The Greatest Gift
( Originally Published 1915 )
THE ROOM in the Temple where Jesus spoke on that Tuesday, the last day of his teaching in public, was called "The Treasury," because beside its walls were chests or boxes in which people who came to worship placed their money for gifts to pay for the offerings of poor people. As Jesus rose up to leave the room, he noticed the people dropping their money into these boxes. Some rich men made a show of giving large sums of money, letting it make a noise as they dropped it slowly, piece after piece, into the box.
There came in a poor woman, whose dress showed that she was a widow; and she dropped into the box two little copper coins, worth together only a quarter of a cent. Jesus saw her, and calling his disciples, he said :
"I tell you in truth, that in the sight of God this poor widow has put into the box more money than any of the others. All the rest have been putting in money that they could spare and did not need. But she in her need gave all that she had, her whole living!"
Then Jesus walked out of the Treasury through the door on the east, which was so richly decorated that it was called "The Beautiful Gate," his disciples with him. They stepped down into the Court of the Gentiles; and at the foot of the stairs met a number of men whose looks and dress showed that they were not Jews, but foreigners. These men were Greeks, from a land far away. They were waiting for Jesus at the foot of the stairs, for not being Jews they were forbidden to enter the inner courts of the Temple.
These Greeks stepped up to one of the twelve disciples, Philip, who had come from Bethsaida in the north of Galilee, and could speak their language.
"Sir," they said to Philip, " we would like to meet Jesus.”
Philip was not sure whether his Master would be willing to talk to these men; for Jews kept Gentiles or foreigners at a distance, would never eat with them, and would scarcely speak with them. Philip thought that Andrew, the brother of Peter, might know whether to bring these The poor widow drops in two little coins men to Jesus or not, so he spoke to Andrew, and Andrew took the lead in coming to Jesus with the Greeks.
"The time has now come," said Jesus, "for the Son of Man to be lifted up, and to die. For it is only by dying that I can bring forth fruit. When a kernel of wheat is dropped into the ground, unless its outside shell dies, it lives alone; but if it dies, then it becomes a seed and brings a harvest of many kernels of wheat. He who loves his life and keeps it, loses it; but he who takes no care of his life here shall have it forever. If any man is ready to serve me, let him follow me; and where I am going there shall my servant be with me. If any one is my servant, he shall have honor from my Father."
At that moment it came to the mind of Jesus that in less than three days he would be hanging dead upon the cross. For an instant the thought gave him pain. "I am deeply troubled, and have sorrow in my heart," said Jesus, "and what can I say? Shall I say, `Father, save me from the hour that is coming so soon?' No, I will not say that, because it was for that hour of death on the cross that I have lived even until now. I will say, `Father, give honor to thine own name!' "
Then a voice from heaven was heard, saying, "I have honored my name already, and I will honor it once more."
The people standing around said, "That was a peal of thunder just now."
"No," said others, "it was an angel speaking to this man!"
"It was not on my account that the voice came," said Jesus, "but on your account. Soon will come the hour when God will judge this world, and the prince of evil, who rules this world, shall be driven away."
Then Jesus thought of his coming death on the cross; what it was to bring to the world; how that everywhere after his death men should believe on him as their Lord and Saviour; not only Jews,. but Greeks, and people of every land; and he said :
"And when I am lifted up from the earth, I will draw all men to me."
Soon after this Jesus walked out of the Temple, never again to set his foot within it.