Profit & Loss

Sunday Worship at Black Forest Community Church
Black Forest, CO
August 31, 2014
© Rev. Diane Kay Martin
Profit & Loss
Matthew 16:21-27
From that time on, Jesus began to show his disciples that he must go to Jerusalem and undergo great suffering at the hands of the elders and chief priests and scribes, and be killed, and on the third day be raised. And Peter took him aside and began to rebuke him, saying, “God forbid it, Lord! This must never happen to you.” But Jesus turned and said to Peter, “Get behind me, Satan! You are a stumbling block to me; for you are setting your mind not on divine things but on human things.” Then Jesus told his disciples, “If any want to become my followers, let them deny themselves and take up their cross and follow me. For those who want to save their life will lose it, and those who lose their life for my sake will find it. For what will it profit them if they gain the whole world but forfeit their life? Or what will they give in return for their life? For the Son of Man is to come with his angels in the glory of his Father, and then he will repay everyone for what has been done.”
Wow. This day really took the wind out of my sails. My wife had called me names before—names I shall not repeat in present company—but to have Jesus talk to me that way, it shook me to the core! Jesus called me Satan! Me—Peter—one of his most beloved disciples! Me, the one who had walked on water with him. Me, the one who had declared, just a few days before, that he was the Messiah, the son of the living God. Me, the one Jesus said his Father in heaven had revealed that to. Me, the one he said he was going to give the keys to the kingdom of heaven to, so the gates of hell would not be able to break in.
The keys of the kingdom! And now Jesus was calling me Satan! Because I couldn’t handle it when he told us he was going to die, and I said, “No, Lord, this can’t happen! Say it’s not true!”
And he turned on me, more vehemently than I have ever seen him turn on anyone, even the Pharisees who come to test him, and he called me Satan! Well, that shut me up right away. Maybe that was his goal. I do have a habit of putting my foot in my mouth—just ask my wife, as I said. But Satan!
He said I was setting my mind not on the things of God but on the things of man. But calling me Satan! Ouch!
“Things of man”—I guess I can give him that. He hadn’t really talked about this very much before—where this whole thing was going—what his place was in the grand scheme of things. The boys and I had sat up late quite a few nights and talked about how wonderful it would be if this man—our master, our lord, this man we had come to love so much—could really save our people from being a marginalized class—from being the outsiders in our world. This man who could heal the sick and captivate the multitudes with his wisdom and stop the religious hypocrites in their tracks with his words—if he had really come to deliver our people from the bondage and oppression of the Romans, then he really was the Messiah we had been waiting for! He could make life so peaceful for his people! He could save us!
I really didn’t know what had come over him today, when he started talking about being handed over to the authorities and killed! So I took him aside and tried to console him. “Hey, man. Get a grip,” I said. “We’re here for you. We’ve got your back. You don’t have to be talking like all that. I know it’s tough sometimes. I know you feel like giving up. But hang in there, man. We’ve got a long, successful future together—just you and me and the boys and everyone else who wants to come along. We’ve got good days ahead—good days! God’s going to bless us beyond our wildest dreams—I just know it! I feel it! It’s just around the corner! Prosperity! Success! Big houses! No more of this nomadic lifestyle. God’s gonna give us a big temple of our own! Right in the heart of Jerusalem! We won’t have to go around relying on the hospitality of others anymore! We’ll be able to take care of ourselves! But it all depends on you, man. You’ve got to hang in there. Tough it out! Don’t be talking like that! Don’t give up now! It’s just around the corner, man!”
And he turned on me like nothing I’ve ever seen before! I’m still soaking it all in.
He said, “No! Satan! Don’t tempt me! That’s not the way it’s going to be! Don’t you understand yet what it means to follow me? It doesn’t mean you are going to bask in God’s blessings! No, in fact, if you want to follow me—to truly follow me—you’re going to have to give up that whole ‘blessed for success’ way of thinking. Peter, Peter—all of you, listen! If you want to follow me, you have to put yourself last. Last! Not first! Your life,” he said, “will be lost if you get caught up in things of this world. But if you give all that up for my sake—for everything I’ve preached and taught and done, for my message of God’s love available to all, even the scorned and the outcast, the ones they call sinners—then you’ll find the real meaning of life. Then you’ll touch something eternal—the things of God—heavenly things—the divine nature—and you’ll get your life back!”
Then he said, softly, tenderly, “What good would it be, after all, if God blessed you the way you’re thinking of—and gave you all of the material things you long for—but your life was no deeper than that? If you traded it in for that, and that was all you had, all you were? How empty would that be? And if you ever changed your mind, if you ever wanted to trade it back, what would you have left to bargain with? A bunch of worldly, perishable junk! Because you gave away the most valuable thing you had—your very soul, your very self—for that shallow, short-sighted sense of what it means to be blessed.”
Then he stopped. For the longest time, he was silent. By now, I was sobbing, because I got his point. I saw what he meant. How foolish I had been to think God’s plan for us was laid out in some kind of earthly profit and loss statement—and because we had selected the right CEO, we were poised for big profits. It’s not about this world at all! God makes us no promise that we will sit in seats of honor in this life; in fact, for most of us, the opposite will be true. But the currency of God’s exchange—right here on earth—is the soul, the spirit—and there is nothing more precious than that! I got it! Jesus was telling me that the most valuable thing, the greatest asset, in all the universe is a person, a soul, a life! Every person, every soul, every life. You—and you—and you! And as I realized this, I wept bitter tears of remorse, tears of repentance for thinking of God’s realm in such short-sighted and selfish ways. I wept, and he came and put a hand on my shoulder. I wept, and he wrapped his arms around me, and I could tell that he was convinced he was holding the most precious thing God ever created. And I wept some more.
Jesus said softly to me then, “Don’t worry. Be at peace. What I have said to you is true, but all is not lost. I must go away for a while, but I will return to you with my angels in God’s glory, and when I come, I will set all things right.”
He’s going away—and coming back? ? Then that advice I had offered him—those things I had said to him about him hanging in there, about everything depending on him—was advice for me! I needed to hang in there! I needed to be faithful, to do God’s work, to build God’s church, to support it with my hands, my heart, my prayers, and my finances. If the most valuable thing in the universe is a soul, then what an incredible honor and privilege it is to be a part of a church family and be entrusted with caring for each other!
“What will it profit a man to gain the whole world but lose his soul? Well, I’m rethinking the meaning of profit and loss, but I can tell you one thing! If there’s a balance sheet in heaven, I want to do everything in my power, right here in this life, to make that asset column be as long as it can possibly be!
Amen!