This series, too, emerges from a chapter I wrote that didn’t “fit” into the book, so I’m posting it this week… while we are in Ireland. The best book I’ve seen that looks at Jesus through the lens of benefactor is F.W. Danker, Jesus and the New Age: A Commentary on St. Luke’s Gospel
One of Jesus’ closest followers was a man named Peter. Actually, his name was Simon, but Jesus re-named him Cephas, the Aramaic word for “rock” and that Aramaic name got translated into Greek and then into English as “Peter.” You could translate his name as “Rocky.” Peter was the earliest leader of the followers of Jesus after Jesus’ resurrection (more on that later) so explaining Jesus fell on Peter’s shoulders. Once he had to reduce it all to its basics for some Gentile converts to Jesus, and Peter summed up Jesus’ life in three categories:
? God was with him to do good
? Injustice led to his public crucifixion
? God undid injustice when he raised Jesus from the dead
? Jesus the Benefactor
? Jesus the Crucified
? Jesus the Resurrected
Those are the basics of Jesus’ life according to Peter. (You can read about this in Acts 10:24-48.) Jesus did good; Jesus was barbarically crucified; but Jesus broke the bonds of death. That’s the Story of Jesus in a nutshell. If it’s good enough for Peter, it’s good enough for us. We begin with this first category, Jesus the Benefactor, the one who did good to others.
When Peter reduces the Story of Jesus to its basics, he uses the special word euergeton, which means that Jesus was a benefactor, one who benefited the world in which he lived. Jesus did benefactions, good things, because “God was with him.” Here is how Peter explained it:
You know what has happened throughout the province of Judea, beginning in Galilee after the baptism that John preached– how God anointed Jesus of Nazareth with the Holy
Spirit and power, and how he went around doing good [benefactor] and healing all who were under the power of the devil, because God was with him (Acts 10:37-38).
The Story of Jesus is the Story of Jesus doing good because God was with him. As if to remind us all what Jesus was on about, Peter introduces Jesus as a benefactor by saying “You know the message God sent to the people of Israel, announcing the good news of peace through Jesus Christ, who is Lord of all.” Very clear here: Jesus brings peace by doing good. Doing good produces peace. Peace flows from doing good.
But what does it mean to say Jesus was a “benefactor”?