It’s really difficult to determine the worth of anything. Do we really know how much an iPad should cost? We know they probably cost too much! But there is no way of knowing exactly what something is worth. Companies set prices not based on what something is actually worth, but based on what customers believe it is worth. Customers and economies give products value. But determining the actual, inherent value of something is nearly impossible.
Mark 14:1-11 is all about the value and worth of Jesus. This passage contains an example of extravagant love for Jesus sandwiched between deliberate and diabolical schemes to destroy Jesus. The religious authorities and Judas Iscariot serve as foils to an unnamed woman as their treacherous and cowardly plans to arrest Jesus are contrasted with her sacrificial and lavish love for Jesus. The actions of each person in this passage either miss or match the worth of Jesus. The worth we ascribe to Jesus will be mirrored in our responses to Jesus.
Some of us, like the chief priests and scribes, will respond to Jesus with outright hostility. The religious leaders were threatened by Jesus’ power and authority and wanted no part of him. We are naturally rebellious, so we must guard ourselves from wanting a different Jesus. There may be some aspects of Jesus’ person, work, or teaching that you don’t like. In this sense, you may be tempted to be hostile toward who Jesus actually is and prefer a Jesus of your own making. If so, resist and repent.
Some of us, like Judas, will respond to Jesus with slow, yet sudden betrayal. Judas’ betrayal of Jesus was unexpected and sudden, but it was the result of slow rebellion. Judas was spiritually privileged. He walked with Jesus religiously. He had more intimate contact with Jesus than nearly anyone else in Palestine during Jesus’ life. He received special revelation from Jesus about the kingdom. He witnessed his divine power and deep love on a regular basis. And yet, at the end he fell away and turned his back. He abandoned Jesus. Judas is a sober warning to us. We can be around Jesus and never be connected to him. We can attend church regularly and never be in the Church. We can betray Jesus through repetitive, unrepentant sin. May we never publicly follow Jesus, while privately betraying him, The payoff for betrayal is never worth it.
Some of us, like the group in the home of Simon the leper, will respond to Jesus with comfortable discipleship. When the unnamed woman in Mark 14 poured out an entire jar of incredibly expensive perfume on Jesus’ head, his disciples and others at the dinner party were disgusted. They rebuked the woman for what they considered a very foolish act. To this group, it was a sweet gesture gone wrong. Honoring a worthy guest like Jesus with an anointing was customary. But, she emptied what would amount to a $30,000 jar of perfume. It was a fine gesture, but seemed fool-hearted. While their reaction is reasonable and understandable, they gave their view of Jesus away. They loved Jesus. They thought he was worthy of their lives. But they placed a limit on his worth. He may be worthy of much, but such extravagance was silly in their eyes.
We are prone to fall in this group. We know Jesus is worth much, but we place limits on him. Sacrificial devotion to Jesus is difficult for us. But for we who have received extravagant love from Jesus, should be quick to respond with extravagant love for Jesus.
The goal and standard for discipleship is found in the spontaneous and sacrificial devotion of the woman in Mark 14. She isn’t named, but Jesus says her action will never be forgotten. While everyone else was either opposing Jesus or enjoying the benefit of his presence, she recognized that communing with Jesus was a unique and special gift. She made the most of the opportunity by giving the most that she could. Do you view discipleship in this way? Do you follow Jesus with similar reckless abandon, ready and willing to sacrifice all for Jesus?
Jesus’ worth is infinite. There is no measure or end to his worth. May our lives declare his worth. We cannot love Jesus too much and we cannot devote ourselves to him too extravagantly.
Mathew Gilbert is Associate Pastor for Children and Preschool at The Church at Trace Crossing in Tupelo, MS. He is a student at The Southern Baptist Theological Seminary and the author of Come to the Well: 50 Meditations to Fuel Your Joy in God. Mathew and his wife, Erica, live in Tupelo with their two boys, Jude and Jack.