What's He Worth to You?
A sermon based on Zechariah 11:7-13
Sunday, February 22, 2015 – Lent 1B
For some people, it's no big deal to drop $100 on nice dinner out. Others, would rather buy 23 big macs for the same price and eat for a month. Still others would rather buy enough ramen to eat for a year.
Some people would gladly pay for tickets to see a performance in the theater. Others would rather rent 20 streaming movies online. Still others would rather pick up a free DVD at the library.
I guess it really comes down to the question, "What's it worth to you?" Every day you face that question, "What's it worth to you?" Whether you are talking about spending money, or effort or time: Is it worth the time to run in to town for a gallon of milk right now, or should I put it on the list for next time I'm going out? Is it worth going to gym today or should I just workout tomorrow?
Some people spend their money and time on hunting and fishing, others on movies and entertainment. Some spend their money on big toys, others on daily coffees. So that what people find worthwhile in their lives is clearly reflected in their budgets and where they spend their dollars. But maybe it's reflected even more in their schedules and where they spend their time. "What's it worth to you?" That can be clearly seen.
But this morning, the prophet Zechariah changes that question just a bit. He doesn't ask "What's it worth to you?" He asks, "What's He worth to you?" "What value to put on Jesus?" Listen to his prophecy about Jesus' worth, recorded for us in Zechariah 11:7-13…
7 So I pastured the flock marked for slaughter, particularly the oppressed of the flock. Then I took two staffs and called one Favor and the other Union, and I pastured the flock. 8 In one month I got rid of the three shepherds.
The flock detested me, and I grew weary of them 9 and said, "I will not be your shepherd. Let the dying die, and the perishing perish. Let those who are left eat one another's flesh."
10 Then I took my staff called Favor and broke it, revoking the covenant I had made with all the nations. 11 It was revoked on that day, and so the afflicted of the flock who were watching me knew it was the word of the Lord.
12 I told them, "If you think it best, give me my pay; but if not, keep it." So they paid me thirty pieces of silver.
13 And the Lord said to me, "Throw it to the potter"—the handsome price at which they priced me! So I took the thirty pieces of silver and threw them into the house of the Lord to the potter.
The prophet Zechariah described the events of Jesus' suffering and death with such vivid clarity, centuries before those events took place, that he's been given the nickname, "The Holy Week Prophet." We'll continue to explore some of those prophecies this Lenten season and see how Jesus fulfilled them all so he could cry from the cross: "It is finished," about God's plan of salvation and about the prophecies that described it.
But this morning, Zechariah describes a guy who's fed up with his job. He's ready to quit. The shepherd was hired to pasture the flock, but not the healthy sheep, not the ones they would keep around for dairy and wool. His job was to watch the sheep marked for slaughter. And it was a dead-end job. There were layoffs and he had finally had enough.
7 So I pastured the flock marked for slaughter, particularly the oppressed of the flock... In one month I got rid of the three shepherds.
The flock detested me, and I grew weary of them and said, "I will not be your shepherd. Let the dying die, and the perishing perish. Let those who are left eat one another's flesh."
You can almost hear it can't you? "I've had enough! I quit!" And he was so fed up, he didn't even care if he got his last paycheck. "I told them, 'If you think it best, give me my pay; but if not, keep it.'" "I don't even care. I'm just done." But they did give him his severance package: "So they paid me thirty pieces of silver."
Thirty pieces of silver was worth about four months wages. Most scholars give an estimate of about $10,000 to $15,000. Not a small amount, but not exactly great annual salary for a job where you're overworked and underappreciated. Thirty pieces of silver offered for services rendered was an insult to the shepherd. "This is what we think you're worth."
Now this parable of Zechariah's may have been a description of how he felt as the prophet and priest of God's rebellious people. After all the word pastor is just Latin for shepherd. He may have been quite frustrated with his ministry. Serving a group of people who got rid of the other prophets (the three in one month), who wearied Zechariah by refusing to listen to him, he finally grew weary of them and said, "Fine. I'll leave you alone." "The flock detested me, and I grew weary of them and said, 'I will not be your shepherd. Let the dying die, and the perishing perish.'"
But more than just describing his own frustration, Zechariah was prophesying about Jesus.
Jesus is the Good Shepherd. He had a care for his people perfectly. He loved them dearly and had only their best interest at heart. But the people weren't always interested in having him shepherd them. They didn't want to follow this Shepherd's lead and so they rejected him. They chanted "Crucify him, Crucify him!" rejecting him in such a vivid way.
And what did they think he was worth? Thirty pieces of silver—the price you'd pay for a slave. Thirty pieces of silver was the price you'd pay for a slave. Thirty pieces of silver was a slap in the face. The faithful Shepherd gave so much and what were they willing to pay him in return—$10,000? $15,000?
These words find their fulfillment in Judas. He turned Jesus over for 30 pieces of silver. And when he saw what he had done, he was filled with remorse and threw the pieces back into the temple. The leaders used the blood money to buy the potter's field. All direct fulfillments of the words that Zechariah foretold.
For Judas, he'd rather have thirty pieces of silver than Jesus. "What's he worth to you?" was the question he asked the chief priests and that was his answer. The "handsome" price that was paid for his blood was thirty pieces of silver. How humiliating!
So, let me ask you, "What's he worth to you?" "What is Jesus worth to you?" Would you sell out and betray him for $10,000? For $15,000? Would you pretend you didn't know him for $50,000? For $100,000? I know we'd all like to answer, "No. Never! I'd never sell out and give up my faith for any amount of money!"
But the truth is, there are times that we sell out for so much less. We trade Jesus for the acceptance of our peers. We trade Jesus for a few hours of entertainment or sleep. We sell out in order to hoard the income that Jesus allows us to earn instead of giving him a generous portion. We undervalue the Shepherd when we spend all our effort and energy on entertainment instead of devotion, on play instead of prayer. We value "me-time" way more than "he-time." And our bank statements and schedules bear witness against us. The price that we often put on Jesus head is even less than the one that Judas did.
And for that we deserve that punishment that came to the flock. We deserve to have Jesus take his staff, Favor, the favor he shows to us, and snap it across his knee. We who have, undervalued and rejected the Good Shepherd so often and sold him out for so little… We deserve to have him quit us and say, "The flock detested me, and I grew weary of them and said, 'I will not be your shepherd. Let the dying die, and the perishing perish.'"
That's what we deserve, no Shepherd, no patience, no life! We deserve to be cut off from the flock and to perish eternally!
But the Shepherd loves us more than to leave us on our own. He steps in and shows us an undeserved love. If he were to be asked, "What is that sinner worth to you?" he would say with no hesitation at all, "That sinner is worth everything! That sinner is worth my life. That sinner is worth my soul."
Did you notice what seems to be a discrepancy between the prophecy and the fulfillment? In Zechariah, it's Jesus who throws the money into the temple, in the gospel of Matthew it's Judas. A contradiction? A near, but not quite accurate, fulfillment? Hardly. You see, Jesus was so in control of everything that happened to him, he was so willing to be sold for thirty pieces of silver, it's as if he shook on the deal himself.
Jesus was glad to be betrayed with a kiss, glad to be handed over to his enemies, glad to be sentenced to die. He could have walked off the set at any turn but he didn't. He kept the scene rolling so that you and I could have salvation. He "bought in" to a plan to be "sold out" by Judas so that he could be our Savior.
And now, we know what he's really worth. Worth far more than 30 silver pieces – Jesus paid for our sins! He paid for our ticket to heaven—"not with silver or gold, but with his holy precious blood, and with his innocent suffering and death." (cf. Luther's explanation to the 2nd Article of the Apostles' Creed referring to 1 Peter 1:18-19).
And now, forgiven and bought back to him, we can have a change of heart. We value him the way he deserves. We seek to glorify his name with all that we are and all that we do. We gladly give him offerings of our income and of our time and of our attitudes. We show what's he worth to us in the way we worship him and the way that we are willing to make our lives living sacrifices. We make sure that others know that he has value in our lives and we share him with them.
So what's he worth to you? Is he worth giving up a few trinkets and toys a few nights out or a little entertainment that you might support his church with your gifts? Is he worth the time lost if you come to serve in his house with a cheerful heart? Is he worth the discomfort of talking about him to a neighbor or friend?
Though the people of Zechariah's day answered, "Not much," to the question "What's he worth to you?" We know better. We know that he's worth everything! He's our precious, priceless, irreplaceable Savior! And we'll gladly give all to him! In Jesus' name, and by his great grace, amen.