34 And He summoned the crowd with His disciples, and said to them, "If anyone wishes to come after Me, he must deny himself, and take up his cross and follow Me. 35 "For whoever wishes to 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 will a man give in exchange for his soul? 38 "For whoever is ashamed of Me and My words in this adulterous and sinful generation, the Son of Man will also be ashamed of him when He comes in the glory of His Father with the holy angels."
I understand that Jesus' call to discipleship includes renouncing my claim to myself, that I should be prepared to die physically immediately, and then I must follow Him. I understand that "wasting" my life for His sake, and the sake of the Gospel will result in my life being saved, and that in trying to save it by not "wasting" it for Him, I will lose it. Just a bit of a paradox.........
Jesus' question is backwards from what I was expecting. I was thinking "What will a man get in exchange for his soul?" His question is "What will a man give in exchange for his soul?" It seems to me that every man already has a soul, that we don't have to purchase it.
This question haunted me for most of this week in preparing for this morning and I'm not sure I have "The Answer" for it. I've read several commentaries and still don't have a completely clear understanding of what is being asked. Here's what I think:
Jesus was pointing back to His command for a person to "Deny himself" - to completely renounce his claim to his "self," and give control of his "self" to Christ. The soul of a person is of great worth and should not be exchanged for any amount of wealth that this world has to offer. The soul will be exchanged for something. Christ is asking very pointedly whether it will be exchanged for "self" or for Him.
Jesus call to discipleship is hard, not easy. We Westerners like to pamper "self" rather than deny it. John the Baptist had it right when he said "He must increase, but I must decrease" in John 3:30.
So - For what will you give in exchange your soul?