March 19, 2017
A few months ago, my brother tagged me in a Facebook post that said, “Would you slap your brother or sister for a million bucks?” He tagged my two sisters and me and said something along the lines of, “I’d slap all three of you for a million bucks.” It was pretty funny.
To be honest with you, if Zach was going to get a million bucks for slapping me in the face, I’d be the first to line up to let him slap me. Either that, or else I’d say that’d I’d do it for $500,000 and slap him instead. The conversation continued and it turned out all of my siblings had a different price it would take for them to slap the rest of us, and each person that chimed in said a lower and lower price.
There are things that we say, “No I’ll never do that,” but then the price is right and we give in. That’s because whether we want to admit it or not, everyone has a price and a prize.
Everyone has a Price and a Prize
Everyone has something they want, and a price they will give into to get it. Anne came to realize this. She always said she wouldn’t marry a pastor. She didn’t want too, and wouldn’t. Then she met me. We fell in love. Then she had to think about the price. If she married me she’d be marrying a pastor, but if she didn’t marry me then she wouldn’t be with the one she loved. Everyone has their price and their prize.
When Anne and I first got here I politely told our members “no” when they asked if we could have a Lutheran grade school. A few months later, the head developer of Santa Rita Ranch offered us land for free for the church to be built on, but it was contingent on us bringing a Christian elementary school. Now we are knee deep in those plans. The price and the prize were right.
In different areas of our lives we have a price and a prize. What prize do you want? Is it a million dollars? Is it a scholarship for your kids? Is it the top college or university? Maybe it’s the valedictorian or the starter on varsity. What price are you willing to pay to have those things?
Would it shock you to know that this same mindset threatens even our relationship with Jesus? Maybe you’re thinking, “I would never give up Jesus!” I’m sure that that’s exactly what Judas, one of Jesus’ 12 disciples, said at one point in his life, but everyone has their price and their prize.
We are continuing in our sermon series of The Ransom. We are looking at what Jesus gave us up for us to set us free and save us. Today, we look at how he gave up his power.
We pick up today in Mark 14. Mark is one of the 4 books of the Bible that deal specifically with Jesus’ life, death, and resurrection. It’s the night before Jesus died somewhere between late evening and early Friday morning. Probably close to midnight. Jesus and his disciples had already had already celebrated the Passover, which was the holiday that the Jews celebrated at that time. Then they went out to the Garden of Gethsemane were Jesus prayed. He just got done praying and talking to his disciples, and here’s what we are told.
Just as he was speaking, Judas, one of the Twelve, appeared. With him was a crowd armed with swords and clubs, sent from the chief priests, the teachers of the law, and the elders.
Judas, one of the 12 disciples. One who had been with Jesus every day for the past three years betrays Jesus. The price was right. Judas knew that the Jewish church leaders didn’t like Jesus because Jesus took power and control away from them. It wasn’t about rule following, it was about relying on Jesus for forgiveness. They didn’t like this message. Judas knew that. He knew they were looking for a way to kill Jesus, and the price was right. He led a crowd sent by the church leaders to arrest Jesus in the middle of the night. Based on the descriptions from the other gospels, there were probably about 200 men there with swords and clubs.
Now picture the scene: Judas is standing in front of this crowd of 200 and they are blocking the entrance to the garden. Jesus is standing in front of his disciples as he meets the crowd. Silence falls over everyone. The crowd anxious because they know Jesus has power. The disciples wide eyed with shock of seeing Judas, and maybe a little nervous because it seems like Judas has all the power. Then Judas begins walking toward Jesus.
44 Now the betrayer had arranged a signal with them: “The one I kiss is the man; arrest him and lead him away under guard.” 45 Going at once to Jesus, Judas said, “Rabbi!” and kissed him. 46 The men seized Jesus and arrested him. 47 Then one of those standing near drew his sword and struck the servant of the high priest, cutting off his ear.
Judas spent all his time with Jesus, but he did not love Jesus.
It’s almost unthinkable that someone who was with Jesus as much as Judas was could possibly do what he did. For three years, he followed Jesus and listened to his teachings. But look at his attitude now. He’s the leader of this crowd giving orders. “The one I kiss is the man; arrest him and lead him away under guard.” Then Judas makes his power play and walks up to Jesus and says, “Rabbi,” and kisses him. No longer is Jesus Lord in Judas’s eyes. He’s now just a common teacher to him. You wonder if the disciples were standing there wondering to themselves, “How did he get to this point? When did he stop viewing Jesus as Lord and simply began looking at him as a teacher? What led to him betraying Jesus?”
Betray him he did. And notice Jesus doesn’t us his almighty power to blast him away. Instead, he gave up his power and let them arrest him. It’s amazing because Jesus had the power to stop it. He could have walked right through the crowd, called a legion of angels to fight, he could have said one word and they all would have died. But he didn’t. He gave up his power.
48 “Am I leading a rebellion,” said Jesus, “that you have come out with swords and clubs to capture me? 49 Every day I was with you, teaching in the temple courts,and you did not arrest me. But the Scriptures must be fulfilled.” 50 Then everyone deserted him and fled.
51 A young man, wearing nothing but a linen garment, was following Jesus. When they seized him, 52 he fled naked, leaving his garment behind.
Even while all this is going on, Jesus continues to reach out in love. Instead of blasting them away, he says, “Look guys, what you’re doing is irrational. I’ve been teaching and preaching in the synagogue every day. Why didn’t you arrest me there? You wait until the middle of the night to come and get me. But this is Scripture being fulfilled.” Once the disciples realize that Jesus isn’t going to fight, the abandon him. And now we see the true sad reality for not just Judas but for everyone involved.
Jesus often becomes a means to an end.
How did Judas get to that point? Well, Judas loved money. The Jews expected the Messiah to be an earthly king. He would overthrow the Roman government and take over. The Messiah would be rich. Of course Judas wanted to follow him. Since Judas loved money so much, he weaseled his way to being in charge of the money bag. John tells us that Judas loved money so much that he would steal from the money bag.
What really put him over the edge was when a woman poured perfume on Jesus’ feet to anoint him. The perfume was worth a year’s worth of wages. That’s expensive! Judas couldn’t believe that Jesus would condone this action, and so he went to Jesus’ enemies and said he was willing to betray Jesus for 30 pieces of silver. The price for a common slave. For Judas, Jesus was his means to riches, and when it was obvious Jesus wouldn’t be bringing that, he sold out.
The most terrifying thing we learn from Judas is this: the path to hell is sometimes paved through the church door. Think about it. Judas was part of the church. He worshipped every day. But he didn’t want a relationship with Jesus, he wanted to use Jesus as a means to an end. And when Jesus wasn’t giving him what he wanted, he found the right price and prize, and gave him up. This is what happens when someone loves the prize more than they love Jesus.
So, do you love the prize more than you love Jesus? Is that why we come to church? Because we view Jesus as a means to an end? Because you know he has the power to grant you the prize you want?
Sometimes we have to admit that we are at least tempted to use Jesus as a means to an end. We come to church and start reading our bible and praying more because we want him to heal a loved one, or fix the problems that we have in our marriage. We want him to grant us financial stability or keep our kids safe. We start coming to church because it makes our spouse happy, and we’ll do anything as long as our spouse is happy. We start coming to church and getting closer to Jesus when we are at the end of our rope and we expect Jesus to use his power to fix our life. Or, we continue coming to church because we want to keep Jesus happy. Our life has been pretty good, and if we reading the bible and coming to church, he’ll keep granting me an easy life. None of these are wrong. Jesus has the power to do everything we just talked about. But the question is how do we react when Jesus doesn’t grant us the prize we want?
Do we love him even though he doesn’t heal our loved one or fix our marriage? What if he doesn’t give us financial stability or keep our kids safe? What if coming to church doesn’t make our spouse happy? What if he doesn’t improve our life or keep tragedies from happening to us? Do we give him up? Or do we continue to love him?
When we love the prize more than we love Jesus, we basically make Jesus into a genie. We love him because he grants us our wishes. But our relationship with Jesus isn’t one of us as the master and he the genie. Rather it’s a relationship of Jesus as the Savior and us, the prisoner.
Jesus didn’t come to grant us wishes; he came to ransom us. Jesus told us his purpose early in his ministry he opened up to Isaiah 61 and read, and in that part of Isaiah 61 it says, “He has sent me to proclaim freedom for the prisoners and recovery of sight for the blind, to set the oppressed free.” We were oppressed. We were prisoners of sin, death, and hell. Sin controlled us, death owned us, and hell couldn’t be avoided. But Jesus came to set us free. Everyone has a price and a prize. Jesus did too. But for Jesus…
He was the price and you are the prize.
That’s why he gave up his power that night in the garden. That’s why he let Judas kiss him and why he allowed the men to lead him away to die. That’s why he didn’t blow them away with his power, and why he let them lead him to be whipped, beaten, and crucified. It’s because he would do anything to have you as his prize. He’d pay any price to set you free. Even if it meant paying the price of his own life.
The most amazing thing about this grace and love? He knew all of your warts and blemishes beforehand. He knew that you’d still struggle with sin. He knew that there’d be times you’d be tempted to use your relationship with him as a means to an end. He knew you wouldn’t be perfect. And he said, “I still want you. I still love you so much that I’m willing to pay the price because you are the best prize I could ever want. And I’d do anything to have a relationship with you.” So he gave up his power and went to the cross paying the price to set you free. Sin no longer controls you, death is no longer the master of you, hell can never touch you. He came not to give you the prizes that are here today and gone tomorrow, but to give you the prizes of heaven which will never perish but last forever. So…
Love Jesus and not the prize.
Love Jesus not because he gives you the prize you want here on earth. Love him because he loved you first. Love him simply to love him. Love him because he was willing to give up his power to set you free from sin, death, and the devil that you may have the eternal prize of heaven.