If you drive north from Alma and Shepherd on US-127, you reach an exit (on your left) for the south-side of Mount Pleasant. If you take this exit, you will drive past a semi-truck-trailer parked in a farm field. On the trailer’s side, in big letters is the sentence: ‘God thinks you are worth the death of his Son.’ Is that true?
To have ‘worth’ means you have ‘value.’ If you have ‘value,’ then you must have some desirable trait or wanted characteristic. I mean, this is how we judge restaurant food, right? For example, you eat out and determine if the burger is worth the price. You fix a dollar amount to quality, taste, and size; you attach value to this burger. If the burger and price-point meet your expectations, then you determine it worth your money. If the burger and price-point fall short of your expectations, then you determine it not worth your money. So, for God to think you are worth the death of his Son, it means he finds some desirable trait or wanted characteristic in you. It means he considers content of your life equal to the life of Jesus.
Let’s see what God finds. Philippians 2:5-6 says: Your attitude should be the same as that of Christ Jesus… What is that attitude, that way of thinking and conducting yourself? [Jesus] being in very nature God, did not consider equality with God something to be grasped… Jesus is God. He exists before time began. Together with the Father and Holy Spirit, he creates the entire universe. All things in heaven and earth belong to him; angels upon angels praise him. Yet, Jesus does not use his status as God for personal gain. He does not use his power to look more powerful than anyone else on earth. King Nebuchadnezzar did. He wanted his subjects to worship a golden statue towering 90-feet high; he constructed a statue to reap praise (Daniel 3:1-30). Crowds worship King Herod as god and Herod basks in this praise (Acts 12:21-23). Even in our small community, people name drop for personal advantage. “I’m related to the Dohertys.” “My family helped settle the city.” “I went to school with the shop-owner.” You say those things to receive attention, praise, or discounts. Yet, Jesus never flaunts his divine status. He does not dodge lepers because their ooey, gooey, pus-drippy skin disgusts him. He does not avoid prostitutes because their past is beyond fixing. He does not steer clear of tax collectors because he thinks those cheats would only despise his Word. Nor does Jesus want recognition by gathering philosophers and academics for disciples.
Although God, Jesus made himself nothing, taking the very nature of a servant, being made in human likeness. Born to low-income carpenter and his wife. Wrapped in swaddling cloths and laid in a cattle-feed trough. Raised in the backwoods town of Nazareth (like being raised in Temple). Just like a servant obeys a superior, Jesus puts himself under God’s commandments (Galatians 4:4). He respects the father and mother he knit together in the womb. He worships in the synagogue every week even though he is God. Hatred never burns in his heart— even though he would be completely justified to lash out against those who call him ‘liar!’ Here is the value of Jesus, the worth of his life: (1) Completely blameless. (2) Absolutely faultless. (3) Entirely self-giving. Are you worth the death of his Son?
Does God find some desirable trait or wanted characteristic in you that he must exchange Jesus in order to have you? Verse 5 details what God wants: Your attitude should be the same as that of Christ Jesus. Is it? (1) Completely blameless? (2) Absolutely faultless? (3) Entirely self-giving?
What does God find? Do you wish to admit it? I don’t— because I know exactly what he would see. God finds a heart that wants to avoid worship for no other reason because ‘I’ want …to sleep …to play ball …to vacation somewhere. In short, ‘I’ miss worship because ‘I’ value personal pleasure more than God. God finds a heart that demands others conform to my expectations. ‘I’ want families in church to be quiet like me; ‘I’ want families in church to deal with my noisiness. ‘I’ want first-time worshippers to instantly embrace my style of worship. ‘I’ will not consider removing barriers to worship; the unchurched just need to be quiet and understand this is ‘my’ worship time. ‘I’ want people in church to sing the songs ‘I’ want, to behave the way ‘I’ want, to fit ‘my’ expectations. If they do not, they are wrong. God would find a heart that protects its pride and ego. If ‘I’ reach out to my child, my sibling, my friend and ask them: ‘Why do you not come to worship?’ they might hurt my feelings. In order to avoid that pain, ‘I’ will say nothing. God finds a selfish heart, one that is so self-absorbed!
I mean, even when we wake up in the morning, what is the first thought that comes to mind? It’s ‘me!’ ‘My’ busy day. ‘My’ aches, ‘my’ pains. ‘My’ pleasure, ‘my’ rest. What about your family? …your spouse? …your friend …your boss …neighbor? How long does it take before you consider their needs?
God has just finished explaining how Jesus only considers your needs …when he wakes up …when he speaks …when he acts. Is your attitude like that?
You (and I) are worth the death of Jesus? God would rather kill his obedient Son so that he can finally have self-centered, self-absorbed us? I mean, would you exchange your always-caring child for the brash, undisciplined brat? People who think it a chore to fit you into their schedule? People who care little for your needs? People who think so often about themselves? No, you would not! I would not! So, why would God be any different?
The awful truth is: You (and I) are not worth the death of his Son. There is no desirable trait in us that God must save us. There is no wanted characteristic that compels God to get up off his throne and rescue us. That’s what the saying implies; it implies that you did something for God to save you. Instead, it is God who gives you (and I) worth because of the death of his Son.
[B]eing found in appearance as a man, he humbled himself and became obedient to death— even death on a cross! Jesus humbles himself! This is something he does— on his own accord. Not because God looked down from heaven and said, “Uh oh, I really need those people in heaven. Go die, Jesus.” No, Jesus chooses to lay aside the power and status he has as God.
The innocent Son of God rides into Jerusalem one last time. His creation shouts: “Blessed is the Son of David! Hosanna! Save us, Lord!’ In five days his same creation will shout: “Take him away! Crucify him!” Because their proud hearts do not want to hear their wrong. Even courtroom judges accept lies and corruption in order to execute Jesus. Those to whom Jesus is sent will spit him out of their city and inflict on him the most shameful of deaths: crucifixion.
The most shocking fact of all: God does not rescue him. Instead, he dumps on him. He sees your (and my) stubbornness on Jesus. He sees your (and my) cold-hearted service. He sees your (and my) always self-centered thinking. He turns his back, walks away, and leaves his Son to die like a criminal.
We are worth this? God dying for us? No. But this is what God freely does for you.
God makes you worthy. Your forgiveness is a gift, not something deserved or earned. That’s why these words are such a delight. Because God has freely set you on the side of victory! When all is quiet and locked up in the tomb, when it feels as though death finally swallowed Jesus, God exalted him to the highest place… No one outranks him. Anyone who approaches God stands under him. [God] gave him the name that is above every name… Remember what Jesus’ ‘Name’ mean? (Hint: It’s not his proper name: ‘Jesus. ‘God.’ ‘Christ.’) Jesus’ ‘Name’ is his reputation, his abilities, his characteristics. People may have the name ‘Jesus,’ but only One Person with that name has cleansed and purified our hearts of pride. Only One Person with that name is preparing your room in heaven. Only One Person with that name hears your prayers, answers your prayers, and rescues you. God freely promotes you into the rich inheritance that comes by faith in Jesus.
Does that feel a little unsettling? I mean, why would God do any of this? Many think Christianity is what you do for Jesus. That’s why you find that semi-truck-trailer south of Mount Pleasant. It implies there was some good spark inside of you that moved God to get off his hind-side and help you out. It wants you to point and say, “Yes, I am worth it!” Others feel a need to prove commitment to him. Still others search for certainty in their Christian behavior. We could put it this way: We feel this pull for instruction so that we feel confident that we are truly Christians.
That’s the proud heart acting up again! It wants to take credit! It wants some part doing something to be saved. Christianity centers on this one key point: ‘Done!’ Jesus rides into Jerusalem without your help for you. Next week, Jesus lives again without your help for you.
Dear friends, what do you get to do? You get to bask in the spoils! You get rejoice in what is coming! [A]t the name of Jesus every knee should bow, in heaven and on earth and under the earth, and every tongue confess that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father. On the Last Day, the world will admit Jesus is King over all. The angels in heaven above, with our loved ones who already reign in heaven, will praise him. Even the devil and the demons below will admit Jesus is God. Every nonbeliever on earth will kneel before his majesty. Even we believers— whether on earth or in heaven— will acknowledge Jesus as our reigning King. That’s what we get to do.
Thank God! Because if you (and I) are worth the death of Jesus, then he would never come. He would never find in us the humble, selfless attitude he expects. We would only live terrified, stressed, anxious, frustrated because we can never be what God wants. Thank God he has given us worth! Literally. Thank him now. Thank him with your prayers, your praise, your confession of what you believe. See what he has done and thank him as you live as Imitators of Jesus Christ.