Doing Good: Jesus the Benefactor
We might connect “benefactors” with those who give big wads of money to schools and churches, or who donate sums of wealth to honorable building projects in the city, or who open up the checkbook to establish a non-profit that enables immigrants to earn sufficient wages. Drive through your community someday and look at church buildings and you will observe ordinary benefactions. Those buildings rose into the skyline because ordinary people, like your grandparents and aunts and uncles and parents, regularly dipped into their own funds, sometimes in ways that cost them deeply, so some building could be built. The post-Christian realities of Italy and Germany and England don’t mean we can’t appreciate the profound commitment of ordinary people to build and give and support and participate in the worship of God in those magnificent European cathedrals that have become little more than period pieces or museums. I’ve been in a few of those churches and sometimes I sit down in them to give thanks to the many who gave of their monies and labors to build those churches. They were benefactors.
Jesus was a benefactor but he didn’t give his money because he didn’t have any. What he had, he gave: Jesus was a benefactor of deeds. Even more, his benefactions were kingdom deeds, actions that enabled kingdom transformation, deeds that made his kingdom dream a reality. Jesus was the ultimate benefactor because he gave himself entirely for others.
A Cosmic Battle for the Benefactor
In the opening sketch of Jesus’ ministry in Luke’s Gospel, roughly chapters four, five and six of a Story Peter saw up close and personal, we are introduced to Jesus the Benefactor. The first thing we encounter jolts us into realizing Jesus isn’t into the ordinary and nice kind of benefactions. The first scene is a Star Wars-like encounter with the evil force. Stoked up with the presence of the Holy Spirit, God drives Jesus into the wilderness where he will be tested for forty days by “the devil” (Luke 4:1-11). There is no time for Luke to provide us with a lengthy blow-by-blow encounter or even to give us Jesus’ own reflections on what it was like to endure such a test. Instead Luke tells us:
? that Jesus was tested to provoke God by providing food for himself outside God’s permission,
? that Jesus was taken to a high place so he had a vantage point on “all the kingdoms of the world” – the kingdoms Jesus knew God wanted to take back into his kingdom – and tested to acquire that kingdom by worshiping the devil instead of God, and
? that Jesus was taken to the top of the Temple and told to jump down because God had promised to protect him.
Bing, bing, bing. All over. The benefactor’s life begins with a test from The Thief but Jesus chooses God. Unlike Adam and even more unlike Israel’s temptations in the wilderness, Jesus does what is right.
Jesus chooses God every time. He doesn’t choose food, he doesn’t choose power, and he doesn’t choose miracle – he chooses God and he waits for God to provide food, power, and miracles. Jesus the Benefactor is a God-oriented Benefactor. The Thief seeks to destroy Jesus because The Thief wants all benefactions under his control, but Jesus resists The Thief.