Jesus Worth - Matthew 26:1-16
Topic: New Testament Passage: Matthew 26:1–16
Christopher Rich – January 31, 2015
Passion of the King - The Book of Matthew Pt. 5
Wk1: Jesus Worth| 26:1-16
Introduction | Beginning of the End
Good Morning! In December of 2013 we began to book of Matthew during Advent looking at the birth of Jesus “The Arrival of the King”. Broken up into 5 parts this week we are beginning the fifth section, Chapters 26-28, “Passion of the King” the suffering and death of Jesus for His people. We will spend the next 10 weeks, looking to Jesus on the cross taking our defeat for us including Good Friday, His victorious resurrection on Easter, and the commission he gives his disciples to make disciples and live for him.
Verse 1-5 | Transition Time
Matthew 26:1-5 | When Jesus had finished all these sayings, he said to his disciples, 2 “You know that after two days the Passover is coming, and the Son of Man will be delivered up to be crucified.” 3 Then the chief priests and the elders of the people gathered in the palace of the high priest, whose name was Caiaphas, 4 and plotted together in order to arrest Jesus by stealth and kill him. 5 But they said, “Not during the feast, lest there be an uproar among the people.”
We have seen Jesus work in healing and feeding people, we’ve seen all his miracles, we have heard Jesus preaching and teaching and now we’re going to see his death, burial, and resurrection. Jesus the teacher, Jesus the healer, is now going to be seen as Jesus the savior. Jesus himself tells his disciples what is going to come next and it’s both specific and significant. He doesn’t say “things are looking kind tense around here.” Or “I don’t think everyone likes me very much” He tell his disciples clearly about what the next phase of his kingdom building mission is. In two days (specific) the Passover Feast is coming, the time of the year when God’s chosen people celebrate God’s mercy “in the angel of death passing over those who trust Him.” Who know the blood of the lamb covering their doors is what spared them, who know the sacrificial lamb is what pays for their sins before God. They also celebrate God’s grace. Passover is when the Jews remember God’s gracious hand acting to give them deliverance out of bondage and slavery from an oppressive nation. During that festival Jesus (The Messiah, anointed one) will be delivered up to Roman authorities to be crucified, receiving a criminal’s death at the hands of a foreign oppressive god-less government. Jesus could have been killed as a young child by Herod, he could have been stoned by religious opponents, he could have been thrown off a cliff by those who found his teaching offensive, or even attacked by the money changers whose tables he over turned. Yet the specifics of Jesus death, including the timing is significant to identify Himself as the promised savior of God’s People. By telling his disciples in two days he’s going to be crucified he is saying God is still in control and at work in what is about to happen. While the cross will cast a long and dark shadow over each of the next 8 sermons, in the darkness do not forget Good Friday comes but so does resurrection Sunday. The cross is necessary.
Now that we know the cross is in Jesus view, and God’s plan, Matthew shows us as brief scene of how the elite of the world are responding to Jesus as King. Chief Priests, elders, leaders, are gathering, they have community and unity around one mission. They are in the home of Caiaphas, the High Priest of Israel, to plot how they were going to eliminate Jesus. As long as Jesus is King and ruler over all, it means they cannot be. The lines are becoming clearer opposition to Jesus isn’t just “let him be him and we’ll be us.” It’s let’s kill him and we can remain in charge. The most outwardly religious and most respected leaders in the country were gathered in the home of their leader like a bunch of gangster having a sit down to determine how to off a rival gang leader who is encroaching on their territory. In all their opposition to Jesus, specifically as Lord, they still have fear. Not fear of God, and His holiness, but of how the people will react. Let’s not make a big deal about this while so many people are in town (including a large contingent from Galilee.) Because Jesus is pretty popular and if we start a riot Rome will crack down on us hard. Let’s wait until things are quieter and the city has emptied out and we can get Jesus by stealth. Jesus has said it his crucifixion will be in two days, God’s plan for redemption of His people will be sooner than expected.
Verse 6-13 | What is Jesus worth?
Matthew 26:6-13 | 6 Now when Jesus was at Bethany in the house of Simon the leper, 7 a woman came up to him with an alabaster flask of very expensive ointment, and she poured it on his head as he reclined at table. 8 And when the disciples saw it, they were indignant, saying, “Why this waste? 9 For this could have been sold for a large sum and given to the poor.” 10 But Jesus, aware of this, said to them, “Why do you trouble the woman? For she has done a beautiful thing to me. 11 For you always have the poor with you, but you will not always have me.12 In pouring this ointment on my body, she has done it to prepare me for burial. 13 Truly, I say to you, wherever this gospel is proclaimed in the whole world, what she has done will also be told in memory of her.”
Matthew quickly transitions to another scene, another gathering of people occupied with Jesus. This one stands is start contrast to the one at the house of Caiaphas in the heart of Jerusalem. This is in the “House of Simon the Leper” a small village outside of Jerusalem called Bethany. We don’t know if the home was recovery or quarantine house for lepers but we do know Mary and Martha lived there and their brother Lazarus was at the dinner too. Jesus is sharing a meal with those gathered in a home defined by disease but he was with his people, his disciples, his followers, those who he had saved and those who served him. During the communal meal a woman comes to Jesus an anoint Jesus head, a custom for an honored guest, with an extraordinarily expense perfume. We know from John 12 the women who did this was Mary the sister of Martha. Because we know we who did this we can have a bit more understanding about her motivations behind these actions.
When we say extraordinarily expensive what is this ointment worth? The amount we know from Mark’s account of what the jar was worth was 300 denarii or about 10 months of a common labors wages ($25-$50k worth of expense perfume) Let that sink in for a second. This isn’t a Starbucks gift card. She wasn’t a rich women (by nature of being in Bethany) but she did have something of great value, she had likely kept her entire life. She isn’t guilty for having something nice or valuable. Jesus doesn’t ask for it, “Mary I see you have something of great value you’ve saved your whole life for, give it to me and then I’ll work in your life and the world.” No, instead Mary saw all that she had as valuable, all she had saved, all that she had placed her hope in for life and death and said to herself “Jesus is worth this!” Her radical generosity and lavish giving was not so she could earn anything or even so she could pay off a debt of sin or guilt. It was a response to the truth she knew about Jesus from what he had done for her brother Lazarus. She has heard what Jesus said to her sister Martha when she came to Jesus to tell him Lazarus was dead.
John 11:25| 25 Jesus said to her, “I am the resurrection and the life. Whoever believes in me, though he die, yet shall he live, 26 and everyone who lives and believes in me shall never die. Do you believe this?”
She was there when they rolled away the stone of Lazarus tomb and the smell of acrid death poured out from her brother’s 4 day old decay body. In was in that moment where the stench of death overwhelmed her that she heard Jesus cry out “Lazarus, come out!” and he did. She was there when her brother was deader than dead and by spoken word of Jesus was given new life. Her response is “I’ve seen you remove the stench of death from my brother now let me anoint you with the most fragrant offering I can imagine.” You have given life where there was death, let me give an offering of gratitude. Order matters or we will fundamentally misunderstand what Gospel motivated gratitude and worship look like. She didn’t anoint Jesus with the ointment so the he would give her new life, and she didn’t do it to pay Jesus back for what he had done for Lazarus. It was natural response of gratitude of who Jesus is; the Christ, the anointed one, the Son of God, and what he is doing; coming into the world to bring life where there has only been death.
When you met Jesus become aware of who he is and what he has done you cannot help but have a radical response. In this case it looked like lavish, almost reckless worship and generous offering to Jesus. Let’s not over spiritualize what Mary has done here and think the only application for us is to simply say or have an attitude of gratitude about Jesus. She didn’t write a lengthy facebook post about her devotion to Jesus, she made dramatic demonstration in a gathering of Jesus followers with an offering that cost her greatly. To be clear we’re not going to be waiving around dollars here or start telling everyone what we give each week, but we cannot deny that a response of worship to Jesus can and does include offering something both tangible and sacrificial. Put simply Mary’s offering to Jesus cost her dearly, she had to give up something of great value, but she gave it both willingly and joyfully.
Surely everyone around must have been moved by this dramatic act. But there is a tension from the poor disciples. They were indignant. “Woman, don’t you know what we could have done with all that money?!” The disciples have an understanding of the gospel that is limited in scope to how it can positively impact temporary human needs. They have what we would call a “social justice" view of the gospel that places the primary emphasis on easing the suffering of the poor or afflicted. Put more simply their gospel is primarily about lifting up people rather than seeing God as lifted up. This means when they see this active offering to Jesus their immediate responses isn’t to consider how this shows the glory of God or the amazing worth of Jesus that he would be so worthy of such a great offering. All they see is it’s a waste. Because you gave this to Jesus we cannot go help the poor and needy. We see this all the time in appeals from various charities and campaigns, give to us and we’ll fix this, and help them. We will error if we believe the gospel is something we can do for others when it doesn’t start with what Jesus has done for us.
Disciples of Jesus are called to worship Jesus through tangible cheerful, sacrificial, offerings. Giving offerings to a church isn’t the same as giving to Jesus. Wrong. We are the church an expression of the bride of Christ, the body of Christ. We absolutely desire to help and meet the poor and needy in their affliction. We do and will continue to give, work, and serve in tangible ways to improve the world around us, to bring healing to the sick, and food to the hungry, and refuge for the wayward. But while exceedingly significant, they are decidedly secondary to our primary role in the world to up hold the manifold wisdom of God as 1 Timothy 3:15 says to be a pillar and buttress of the truth. The truth that Jesus is the way the truth and the life and no one come to the father except through Him. All that we are and all that we do as the gathered and scattered people of God in Jesus Christ is under our primary identity of his blood bought people and primary purpose to display the Glory of God in Jesus to a world whose most desperate and eternal need is to be reconciled to their Creator. This is why when Jesus gets wind of the disciples discouraging words he begins to clarify what they have actually seen. They haven’t seen a wasteful, ill-conceived act of “conspicuous consumption”. Jesus is clear; they are not to provide any trouble to Mary because what she has done for Jesus is truly a beautiful thing. Lavish giving in the name of Jesus is beautiful! Jesus goes on to paraphrase a clear Old Testament teaching on how we are to be generous to the poor among us.
Deuteronomy 15:11 11 For there will never cease to be poor in the land. Therefore I command you, ‘You shall open wide your hand to your brother, to the needy and to the poor, in your land.’
Don’t hear what Jesus is saying here incorrectly. Jesus has not said don’t care for the poor, in fact this section of scripture immediately follows Jesus teaching in Chapter 25 about the call of disciples to feed the hungry, clothe the naked, and refresh the thirsty. But all, even godly, agendas of good in the world must first flow from a passionate devotion to Jesus because of who Jesus is and what he has done. Don’t think somehow God’s purposes in the world, his helping/healing hand, will somehow be diminished or limited because you decided to give generous offerings to Jesus. Additionally, ultimate healing and restoration of all people will not be accomplished if you merely direct all your efforts and giving to the poor.
Jesus goes on to say there is a deeper meaning about what she has done for him. She is preparing him for burial. Anointing a body for burial was standard procedure during Jewish burial rituals with the exception of executed criminals. Jesus will go to the cross and die the death of a criminal but he is the anointed one of God. This ointment that Mary has saved little by little, day by day, possibly even passed down from generation to generation was seen as insignificant in comparison to her knowing and worship Jesus.
Phil 3:8 Indeed, I count everything as loss because of the surpassing worth of knowing Christ Jesus my Lord. For his sake I have suffered the loss of all things and count them as rubbish, in order that I may gain Christ.
Mary is no longer concerned with her death and preparing for her burial one day because she knows the day of her death is not her last day because she will rise again and spend eternity with Jesus and His people. She isn’t worried about her legacy she’s only concerned radically worshipping Jesus. Yet there is a specific memorial about what she did in scripture that we’re talking about 2,000 years later. While it’s easy to look at the radical actions of Jesus and say “Yeah, but that’s Jesus.” I believe here radical act of generous worship of Jesus can be used by us as an example of what it looks like when a disciple sees Jesus as ultimately valuable.
Verse 14-16 | Judas Answer
Matthew 26:14-16| 14 Then one of the twelve, whose name was Judas Iscariot, went to the chief priests 15 and said, “What will you give me if I deliver him over to you?” And they paid him thirty pieces of silver. 16 And from that moment he sought an opportunity to betray him.
Where the disciples, and we know Judas specifically, express concern on giving to Jesus or giving to help the poor, I don’t think most of us are making the decision between “am I going to give generously to Jesus or to the poor” Quite frankly most of our biggest financial concerns, much of the time the question is between will give freely and seek to give more or will I keep tightly all I have and desire to have more. I said previously when you have an encounter with Jesus, see who He is, and who you are, you will have a radical response. Unfortunately that response is not always a positive one. You will either radically worship Jesus as God or completely reject Jesus as Lord. Judas sees the beautiful act of a faithful women and has his own radical response to Jesus. He is intentional about his defection. He has already chosen the other team. His only question isn’t “Will I betray Jesus?” but “How immediately worldly profitable will it be for me?” Judas was on the inside, he was with 11 other disciples, he saw the healing, and the feedings, heard every sermon, participated in every small group and yet his deepest hearts desires were not to worship Jesus to experience more of Jesus but to see what he could gain for turning on Jesus. In sin, Judas willingly sells himself for the price of a slave to see Jesus put on the cross. Jesus willingly put himself on the cross so you could be purchased from slavery to sin with the blood of a king. That is why we Trust Jesus!