What is the price of life?

The text: Matthew 16:21–28

Well, I suppose that might depend on the context of the question.

If you were asked by a life insurance salesman what the price of life is, he would usually value it as the sum of your financial commitments and the price of setting your loved ones up without those commitments; therefore, the price of life will vary by age.

For example, if you were 10 years old, you wouldn’t have any financial commitments, so, therefore, you wouldn’t need very much life insurance cover, if any at all.

But if you were 40 years old, with a mortgage and car loan, and have a spouse and two children, then your life insurance cover should be for at least these commitments, plus a very generous amount so that your family could live comfortably without any need to take out any other loans etc.

Yet if you were 70 years old, and no longer have any financial commitments or family to support, then your need for life insurance reduces again.

So, what is the price of life according to a life insurance salesman? It is the calculated cost of liabilities and perceived needs to cover any loss of life.

But what if a mother dies in an accident? What is the price of life then? How is it measured?

Well, the family may receive a payment from a life insurance company, but no matter how much money they receive, it never makes up for the life of a wife and mother. The same could be said for the loss of a father or the loss of a child. The price of life in this case can’t be calculated financially. Money, property or anything else is almost useless and empty of comfort and meaning.

The Beatles sang that ‘money can’t buy me love’, but it also can’t buy or replace life. It’s strange that at the time of death, the value of life suddenly crystallises: family is important, relationships are important, people are important. A lifetime chasing after money, property, fame or other worldly attractions is suddenly put into perspective. None of these things are important when a life is lost. Any time spent chasing after these things is seen as time wasted.

What if a death was the result of an accident or a murder?

Then the price of life will often change, and it becomes possible to calculate the price of life again. The price of life is justice or revenge. An eye for an eye, a tooth for a tooth, and a life for a life!

If someone hurts us, then we want to hurt them back with interest. If someone takes away a loved one, then we want them to receive the same punishment, or worse, if possible!

But even if we were to have someone receive every punishment we wished them to receive, would that really make things better? Would revenge bring our loved one back? Would we ever be truly happy with the payment? Would the price of revenge or justice be payment enough for our loved one’s life? We often discover that even with revenge, the price of life still remains immeasurable.

So, even though the cost of life for insurance is often calculated financially, and the cost of life when someone has taken away a loved one is often justice or revenge, the price of life often can’t be calculated.

Knowing the price of your life can’t be estimated or valued by any earthly measurements, how much would your eternal life be worth? If you struggle to name a large enough price for the life of your loved ones who you have known for only a few years, then how on earth do you calculate the price for their eternal life, or even your own eternal life? If, at the time of death, you suddenly realise all things on earth are almost worthless when compared with the life of loved ones, then how much are you willing to pay or give up to ensure you will receive that eternal life with Jesus and your loved ones in faith?

Your eternal life is beyond price. Even if you were to give up your whole life and everything you have, it wouldn’t be enough. Nothing you say, think or do will pay for or measure the cost of your eternal life. Even if you gave up everything you have, it still wouldn’t be enough. The price for your life, especially for your eternal life, is too high … at least for you.

But the price of your life, even your eternal life, has been measured. Your price is the suffering, death and resurrection of Jesus Christ. That is how much your life is worth. It’s a price you can’t pay; yet Jesus has willingly paid the full price. The suffering and death of God’s own beloved Son is your price for life. It was necessary for him to go to Jerusalem, to suffer many things, to die and rise again so that your relationship with God would be restored. It was necessary he did these things, because this is the price of your lives and the price for God’s justice.

Yet what many people misunderstand is that even though Jesus has paid the full price for their lives, there is a cost involved for us. The cost is your obedience, yet don’t think that the price you pay in your obedience actually contributes or makes up for the suffering and death of Jesus, or that what you do actually earns you ‘brownie’ points before God.

Jesus has paid the full price for your eternal life. There is nothing more to pay. Your obedience doesn’t pay for your lives or the lives of others in any way, shape or form, but there is a danger you can exchange this undeserving gift for other fleeting worldly things through your disobedience.

For example, if you try to deny Jesus and what he has done for you by living according to the world’s thinking, then you will forfeit your eternal life. You can’t gain eternal life by your obedience, but you can lose it by your disobedience, because your disobedience shows your rejection of Christ and the life-price he paid for you. You can live as if worldly things are more important and more valuable, or you can live as if your eternal life is more important and more valuable. There is no in-between.

If you lose your life for Jesus’ sake, dedicate yourselves to following him, deny the deceptive advice of this world, follow God’s guiding word, and obey his instructions for life, then you will enjoy the blessings of eternal life in heaven.

Since the payment for your life involved sacrifice on the cross, your own life of following Jesus also involves a cross. The crosses you bear as you follow Jesus are the crosses of sacrifice and suffering on account of your following Jesus.

Paul’s letter to the Romans gives us an example of what this means. He says hate what is evil; hold onto what is good; be patient in your troubles; pray at all times; share your belongings with needy believers; open your homes to strangers; bless those who persecute you; weep with those who weep; don’t be proud but accept humble duties; don’t pay back wrong for wrong; don’t take revenge; and so on.

Following Jesus into eternal life is not easy and glorious. It often means living in a way that is different from others around you. It means being obedient to God’s word, even if you don’t fully understand the reasons for his instructions. It means giving up precious time on earth to listen to Jesus speak to you. It means giving up your need to satisfy yourselves with money, possessions, fame and other wants. It means giving up living the way you want to for your own pleasure, and trying to live Jesus’ way of service and sacrifice.

Following Jesus also means you will be persecuted and insulted for living according to Jesus’ way and not the world’s. You will not always ‘fit in’. The world will try to set the agenda as to what is acceptable and right, but this will not be the same as what Jesus says. The people of this world will continue to gain a name or a profit for themselves, but you will live unselfishly and in humbleness as you follow Jesus. You must obey God and not the world; after all, the things of the world will not last and will actually lead you away from Jesus and the life he has gained for you.

Therefore, let us heed the words of hymn 336 in the Lutheran Hymnal, which says:

Then let us follow Christ, our Lord,

Bearing the cross appointed,

And, firmly clinging to His Word,

In suffering be undaunted.

Who will not bear the battle’s strain

The crown of life shall ne’er obtain.

What is the price of life? The suffering, death and resurrection of Jesus Christ. The price for your life has been measured and paid in full. Even though you do not measure up, Jesus willingly allowed himself to suffer and die for you. Jesus paid the price of your disobedience by his obedience. He remained sinless to save those who are sinful. In other words, he suffered and died for your life.

Your own journey as you follow Jesus will also involve suffering and a dying to your own selfish desires, but it will also lead to eternal life with Jesus and all others who follow in faith.

The peace of God, which passes all understanding, keep our hearts and minds in Christ Jesus. Amen.