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September 15, 2019

Sermon Mark 8:36  . . “Jesus said:  What does it profit a man?”

“Jesus said:  What does it profit a man?”

Mark 8:36

Grace to you and peace from God our Father and from our Lord and Savior Jesus.

What are the most expensive things in the world?

According to CEO Magazine, one of the most expensive things is the $71.2 million Pink Star Diamond auctioned off at Sotheby’s of Hong Kong back in September of 2017.  Originally mined in Africa in 1999 at a whopping 132.5 carats, today it’s 59.6 carats, making it the largest Fancy Vivid Pink and internally flawless diamond ever graded by the Gemological Institute of America.

Now pink diamonds are nice, but can you drive them?  Not a chance!  So if you want to drive, you might be interested in the most expensive car in the world--a 1962 Ferrari 250 GTO, valued at $52 million.  Described as one of the finest sports cars ever made, a spokesman for Sotheby’s is quoted to say:  “There is no higher honor, there is no greater custodianship, and there is no greater achievement in the search for the world’s most important car.”

But what’s a beautiful car without a beautiful watch?!  Lavished with 201 carats of diamonds, the $25 million Chopard watch boasts a collection of 874 yellow, blue, and white diamonds, not to mention a 15 carat pink diamond.  Each flower arrangement, (all made of diamonds, of course), opens up mechanically like petals in the sun.

Now cars are nice, and watches are too.  But if you really want to live in luxury, you might want to save your pocket change for a boat, or should I say, a yacht.  Coming in at $3 billion (yes, that was a “b”), billion dollars, is the History Supreme.  At a hundred feet long, it’s deck, dining area, rails, and anchor are all crafted from precious metals.  The hull is wrapped in gold.  As a little extra, mounted on the wall of your bedroom, you’ll even get to enjoy shavings from a genuine Tyrannosaurus-Rex dinosaur bone!  It’s the most deluxe superyacht in the world.

Now obviously, those numbers might be a little out of reach for many of us, so let me offer you a little something on the lighter side, like the Heintzman 9-foot, genuine crystal, grand piano for $3.22 million, or a picture of the Rhine river taken by world-famous photographer Andreas Gursky, valued at $3.51 million, or last, but not least, a $1.6 million magnetic bed.  Held in place by four wires, it “floats” fifteen inches off the ground, and can hold as much as two thousand pounds.

According to CEO magazine, these are the most expensive things in the world.

But according to Jesus, there’s one thing that costs even more.  Please turn in your Bible to page 1074.  I’ll start at the top left corner where it says, “Jesus Foretells His Death and Resurrection.”  Mark chapter 8, verse 31:  “And He began to teach them that the Son of Man must suffer many things and be rejected by the elders and the chief priests and the scribes and be killed, and after three days rise again.  And He said this plainly.  And Peter took Him aside and began to rebuke Him.  But turning and seeing His disciples, He rebuked Peter and said, ‘Get behind Me, Satan!  For you are not setting your mind on the things of God, but on the things of man.’”

We’ll stop there for just a moment.

If you’d take a quick look at the context, you’d see that Jesus had now come to the end of His three-years of ministry among us.  He’s healed the sick.  He’s cast out demons.  He’s even raised the dead.  Now, all that was left was His triumphal entry on Palm Sunday, and His suffering and death on Good Friday.  All that He came to do was nearly done.

And to be sure His disciples understood just who He was and what He came to do, He told them, in verse 31, that He would suffer many things, be killed, yet on the third day, rise again.  And when Peter rebuked Him for His talk about the cross, He rebuked Peter, saying, “You do not have in mind the things of God, but the things of man.”

And as verse 34 tells us, He then called the crowd to Him along with His disciples and said:  “If anyone would come after Me, let him deny himself and take up his cross and follow me.  For whoever would save his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life for My sake and the gospel’s will save it.  For what does it profit a man to gain the whole world and forfeit his soul?”  And verse 37:  “For what can a man give in return for his soul?”

Twentieth-century preacher W.A. Criswell once said:  “There are two things that characterize the teachings of our Lord.  Number one is this:  the worth, the infinite, heavenly, eternal worth of the soul.  And the second one is this:  the transitory, temporal, ephemeral, ultimate worthlessness of everything else.”

And he was right.  When someone in the crowd once asked Jesus to tell his brother to divide his inheritance with him, He said:  “Be on your guard against all covetousness, for one’s life does not consist in the abundance of his possessions.”  When a young, rich man asked, “What must I do to inherit eternal life?” Jesus said:  “Go, sell everything you have, and give it to the poor.  Then you’ll have treasure in heaven.”  And when a wealthy farmer planned to tear down his barns, only to build bigger ones, so he could take life easy, “eat, drink, and be merry,” He said, “You fool, for tonight, you will die!”

“Foxes have holes,” He said, “and birds of the air have nests, but the Son of Man has no place to lay His head.”

No wonder He said in verse 34:  “If anyone would come after Me, let him deny himself and take up his cross and follow Me.”  And verse 36:  “For what does it profit a man to gain the whole world and forfeit his soul?”

I don’t know if you’ve ever thought about this before, but Amazon Prime is dangerous.  While the good news is you can have almost anything you want, anytime you want, the bad news is, you can have almost anything you want, anytime you want.  Just one click--that’s all it takes.  Buy now, one click.  That’s all you have to do.

They know your address.  They know the number on your credit card too.  And before you even take a second breath, there’s an email waiting for you with your receipt.

I want this, click.  I want that, click.  Pity the poor delivery person who has to bring it to your door!

But as someone once put it:  “At the close of life, the question will not be how much have you got, but how much have you given.  Not how much have you won, but how much have you done.  Not how much have you saved, but how much have you sacrificed.  Not how much you’ve been honored, but how much you have served.”

So let’s ask that question for a moment.  What if you did gain the whole world?  Of course, you never will, but what if you did?  What if you had all the world’s money, all the world’s praise, and all the world’s power?

Now you and I both know that all the world’s money, praise and power could never make you happy.  But let’s suppose, for a moment, that it did.

Suppose that money really did make you happy, that the adoration of doting fans really did make you feel good about yourself, and that the ability to wield unlimited power and influence constantly thrilled you, without ever getting boring or old.  You just felt good all the time.

Then what?  Then you die and you lose it all--every last dime, every last fan, every last bit of power and influence.  What then?

You see, if you lose your soul, it doesn’t matter that you were the richest man who ever lived.  If you lose your soul, it doesn’t matter if you were the most admired woman of all time.  If you lose your soul, all the power and influence in the world won’t matter.

What will matter is if your soul is right with God.

To put it another way, what does it profit a man if he’s a great artist, but doesn’t know Jesus, the One who’s altogether lovely?  What does it profit a man if he’s a great carpenter, but doesn’t know Jesus, the Door?  What does it profit a man if he’s a great doctor, but doesn’t know Jesus, the Great Physician?  What does it profit a man if he’s a great farmer, but doesn’t know Jesus, the Lord of the Harvest?  And what does it profit a man if he’s a great sinner, but doesn’t Jesus, our great Savior?

Your soul is worth more than anything else in all the world--more than all the gold in Fort Knox, more than the crown jewels in the Tower of London, and more, far, far more, than even a $3 billion boat called, the History Supreme.

In fact, you want to know how much your soul is worth?  Once, Someone put a price on it.  And do you know how much it cost for Him to buy it back?  Nothing less than the life and death of Jesus, God’s own Son.

As Luther wrote in the words of his Small Catechism:  “He has redeemed me...not with gold or silver, but with His holy, precious blood.”

Now if you’re a good history buff, you’ve probably heard of Charlemagne, King of the Franks.  (In fact, it’s how the nation of France got its name).  And after he conquered the Lombard’s, he became emperor of Rome, uniting much of western Europe.  He’s even responsible for making Europe what it is today.

And apparently, he was quite a man!  Historians tell us he had blue eyes, curly hair, and was tall and strong.  He carried a sword so large, few warriors could handle it.  And he loved to dazzle the public with the splendor of his royal robes.  As a token of respect, the ruler of Baghdad once sent ambassadors bearing gifts--a monkey, an elephant, a mechanical clock, and best of all, the keys to the Holy Sepulcher in Jerusalem.  When he died at the age of seventy-two, all who knew him wept for him as “the father of the world.”

But before he died, he left precise instructions as to how he should be buried.  He commanded that he be buried in the Palace Chapel, dressed in his Imperial purple robes, seated on his marble throne, with a crown on his head, a scepter in his hand, and a sword at his side.  And when men buried him, they did exactly as he wanted, and issued an edict with a curse on anyone who would dare to open his tomb.

Nearly two hundred years later, on the day of Pentecost 1000 A.D., King Otto III broke that edict.  He opened the tomb.

What did he see?  The emperor was still perfectly preserved, seated on his throne.  The scepter was still in his hand.  The crown still sat on his head.  His sword lay at his side.

And one more thing.  Just as Charlemagne had requested, his Bible lay open on his lap.  And his finger was pointing at a verse.

What verse?  Mark chapter 8, verse 36:  “For what does it profit a man to gain the whole world and forfeit his soul?”

As Peter wrote in his first epistle:  “For you know it was not with perishable things such as silver or gold that you were redeemed from the empty way of life handed down to you from your ancestors, but with the precious blood of Christ, the sinless, spotless Lamb of God.”

 

What is the world to me!  My Jesus is my treasure, my life, my health, my wealth, my friend, my love, my pleasure, my joy, my crown, my all, my bliss eternally.  Once more, then, I declare:  what is the world to me!  Amen

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