Based on: Matthew 16:21-26
Here is a dollar bill. By itself it is not going to buy very much, about a quart of gasoline or a small order of french fries. But if you put more dollars together you can buy more things. The problem is we all have a limited supply of these so we have to constantly decide, out of all the possible things we could do with our money, what has the greatest value. The choice can be difficult. When it comes time for me to buy a new car, do I go to the local Ford dealer in town and buy a minivan or do I really go in debt and get the Ferrari, two-seater convertible that will certainly out accelerate the minivan, but costs five times as much and only gets about 14 miles to the gallon? Perhaps sometimes our choices are very clear. In our gospel today, Jesus asks us to consider, "What is your soul worth?"
First, let’s look at what took place between Peter and Jesus that gave Jesus the reason for talking about our soul. Can you relate to Peter? Last week we were talking about that wonderful confession Peter made when he said to Jesus, "You are the Christ, the son of the living God ." This week we hear Peter go in the opposite direction. As Matthew relates this account it seems that there was not much time between these two events. Have you ever had times when at one moment your faith is clearly evident by the things you say and do and then in the very next moment that old sinner in you is taking over and you find yourself committing some selfish act that is an offense against God? I know I have been there, just like Peter was.
Jesus was concerned about his disciples. He was warning them about what was going to happen in the future. He wanted to tell them about his suffering, death, and resurrection, so that they wouldn’t be shocked when it happened. Perhaps Peter heard the part about Jesus’ suffering and dying and that part about Jesus arising from the dead, maybe went in one ear and out the other. Peter didn’t want this to happen to his friend and teacher. "Never, Lord! This shall never happen to you!"
I’m sure you immediately see the problem. What if Jesus did not suffer, die, and rise again? Then you and I could only despair because we would have no hope of the eternal life. Of course Jesus also immediately saw the problem. He had been tempted before to not follow through with a task his heavenly Father gave him. God the Father sent him to endure the suffering and the death and to rise again, and Satan only a few years before in the wilderness tried to persuade Jesus not to follow through with that task. Jesus recognizes the source of this temptation, and He says, "Get behind me, Satan!"
There are some things to learn from this exchange between Peter and Jesus. We can expect Satan to bring temptation even through those close to us the and those close to us may tempt us to sin even though their intentions are to help us. When those temptations come the loving thing to do is to rebuke them, and if we are on the receiving end of that rebuke then to accept that rebuke as Peter must’ve done, knowing that what is written in the book of Proverbs is true, "The wounds of a friend can be trusted." We can also see from this that when we are trying to do God’s will, we can be certain that others will try to tempt us to do otherwise.
Let’s get back to the question at hand, "What is your soul worth?" I’m sure if you ask Peter this question at that time he would have certainly said that his soul was very precious, worth more than anything else. I’m sure all of us would say the same thing. But Peter’s words here would indicate that he holds something else as more valuable. Perhaps he thinks that if Jesus suffered and then as a disciple he would suffer as well and he doesn’t want that. Perhaps it’s his own false ideas about who the Christ is that get in the way and are more valuable to him at that moment than the salvation of his soul which Christ was working to accomplish.
What about you? Are you holding on to something as if it is more valuable than your soul? Think about the things that are most valuable to you in your life. It could be a house or car or some other material possessions. It could be a person. It could also be in attitude or all way of thinking. What is it that prevents you from hearing what Jesus is telling you? What gets in the way of you studying God’s Word and getting to know more about Christ? Peter had this wrong idea about who the Christ was, and it prevented him from listening when Jesus was trying to tell Peter what had to happen for his own souls salvation. What prevents us from hearing in God’s word what Jesus has to say about our souls salvation?
Right here he tells us what must happen if we value our souls. "If anyone would come after me, he must deny himself and take up his cross and follow me. For whoever wants to save his life will lose it to, but whoever loses his life for me will find it." To deny yourself or to lose your life for Jesus, that means you get rid of all those ideas about what you think is valuable and replace them with what God says is valuable. To value your soul you let go of what you are holding onto, whether it is a material possession, a person, or some way of thinking, and you lose it, or loose it, you let it loose or let go of it.
It is not easy to do. In reality it is impossible to do. It something God does in us. Through the gospel, the Holy Spirit creates that trust in God in our hearts and opens up our hand to let go of the things in this world. It takes trust in what God has done to save our souls in order to let go of everything else. This trust in God is like jumping from a burning building. You are several floors up and the fire men are down below are telling you to jump into their safety net. You can’t tell those firemen, "Let me bring my piano. It’s my dearest possession." That isn’t going to work. You must forget about all your earthly possessions because your life is more important. You have to forget about your fear and your own ideas about what is safe. You must trust the firemen. With God the stakes are even greater. You must forget even about your own life and trust that God has already saved your soul.
This Jesus who spoke these words and in whom you trust has showed you what value he has placed on your soul. He told his disciples he must suffer, die, and rise again. This is the value that Jesus placed on your soul. Your soul is precious enough to to him that he was willing to suffer hell in your place. He did this so that you could spend eternity, both body and soul, with him.
Jesus asked the question what can a man give in exchange for his soul? The answer is that there is nothing that any man can give that is valuable enough to pay for his soul, but God does have something that valuable, and he did give it in exchange for your soul. It is his blood.
There are times when we value other things more than our soul, when we allow those things to get in the way of listening to our Savior, but we praise God that he has always considered our soul worth dying for. For that he is worthy of our praise forever.