worth

Established Worth Found in Christ

Previously, I had posted on Aaron’s sermon about the anointing of Jesus by the woman with the alabaster flask in Mark 14:3-9. It is a beautiful passage, and I hope the sermon and blog proved to be profitable for those who listened and read. One thing I had wanted to mention but did not, though, was Jesus’s response to this extravagant worship:

And truly, I say to you, wherever this gospel is proclaimed in the whole world, what she had done will be told in memory of her.
Mark 14:9

By way of preface, I should note two things: first, this will not be an exegetical study of the above text, and secondly, hardly anything I write below is a thought that is original to me, but comes from having my thoughts formed after hearing many, many sermons.

Ok, that’s out of the way.

The context of this story, if you recall, was in the midst of when Mary was being harangued for her worship. In the midst of such derision, though, Christ affirms the precious nature of this worship, and in so doing, validates her own personhood, for He says, “what she has done will be told in memory of her.”

This is an astonishing statement. The Lord of glory Himself not only took note of Mary’s action, but also affirmed her worth. And that’s what I’d like to focus on here.

One thing you may notice throughout the gospel accounts is that in the midst of preaching to the masses and roaming around the countryside with His band of disciples, Jesus repeatedly takes special time and care to stop and interact with broken, hurting, and curious individuals. Passages throughout the Bible that talk about these stories have grown increasingly precious to me.

Perhaps one of the most striking instances of this is the story of Jesus with the Samaritan woman at the well captured for us in John 4:1-45. In it we have the story of Jesus interacting with a racially discriminated against, morally rejected, profoundly confused woman. For Jesus to even speak with a woman (not to mention one of “ill-repute”) in that day would have been scandalous to the utmost! And yet we not only see Him speak to her, but He gives to her the most profound of self-disclosures when, after talking to her about the prophesied Messiah, He says to her, “I who speak to you am he,” (John 4:26).

I would love to mention some more of these stories, but for want of time and space I will forego them here. Rather, I would encourage you to open up to any page of the four gospels and see that there is more than likely a story involving Jesus spending time with an individual.

There is something worth pointing out here, and that is this: people have worth. There is something within a person that the Son of God Himself found so compelling that He took the time to interact with many of them on a one-on-one basis. However, this inherent worth in humanity, I believe, is established in something extraneous to itself.

Perhaps one of the more peculiar yet foundational claims made by the Judeo-Christian worldview is that men and women are created in the image of God (Genesis 1:26-27). That is to say, humans are created with inherent worth because they are made in the image of someone who is infinitely worthy. This is a compliment that I think far exceeds anything that we could possibly comprehend.

I freely admit that I lack a comprehensive knowledge of all the worldviews that find themselves in stark contradiction to the teachings of the Bible. As for what I do know, though, I believe that the way in which Jesus displays this fundamental truth makes for a profound distinction between Him and all the other leaders and pedagogues of all other major worldviews. From eastern pantheism to western atheism, I have a hard time imagining how any other worldview might argue for something that appears so self-evidently true.

Conclusion

Reasonably, you may well wonder why I bother bringing this up. Good question.

For starters, I think we must know this: that the image that God has stamped upon us has been marred by human sin. In all the honor into which God created us, we have all too readily given it up to go after our own sinful and selfish proclivities.

Secondly, though sin has separated us from God, in a sense it did not separate God from us. This is what I mean, “By sending his own Son in the likeness of sinful flesh and for sin, he condemned sin in the flesh, in order that the righteous requirement of the law might be fulfilled in us,” (Romans 8:3-4). Know this: Christ Jesus came into the world to save individual sinners (1 Timothy 1:15). He came in the very likeness of man and died upon a cross in order to reconcile us to a most worthy, and good, and just, and holy, and loving God! Christ coming in this likeness tore down the veil that separated man from God (Matthew 27:51, 2 Corinthians 3:18, Hebrews 10:19-20).

Third, “if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation,” (2 Corinthians 5:21). That is to say, if you are a believer in Christ, not only do you have the compliment of being made in God’s image, but you now have the utter privilege of being redeemed to conform to the image of His Son (Romans 8:29). Do not let this conformity confuse you, however, for in conformity to this Individual, we gain the truer and better expression of our own individuality.

Fourth, take the time to understand and love the way that Jesus does things. He loved people (John 3:16). He loves you (Ephesians 2:4-5). Rejoice in this love! And now show that love by following the example of Jesus. Understand that there is something very important about the individuals that God has placed in your life, both believing and unbelieving. Do not neglect this truth, for you would do so at your own peril and the peril of others. Like Mary, our response to Jesus, his love, and his salvation in our acts of worship and obedience toward God are precious in the sight of our Savior. As feeble and small as they are, like the destitute widow’s offering (Mark 12:41-44), or the handful of unbelieving individuals that you know, individual acts of obedience make for a powerful and lasting impact that leave impressions even upon Jesus.

Fifthly and lastly, this is how the Kingdom of God is built. It is built upon broken individuals being saved and then put together as wholesome stones into a temple (1 Peter 2:5). Yes, Jesus did speak to the crowds, but I’m sure it was not uncommon for them to leave after hearing His hard words (John 6:66). But in nearly all the examples of Jesus going to an individual, the change is drastic and effectual. Jesus did the hard thing by building His Kingdom from the bottom up, and not from the top down. He loves individuals into His Kingdom. This, again, distinguishes Jesus from all others.

We as the Crossing need to take this same approach. On several occasions I have heard Pastor Aaron say that we are planting a church in the most difficult way possible. That is to say, our “evangelism strategy” is simply to tell the church to love their neighbors, coworkers, and friends, to pray for them often and earnestly, and share the gospel in deed and truth (1 John 3:18), hoping that their hearts would be softened and they would come to know God in Christ.

Honestly, I can’t think of a better way to do it.

Sermon Notes – Valuing Jesus: Priceless

Note: “Sermon Notes” entries exist to help us as a church body gather around the faithful teaching and preaching of the Word of God. I pray they enhance our study and appreciation for the teaching we receive on a weekly basis.
The Scripture text from the sermon two weeks ago came from Mark 14:1-11. Pastor Aaron noted that within this text is a “sandwich story.” That is to say, one story sandwiched between two stories that are more closely related to each other than they are to the story in the middle. The “bread” of this passage includes stories of individuals who esteemed Jesus of very little (if any) worth. The chapter opens with the chief priests and scribes plotting how they might kill Jesus, and the passage ends with their opportunity realized when Judas Iscariot goes to them in order to betray his Teacher.

Aaron did an excellent job exposing the reality that there are many who esteem Jesus of very little worth both inside and outside of the church, so I’ll speak of it briefly here. One thought that came to mind was the depraved nature of the hearts of man. The religious establishment in being so zealous to maintain their codes and creeds were plotting to destroy the one who is the culmination of those very things (Matthew 5:17). And we see Judas, who even though he was in such close physical proximity to Christ, had a hard and bitter heart. If nothing else, this passage illuminates the vanity and perversity of religion which is entirely divorced from the truth and glory of Christ in the gospel.

What we have between these two passages, though, is the beautiful picture of a woman who understands the surpassing worth of Christ.

We learn from John’s gospel account that this woman was actually Mary, the sister of the very recently resurrected Lazarus (John 12:1-7). One can only imagine what was going through her head in everything that lead up to this event. Jesus had a peculiar and fond affection for Mary and her family (John 11:5), and we can assume the fondness was mutual. Mary had probably known the Man for years, and perhaps only recently came to discover that Jesus really was the Christ.

I like to think that Martha had told Mary about her interaction with the Lord when He came to see their (at the time) deceased brother. Perhaps Martha had shared those mysterious words of His, “I am the resurrection and the life. Whoever believes in me, though he die, yet shall he live, and everyone who lives and believes in me shall never die. Do you believe this?” (John 11:25-26)

And now here He is, sitting in her house; sitting with her beloved brother in the house of a leper that we can likely assume Jesus had healed. He’s just sitting there, in the presence of those who were dead and had been made alive, and those who were unclean and have now been made clean. A house full of restored and redeemed people.

The relentless thoughts running through Mary’s head as she contemplated who it was that was sitting in her presence would have been astounding. The sheer amount of appreciation she had for what Jesus had done moved her to respond. And respond she did, perhaps somewhat brashly. She grabs the alabaster flask containing the most valuable thing she owned, and smashes it. Right there. In front of everyone. And she begins to rub it on His head (Mark 14:3) and wipe it on His feet with her hair (John 12:3).

This is a portrait of a person who understands that Christ is worth everything. He’s worth the embarrassment and scorn we might receive from friends, family, and outsiders. He’s worth the awkwardness that oftentimes accompanies genuine expressions of worship. And He’s certainly more than worth all of our material good.

The worth of Christ is a subject worthy of our contemplation.

We as believers must understand that Jesus is worthy of our worship. It may sound obvious to state it like that, but it’s a point that must be established repeatedly.

It is far too easy to give way to the thought that Jesus is worthy of worship because He has given us much in the way of material blessing, or because of the health of our bodies and our families, or because things in life have been going well, or even because we recognize the stunning amount of grace that accompanies the forgiveness of our sins. And He is worthy of worship for all of these things!

What I want to establish in our thinking, though, is that Christ is worthy of worship not primarily because of what He gives, but because of who He is.

This must be the posture of the church at all times, and there are many examples outside of Mary’s story demonstrating this.

It can be seen in the lives of His apostles. Paul stated, “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,” (Philippians 3:8).

The psalmist boldly states, “Whom have I in heaven but you? And there is nothing on earth that I desire besides you,” (Psalm 73:25).

And in referring to the suffering, testing, and loss that come through faith in Christ, Peter said in 1 Peter 1:6-7 that our faith, which unites us to Christ, is of more value than any earthly good, and its result will be to the praise and glory of Jesus.

In contemplating the sheer worth of Christ, it taxes the mind and the imagination of man beyond its physical limits. But, as Aaron would say, it’s a beautiful thing.

However, even in Mary’s expressions of worship, there was still something lacking. And Jesus made sure they knew it when He said, “she has anointed my body beforehand for burial,” (Mark 14:8).

There was still something lacking in what needed to be accomplished through the suffering that He was soon to endure (Hebrews 2:10). And indeed, it is because of His sufferings that the entire host of heaven will cry out, “Worthy is the Lamb who was slain, to receive power and wealth and wisdom and might and honor and glory and blessing!” (Revelation 5:12). And it is His sufferings that have made it possible for us to enjoy Him.

Finally, as Pastor Aaron helped us to understand, we will fall short when it comes to our worship. And so I want to leave us with a thought from the pen of the great hymn writer John Newton:

Weak is the effort of my heart,
And cold my warmest thought;
But when I see Thee as Thou art,
I’ll praise Thee as I ought.

The gospel makes up for all of our shortcomings. Mary understood that. At the heart of every genuine believer is the desire to live and give oneself in such a way that reflects the true worth of Christ. We will fail in attempting to do this on our own, so let us first seek to see Christ for who He is (2 Corinthians 4:6). Because then, and only then, will the response of genuine worship be possible.