AN EXPOSITION OF Mark 8:31-38
31 And he began to teach them, that the Son of man must suffer many things, and be rejected of the elders, and of the chief priests, and scribes, and be killed, and after three days rise again.
32 And he spake that saying openly. And Peter took him, and began to rebuke him.
33 But when he had turned about and looked on his disciples, he rebuked Peter, saying, Get thee behind me, Satan: for thou savourest not the things that be of God, but the things that be of men.
34 And when he had called the people unto him with his disciples also, he said unto them, Whosoever will come after me, let him deny himself, and take up his cross, and follow me.
When Jesus called His disciples, He never hid from them the fact that to follow Him meant pain and suffering. In today’s presentation of the gospel, that part of the message is often neglected, or at least, it is not emphasized. This is done deliberately by modern evangelist because the emphasis is on being positive, and helpful. It is a well-known fact that people are not attracted to the idea of suffering. People do not want to hear about a cross. People want to hear that everything is going to be ok. People want to hear they are going to be healthy, and wealthy. People want what the twentieth century German martyr Dietrich Bonhoeffer called, “cheap grace.”
The modern day gospel tells people that it is easy to follow Christ. It is easy to get into the church. It is easy to be called a Christian. Therefore, it is also leave the church if the local assembly does not meet emotional or personal needs.
But Jesus did not offer cheap grace. Jesus did not tell His disciples being a Christian was easy. Jesus told His disciple that there is a cross for every Christian. Jesus said there is a place of suffering for everyone who follows Him. Jesus did not call His disciples to a playground, but to a battlefield. He told them they would die for His cause.
All over the world today, people are looking for a cause. They are looking to invest their lives in something greater than themselves. When people do not find a great meaning to life they substitute cheap thrills, such as illicit sex, drug usage, and rock music. None of these things satisfy the soul. But Jesus does. So here is a great cause. It is a noble endeavor to advance the kingdom of heaven, and to tell people how they can live forever. But the world will hate you for it.
35 For whosoever will save his life shall lose it; but whosoever shall lose his life for my sake and the gospel’s, the same shall save it.
36 For what shall it profit a man, if he shall gain the whole world, and lose his own soul?
37 Or what shall a man give in exchange for his soul?
38 Whosoever therefore shall be ashamed of me and of my words in this adulterous and sinful generation; of him also shall the Son of man be ashamed, when he cometh in the glory of his Father with the holy angels.
The Bible teaches that you have a body. But living down inside your body, you have a soul, and the soul is more important than the body. Your soul is that part of you, made in the image of God, that lives inside of you. The soul is the eternal part of you.
The body will one day die, but the soul remains forever. The Bible says, “Then shall the dust return to the earth as it was: and the spirit shall return unto God who gave it” (Eccl. 12:7).
There are people who do not believe in the immortal soul. They believe that man is an animal, and when he dies, the body begins to rot in the grave, and the soul is extinguished like a candle’s flame being snuffed out. This belief is embraced, by many, because they do not want to be accountable to God for the deeds they have done in their body. They want to eat, drink, try to be happy, and die.
The Bible says that those who embrace the idea that they can live life as they please, and die without any accountability, or consequence, or judgment, are wrong. Your soul will be living a thousand years from now, either in heaven, or in hell.
The soul is too valuable to be terminated, for the soul is made in the image of God. Jesus said one soul is worth more than the whole world.
Why is the soul so valuable?
The soul is valuable because it gives meaning to the body. The body is a fantastic, but temporary, structure. The psalmist considered his body and said to God, “I will praise thee, for I am fearfully and wonderfully made: marvelous are thy works; and that my soul knoweth right well” (Psalmist 139:14). As delicate and wonderful as the body, is, it will die. The strongest men in the world have seen their bodies deteriorate and die. The strongest man in the Bible was Samson. He could pull a temple down, he was so strong. But then, he died in the rubble. One day your body, too, will go to the grave. It is appointed unto men once to die (Heb. 9:27). Gifted doctors, and modern medicine, may prolong life. Artificial machines might keep a person’s heart beating for several more years, but one day, the body will die, apart from being alive when Jesus comes back. Death is man’s greatest enemy. In Genesis 5 we read of Adam. He lived nine hundred and thirty years, and then “he died.” That haunting phrase is found again and again in the chapter, and throughout the Bible: “and he died.” “And he died.” Yes, the body will die, but while it is still functioning, the soul gives it value.
Now the soul has various parts, such as wisdom, and knowledge. The Bible says that the “fear of the Lord is the beginning of wisdom” (Prov. 1:7). The Bible teaches that if we lack wisdom, we can ask God for it. “If any of you lack wisdom, let him ask of God” (James 1:5). Wisdom can be elusive. One evidence of this is the expansion of nuclear weapons. There are many people that want to destroy other nations. To that end, terrible weapons are built. Initially, the weapons are said to be defensive in nature. But then horrible weapons are turned loose, and given to terrorist, who use them to hurt, and kill infidels, and other political and personal enemies. It is not enough to have knowledge. We need wisdom to contain that knowledge, along with judgment, and self-control.
As the soul has wisdom and knowledge, it has emotions. There are good emotions which manifest themselves, such as love, joy, peace, and longsuffering. But there are terrible emotions as well, such as anger, hatred, jealousy, envy, and pride.
Then, the soul has memory, which is the capacity to store our knowledge of ideas and events. As you sit here today, you can recall many good memories, or bad ones two.
Another part of the soul is the conscience, which is the monitor of the soul. The conscience is that little voice that condemns, or approves, the actions of all we do or say. Without the soul, the body is nothing. It is the soul that produces a smile, induces laughter, and contemplates God. It is the soul which loves the unlovely. It is the soul which generates hope in times of disaster. It is the soul which gives meaning to the body.
As the soul is valuable, because it is made in the image of God with will, emotion, and intellect, as the soul is valuable, because it gives meaning to the body, so the soul is valuable, because Jesus Christ died to save it. Saul of Tarsus hated Jesus Christ, and His followers. As a religious zealot, Saul used every fiber of his body to hunt down followers of The Way, and put them in prison. Then, one day, Jesus revealed himself to Saul. Saul became Paul, and wrote about the love of Christ. He “loved me and gave himself for me” (Gal. 2:20). Paul was referring to the cross, where Jesus gave His life as a substitute for sinners. Can you not see Christ suffering and dying “to give His life a ransom for many” (Matt. 20:28)? Are you among the “many” for whom Christ died? The Bible says, “Whosoever believes in Him, shall not perish but have eternal life” (John 3:16). Jesus paid the highest price possible to give me—personally, the greatest gift possible. This same gift of God of eternal life is yours, for the asking; it is yours for the receiving, in this very moment.