The Value of Nothing

The Infinite Value of Nothing and the Worthlessness of Everything
Luke 9:19-27
“For what is a man profited if he gains the whole world, and losses or forfeits himself.”

The conversation started innocuous enough.  Jesus asked the disciples, “Who do you say that I am?”  As we have seen previously, their answer showed their faith and confusion as they tried to understand who Jesus was.  However, in verse 22, we find a more perplexing statement.  Jesus warned them that “The Son of Man must suffer many things and be rejected by the elders and chief priests and scribes, and be killed and be raised on the third day.”  This statement doesn’t seem to fit.  How could the one who is the Son of God, the one who owns and sustains the whole universe, the one before whom the angels bow down in humble obedience, suffer and die at the hands of mere humans?  Why would Jesus allow himself to endure such humiliation?  The answer is even more confusing than His: "Who am I?”  

To understand the statement of Jesus, we must also place it in the context of His following statement.  We often make a break between verses 22 and 23. However, we must connect the two as one continuing statement, even as Luke does in his writing.  Jesus is not just telling us how He will die; He is telling us how we are to live. In verse 22, Jesus points us to the cross upon which He will die.  Then, in verse 23, He applies the imagery to His disciples.  In the first century, the cross was not a symbol of faith to be displayed proudly.  The cross was an instrument of unspeakable cruelty and pain, meant to dehumanize and shame those who died upon it.  Those on the cross were stripped naked and humiliated so that they would die a slow death of public shame.  Once nailed to the cross, there was no reprieve.  It was a symbol of absolute and total brutality and death, with no known survivors in its history of use.  It is this imagery that Jesus then states must become the symbol of His followers.  To follow Christ, one must identify with the symbol of death.  He further drives this point home in verse 24.  To live, one must die, and to die enables one to live.  To find ultimate profit and worth, one must embrace absolute nothingness.  However, by giving up everything and embracing nothing, we obtain something whose value exceeds all the wealth of the universe. In God’s economy, nothing is of infinite value, while all the wealth of the world becomes worthless.  The point is clear.  We can only find true life and what is of eternal value when we give up everything, including life itself, to surrender to Christ.

While this reminds us of the nature and value of genuine discipleship, we must also connect it to verse 22.  In verse 22, we discover this principle is the very principle Christ embraced.  Paul captures this as well when he writes, “Who although He existed in the form of God…emptied Himself…and humbled himself by becoming obedient to the point of death, even death on a cross.  For this reason also God highly exalted Him…” (Phil. 2:4-11).  By giving up everything Christ obtain something even more precious.  He gained our salvation so that we might have a relationship with Him.  He was willing to give up the riches of heaven so that He might gain something even more precious and valuable….US! (see also Hebrews 12:2).  If Christ was willing to give up everything for our salvation, how much more should we be willing to give up everything to experience the salvation He offers?  As Matthew Henry wrote, “He is no fool who parts with that which he cannot keep, when he is sure to be recompensed with that which he cannot lose.” If we gain everything in this world but lose our souls, then we have gained nothing.  But if we have nothing but Christ, we have gained everything.

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