“For those who want to save their life will lose it, and those who lose their life for my sake will find it,” Jesus tells his disciples, but specifically Peter, just after calling Peter “Satan” for tempting Jesus with a fate other than cruciform destiny.
Perhaps because Jesus’ statement about our needing to lose our lives in order to gain them occurs within the context of Peter balking at the notion of a crucified Messiah we mishear Jesus as suggesting that we too must seek a cross if the Kingdom is to be added unto us.
But the Risen Christ is no nihilist. When Jesus says we must lose our lives to gain them, he’s not recruiting kamikaze Kingdom warriors, for the word “lose” in Matthew 16 is the same word Matthew uses just after Jesus tells us about the sheep and the goats.
The word “lose” is the same word in Greek for “waste.”
ἡ ἀπώλεια αὕτη
“For those who want to save their life will waste it, and those who waste their life for my sake will find it.”
Matthew uses that same word ‘waste” a few chapters later when Jesus visits the house of Simon the Leper for supper— Jesus might as well ask the Pharisees and chief priests to kill him.
Two nights before Passover, two nights before he dies, Jesus goes to Simon’s house for dinner. They’re eating dessert and drinking coffee when in walks a woman. She doesn’t have a name but she does have a crystal jar filled with expensive oil— about $45,000 worth.
This woman, she break the jar and she pours the oil over Jesus’ head and body.
Just like the psalm about the good shepherd in the valley of death— just like King David, whose kingdom God promised would be forever— she anoints him. She anoints him for his death, for his cross will be his enthronment, thorns his crown, and the jeers of onlookers his acclamation.
And Jesus, he praises her for not holding back, for sparing no cost in pouring out her love on him.
Meanwhile the disciples look on in anger, and all they can do is grumble over all the “good” they could have done with that much money. I mean, don’t forget Jesus had just laid every liberal Methodist’s favorite parable on them— the one about the sheep and the goats.
So here, watching this woman who shelled out a year’s worth of wages for perfume, they virtue signal, estimating the number of hungry that could’ve been fed, the naked who could’ve been clothed, the poor they could’ve served.
If she hadn’t wasted it.
Yet Jesus praises her.
The disciples look at her and they get angry at the waste. Jesus looks at her and sees a holy waste. He praises her for lavishing love and devotion on him, who—don’t forget— is poor and will very soon be the naked without clothes, the thirsty who’s given gall, the prisoner abandoned by all but his mother and a single disciple.
You see when Jesus tells us we need to lose our lives to gain a life in the Kingdom, he’s not talking about crosses. He’s talking about something even more reckless. He’s recommending the example of this woman— he’s urging us to lavish love and devotion— to spare no cost— on him.
This woman at the leper’s house knows that Jesus is not a means to some other end. Rather devotion to Jesus— worship of him is a good in and of itself.
An economy that the world cannot help but see as a waste and which ironically may lead the world in its economy to crucify us.