What does success look like? Where does your mind take you? Do you think about financial security, health, expertise in your field or a happy family? With all our ambitions where does God fit in?
Jesus had a very different view of success or to put it another way, what it really means to be human. For Jesus the most important part of anyone’s life is their relationship with God. Jesus’ first recorded words in Mark’s gospel make it clear:
‘The time has come,’ he said. ‘The kingdom of God has come near. Repent and believe the good news!’
There is good news, great news in fact, but when God comes near we need to know where we stand. We have rejected God which is why Jesus calls us all to repent. In Mark 8 Jesus frames the issue by challenging the way that we look for meaning in this world.
‘What good is it for someone to gain the whole world, yet forfeit their soul? Or what can anyone give in exchange for their soul?’
Jesus makes it simple, we have a choice, we can focus on this life or on what matters, saving our soul. We can find life in Jesus, through the weakness and foolishness of the cross, and by believing be saved and embraced by God. Or we can live for the here and now, revealing that we are ashamed of Jesus. Not only will life be devoid of real and lasting purpose and joy, it will also mean forfeiting our souls.
Jesus is kind enough to challenge us and show us what really matters in life. We can live for today and lose everything or we can embrace a different ambition, and accept a life shaped by death, humility, weakness and sacrifice.
This is the call of Lent, to examine ourselves, to take a spiritual health check and to remember the lengths that Jesus went to, that we might know life now and forever. Then we will be able to celebrate on Easter day with all of our hearts, as we see all that Jesus has done.