What is Jesus Worth?
The worth of Jesus does not depend on our understanding or appreciation of Jesus. In John 12 we see the worth of Jesus demonstrated in the acts of worship by Mary and the people of Jerusalem. Though these were moments of joy and excitement, Jesus was worthy of worship before and after their response.
This past week we sold our church van. The membership had voted to part with it because we were only using it about 2x per year and it no longer seemed worthwhile to maintain and keep on our church insurance policy. When I listed it for sale, I took all the information about the van, the year, the make, the model, the options, and I plugged all of that information into the Kelley Blue Book website and it gave me the value of the vehicle.
I then took all of that information combined it with photos and posted it all online hoping that other people would see it and believing it to be worth that price, buy it from us. I’ll be honest, Kelley Blue Book said it was worth more than I thought it was worth. However, I listed it for what they established and then their price was validated by the fact that so many people wanted to buy it at that price. We had no problem selling the van for what Kelley Blue Book said it was worth.
In John 12 we have 2 validations of Jesus worth and His significance.
I hope that by looking at this text together you’ll see the magnificent worth and meaning of Jesus. In John 11, Jesus raised a man named Lazarus from the dead. Lazarus has two sisters, Mary and Martha. They all three lived in a suburb of Jerusalem and Jesus would stay with them for Passover, the largest Jewish festival and holiday.
Before Jesus goes into Jerusalem for Passover and while he’s at Mary and Martha’s home, they throw a meal for Jesus. Mary and Martha no doubt appreciated Jesus for raising their brother from the dead, so they hold this feast or party in his honor.
It must be pretty cool having dinner with a guy that was dead.
If you’re familiar with Mary and Martha from scripture you know that these are their customary roles- Martha is serving food, Lazarus is sitting with Jesus enjoying the meal with Him, and Mary performs this grand gesture of appreciation and kindness.
The demonstration of John 12 is the powerful visual expression of Mary, Martha, and Lazarus’ appreciation for Jesus. Their affection for Jesus is at an incredible high, because Jesus has just raised Lazarus from the dead. If there is anyone who gets the power and worth of Jesus, it’s them.
How do you demonstrate your appreciation of Jesus?
They are doing their best to show how much they love Jesus, to put into shoe leather, into to tangible form how they feel about Him. For all of us, this looks different. For some us, we best express our appreciation for Jesus through our time with Him. By taking in as much of Him as we can, by sitting with Him. Spending time in prayer with Him. That’s what Lazarus is doing here.
Others of us, we tend to show appreciation through our actions, and Martha is doing that. She is showing Jesus how much she appreciates him through this meal, through serving Jesus and the disciples and everyone who is gathered there.
My Grandmother is a Martha. My grandmother isn’t content when I visit until she has fed me so good that I can hardly stand it. She does that to express her love.
On one of our recent trips back to VA, I mentioned to my dad that it’s probably a good thing that I don’t live near grandma because if I ate her chicken salad on the regular I’d be 300 lbs.
He said, well we don’t get chicken salad that often anymore. It’s a special treat when you come in.
Mary on the other shows her love and appreciation with a dramatic gift. A major gesture. This is lost on us because this is so abnormal to our culture. If someone poured oil and perfume over your head and washed your feet, you would be totally weirded out.
Now, I don’t want you to have the impression that this happened all the time, because it didn’t, especially not in this way, or not with this extravagance.
Today we have showers with whole shelves of shampoos, body washes, etc. These people did not have these luxuries. They had hygiene and they knew the importance of cleanliness, but it was not as much a private affair. It was customary for there to be provision made for people to wash their feet when they entered a house.
People who were wealthy would have perfumes and oils that could provide a satisfactory smell, to cover what would have no doubt been less than pleasant when traveling by foot from place to place in the dusty arid middle east.
The perfume that Mary anoints Jesus with is a costly one. The use of all of it is extravagant. The scent fills the whole house.
Mary’s act of love and devotion has an impact on all who are gathered.
We also know that it was extravagant because Judas estimates it could have been sold for 300 denarii. A denarii was a days wage. So this was the cost of a years salary. For someone making minimum wage and working 8 hours a day for 300 days, about $17,500. Of course, for some of you, 300 days wages would add up to much more than that…
This was a very expensive gesture, but to Mary it didn’t feel overboard, it felt appropriate. Her brother who was dead was sitting right there, eating and talking with Jesus!
If someone you love was sick, how much would you pay to make them well? Probably any price, right?
There was no price that Mary could pay to make Lazarus well, but Jesus had raised Him from the dead. He was worthy of a much more costly gift than any medical bills that Mary and Martha would have been willing to pay…
The truth is that you can’t put a price tag on what Jesus did for them. There is not a dollar amount that accurately projects the worth of what Jesus did. Mary was willing to pour out all of this perfume because she would have been willing to pour out 2 jars of the stuff if she had it!
Nathan Hale was an American Patriot during the revolutionary war who so believed in the idea of America that he volunteered for dangerous intelligence missions to spy on the British in New York. He was captured and killed. His last words were, “I only regret that I have but one life to lose for my country.”
Now, in this moment Mary felt this great appreciation for Jesus because of what she had just experienced- the rescue from death she had witnessed. Jesus was worth this and more before that moment and He would continue to be after that moment. Jesus was not suddenly more worthy, it was just that in this moment Mary’s eyes had become focused on the worth of Jesus.
The worth of Jesus does not fluctuate with our moods.
The markets fluctuate. I don’t really understand it all very well, but I know that a Barrel of Oil can be dramatically less expensive tomorrow and double the cost next week. The value fluctuates based on supply and demand.
The value of Jesus does not fluctuate. Jesus is worthy of our admiration and praise whether or not we feel in need or not. The majesty of Jesus does not depend upon our appreciation.
Some of you are spiritually bi-polar. You know why we need to gather for worship every week? Because while our moods fluctuate, the value of Jesus remains constant.
We top mountains and go through valleys, but Jesus remains faithful.
We go through seasons, but Jesus is evergreen.
A member of Martin Luther’s church asked why he kept preaching the gospel to them every week. Luther responded, because you keep forgetting it every week.
While Mary is at a peak in her appreciation for Jesus, Judas is headed into the valley.
While Mary is ready to sacrifice thousands of dollars in a grand gesture, Judas is about ready to sell Jesus out for a few hundred.
Read John 12:4-6
John gives us a look into Judas’ heart. We see Judas’ motive. It’s greed. Judas doesn’t really care for the poor, he cares for himself.
Our appreciation for Jesus may depend on how closely we are looking at his splendor and glory and it may depend on how wrapped up in our own desires and wants. Judas was looking out for himself. It was all about him!
You will not value Jesus highly if it’s all about you.
The other validation of Jesus happens a few verses down. Jesus enters Jerusalem on the Sunday before Passover, and it becomes known as Palm Sunday to us, the Sunday before Easter, because as you’ll see in the text, the people use Palm Branches to celebrate Jesus’ arrival.
Read John 12:12-17
Now, of the gospel writers, John gives the least amount of attention to this entry, because to John the resurrection of Lazarus overshadows all of this. That’s the emphasis, and he even works the baring of record of those who witnessed Lazarus’ resurrection into this storyline.
Jesus had no ambiguity about who He was.
In fact, when Judas protests that Mary has poured out this costly gift, Jesus does not say, yes Mary you’re making too much fuss. Rather, Jesus says this is fitting. Leave her alone because she has anointed me for my burial.
Now in most books and plays the hero figure is portrayed as humble and not arrogant, so they kind of fall into the role of hero. They don’t seek it for themselves. They’re surprised to find they have this courage or power… Characters who are confident in themselves are viewed as arrogant.
Jesus was not in the least unsure about His calling or His identity. He rides into Jerusalem purposefully fulfilling prophecy. He rides into Jerusalem intentionally selecting a donkey, which is the specific prophecy from Zechariah.
Why Palm branches?
TickerTape parade was born in 1886 with the celebration of the dedication of the statue of liberty. People watching the parade from their windows began throwing paper rolls that fed their ticker tape machines. Now it’s the custom for winning sports teams.
Palm branches were in abundance all around Jerusalem, so they were easily grabbed up in moments of city wide euphoria. The first Palm Branch celebrations seem to have begun in Jerusalem when troops were returning from victorious battles. The Palm branch was also used in some of the religious festivals. So it had a dual nationalistic and religious connotation for the Jews.
The word Hosanna was a part of the hymns that they would sing at each of the 3 festivals each year. It literally means, bring salvation now. Or God save us. A similar experience for us today might be if we had a national hero return from space or the Olympics and people were waving miniature flags and broken into singing God Bless America.
The people were saying,
Blessed is the King of Israel that cometh in the name of the Lord.
They were excited for the return of power to their small nation, but Jesus had much bigger plans. He was coming, not to bring salvation now from their political foes, but rather he was coming now to bring salvation from their sin.
The people were excited that Jesus was entering Jerusalem. They valued this so highly that they sang and worshipped… But they didn’t understand Jesus’ true purpose. Jesus’ worth is not dependent upon our understanding, but our appreciation of Jesus is dependent upon our understanding of His purpose.
People bought our van because their’s had blown up. They were in need, so they were in the market.
We need Jesus. His worth is independent of us, but we are in desperate need of Him. Thankfully, He is eternal in His supply of grace.
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