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What is Jesus Worth to You?

Date: Oct. 16, 2016

Author: Bob Henkins

Matthew 26:1-16

Key Verse: Matthew 26:7

“a woman came to him with an alabaster jar of very expensive perfume, which she poured on his head as he was reclining at the table.”

Every day without thinking about it we evaluate what things are worth to us. What is your future worth to you, what is your job worth, your health, your family, what is doing well in your class worth? Sometimes it’s easy to answer these questions, sometimes hard but our answers drive our actions. For example, I knew a guy who didn’t value his job, thus he didn’t work hard at it, he didn’t care at all. I knew another guy who valued his car tremendously, as a result he would be out there, during work time, drying his car right after it rained, he always made sure it was clean and working right. Whether we realize it or not, our actions reveal what we value. In today’s passage we are going to see this played out among three different groups of people and will find out what Jesus is worth to them. To some he meant everything, to others he meant nothing, but the real question in all of this is: what is Jesus worth to you.

Our passage starts out today with Jesus telling his disciples the fourth and final time about his upcoming death. It’s almost as if Jesus knows when it’s going to happen, because he does. Take a look at verses 1-2. “When Jesus had finished saying all these things, he said to his disciples, “As you know, the Passover is two days away—and the Son of Man will be handed over to be crucified.”” Jesus had just finished telling his disciples the parable of the sheep and the goats and then he drops this bomb on them again. It makes me wonder what was going through the disciples’ minds as Jesus talks about his death. If he says it once maybe they think he’s having a bad day, or it’s a random thought. If he says it twice, maybe it makes you feel uncomfortable and want to change the subject. But then Jesus says it the third and fourth times and you would have to address it, or at least give it some serious thought. Especially since he mentions how it’s going to happen, who is going to do it, and when it’s going to happen: in just two days. This would be no accident, or random event, Jesus is on a divine timetable under the direction of God and he knows full well what is about to happen. Remember what he told his disciples earlier, “…I lay down my life—only to take it up again. 18 No one takes it from me, but I lay it down of my own accord. I have authority to lay it down and authority to take it up again. This command I received from my Father.” (Jn 10) Jesus wasn’t going into this blindly, he was fully aware and he’s trying to prepare his disciples for when it happens.

And that time had come, because even as Jesus was talking with his disciples Caiaphas was speaking to his minions. Take a look at verses 3-5. “Then the chief priests and the elders of the people assembled in the palace of the high priest, whose name was Caiaphas, and they schemed to arrest Jesus secretly and kill him. “But not during the festival,” they said, “or there may be a riot among the people.”” Even as two of the three groups Jesus predicted would be involved in his death (16:21) now gather together to plan his arrest, it appears as if Jesus’ future is in the hands of men. But in reality everything is under God’s control. Many times before this, the religious leaders tried to catch Jesus, but each time he got away. And it wasn’t even hard for him to do. Whether it was a battle of wits, or when they had him surrounded, he got away easily because it wasn’t his time to be caught. That wasn’t part of God’s plan. But this time was different. Two days from now, when all the Jews would be celebrating their Passover, when lambs all over Jerusalem would be sacrificed, Jesus would be offered as THE Lamb of God. For God, who has power over everything, had planned that the Lamb of God that takes away the sin of the world will be sacrificed on this Passover. And Jesus knowing God’s plan, said, “The Son of Man will go as it has been decreed…” (Lk 22:22) Peter didn’t understand it when he was in the heat of the moment but later on when he did, he said, “This man was handed over to you by God’s deliberate plan and foreknowledge;” (Acts 2:23) Even though the religious leaders wanted to get Jesus, they didn’t want it to happen on the Passover, because they were afraid of the people and the Romans. For if the people started a riot, the Romans would send in their army and their Passover celebration would be ruined. Sure they wanted Jesus dead, but not during the Passover, and yet that was the plan of God.

I find it unbelievable that the religious leaders, especially the high priest, were involved in planning a murder. Out of everyone, they were supposed to be the ones who lived up to God’s high standards and yet here they were planning how they could break one of the ten commandments. The religious leaders didn’t value Jesus’ life even though they had seen the miracles he performed, heard his teachings, seen the way he lived, how he cared for the people and healed the sick, and yet Jesus wasn’t worth anything to them and this was the basis for their actions.

On the other hand, the passage takes us to a different group of people who were gather in Bethany in a man named Simon’s house. This whole scene is very different than the previous one at the high priest’s house. Simon was a former leper who was probably healed by Jesus. In his gratitude he opened his house and threw Jesus a dinner party. Take a look at verse 7. It says, “a woman came to him with an alabaster jar of very expensive perfume, which she poured on his head as he was reclining at the table.” Imagine the scene with me for a moment, all the people are laying on the floor around a coffee table. They are propped up on their elbows with their heads close to the table and their feet are pointing away from it and they are using their other arm to grab food and drink. And as they are talking and eating, in walks a woman who navigates her way through the bodies up to Jesus’ head and empties an entire bottle of perfume on him. The entire atmosphere completely changes. Suddenly all the talking stops and the smell of fresh baked bread and sweet wine are replaced with an overwhelming smell of strong perfume (Chanel #5). It was an unexpected surprising event. It was about a pint of pure nard, a very expensive perfume that was worth more than a years’ wages. This jar of perfume must have been very precious to this woman. (the 2015 median US household income is about $56K, we just remodeled our kitchen and the total cost was just under that) Why did she do this? In Luke 7, a woman pours perfume on Jesus out of gratitude because he forgave her sins. In John 12, Mary pours perfume on Jesus after he had raised her brother Lazarus from the dead. They expressed their love for Jesus because he poured out his love on them. Their thanksgiving toward Jesus overflowed out of their hearts. Voluntary, spontaneous, lavish giving is the fruit of Jesus' great love in a person's heart.

This woman took a huge risk. She had to go in there in front of everyone and expose something very personal to her. She gave up something she valued highly, maybe it was unreplaceable. Not only this, what if Jesus didn’t want to be bathed in perfume and he didn’t accept her act of love? Fear, embarrassment, rejection, and a sense of loss, these were huge obstacles for her to overcome.  But she risked it all because she loved Jesus so much and wanted to express that love in a way that was meaningful to her. However, when the disciples saw what the woman did, they were indignant (8) and rebuked her harshly. (Mk 14:5) They called her act "a waste," and said that the perfume could have been sold at a high price and the money given to the poor (9). For a moment all the woman’s fears came true, maybe doubt and humiliation rushed into her mind maybe she thought, “What have I done, how could I have been so foolish?” The disciples didn’t understand the woman's heart and her love for Jesus. Here was Jesus’ closest followers and they didn’t stop to consider that Jesus, the Son of God, was worthy of such an offering. When they saw that extravagance, all they could think about was the money. On the other hand, to this woman Jesus was worth her most prized possession. Jesus was everything to her. She valued Jesus more than anything else in her life. I don’t think she had anything else more valuable than that perfume and she gave it up for him.

This was a critical moment, this woman was standing there completely exposed and vulnerable, how did Jesus respond? Take a look at verse 10. “Aware of this, Jesus said to them, “Why are you bothering this woman? She has done a beautiful thing to me.” As Jesus was sitting there with his clothes soaked and drops of perfume dripping from his eyelashes, he was surrounded by people who were chastising the woman who had doused him anyone else might have felt embarrassed or burdened. But Jesus whole heartedly accepted and defended the woman's action, saying, "Why are you bothering this woman? She has done a beautiful thing to me" (10). We should accept Jesus' definition of "a beautiful thing." Lavish love for Jesus is a beautiful thing, not a waste. In our time an act like this woman’s would be considered extreme and she would be labeled as a “radical extremist.” No doubt, because of this she would be put on a government watch list.

After defending the woman, Jesus dealt with his disciples' objection. Look at verses 11-12. “The poor you will always have with you, but you will not always have me.12 When she poured this perfume on my body, she did it to prepare me for burial.” In truth, Jesus cares for the poor and his disciples should also. However, at that moment, what Jesus meant was that she would have plenty of time to serve the poor in the future, but there wasn’t much time left for her to serve Jesus because he would be gone and crucified in a few days. It was the time for Jesus to prepare for his death on the cross. For this reason, the woman's act had unique beauty and significance. No one understood Jesus. No one seemed to know what was happening to him. While people were indifferent and self-absorbed, Jesus was going to the cross to die for them. Jesus might have felt lonely and misunderstood but when this woman expressed her selfless love and gratitude to him he accepted it as the preparation for his burial. And amazingly we still talk about it even today because it became part of gospel history. Jesus honored the woman: “Truly I tell you, wherever this gospel is preached throughout the world, what she has done will also be told, in memory of her” (13).

In striking contrast to this woman’s beautiful act, Judas Iscariot, who was one of the Twelve, decides to betray Jesus. So he went to the chief priests “15 and asked, “What are you willing to give me if I deliver him over to you?” So they counted out for him thirty pieces of silver. 16 From then on Judas watched for an opportunity to hand him over.” The thirty pieces of silver were worth about four months’ wages equivalent to about $19K. That’s not a small amount of money. As he watched for his opportunity, Judas thought he could outsmart Jesus. But it was Jesus who prevailed for his own good purpose. Various explanations have been given for Judas' betrayal. Yet Matthew indicates that love of money was Judas' reason. It should be a warning to us.

To Judas, Jesus was worth about four months’ wages that’s what he made to sell Jesus out to his enemies. But what did it cost him in the end? Later on in Matthew, we will see that it cost him his life as he lost his peace of mind, and ultimately it cost him his soul. Likewise, the chief priests did not value Jesus either and yet it cost them their souls as well. However, to the woman, Jesus was everything, it cost her a year’s wages but she gained eternal life and will be remembered by Jesus throughout history.

Why is Jesus worth so much? Maybe St. Paul who once tried to destroy everyone that followed Jesus describes it best. He said, “But whatever were gains to me I now consider loss for the sake of Christ. What is more, I consider everything a loss because of the surpassing worth of knowing Christ Jesus my Lord, for whose sake I have lost all things. I consider them garbage, that I may gain Christ and be found in him, not having a righteousness of my own that comes from the law, but that which is through faith in Christ—the righteousness that comes from God on the basis of faith. 10 I want to know Christ—yes, to know the power of his resurrection and participation in his sufferings, becoming like him in his death, 11 and so, somehow, attaining to the resurrection from the dead.” (Php 3:7-11) Paul was willing to lose all things if he could gain Jesus because Jesus was everything to him. He realized this because Jesus saved him from his sins, saved him from eternal condemnation and gave his eternal life to be shared with Jesus forever in the kingdom of God. Mary was willing to give up her perfume because Jesus gave her back her brother who had been raised from the dead. Jesus is worth so much because he is the source of life, joy, healing and salvation.

I was moved by this passage because I could remember what Jesus has done for me. At a time when I was at my lowest, Jesus came to me. My life was spiraling out of control. I was doing so badly in school, I was being kicked out because I didn’t value college, I was involved in things that were taking me away from what I should be doing. I was involved in a court case in which my future was threatened. But Jesus gave his life for me and saved me from my sins. He rescued me from myself. He saved me from the court case, saved me from failing out of school, he saved me from a meaningless life and gave me salvation. I owed everything to Jesus.  I can only thank God for his grace to me.

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