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In the mid to late 2000s, the Master Card company ran a series of commercials where they would put prices on a variety of items - then the commentator would conclude that the collective sum of those things is “priceless.”
Their whole point is that not everything is valued in money, but for the things that are - there is MasterCard.
Things in our lives have value or costs.
Even coming together as a church has a cost - and I’m not referring to any offering you may put in the offering box or through online giving.
There is the cost of time.
There is the cost of comfort.
There is the cost of quiet.
But I hope that our time worshiping God together is priceless - that it has value beyond what we can count.
For some people, the only price they can place on worship is “what’s in it for me.”
It’s all about what I can get out of it; what I can learn, how I can be fed, how I can be served?
Today, as we continue our study in the book of John, we come to an interesting encounter where the extravagant worship of one sparked greed in another and fueled the jealousy of still others.
If you have your Bibles, open them to John 12.
Three weeks ago, we considered chapter 11 where Jesus showed up four days late to the sickness of Lazarus, who ended up dying.
Jesus brought him back to life and then left town for a while.
Here in chapter 12, we’re back in the same town (Bethany) - about 2 miles from Jerusalem, with the same family - Martha, Mary, and Lazarus - and we find Jesus and his disciples with them because they are throwing a party for Jesus.
Many others are gathered around as well.
As we look at this passage, we’re going to look at it in reverse, primarily because I’d like for us to reflect on Mary’s act more fully As we conclude.
So, with this feast and all of the people that were gathering around Jesus (in fact the next day would be the triumphal entry - where thousands would escort Jesus into Jerusalem) and with the fact that a dead man was now walking (Lazarus), several of the religious leaders expose their...
Extravagant Jealousy (9-11)
Our sinful human natures have a way of allowing jealousy to hinder the good work of God in other people’s lives.
Here, the religious leaders were threatened by the crowd that was following Jesus - not to mention their curiosity about Lazarus.
So, instead of celebrating and joining in, they are scheming to kill Jesus and Lazarus.
We’ve seen over the last several chapters how time and time again signs, encounters, conversations, and more have resulted in obstinance from the religious leaders.
The signs point to Jesus as the Messiah - but these religious leaders simply won’t believe.
His teachings reveal truths about God - but they refuse to listen.
They are threatened by Jesus and his growing following - threatened because they fear they will lose their power.
In fact, in the previous chapter we saw this clearly.
But how often do we find ourselves in similar situations.
We look at other churches and think - why are they growing so quickly?
What are we doing wrong?
What are they doing right?
We could also look at other individuals and see God using them and out of jealousy undermine the very good work that God is doing - talking poorly about them.
We get into a comparison game.
Rather than seeking God and pursuing His will for our lives, we jealously long for the work that God is doing in someone else’s life.
Jealousy can easily be masked as a form of covetousness - longing for that which someone else has.
Ultimately, these religious leaders will get their wish with Jesus.
Within a week, he will be on the cross.
And yet their act of jealousy will be the very thing that God uses to accomplish his redemptive plan through Jesus Christ.
But their jealous devices are not without assistance.
In this encounter, we also get to see how Judas displays...
Extravagant Greed (4-8)
For a little context, if you remember from the scripture reading earlier, Mary took some expensive ointment and poured it on Jesus.
Now, it’s important for us to remember that as John is writing this, he is looking back over many many years.
He does not have any clairvoyance when it comes to Judas.
All of these events are historical for John.
So when he writes about Judas taking money - they learned about it after the fact.
Now, Judas is quite perceptive in recognizing the value of what Mary poured on Jesus - it was worth about 300 denarii - which is about a year’s wage for a day laborer.
If we were to translate that into modern dollars, it could be worth around $36,000 for a person earning $15/hour.
That is quite a jar of perfume!
That could do a lot of good for the poor.
That could do a lot of good for a lot of things!
At the same time, it leaves a lot of room for Judas to help himself to some.
No one would miss a few denarii here or there.
But, Judas wasn’t the only one who struggled with the sin of greed or covetousness.
In 1 Sam. 2 - the sons of Eli disqualified themselves from ministry because they dishonored the sacrifices that were offered to the Lord and kept for themselves the best parts of the meat.
In Hosea, the priests were reprimanded because they were greedy for the gain that would come from the sacrifices that the people of Israel would offer (Hos.
It’s almost like the priests were hoping people would sin so that the offerings would come in to pay more of their salary.
Jesus, in the book of Luke even challenged his followers to be careful about greed or covetousness:
There are so many areas in which we could think about and apply biblical principals to this.
Here, Judas’ greed seemed to be focused on financial resources or gain.
Our society is so consumer oriented that marketers and manufacturers play our our greedy natures in order to get us to purchase the next greatest gadget or item of convenience.
Apple and Samsung will always have upgraded phones to buy.
TV manufacturers will frequently upgrade their technology, creating opportunities for newer viewing experiences.
There are toys that correspond with the latest movies, clothes that change with every season and so much more.
As I’ve reflected on this passage some personally, I’ve been wrestling a bit.
Some of you may know, I love cars.
I love to read about them, learn about them and more.
I wish I could work on them - but my brother got those skills.
A few weeks ago, a friend of mine emailed me to let me know he was getting rid of his car - a kind of car that I’ve been following for years - a high mileage electric car.
It’s even in the color that I like - dark blue.
He’s offering below blue book value.
Am I greedy or covetous for taking advantage of this?
Are we being unwise or imprudent?
I’m not sure.
We’re not diminishing our giving.
All that to say - sometimes greed/covetousness is easy to spot - other times, it’s more challenging.
I think we have to pay attention to how the Spirit of God is working in us.
Greed isn’t limited to material possessions.
I think we can even find them in the good things at church:
positions - of authority or leaders?
gifts (spiritual gifts) or talents -
Our consumeristic American culture makes biblical and covenantal commitment to a church challenging.
We like a church as long as it suits our needs or desires and then either leave or go virtual.
This is partly why meaningful membership is so vital to a church.
Our covenant together means that we care about one another and us together more than we care about our individual preferences.
It means we’ll reach out to see how others are doing (the directories are helpful tools in that regard).
It also means that if there are problems, challenges or blind spots in ministry that we’ll work together to come up with solutions that resemble our culture and community instead of cookie-cutting a solution from a mega church across the country or around the world.
Ultimately meaningful membership means that we is more important than me.
As we read in this passage earlier we ultimately find that the greed of Judas and the jealousy of the religious leaders was sparked because of Mary’s...
Extravagant Worship (1-3)
Several weeks before this event, Jesus had raised Lazarus from the dead.
His siblings, Martha and Mary, were at once heart broken and then were joyous with Lazarus’ return.
Because of the threats and the tensions that were rising at that time, Jesus went away for a while.
Now, upon his return, the family has decided to throw a party in His honor.
It appears that this was no small dinner.
There could have been somewhere over 20 people at the home for this event.
Several commentators have suggested that this was a meal following the conclusion of a Sabbath rest - so a Saturday evening event - which would have been followed by an Habdalah - or synagogue service (Carson and Mishnah).
The next day became the day of the Triumphal Entry - traditionally seen as the Sunday prior to Easter or Palm Sunday.
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