No greater gift has ever been given, no example of generosity so selfless, no act in human history so important: Jesus’ sacrifice on the cross. Though we observe it this weekend isolated in our homes, there is no event in the world more important than the one that unifies people and God, bringing eternal, abundant life and promising that we are never alone.
A gift from God the King, our Father
Way back in Genesis, God proved himself generous, creating a world of abundance, then choosing Abraham to become the father of the many nations through whom he would show his blessings to the whole earth. When Abraham’s children had become an entire nation, God rescued them from captivity in Egypt. He provided for their daily needs and gave them a law to live by and a rich and bountiful land in which to live.
All of these are the hallmarks of a good king. God was a better king than any nation had ever had, and he made the Israelites his own people. But, throughout the Old Testament, with few exceptions, his people rejected him and preferred a king they could see.
Mankind has continued the pattern Israel set through centuries: We reject the eternal, invisible, immortal, only wise King and desire to rule ourselves. But he loves us, despite all this. And he knows our needs better than we do.
So, instead of abandoning us or retaliating against us, he offers us a gift, the best gift that has ever been given: his Son, crucified and raised to life again. And he promises he will reign over us in an eternal kingdom that is far better than any of us could ever ask for or imagine.
Though we did not honor God as we should, in his unbounded generosity, he gave the very best and most valuable thing he had.
For God so loved the world, that he gave his only Son, that whoever believes in him should not perish but have eternal life.
– John 3:16
We have heard John 3:16 enough times to be almost inoculated against the power of it.
It is so familiar we forget the double, unimaginable sacrifice behind it. God gave his only Son to suffer and be killed so we would not die in our sin. Jesus let go of the perfection of heavenly community. He emptied himself and traded his perfect life for our mess, when we didn’t even know him, while we were still sinning (Romans 5:8)! (We forget that “should not perish” is there in John 3:16 because perishing is exactly the consequence our sin deserves.)
The gift of God with us
Jesus left his kingdom in heaven and the glory he had there to take on human flesh (though many on earth still saw his glory by his grace – John 1:14). This alone would have been enough to make him the most generous person to ever walk on earth.
The first chapter of the book of John tells us that Jesus came to be God with us. He was with God in the beginning. He was God from the beginning (John 1:1). Everything was created through him, and life and light belong to him. He came to earth to give that light to us (John 1:9).
But the people he, himself, had created did not recognize him. Most didn’t receive him (John 1:11-12). Yet to those of us who do receive him, he gives us the right to enter his family forever, to become children of God (John 1:12; Galatians 3:26; 1 John 5:13), even to reign with him (2 Timothy 2:12). This is unimaginable generosity.
Jesus lived a life that daily demonstrated generosity:
- With his time (John 4:6-40 – read carefully these first and last verses)
- With his gifts (John 2:6-10, 14:14)
- With his forgiveness (John 21:15-17)
- With his constant provision of more than was asked of him (Matthew 14:13-21, see verse 20)
After living a life of demonstrated, pure generosity, Jesus, our coming King, gave us his glory (John 17:22). Then he gave his own life to save us (John 17:22, 19:30, 1 John 3:16).
The gift of a King who will return
We could daily contemplate the generosity involved in the act of giving that happened on the cross and only begin to scratch the surface of understanding it. A king came and died for our sin. It is too good. Too overwhelming. This gift is beyond measure, unarguably, the greatest expression of generosity ever.
Daniel M. Bell, Jr., author and professor of theology and ethics at Lutheran Theological Seminary writes:
Christ’s work on the cross is a display of the plenitude of divine charity … of God’s giving and giving again. The atonement is not a settling of accounts, an exaction of payment, or the calling in of a debt. Rather it is a matter of God’s ceaseless generosity, of God’s graceful prodigality. It is a matter of donation, of divine donation for our sake. Thus, Christ is not our offering to God but God’s offering to us.
The Father has offered us a king and a kingdom. If we accept his offer, he promises that everything else we worry about will be taken care of (Luke 12:22-34). He gives us a law to live by, and he will give us a land to live in. It is his joy to be generous to us:
Seek his kingdom, and these things will be added to you. Fear not, little flock, for it is your Father’s good pleasure to give you the kingdom.
– Luke 12:31-32
Jesus, our King, will return, with another gift (Revelation 22:12), eternal life for those who gave their lives to him. In the meantime, he asks that we join with him, praying that this kingdom come soon: Your kingdom come, your will be done, on earth as it is in heaven (Matthew 6:10).
While we await his return, let us join in his sufferings by inconveniencing ourselves for the sake of others, especially in the dark days of this present moment. Let us show our gratitude for his gift to us by serving where we can, sacrificing to meet others’ needs, and trying to embody the generosity of the King who made himself poor, so we could be rich.