And they asked him, saying, Master, but when shall these things be? and what sign will there be when these things shall come to pass?…
The revised translation restores this word of Jesus to its original force. The Lord did not bid His disciples simply to possess their souls in patience. He told them that through endurance they were to win their souls. Souls, then, are for us to win. Literally the word used by Jesus means, procure for yourselves souls. Life is to be to us, in some sense, an acquisition of soul. This active verb used by Jesus in relation to the soul is suggestive. How may the disciples acquire their own souls? Are we to work with the Creator in making our own souls? We are to go into life, and, as men in business gain possessions, we are to procure our souls from life. Souls, then, may not be such ready-made products of nature as we are accustomed to imagine; the souls of men are possibly but the seeds of immortality. They may be the germs scattered by a spiritual power in this soil of the flesh, and destined to spring up, and to grow, if we do not succeed in killing them, into the powers of an endless life. In what ways are we to set about procuring for ourselves souls? The first thing for us to do is the thing which those men had already done to whom Jesus gave this promise that they should win their souls. What they had done — the first decisive step which they had taken in the work of finding their lives — was not, indeed, to acquaint themselves with all knowledge, or to peer into all mysteries. They had not even lingered at the doors of the school of the Rabbies. But when One who spake as never man spake, and who looked into men's souls with the light of a Divine Spirit in His eye, came walking upon the beach where they were mending their nets, and bade them leave all and follow Him, they heard their own being commanded as by the King of truth, and at once they left all and followed Him. They counted not the cost; they obeyed when they found themselves commanded by God in Christ. This promise, "Ye shall win your souls," was addressed to men who had surrendered themselves wholly to that which they had seen, and knew of God. It was a pledge of soul made to men who had the wills of disciples. This prime condition of winning our souls remains unchanged, and no simpler or more searching words for it can be framed than those first requirements of Jesus Christ of every man — "Repent," "believe." If a man wishes in all sincerity to gain his own soul, he must begin by turning with a will from the sin of the world which he knows has laid foul, destructive hand upon his life; he must rise, and meet duty, trusting himself with all his heart to every whisper of truth and echo of God within him. The first step in the way of acquiring our souls, let me repeat, is the decision of discipleship. I answer then, secondly, we are to acquire soul by living now with all the soul we do have. If we are to win souls from life, we must put our whole souls into life; but the trouble with us is that we often do not. We live half-hearted, and with a certain reserve often of ourselves from our every-day life in the world. But you remember how Jesus insisted that His disciples should serve God and love man with all their souls, and with all their strength. The way to gain more soul and better is to live freely and heartily with all the soul we do have. Christ alone may show us what a whole-hearted, whole-souled life should be. He completes lives. He gives soul and heart abundantly in life. Has He not said we are to love God with all our minds, and all our hearts, and all our strength? "Yes," some one thinks, "but how can I in my little tread-mill of a life, in my circumscribed sphere, put my whole soul into it, live with all my might? I wish I had an opportunity of life into which I could throw all my soul — but what am I and my little place? I know I am not living with all my heart." But you may I You may, if you are willing to learn Jesus' secret, and to find your life while losing it. Perhaps in the very effort it may cost us to put our hearts into little things — to do common things as disciples heartily as unto the Lord — may be the exercise of soul which God has appointed for us that thereby we may gain capacity of spirit for the whole service of heaven. Right here it may help us to come back to our text. In your patience ye shall win your souls. Not many of those disciples to whom Jesus was then speaking became distinguished Christians. They had no great part to play in this world. All but three or four of the twelve are only names to us. But every man of them had a splendid chance to win soul by endurance. God gives to common people this opportunity of winning on earth souls large enough and good enough to appreciate by and by what heaven is. Patience may be the making of a soul. That regiment of men is held all the morning waiting under fire. They broke camp with enthusiasm enough to sweep them up to any line of flame. But they are held still through long hours. They might show splendid courage in action; but the orders arc to stand. Only to stand still under fire! But that day of endurance is enough to make a veteran of the recruit of yesterday. The discipline of waiting under life's fire makes veteran souls. Through the habit of endurance God trains often his best souls. If you keep up heart in your life of trial, by that patience what a soul for God's kingdom may be won!
(Newman Smyth, D. D.)
Parallel VersesKJV: And they asked him, saying, Master, but when shall these things be? and what sign will there be when these things shall come to pass?