The Worth of Christ
Text: John 12:1-11
We are back in our Gospel of John series. We have taken John's Gospel in 10-12 week chunks at a time over the last couple of years. We will be in John for the remainder of the year, and we intend to get through a significant amount of it next year as well. Also, we have some exciting stuff beginning on Wednesday nights at the turn of the year. We are taking discipleship to our deeper level. There will be different classes/seminars you can sign up for (Romans study, financial stewardship class, a spiritual disciplines class, and many others. Check out these handouts in the lobby. Really exciting stuff.
I want you to take a moment and think about what are the things you are the most proud about in your life? Perhaps it is your heritage or family. Maybe your educational or professional accomplishments would make the list. It could be your service in the military or your volunteer work at a ministry. What are the 4, 5, 6, or 7 things you would list as your greatest accomplishments, or things you are most proud about in your life?
For me, I'd say my wife and children are one of the things I'm most proud of. Serving in the Army as a paratrooper is up there. Starting TJC, and leading it, is one of the things I'm most proud of. Having the opportunity to speak and write beyond these walls to make an impact on people is something I value and attach a worth to. I could probably list another thing or two. What are those things for you? What are you proud of? What accomplishments do you treasure? It could be your attractiveness, or business success. It could be your degrees, or financial freedom. It could be your status among friends, or adventurous hobbies or exploration of the world.
It is safe to say that these things hold a worth and importance to us. But here are a few questions for our reflection: What if all these things were stripped from us? What would it do you, and to me, if tomorrow none of those things were a part of our lives, or credit for them were stripped away? How much would it rock your identity? It is safe to say that these things being stripped or removed from us would have a profound impact.
In Philippians 3, the Apostle Paul gives us such a list for himself and speaks of all his accomplishments and identity as an elite religious leader in his day. But he famously says that whatever gain he had from such things, whatever rights or benefits they afford him, whatever esteem they granted him, he counts as loss for the sake of knowing Christ. Indeed, he counts all things as loss for the surpassing worth of knowing Jesus Christ my Lord. That image is vital. Paul says there is a worth that surpasses every other worth in the world: knowing Jesus Christ my Lord. To know Christ, and walk with him, is a worth that surpasses anything. Paul says all those former things are rubbish in comparison to knowing Christ.
Do you treasure Christ in this way? Do you attach and place a worth on Jesus that exalts him to the place where you can echo Paul's words? Even if your accomplishments were stripped, and your heritage removed, and everything that gives you esteem in the eyes of men faded, can you say that you are content because you have the treasure that surpasses all others? And here is the point: the issue isn't that all these things we've accomplished or our proud of are bad, worthless, or meaningless. The point is that in comparison to the greater treasure, Christ, they don't have the same worth. What we have in Christ, both now and for eternity, can never be taken away.
That leads us into our passage in John 12 today. John 12 is a living picture of Paul's words. The issue at hand is the worth of Christ in comparison to our response to Christ. John Piper says the point of this story is that it is a beautiful thing when the worth of Jesus and the love of his followers match. So I would say it like this: it glorifies God and satisfies our soul, when the worth of Christ and the love his people have for him match, and it is dangerous when they don't.
Exegesis John 12:1-11
This passage comes on the heels of the raising in Lazarus in John 11. The response to this was that many believed Jesus was the Messiah, based on what they witnessed. Still others, with hard hearts, went to the Pharisees and reported the event. Their response was not to say, "Wow. Maybe God's promised One has come." Instead, they met to determine how they might find a way to kill him. They meet like a bunch of mobsters to determine how they can eliminate the problem. That leads us to our story today.
vs 1 -- Six days before the Passover. This is the biggest, most important annual religious ceremony the Jews practiced. This is the remembrance of their rescue from Egypt. This is the remembrance of God passing over the homes of all who had the blood of the lamb on the door post of their home. Every year they celebrated and ate the Passover meal. Tens of thousands of Jews came into Jerusalem from all over the world to participate.
Jesus came to Bethany, the town where Jesus raised Lazarus from the dead. Bethany is two miles from Jerusalem. This is where Lazarus, Mary, and Martha live.
vs 2 -- They gave Jesus a dinner there. This appears to be a "thank you" dinner or a dinner to honor Jesus because of the resurrection of Lazarus. They are not only saying thank you, but they are honoring him because of who the raising of Lazarus reveals Jesus to be. And Lazarus is there reclining at the table. This man had been dead only days prior. Now he is here at the table for a dinner with Jesus.
This isn't the point of the story, but it is worth noting that Lazarus reclining at the table of Jesus after being dead is a foretaste of the New Heavens and New Earth. The dead Lazarus was raised bodily from the grave by the powerful word of Jesus, and now here is he alive (like really alive) and eating with Christ. All in Christ will have this experience in the resurrection as well.
Now watch what John tells us about what happens at this dinner party. Let's watch the contrast that unfolds.
vs 3 -- Mary, the sister of Lazarus and Martha, took a pound of expensive ointment made from pure nard and anointed the feet of Jesus and wiped his feet with her hair. This is a posture of worship and subservience. She poured out so much of this expensive perfume that the entire house was consumed with the fragrance. (STORY -- my daughters have gotten into Bath and Body works lotions and sprays and candles, and I can always tell when they've cracked them open because everything smells like it. They lay it on thick.) The same happens here in the home.
John makes note that this is expensive. He doesn't want us to simply see the action (though that is important; the worshipful posture matters), but he wants us to understand the sacrifice. This ointment could have been a family heirloom. The cost of the ointment is important because they are willing to lavish it on Jesus because they esteem his as worthy to be the recipient of it. (ILLUSTRATION -- In the movie Big Daddy, Adam Sandler's character Sonny walks into his apartment where everyone yells "surprise." The surprise was for his roommate who is going on a big trip and the girlfriend of the roommate tells everyone not to worry, that was just Sonny. Everyone returns to chatting and then the actual guy walks in and nobody is paying attention, and someone casually says "surprise." Then everyone casually says it. The girlfriend comes around the corner, devastated, and looks at Adam Sandler's character and says, "We wasted the good surprise on you.") Mary did not see herself as wasting the "good surprise," the expensive ointment, on Jesus. For her, and Lazarus and Martha, he was the greater treasure.
But not so for everybody.
vs 4-6 -- Judas Iscariot, one of the twelve disciples, who John wants to remind us in parentheses is the one who betrayed Jesus, immediately objects that this ointment should not have been used, but sold for 300 denarii (a denarii was a day's wage, so we're talking almost a year's salary of worth). What did he want done with the money? He wanted it given to the poor. But John quickly informs us that Judas didn't actually care about the poor. It was because he was a thief and wanted them to have more money so he could help himself to it.
I can't help but mention that we need to understand that what some people say on the surface is not actually what they are after in reality. Not everyone who pretends to care about justice is really for justice, but for power.
Judas can't believe expensive nard is being used and lavished on Jesus. That stuff is worth a ton of money! And what Judas is saying essentially is that Jesus isn't. He isn't worth being the recipient of that. Why waste the "good surprise" on him?
vs 7-8 -- Jesus is no dummy. He knows the state of Judas' heart. He knows that Judas is a betrayer, long before the other disciples do. But he tells Judas to leave her alone. She is doing the right thing. Her response is proper. It is a response of her heart's affections and the value she places on Christ. Judas' response demonstrates that he doesn't value Christ as he truly is. The poor will always be among you is not said to say we should neglect the care of the poor. He is saying that they will always be there, you will never eliminate poverty in this world, but during this time in history, Jesus wasn't always going to be there in the flesh. Her response is proper.
His statement about "that she may keep it for the day of my burial" needs a little explaining. It was common that expensive ointments and perfumes would be used in burial. They would wash the body, and care for it (showing a dignity for the body even in death), and then anoint the body with oils and perfumes. Jesus connects Mary's anointing of him (then) to a prefiguring of his anointing in death just days from this time. His own burial is coming, because his sacrifice on the cross for sins is now drawing near. Her worship and use of this ointment is allowed by Christ because it serves as a sign of this pending event.
vs 9-11 -- When people found out Jesus was there, the word spread quickly. Crowds begin to emerge. They not only want to see Jesus, but they want to see Lazarus. Lazarus is a living testimony of the power of Christ, and his true identity. So the religious leaders made plans to kill Lazarus too. His resurrection were leading many to place their faith in Jesus and follow him.
John demonstrates for us in this story a picture of the responses of Mary and Judas to the Worth of Christ. And before I challenge us personally about our own response, the question we need to answer is this: what makes Jesus so worthy? What constitutes his worth?
1. His being.
Scripture tells us that Jesus is the Word from the beginning. He is God in the flesh. The Creator of the universe. He is the sustainer of the universe. He made you. He determined that *you* would even exist. He chose the time, place, and people to whom you would belong.
He is infinite in his perfections. Nobody even compares to him in his manifold perfections and excellencies.
- We are often hardened and uncaring toward others, Christ is the perfection of love.
- We act entitled to happiness and joy in all kinds of things except God, Christ is the fullness of joy (rooted in his eternal relationships to the Father and Holy Spirit).
- We suffer with division and back-biting in our relationships, Christ lives in total peace with God and others.
- We live according to our impulses and whims, Christ is the picture of perfect discipline and self- control.
- We are greedy and hoard for ourselves, Christ is infinitely generous.
- We are harsh, abrasive, and vicdictive, Christ is the gentle shepherd who is tender toward us in our weaknesses.
- We are foolish and prone to wander, Christ is the perfect display of wisdom, understanding, and insight.
- We are pessimistic, easily discouraged, and often despair, Christ is the embodiment of hope and unshakable trust in God's plan.
- We are prideful, self-indulgent, and self-centered, Christ is humble and endures with infinitely less than the praise he deserves.
- We are unreliable and easily distracted, Christ is faithful and always keeps His Word and promises.
- We are corrupted and often find our good deeds mixed with self-righteousness, Christ is perfectly good.
- We are lukewarm and complacent in our faith, Christ burns with a passion for the glory of God. We are easily annoyed, irritable, and demand immediate results, Christ is patient and long- suffering.
In these ways, and many more, his perfections and excellencies shine the praise of his infinite worth.
His being displays his infinite worth to be treasured.
2. His works.
Jesus is the fulfillment of every Old Testament office. He is the perfect prophet, priest, and king. As prophet he speaks the message of God. He proclaims to us who God is, who we are, and what we must do to be reconciled. He speaks a better word than our world, our flesh, or the devil. As priest, he is our High Priest. He is our mediator and makes us acceptable before the Father. He intercedes for our needs, praying for us always. As priest, he not only presents a sacrifice on our behalf, but was the sacrifice on our behalf, washing away our sins. He is a tender shepherd who loves his sheep and cares for our needs. As king, he is the perfect ruler and authority. He is the Lord and Master, the only good king who leads his people with righteousness, justice, and honor. He rules and reigns over the world as the resurrected and ascended king, and he is returning to consummate the kingdom on earth for all of eternity.
His works display his infinite worth to be treasured.
3. His offer.
What does Jesus offer that showcases his worth to us? He offers us:
forgiveness of sins and eternal life (Through his sin-atoning death on the cross, we can be forgiven of all our sins if we put our faith and trust in Jesus for that forgiveness. The result of this is we are given eternal life in Heaven upon our deaths or his return. We do not suffer the punishment of our sins in Hell, but are granted eternal life.)
grace and peace as we endure the troubles of this life (We will suffer trials. Pain will come as a part of this life. But he invites us to himself to find rest, help, and peace through those troubles. He sustains us in our sorrows and grief with promises of help and hope for tomorrow.)
a life of meaning and purpose beyond this world (Jesus invites us into his kingdom to a play a part in his grand story. We are a part of a kingdom that is being built and will one day come to earth. Our lives count for something beyond making money, experiencing pleasure, and satisfying our needs. We are invited to make our lives count to an eternal king and for a Glorious King. He offers you a life of significance and meaning.)
himself (Knowing Christ Jesus my Lord. That is an offer. Jesus offers himself to you. You can know God and walk in fellowship and communion with him. That offer is the greatest thing you can have and know in this life.
His offer displays his infinite worth to be treasured.
Who will your life be like? Will you value Jesus properly with your life? Will our actions and love for Christ match his worth? Each of us today will choose to either live like Mary or Judas. We'll either discount Jesus' worth and pursue things above him. Or we will see the infinite worth of Christ and live our lives treasuring him properly with our devotions, praises, and resources.