Whoever Loses His Life for My Sake Will Find It

(Matthew 16:24-28)

What does Jesus mean by saying whoever loses his life for my sake will find it? Is he talking about dying for the sake of Jesus? And what about where he says whoever would save his life will lose it? How does this work?

In simple terms when Jesus says whoever loses his life for my sake will find he is talking about following him rather than following after your own desires. This is covered in verse 24 of this section saying, “If any man would come after me, let him deny himself and take up his cross and follow me.” There are three distinct points to this verse. Firstly he says, “If any man would come after me,” meaning to follow Jesus. If they are to follow him they must be prepared to do what follows. The second point is to “deny himself.” By denying oneself a person puts the needs of the Lord before their own needs. There are times in following the Lord when we must put our own needs second to what the Lord may require of us. Which brings us to the third point, which is to “take up his cross.” This is a representation of the need to suffer and as Christians we will go through suffering from time to time for our walk with Christ. As Peter wrote, “Beloved, do not be surprised at the fiery ordeal which comes upon you to prove you, as though something strange were happening to you. But rejoice in so far as you share Christ’s sufferings, that you may also rejoice and be glad when his glory is revealed.” (1 Peter 4:12-13) We must be prepared to suffer for Christ if that were needed in our endeavour to follow him.

Incidentally, there is some query over the translation of the Greek word rendered here as “cross.” the Greek word is “stauros,” which literally translates out as a stake, post or pole. This word was incorrectly translated into the Latin Vulgate bible as “crux” and for reasons unknown subsequently incorrectly translated into the English bibles as “cross.” Thus for the sake of accuracy it would appear that Jesus was put to death on a stake rather than a cross.

So we are to be prepared to lose the things of this life and to suffer if we are required in our walk with Christ. We see that Jesus shows the importance of this in the next scriptures saying, “For what will it profit a man, if he gains the whole world and forfeits his life? Or what shall a man give in return for his life?” (Verse 26) If a person is not prepared to give up everything in this life for the sake of the Lord, if that should be required of them, then they may stand the risk of losing everything of real value. You could gain the whole world and become the richest person on earth, but what is that compared to your life? Is anything worth more than keeping your life to eternity? That is the promise of the Lord. If we are prepared to suffer with him, then we too shall live with him.

There is an additional twist in this section too. Verse 27 states, “For the Son of man is to come with his angels in the glory of his Father, and then he will repay every man for what he has done.” When he speaks of what a person “has done,” he is not talking about doing great deeds or wondrous works. He is talking about what this whole section is speaking of, which is to follow him. That is the key to this whole section. We are called to follow him as the first and utmost priority. Great works will not ensure you receive life; only following Jesus can assure this.

As an example consider the scripture that says, “Not every one who says to me, ‘Lord, Lord,’ shall enter the kingdom of heaven, but he who does the will of my Father who is in heaven. On that day many will say to me, ‘Lord, Lord, did we not prophesy in your name, and cast out demons in your name, and do many mighty works in your name?’ And then will I declare to them, ‘I never knew you; depart from me, you evildoers.'” (Matthew 7:21-23) These people will come to him proclaiming the works that they did in his name, but they did not follow him. They believed they would be saved for their works, but it is not through works that anyone is to be saved. Salvation is by faith in Jesus Christ alone. No other way is able to save a man from sin and death.

The principle of “whoever loses his life for my sake will find it” is bound up in the need to follow Jesus. Everything else a person can do is secondary to this requirement. As Jesus said to the rich young man, “Jesus said to him, “If you would be perfect, go, sell what you possess and give to the poor, and you will have treasure in heaven; and come, follow me.” (Matthew 19:21) Perfection in Christ is attainable only by following him. We must be prepared to give up everything for his sake if we are to achieve life, for all other things are distractions.

Suffering for Jesus Sake

(Matthew 10:24-26)

It goes without saying that no man can be greater than Jesus who is Lord and the Son of God. However every person can aspire to be like Jesus. One of the reasons for his appearing was to provide us with many examples of how we are to live in this world. He modelled the attitudes and behaviours that we are to copy and learn from so that we can learn to be like him.

However, as we saw in his life, he was maligned and opposed by the authorities and religious leaders of the time. He is preparing his people who choose to follow his path in this section of scripture so that they are not surprised when people turn to attack them. The apostle Peter also wrote that we should, “…not be surprised at the fiery ordeal which comes upon you to prove you, as though something strange were happening to you.” (1 Peter 4:12) The apostle Paul also wrote that, “…all who desire to live a godly life in Christ Jesus will be persecuted, while evil men and impostors will go on from bad to worse, deceivers and deceived.” (2 Timothy 3:12-13)

It is clear that those who choose to follow Christ will be opposed. Why is that so? There is a puzzle in this situation, but it is a fact that this does and will occur. When we consider that the intent of the followers of Christ is to live a good and peaceful life, it makes you wonder why Christians suffer such opposition. Jesus gave us the answer to this puzzle in John 3:20, “For every one who does evil hates the light, and does not come to the light, lest his deeds should be exposed.” They oppose those who want to do what is good and right because they themselves are evil. The nature of man is not to do good but to do evil. Most people are restrained from doing evil because they fear retribution from the authorities, but even that is not always a deterrent. The person who wants to do the right thing and stands against those who choose evil is maligned. They are called names, opposed, attacked verbally and sometimes physically and all because they have exposed the evil of these other people. Those who are evil are exposed for their evil and suffer guilt in the presence of those who do good. They feel as if they are being attacked, when in truth their own consciences are attacking them with guilt, and so they attack those who have exposed them.

In my opinion, this is the reason why Christians are opposed and maligned. It is because they choose to do good and not go along with the evil desires of the world. What makes it even harder for the Christian is that they are choosing to be like Jesus, and many in this world will oppose them for this reason alone. As the Lord said in verse 24, “If they have called the master of the house Be-el’zebul, how much more will they malign those of his household.” If they called Jesus a devil, which is who Be-el’zebul was, then they will also call those who follow Jesus all manner of evil things.

But as Jesus says, we need have no fear of them. Their ends will correspond to their deeds, as Paul wrote in 2 Corinthians 11:15. We need not be worried about them or take offence at them when they do oppose us. Who knows, in time they may see the errors of their ways and turn in repentance and come to Jesus themselves. I always take the optimistic view that if someone who so utterly opposed the Lord as the apostle Paul did before his conversion on the Damascus road could come to the Lord, then so can anyone else.

The best advice and action we can take is to do as Jesus instructed in Matthew 5:44-45, “But I say to you, Love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you, so that you may be sons of your Father who is in heaven.” We do not know the hearts of these people or when, where or how the Lord may choose to prick their conscience in the hope they may turn to him for forgiveness.