Christmas isn’t the only holiday where we think about giving. At Easter, we contemplate giving up something. Things like dessert, TV, wine, smoking. But then we take them back when Lent is over.
Jesus did even more than give. He gave up, willingly giving up His very life for our sakes, and when He rose victorious over sin and death, He gave us the most glorious gift we could ever receive: new life. And it’s forever.
But Jesus wasn’t the only one in the gospel stories who gave something. He also received a few gifts. Size or expense didn’t matter to Him. These gifts all came from the heart. That’s what set them apart.
One woman gave faithfully.
After Jesus triumphantly entered Jerusalem on Palm Sunday, He saw a woman in the temple whose meager gift became a timeless standard for us to follow.
Jesus sat down opposite the place where the offerings were put and watched the crowd putting their money into the temple treasury. Many rich people threw in large amounts. But a poor widow came and put in two very small copper coins, worth only a few cents.
We don’t have any backstory on this woman, only that she was a widow and she was poor. The picture we have is that she gave to God willingly, trusting that He’d take care of her. She gave in faith.
The two coins she offered didn’t look like much compared to the others. Sometimes you may think your gift isn’t much. She probably thought that, too. But Jesus said she “put more into the treasury than all the others.”
In fact, Jesus said it was “everything–all she had to live on.” She gave it all.
Jesus was about to give it all for us.
One woman gave extravagantly.
After Jesus raised Lazarus from the dead, Lazarus’s sisters invited him for dinner in their home. Martha busied herself serving, as usual, but Mary’s custom was to sit at His feet and listen. He called this the one necessary thing. This time she did more than listen.
Then Mary took about a pint of pure nard, an expensive perfume; she poured it on Jesus’ feet and wiped his feet with her hair. And the house was filled with the fragrance of the perfume.
Judas, with murder already in his heart, criticized her for her wastefulness–couldn’t that expense have covered more pressing needs? But Jesus praised her gift, saying she had anointed him for his burial.
Mary went all out; she didn’t hold anything back. She gave generously. Perhaps she was able to give so extravagantly because she experienced the grace that was freely lavished upon her, coming out of God’s limitless riches. That truth wasn’t just head knowledge to her. Her gift didn’t come from obligation; she gave cheerfully, from a grateful heart.
Two men gave fearlessly.
Two men, who had worshiped from a safe distance while Jesus was alive, finally became willing to take a risk and identify with Him after He was killed. The disciples didn’t become emboldened until they’d seen Him risen from the dead, but these mean overcame their fears the night He died.
They had found something more important than themselves.
Joseph of Arimathea gave up his tomb for Jesus. Nicodemus–the same one who asked Jesus, under cover of darkness, how to be born again–gave up his reputation as a upstanding Pharisee.
Later, Joseph of Arimathea asked Pilate for the body of Jesus. Now Joseph was a disciple of Jesus, but secretly because he feared the Jewish leaders. With Pilate’s permission, he came and took the body away. He was accompanied by Nicodemus, the man who earlier had visited Jesus at night. Nicodemus brought a mixture of myrrh and aloes, about seventy-five pounds. Taking Jesus’ body, the two of them wrapped it, with the spices, in strips of linen.
Joseph and Nicodemus no longer cared who knew. They laid aside their self-protective strategies. They stopped worrying about what the Jewish leaders might do to them or how they’d be perceived.
They probably couldn’t imagine what was about to happen on Sunday morning, and they still let go of their fears.
We know the end of the story. How will you let that affect you?