As the German Army advanced on Athens, Greece during World War 2, curators, archeologists, and museum employees rushed to bury their country’s priceless treasures. With ten days to spare, they managed to hide some of the world’s most precious objects in secret vaults and trenches. When Nazi officials strolled through the doors of the National Archeological Museum on April 28, 1941, nothing was to be found.
In Mark 9:43-47, Jesus employs startling imagery to impress upon his audience the seriousness of temptations that can easily lead to sin and death. He insists, metaphorically speaking, that it is better to lose a hand, eye, or foot than risk missing the glorious splendor of God’s merciful presence for all eternity. Jesus would know. He is the one that left the perfection of the throne room of grace for us. His hands and feet were pierced so we might live. His eyes were blinded by the blood that flowed from the crown of thorns so we might see him perfectly forevermore.
It was wise of the Greek Ministry of Culture to devise an intricate plan to protect their invaluable history from the spoils of war. The Nazi forces wreaked havoc on the country. They experienced starvation, economic collapse, and historians contend over 20,000 Greeks were killed. They correctly estimated what would happen and took heroic and challenging measures to protect their historical and cultural legacy.
The words of Jesus in Mark’s gospel are a stern warning to protect that which is eternal. Our souls are worth far more than statues, gold coins, or ancient manuscripts. We should guard our hearts and minds (Philippians 4:7) because our adversary walks a destructive path (1 Peter 5:8). We must be diligent and call on the Holy Spirit to shelter our hearts (John 14:26). Our plan should be one of confession, worship, and prayer. As the darkness of this world advances on us, our hiding place can be found in the triumphant grace of our victorious Lord.