“What will you give me if I turn him over to you?” Matthew 26:15
Sunday, Monday, and Tuesday have been about big crowds and intense conflict. Wednesday, the pace slows down, but the events are no less important.
Wednesday is about Value. It is literally about how much money Jesus is worth. Two stories on this day point in this direction.
Jesus and his disciples have gone to Bethany, which is not far from the Mount of Olives, to have dinner with a man named Simon, the leper, probably someone whom Jesus had healed. Bethany is where Jesus raised Lazarus. Bethany appears to be a safe place, a place for Jesus’ inner circle to retreat from the crowds.
While Jesus is reclining after dinner, Lazarus’ sister Mary comes up to him with an alabaster jar of really expensive perfume and pours it on Jesus.* This isn’t just some bottle of cheap perfume, or even the best you could buy from Von Maur. This stone jar of a pound of nard is worth a year’s salary!
The disciples, in their typical fashion, miss the point. “Why was this ointment not sold and given to the poor?” Judas asks. John’s gospel details his hypocrisy. The group’s corrupt treasurer was upset, not because he cared about the poor, but because he was a thief and there would be less for him to skim off the top.
Jesus, as is his pattern, is way out in front. “Leave her alone,” he tells them. “She is preparing me for my burial. You will always have the poor to care for, but my time with you is short. Mary has done a beautiful thing and she will always be remembered for this. She understands how much I am worth.”
Judas looks at Jesus and makes a different calculation. And it is now time for him to act.
He will seek out the chief priests and say to them, “Make me an offer. What will you give me if I hand Jesus over to you?”
Thirty pieces of silver. That’s about a fourth of what the perfume costs if you want to do the math.
Let’s try to get inside Judas’ head for a minute. Why would he do it? How could he spend so much time with Jesus, learning from him, watching him, experiencing him—and then do this? Was he rotten from the start? Was it a slow fade? Did fear overcome him? Maybe he looked back at his time with Jesus and concluded, “What a waste of my life! It’s time to cut my losses and get what I can and start over.”
These two stories lead us to a fork in the road. Jesus is either worthy of everything or he is worthy of nothing. There’s really no in between.
We’ve all been rocked by this crisis. It’s been different for everyone. What’s an extended Spring Break and a time to catch up on overdue home improvement plans for some, is a nightmare of grief, uncertainty, and pain for others.
However this whole thing has hit you, personally, it will end, and we’ll return to some form of normality. Even if our normal is “new,” we’ll go back to our routines and we’ll go back to caring more about what we used to care about. We’ll go back to watching and talking about sports. We’ll go back to planning cookouts, graduations, and weddings. We’ll go back to school. We’ll go back to work. We’ll go back to church.
The market will bounce back. Gas prices will go back up. The worth of everything will stabilize for a minute—until something else hits.
The worth of Jesus is a constant. His value is not calculated like the price of a stock. There are no market forces that will make his price go up or down. No matter how many people put their money on him, his value does not change!
So what about you? How much worth do you give Jesus? Will you be like Mary or like Judas? Will you worship Jesus or will you reject him? That sounds a little extreme. That sounds like a logical fallacy of either/or reasoning. Maybe. But I’ve looked for the passage in the Bible that says being on the fence with Jesus is a good place to be.
I can’t find it.
Which side of the fence are you on with Jesus? If you’re on the fence, what is keeping you from worshiping him or rejecting him?
Jesus, help me to get off the fence and give you the worth that you deserve.
*Note—I’ve followed the lead of Russ Ramsey in his helpful book Behold the King of Glory: A Narrative of the Life, Death, and Resurrection of Jesus Christ in placing Mary’s anointing of Jesus on Wednesday of Holy Week. Scholars have come up with various ways to reconcile the differing accounts between Matthew and John.