestant had to choose to keep a known gift or risk trading it for an unknown gift that could turn out to be something better or a real clunker.
Either way, their choice had consequences.
In Matthew 16, Jesus asks his disciples what people are saying about him; who do they think he really is? The disciples gave several responses.
Then Jesus asks a more pointed question: “But who do you say that I am?” Peter speaks up and says in 16:16: “You are the Christ (Messiah), the Son of the Living God.” Jesus praised and validated his answer. Then Jesus began to tell them about things yet to come, how he would go to Jerusalem, suffer, and be killed.
But he also assured the disciples that on the third day he would rise from the dead.
It is an interesting dialogue which sets up the deeper teaching Jesus shared. People look for what’s easy, but God does what’s effective for eternity. People are averse to pain, suffering, and death; Jesus came to take all that upon himself.
The way to live forever in God’s presence is not by living a life of ease but by following God in a life of commitment.
We read in Matthew 16:24–26 (ESV): “Then Jesus told His disciples, “If anyone would come after Me, let him deny himself and take up his cross and follow Me. For whoever would save his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life for My sake will find it. For what will it profit a man if he gains the whole world and forfeits his soul? Or what shall a man give in return for his soul?”
Jesus was telling them the terms of the deal. If you wish to live only an earthly existence, and live it without God, then choose not to follow me.
But if you do that, you will find that choice leading you to a life lived only for natural gains, which ends with you holding nothing. You will even lose your life. You will face God at the end of this world in judgment without a leg to stand on.
So you can take what you have in hand, take the easy way, and not choose the life Jesus offers. Or you can surrender your present life and temporal dreams to Jesus and follow Jesus into a whole new kind of life—a life lived with God and daily investments in eternal life.
In doing this you will live this earthly life on a whole new level and live forever in the presence of God.
Next Jesus asks us two profound questions in Matthew 16:26 (The Message): “What kind of deal is it to get everything you want but lose yourself? What could you ever trade your soul for?”
The first question is reminiscent of the rich man who filled up storage spaces with all the things he had, then built more storage to hold more toys. Then reality hit: “You fool. You will die tonight; then to whom will all your toys belong?”
The second question Jesus asked is one we should really ponder. What would you take in exchange for your eternal soul? What would you personally trade for your soul? To be a famous sports figure or a movie star? To have great wealth or positions of power? All these things are so temporary that it seems silly to even ask the question.
Yet so many people live to gain fame, wealth, or power, and it never lasts. Jesus, and the life he offers to us, is worth more lifetimes than anything you could “gain” in exchange.
But it comes at a price. What is the price? According to Jesus’ own words, if anyone wants to be his disciple–his follower—they must take up their cross and die to self and to self-inspired glory. Then they must follow Jesus each day through life, living to fulfill God’s instructions to them.
It is when we lose or lay down our own dreams and put on God’s dreams for us that we discover real life that is worth everything.
How much is your soul worth? Jesus says that your soul was worth his whole life—his suffering, death, and resurrection.
How much is your soul worth to you? Will you give your life to Jesus and follow him?