In the Bible, John 3:16 says: “For God so loved the world, that he gave his only begotten Son, that whosoever believeth in him should not perish, but have everlasting life.” (KJV) For years, I thought God’s greatest gift to mankind was His Son; Jesus! But after looking more intently at the whole body of the Gospels and at what Jesus said about why he was born, I am convinced that God’s greatest gift was not Jesus, but rather what Jesus came to provide! Look at the just quoted text again, do you see it? The giving of Jesus was not the ‘end,’ but rather the ‘means’ to the end! God did not give Jesus for Jesus, God gave Jesus so that those who believe in Jesus should not perish, but have everlasting or eternal life! God gave Jesus, so that we might have eternal life through Jesus! Hence, the greatest gift is not Jesus, but eternal life through Jesus!
Now, when I first considered this, it sounded a bit blasphemous and disrespectful to me until I started carefully considering the statements of Jesus. For instance, consider Jesus’ reply to Thomas in John 14:6. “Jesus saith unto him, I am the way, the truth, and the life: no man cometh unto the Father, but by me.” (KJV) We quote and cite that verse all the time, but have we actually considered the implications of what Jesus said? Jesus said; “I am the way!” When Jesus said that, he was in a sense saying: “I am not it! I am not the destination, I am the means, the avenue, the conduit, the way to get to the destination!” I live in the Atlanta, GA area, but my original home is Jackson, MS. In order to go from Atlanta to Jackson, I must go west on I-20. I-20 is not the destination, I-20 is ‘the way’ to the destination! Practically speaking, there is no other way for me to get to Jackson, MS except by I-20! (There are ‘other ways’ but they are not practical!) Most traditional Christians ‘stop’ at the way; they stop at Jesus! But Jesus said that he was not the destination, he said he was the way!
Wow! Do we really understand the implications of what Jesus said? Jesus was saying: “Don’t stop at me, I’m just the way! My job is to get you (back) to the Father! Keep going until you get to the Father!” Consider the conversation Jesus had with his disciples in John 16. In that conversation, Jesus was telling them how things would be when he went back to the Father and the Holy Spirit comes to them. In verse 23, he says: “And in that day ye shall ask me nothing. Verily, verily, I say unto you, Whatsoever ye shall ask the Father in my name, he will give it you.” (KJV) Then he says: “In that day you will ask in my name, and I do not say to you that I will ask the Father on your behalf; for the Father himself loves you, because you have loved me and have believed that I came from God.” (ESV) Jesus was saying that when the Holy Spirit comes (in that day) they (his disciples and by extension, all who become his disciples) would not have to ask him anything, so that he might ask the Father on their behalf, but they would be able to ask the Father themselves, in his name! We often miss this: The mission of Jesus was to provide the means (by paying the price and penalty for sin) for us to be restored as ‘sons of God!’ In the Kingdom of God; Jesus is the only begotten or ‘unique’ Son, but Jesus is not the only son! All who believe and have been born again are sons of God! (‘Son’ in this instance is not a gender-specific term; it is a legal term that refers to status or position, hence, it refers to males and females). This is what the Apostle Paul was talking about when he wrote: “For as many as are led by the Spirit of God, they are the sons of God. For ye have not received the spirit of bondage again to fear; but ye have received the Spirit of adoption, whereby we cry, Abba, Father. The Spirit itself beareth witness with our spirit, that we are the children of God: And if children, then heirs; heirs of God, and joint-heirs with Christ; if so be that we suffer with him, that we may be also glorified together.” (Romans 8:14-17 KJV)
Oh! I wish we could see this! So many of my preaching brothers and sisters are so fixated with the thought of just wanting to hear the Lord saying to them: “Well done, thou good and faithful servant!” But if we read the Scriptures carefully, we would understand that God WILL NOT say that to us! Why? Because in Galatians the Apostle Paul wrote: “But when the fulness of the time was come, God sent forth his Son, made of a woman, made under the law, To redeem them that were under the law, that we might receive the adoption of sons. And because ye are sons, God hath sent forth the Spirit of his Son into your hearts, crying, Abba, Father. Wherefore thou art no more a servant, but a son; and if a son, then an heir of God through Christ.” (Gal. 4:4-7 KJV) It’s really an insult to God the Father and to Jesus the Son, that after so much was given that we might (again) be ‘sons’ we still insist upon being called servants! The classic Black Baptist ‘preaching-close’ of “Well done thy good and faithful servant” makes for good whooping, but it’s actually bad theology!
Now, as Jesus said to his disciples in John 16:12: “I have yet many things to say unto you, but ye cannot bear them now.” (KJV), So let me wrap up a few bread crumbs I dropped along the way. You might recalled that earlier I paraphrased Jesus as saying: “My job is to get you (back) to the Father!” I put the word ‘back’ in parenthesis to place emphasis on the fact that Jesus came, not to take us to a ‘new’ place such as Heaven, but rather to restore us back to our original position! Have you ever notice that everything in God’s plan of salvation is a ‘re?’ It is a plan of redemption, restoration! We must be re-born and we must repent! Everything about salvation is a ‘re!’ Why? Because the whole plan is about talking us back to the relationship we had with God before sin entered into the world! God’s plan of salvation, Jesus coming into the world, the Cross, the Resurrection; it’s all about getting back to God’s original intent as specified in Genesis 1-2! Did you know that Genesis 1-2 are the only two ‘perfect’ chapters in the Bible? From Genesis 3:1 to Revelation 22:21, the Bible is about God’s plan to recover Genesis 1-2! That’s why I don’t believe in calling funerals; ‘home-going’ celebrations! Contrary to what traditional Christianity advocates, Heaven (the place where God dwells) will NOT be our final destination! Why would God go through all the trouble of making a ‘physical’ world and giving us ‘physical’ bodies if God intended for us to spend eternity in a purely spiritual dis-embodied state? I mean; think about it! If Heaven is our final destination, the Resurrection is pointless! No! John writes in Revelation 21:1-3: “And I saw a new heaven and a new earth: for the first heaven and the first earth were passed away; and there was no more sea. And I John saw the holy city, new Jerusalem, coming down from God out of heaven, prepared as a bride adorned for her husband. And I heard a great voice out of heaven saying, Behold, the tabernacle of God is with men, and he will dwell with them, and they shall be his people, and God himself shall be with them, and be their God.” (KJV) The goal of traditional Christianity is to go and ‘be with God,’ but according to the Bible, God’s ultimate goal is come and ‘be with us!’ In the END, we will not be bodiless spirits floating among the clouds, but rather we will have glorified bodies, living on the new earth!
So, in essence, the greatest gift is the Kingdom of God! What is the Kingdom of God? It is God’s sovereign rule and will! It is the Eternal Life and the Abundant Life Jesus came to give us access to! It is God’s original intent for us as specified in Genesis 1:26-28! It should be our greatest quest and it is God’s greatest gift! Jesus said in Luke 12:29-32: “And seek not ye what ye shall eat, or what ye shall drink, neither be ye of doubtful mind. For all these things do the nations of the world seek after: and your Father knoweth that ye have need of these things. But rather seek ye the kingdom of God; and all these things shall be added unto you. Fear not, little flock; for it is your Father’s good pleasure to give you the kingdom.” (KJV) The greatest thing about God’s greatest gift is that we don’t have to wait until we die to get it; it’s available right now to all who will accept it! This is the Gospel (the Good News) that Jesus peached: “Now after that John was put in prison, Jesus came into Galilee, preaching the gospel of the kingdom of God, And saying, The time is fulfilled, and the kingdom of God is at hand: repent ye, and believe the gospel.” (KJV)