Our Generous Lord

‘For you know the grace of our Lord Jesus Christ, that though he was rich, yet for your sake he became poor, so that you by his poverty might become rich’ (2 Cor 8:9).

There are an infinite number of terms we could use to describe Jesus. Terms come to our minds as we try to contemplate who it is that we worship: holy, mighty, righteous, loving, compassionate. Entire sermons can and have been given, entire books can and have been written on these aspects of Jesus’ character.

One term which may not come immediately to our mind is ‘generous.’ As Paul says in this verse, Jesus gave up the riches he had in heaven, all for us. Just imagine the riches of heaven. Not that Scrooge McDuck image, with a vast vault of gold to swim in! (Though unlimited resources of gold, and other precious metals and stones clearly belong to him.)

Far beyond these things we consider riches, there is something far greater and valuable belonging to Jesus: the eternal glory he had with the Father from the very beginning. Once he was unencumbered by a physical body, free from pain and various cravings.

But in his incarnation, when he took on flesh, he ‘made himself nothing’ (Phil 2:7). ‘He became poor’ for us, as the one who is infinite took on a finite body, all so we could become rich through his poverty! All so we could have forgiveness of sin, escape the judgement of God, and live forever with God as Father. So we could be resurrected as he has been resurrected, never again to taste sin and disease and death.

Our Lord has been so generous to us. Have you considered how you could better imitate him? What could you do to be more generous?

Christ, our Passover

‘Christ, our Passover lamb, has been sacrificed. Let us therefore celebrate the festival, not with the old leaven, the leaven of malice and envy, but with the unleavened bread of sincerity and truth’ (1 Cor 5:7-8).

Easter is coming quickly. Many in the churches and in the world don’t understand, however, that this was an event long planned and promised, and even prefigured. Rather than being a random and brutal death of someone who became the founder of a religious movement, this was the fulfilment of God’s eternal plan to save his people from sin, judgement, and the one who would judge them – God himself.

This lack of understanding in the churches is tragic and is reflected in an unwillingness to read and teach through the Old Testament. Rather than seeing a unified story of God’s grace – that the Old Testament is the record of promises made, and the New Testament is the record of promises kept – they see a God of anger and judgement in the Old, and a God of love in the New.

But this is plainly wrong! Christ is our Passover lamb. In the Exodus, God saved his people through the Passover lamb. He saved them from both the cruel slavery of the Egyptians, and also from himself. He saved them from the plague of death, instead only bringing it upon the Egyptians.

Repeatedly, this event is used as a prefiguring of Jesus’ work on the cross. The lamb died instead of the firstborn – Jesus died instead of the sinner. Israel were slaves to Egypt – we were slaves to sin. Israel were led to the promised land – we are being led to the promised land of heaven/the new creation.

Let us then trust in the sacrifice, ‘celebrate the festival,’ and live lives of sincerity and truth.

The God of grace and sacrifice

‘So Abraham called the name of that place, “The LORD will provide”; as it is said to this day, “On the mount of the LORD it shall be provided’ (Gen 22:14).

In Abraham’s time, this story would have been shocking for the opposite reason it is shocking to us today. The gods of the cultures around Abraham were selfish, callous, and uncaring. They wanted sacrifice, and human sacrifices were the ultimate. That command Abraham received – ‘Take your son, your only son Isaac, whom you love, and go to the land of Moriah, and offer him there as a burnt offering on one of the mountains of which I shall tell you’ (v2) – would be considered completely normal.

What would have been shocking to them, however, is the grace from God! The sudden appearance of the angel calling out for Abraham to stop before completing the sacrifice would be completely unfamiliar. Grace and kindness were not characteristics prized in those societies. Instead, they were brutal and sexualised, and the gods were worshipped through brutality and sex.

In our culture, what is shocking is not the call for Abraham to stop, but the fact he was given the command to sacrifice his son at all! The gods of our culture aren’t gods who command us to sacrifice; they’re gods who invite us to enjoy our sinful pleasures and be enslaved by them. Our culture is not opposed to kindness, but to sacrifice of any kind.

But we have a God who not only demands sacrifice but is the one who in kindness and grace gave himself as that sacrifice. God provided a ram in Gen 22, but he provided his own Son as the Lamb in the Gospel. What else could we do but give everything we are and have to him?