Point of Reference
by Fred Price
Last week we began looking at what many believe to be five essential practices for walking as Jesus walked. What’s so important about them is that they lead us to be what we say we believe, practicing our faith as well as professing it. We previously looked at 1. Worship, 2. The study of scripture, 3. Serving others. This week we’ll examine the principles of 4. Generosity and giving, 5. Witnessing to our faith in word and deed.1
The fourth essential practice Jesus modeled from the cross is generosity through giving. Jesus himself declaring that he, “…did not come to be served, but to serve, and to give his life as a ransom for many.” Matthew 20:28 John 3:16, sometimes characterized as “the gospel in miniature”, points directly to the generosity of God through Christ as it states, “…God so loved… that he gave…”
We can then paradoxically see an expression of this in Jesus’ comment “I thirst.” John19:28 What significance could such a common complaint of crucifixion hold for us? With John’s writings, it’s important to know that many seemingly mundane statements are often clues to a deeper meaning. John had related earlier in his gospel ( John 4:10) Jesus’ dealings with a Samaritan woman, asking her for a drink and then eventually offering her “living water” to satisfy her deepest need; salvation and redemption. (See also John 7:37,38) The image/message John seems to be presenting being that the One who gives living water is now thirsty because – besides the obvious reasons – he has poured himself out for the world, giving everything he had to give. ( Acts 2:17) Using the same terminology of Joel 2:28 Paul then writes, “…God has poured out his love into our hearts by the Holy Spirit,…” Romans 5:5 Some translations of Philippians 2:7, rendering, “…made himself nothing,…” as “emptied” himself for us in taking the form of a bond servant.
And finally, witnessing to the gospel should by our passion and primary mission in life, as the message of grace was for Christ. The Greek for witness – martus – from which we get the word martyr, describing one who testifies to what they have seen and/or experienced. (Which Jesus indeed claimed to do. See John 8:26 & 15:15) We are meant to see in the cross a depiction of the goodness of God’s love and redeeming grace, Jesus specifically making that case when he asks his Father to, “…forgive them, for they do not know what they are doing.” Luke 27:34 Included in that request are the Roman soldiers, the Jewish leaders who had for some time sought this outcome and the crowd of spectators watching and jeering. And you and me. Who like the thief on the cross, acknowledge him as our Savior and ask for his “remembrance.” To which Jesus replied, “…today you will be with me in paradise.” Luke 23:43
And then, Jesus’ final words, “It is finished.” John 19:30 The Greek expressing this in one word – tetelestai – meaning completed, fulfilled or accomplished. Certainly not a cry of resignation or defeat, but an exclamation of victory! ‘It’s done!’
Isaac Watts captured the sense of it all and its intended consequence in 1707; writing the hymn believed and acted on by many throughout the generations:
When I survey the wondrous cross on which the Prince of Glory died;
My richest gain I count but loss, and pour contempt on all my pride.
See, from his head, his hands, his feet, sorrow and love flow mingled down.
Did e’er such love and sorrow meet, or thorns compose so rich a crown?
Were the whole realm of nature mine, that were an offering far too small;
Love so amazing, so divine, demands my soul, my life , my all.2
1From The Walk , by Adam Hamilton, Abingdon Press
2When I Survey the Wondrous Cross, United Methodist Publishing House
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Fred Price - married (50 years), father of two grown children, grandfather of six.
Fred retired earlier this year after 42 years as a factory worker. He has always had a heart for young people and the challenges they face today. Over the years Fred has taught Discipleship Groups for High School and college students.
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