And Jesus began to teach them that the Son of Man must suffer many things and be rejected by the elders and the chief priests and the scribes and be killed, and after three days rise again. 32 And he said this plainly. And Peter took him aside and began to rebuke him. 33 But turning and seeing his disciples, he rebuked Peter and said, “Get behind me, Satan! For you are not setting your mind on the things of God, but on the things of man.”
34 And calling the crowd to him with his disciples, he said to them, “If anyone would come after me, let him deny himself and take up his cross and follow me. 35 For whoever would save his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life for my sake and the gospel’s will save it. 36 For what does it profit a man to gain the whole world and forfeit his soul? 37 For what can a man give in return for his soul? 38 For whoever is ashamed of me and of my words in this adulterous and sinful generation, of him will the Son of Man also be ashamed when he comes in the glory of his Father with the holy angels.” – Mark 8:31-38
They say that there are no dumb questions. To a certain extent that is true. Often the dumb question we ask is something everyone in the room is wishing to have answered. There are also no unloaded questions. There certainly are, however, smart and insightful questions; good questions. A question well-crafted can reveal a need, an opportunity, a challenge, or a danger that needs to be surfaced.
Jesus asks a question the answer to which is vitally important to all people: “For what does it profit a man to gain the whole world and forfeit his soul?” He follows that with another question: “For what can a man give in return for his soul?” The answers to these two questions are of vital importance. These questions also reveal a dire need, and a grave possibility.
There will come a day of judgment. There will be a final balancing of the scales. We will all stand before the judgement seat of God and give an account of everything we have done in this life. It is possible to go through life, having it all, enjoying life’s privileges, joys, pleasures and every good thing, yet forfeiting our souls in the meantime. We can lose our souls in pursuit of worldly pleasure, ease, safety, security, and wellbeing. We can gain all those things yet not be alive or face a hopeless, godless, agony-filled eternity. We can have it all and take it with us to the grave only to burn in hell.
So what will a person give in exchange for his soul? Is it possible to face down the fact that to one extent or another we have all sold our souls for a bowlful of porridge, and embraced values to which we have sold our souls which will never sustain us beyond the grave, and rob us now of deeper joy and life. In short, we have all sinned. We have made ourselves little gods who rule and reign over pathetic fiefdoms of our own making. What will a man give in exchange for his soul? We sell them all too cheaply.
Thank God Jesus asked those questions. Thank God Jesus knew that in order to redeem us he would have to suffer and die at the hands of sinners. Thank God that he told Peter to get in his place. Thank God that he calls us to a higher life of sacrifice and service so that we can discover the depths of true abundant life that comes from God.
Jesus did not sell his soul for anyone of anything. He confronted his closest disciple brutally when he stood in the way of God’s plan. He gave his whole life for the sake of the Gospel. He has redeemed us by his suffering and death. He will come again on the Great Last Day to receive all who are his own into his eternal paradise, the joy and bliss of heaven. What good is it if we get everything right but that?