Calvary Road Baptist Church


Mark 8.36


Turn to Mark 8.34. When you find that verse, please stand and read along silently while I read aloud:


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.

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?


The Savior gives three aspects of Christian discipleship to the apostles immediately after strongly rebuking Simon Peter. To refresh your memory, Jesus took His apostles to Caesaria Philippi and there asked them who people thought He was. Then He asked who His apostles thought He was. When Simon Peter said He was the Christ, the Son of the living God, the Lord Jesus Christ pronounced a blessing upon him and informed him that his recognition of Christ’s relationship with the Father had been revealed to him by God the Father.

It was then that the Savior first “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.”[1] That last part about rising again is very important, because the Lord Jesus Christ always connected His resurrection to His crucifixion. However, Simon Peter so resisted the Lord Jesus Christ on this point that the Savior strongly rebuked him, saying, “Get thee behind me, Satan: for thou savourest not the things that be of God, but the things that be of men.”[2]

Recognizing Peter to be the spokesman for the twelve, the Lord Jesus Christ then restated for them all the guidelines He had previously set forth for their discipleship. If you are going to follow Jesus Christ, it will cost you.

In Mark 8.34, He illustrates a picture of discipleship: “Whosoever will come after me, let him deny himself, and take up his cross, and follow me.” You church members may remember that I addressed this matter in our last communion service. The picture the Lord Jesus Christ paints for His disciples is somewhat like, what I have termed, a voluntary martyr. A martyr, of course, is one who gives up his life for something by dying. A disciple, on the other hand, is one who also gives up his life, but not necessarily by experiencing physical death.

Having described the picture of discipleship, the Lord Jesus Christ delivered both a prediction and a principle of discipleship, in Mark 8.35: “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.” Anyone who tries to save his life will lose it. That is both a principle and a prediction. The principle and prediction show clearly that discipleship is a matter of a life for a life. You do not give up your life in order to get eternal life, but you do give up your life because you have been given eternal life. You give up your life, even unto death if that is ever required of you, because He gave up His life for you. Sound extreme? Not when compared to the benefits of eternal life.

The Lord Jesus began this remedial course of instruction by reminding His disciples, using a picture of discipleship. After that, He put before them a principle and a prediction related to discipleship. Now, in the form of two rhetorical questions, the first about gaining, and the second about giving, the Master provokes them to ponder the profit of discipleship, in Mark 8.36-37:


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?


When a man comes to Jesus Christ for the forgiveness of his sins, the salvation of his soul, he is trusting Jesus to have His way with him. From that point in time onward, with periodic reminders to forgetful creatures, he needs to echo the words Paul wrote to Timothy: “for I know whom I have believed, and am persuaded that he is able to keep that which I have committed unto him against that day,” Second Timothy 1.12. The Lord Jesus Christ is the Good Shepherd of men’s souls. That being true, look at these two rhetorical questions the Savior asked His chosen men.

Verse 36: “For what shall it profit a man, if he shall gain the whole world, and lose his own soul?” The word “soul” in this verse is the Greek word “yuch.” It is also sometimes translated “life” in other New Testament passages. Consider this question. The answer is so obvious that no answer is given. It is patently obvious that there is absolutely no benefit of any kind for a man who, though he has gained the whole world, loses his soul, loses his life. You see, the things of this world, including this entire world, can only be enjoyed by someone who is alive to enjoy the things gained in this world. That person who chooses the things of this world over the Lord Jesus Christ is someone who is going to lose his life in trying to gain it. In other words, he has made a bad choice. This life is given to you by God to prepare for eternity, not to grab all you can while you are here. Thus, if you have not come to Christ and then used the rest of your time on earth to lay up treasures in heaven, you have played the very big fool, indeed.

Verse 37: “Or what shall a man give in exchange for his soul?” The word “exchange” is a commercial word that refers to the price of sale for an item of merchandise.[3] Again, the answer is obvious. There is no price high enough to motivate any man to sell his soul, to sell his life. No matter what anyone offers to you, recognizing that you could not transfer that benefit to anyone else, you would never take it in exchange for your life. The point here is that, once you have forfeited eternal life you have nothing with which you can get it back. Therefore, to seek worldly possessions and power at the expense of a place in heaven is an unconscionable blunder. The only explanation for it is sin. As I mentioned some weeks back to you church members, such a decision would show a person to be a fool without peer.

The Lord Jesus Christ had spoken of His impending crucifixion and resurrection in Jerusalem. Peter, who had only moments before acknowledged Him to be the Christ, the Son of the living God, objected to Christ’s declaration that He must suffer many things, die, and then rise on the third day. The Master’s response was to sharply rebuke Peter and then to teach this refresher course on discipleship.

The picture of discipleship, to deny self, take up your cross daily, and follow Him, the principle and prediction about discipleship, to lose your life that you might gain it for the gospel’s sake, and the profit of discipleship, benefit beyond anything this world could ever hope to offer.

My friends, this world thinks the committed Christian is strange, bizarre, and weird. However, who is illogical and foolish to cast away an eternity with Jesus for the temporary enjoyment of material things and pleasure? What Peter and the others needed to be reminded is this: If you are a disciple, then your commitment is to follow the Master wherever He leads. Wherever He leads. Because you trust Him, right?

What about you, my friend, who are not a Christian? Look to Mark 8.36: “For what shall it profit a man, if he shall gain the whole world, and lose his own soul?” Will you consider three things before we dismiss for the morning?




Your great mistake as a sinner, whose perception of reality is warped and twisted, is to think that only you have your best interests in mind, and God only has your worst interests in mind. However, may I remind you that you are terribly mistaken? Sin has so distorted your perception of reality that you are very much like a wolf caught in a trap in the north woods. Unable to free yourself, you look upon the man who approaches as your enemy, when what he really wants to do is set you free. Therefore, you resist and snarl at every attempt made to loosen sin’s grip on your soul. Understand, however, that the Lord Jesus Christ has no ill will toward you. He left heaven’s glory to save you, not to condemn you. He suffered, and bled, and died for your benefit, that you might profit, that you might derive benefit, that you might end up better off in eternity. Consider that had the Savior wanted to harm you He could easily do so without suffering the horrors of the cross. The cross proves that He seeks to bless you, not curse you. He came to save you from your sins, not to do you any harm.

Do you doubt the benefit of having your sins forgiven? Do you question the advantage of a new heart and a new life? Do you challenge the advisability of living for Christ rather than living for yourself, to selfish ends? Look to any blood bought Christian of any era and ask him if he regrets the freedom from guilt of a clear conscience, if he is saddened by a heart set free from the burden of sins, if he misses his old slavery to sins, or if he regrets the joy unspeakable and full of glory that is his as a Christian servant of God. I already know what the answers will be.

Compare that to the narrow, selfish, constricted, guilt-ridden, lethal existence you now endure and you will see that Christ has your benefit in mind, Christ has your delight in mind, Christ has your profit in mind, when He seeks the salvation of your eternal and undying soul.




So what if you get it all? Of course, you will not get it all, but what if you did? What would you have, then? What if you had the world’s money, the world’s adoration, and the world’s power? I mean, all of it. Though there is every indication that money, adoration, and power do not satisfy (if those who have great wealth, who are universally admired, and who have great power, are to be looked to as any indication), let us pretend for the sake of argument such things did satisfy.

Let us pretend Brad Pitt and Angelina Jolie were not flying around the world in a vain attempt to add meaning to their selfish and empty lives. Let us pretend Bill and Melinda Gates were not actually making matters worse for the poor by dumping money here and there to solve in a material fashion problems that are rooted in the realm of the spirit. Pretend 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 limitless power and influence had the narcotic effect of constantly thrilling you without ever getting old and wearisome. You just feel so very good all the time.




That is precisely what Jesus was referring to when He said, “. . . and lose his own soul.” You see, when you die you lose it all. Every last dime, all the adoration, and one hundred percent of the power and influence. Why are such things not worthy of mention in this verse? Because your soul is that one thing which is of such profound and overriding importance that mention of the material things, the things of this world, deserves no mention in comparison to your soul.

You see, if you lose your soul, it does not matter that you were the richest man who ever lived and lost all your money by dying. It just does not matter. If you lose your soul, it does not matter that you were the most admired woman of all time and lost that admiration by dying. It just does not matter. In addition, what is the loss of something as trifling as power in comparison to the loss of your eternal and undying soul when you die?

On this Memorial Day weekend, I want to be careful to speak respectfully of the dead who served in the military and gave their lives. But the question really must be asked: Does that highly decorated soldier who had it all, who had the career, who had the combat and leadership skills, who was the bravest of the brave, who lived the warrior’s creed, and was a devoted member of the brotherhood of arms, does he really care which side he fought on after being in Hell for five minutes? If he died without Jesus Christ as his savior, does the flag which was once so important to him any longer have any significance to him?

I am not discounting the debt I owe to him, and am so appreciative of this country we live in. However, what shall it profit a man in uniform, if he epitomizes the spirit of the fighting man, but loses his own soul?

Perhaps you are not inclined to serve in the military. Perhaps your joy is coaching baseball or football. Maybe you like golf, or perhaps cars. What possible benefit will you derive from being the winningest baseball coach in Little League history, yet you end up losing your own soul? What is the benefit of being Tiger Woods, the most dominant figure in golf, if you lose your soul?

Perhaps your shtick is a flourishing small business. Great. I am happy for you. I think capitalism is the direct result of Christians getting their way in the marketplace. But what good will it do you to flourish in the marketplace, to outstrip your competitors, to find that wonderful niche that others overlook until you have made enough to retire on, only to then lose your own soul?


Oh, my friend, don’t you see? Whether your thing is being a great mom or a great wife, a great businessman or a great father, a great husband or a great philanthropist, those things do you no good when you come to death’s door. You have heard of the two men who stood by the grave of a wealthy man just after the conclusion of the graveside service. One said to the other, “How much did he leave?” The other said, “All of it.” That joke does not only apply to money being left behind at death, but to everything, including your body. You cannot take your accomplishments, your money, or even your body, with you when you die. You cannot take your spouse or child with you when you.

The gospel hymn that begins, “Mine eyes have seen the coming of the glory of the Lord,” originally began with these words: “John Brown’s body lies a moldering in the grave.” When you die you even leave your body behind. If you are not a Christian when you die, and most are not Christians when they die, you will then, immediately, and forever, lose your soul along with everything else.

Look, my friend. You know that you are a sinner, dead in trespasses and sins. You know you are both deserving of God’s punishment and also helpless to rescue yourself from that punishment that awaits you.

However, Jesus saves. He rescues the helpless and the hopeless from spiritual death and damnation. That rescue is what life is really supposed to be all about.

This time of existence we call life is given to you by God for only one thing, to prepare for eternity. Frittering away this time we call life doing anything other than preparing for eternity is a complete waste of time, that you will regret forever.

After this service is over, or sometime during this next week (call me and let me know), suppose you and I sit down and talk about your preparations for eternity and the place of the Lord Jesus Christ in all this.

Make this Memorial Day weekend, which after all is really a memorial to our nation’s war dead, a different kind of Memorial Day weekend. Decide right now to take the steps that will enable you to look back on this Memorial Day weekend as the time in your life when you decided that you wanted to become a Christian, so you can gain your soul rather than lose it.

[1] Mark 8.31

[2] Mark 8.33

[3] Fritz Rienecker & Cleon Rogers, Linguistic Key To The Greek New Testament, (Grand Rapids, MI: Regency Reference Library, 1980), page 111.

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