Jesus was an expert at asking questions—especially the sort of questions that made people stop in their tracks and pay attention. When we are confronted with Jesus’ questions, as the disciples were here, we must be careful not to sidestep their intended effect.
At first glance, Jesus’ question regarding material gain at the expense of our souls might be understood primarily as a warning of impending punishment on the selfish individual. We’re tempted to read Jesus’ question in a way that likens Him to a mother who says to her child, “Now, if you don’t share with your sister, you know what’ll happen!” But this particular question is more along the lines of an observation. Jesus is pointing out what happens when we orient our lives and decisions around our own sinful longings—around our possessions, our accomplishments, our desired identity. To live in such a way, He says, is to forfeit your very life.
The loss of life of which Jesus is speaking here is therefore both immediate and eternal. If we regard life as nothing more than what we can get out of it for ourselves, we actually miss out on its greatest joys; we end up merely existing, not actually living. Furthermore, when we place ourselves on the throne of our life, we remove Jesus from His rightful place and affirm the reality that by nature we prefer to pursue the world rather than to forsake our desires in pursuit of Christ. If we continue in this way, we will forfeit the gift of eternal life that He loves to give to His subjects.
So how are we to combat worldly desires in the here and now? First, we must recognize that, as the 17th-century mathematician and theologian Blaise Pascal put it, we have a God-shaped hole at the deepest level of our being, and nothing can fill this void save God Himself. We exist not to pursue fleeting pleasures but to enjoy relationship with the living God. Then second, we must continually reflect on the value of our souls as evidenced in the cruel scene outside Jerusalem where the sinless Christ hung on a cross—despised, rejected, pierced, scarred, and scorned—so that we might be brought into right relationship with God and freely receive eternal life. Jesus’ sacrifice reveals how much the eternal destiny of our souls matters to God.
Following Jesus as your rescuer and your King and acknowledging His worth above any earthly treasure is not a momentary decision; it is a lifetime commitment that is lived out each day. If you are prepared to come to His cross daily, humbly confess who He is, and give up your life—your preferences, your comfort, your wealth—then your profit will know no end, now and for all of eternity. We could do far worse than asking ourselves the question at the start of each day that Jesus asked His disciples on the road that day: What will it profit me if I gain the whole world and forfeit my soul?
Peter Confesses Jesus as the Christ
13Now when Jesus came into the district of Caesarea Philippi, he asked his disciples, “Who do people say that the Son of Man is?” 14And they said, “Some say John the Baptist, others say Elijah, and others Jeremiah or one of the prophets.” 15He said to them, “But who do you say that I am?” 16Simon Peter replied, “You are the Christ, the Son of the living God.” 17And Jesus answered him, “Blessed are you, Simon Bar-Jonah! For flesh and blood has not revealed this to you, but my Father who is in heaven. 18And I tell you, you are Peter, and on this rock2 I will build my church, and the gates of hell3 shall not prevail against it. 19I will give you the keys of the kingdom of heaven, and whatever you bind on earth shall be bound in heaven, and whatever you loose on earth shall be loosed4 in heaven.” 20Then he strictly charged the disciples to tell no one that he was the Christ.
Jesus Foretells His Death and Resurrection
21From that time Jesus began to show his disciples that he must go to Jerusalem and suffer many things from the elders and chief priests and scribes, and be killed, and on the third day be raised. 22And Peter took him aside and began to rebuke him, saying, “Far be it from you, Lord!5 This shall never happen to you.” 23But he turned and said to Peter, “Get behind me, Satan! You are a hindrance6 to me. For you are not setting your mind on the things of God, but on the things of man.”
Take Up Your Cross and Follow Jesus
24Then Jesus told his disciples, “If anyone would come after me, let him deny himself and take up his cross and follow me. 25For whoever would save his life7 will lose it, but whoever loses his life for my sake will find it. 26For 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? 27For the Son of Man is going to come with his angels in the glory of his Father, and then he will repay each person according to what he has done.
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