Friday, 22 October 2010
Jesus: God’s Word of Grace
During the weeks between Thanksgiving and Christmas we’re talking about our hunger for God to break his silence.
The message of Christmas is that he has done just that in the coming of Jesus. God spoke in many ways in the past, but he has spoken most clearly in his Son. (Hebrews 1:1-2). Even better he is still speaking. Jesus is identified in John’s Gospel as the Word of God, so we can expect God’s personal communication to continue coming to us as we understand and believe what the Scriptures say about him.
In them we find that Jesus is
- God’s word of peace to us
- God’s word of grace to us
- God’s word of hope for us
Now grace is a tricky word. It gets bandied about a lot these days. Sometimes it seems mushy, meaning something akin to leniency. It can sound like the divine equivalent of our phrase, “no worries,” usually said with a shrug when we choose to ignore a problem or sweep it under the carpet.
More clearly it’s defined as “favor,” “good will,” or “a free gift.” That last term especially can sound hollow to our consumer ears. We’re savvy shoppers. We know about sales and markdowns and discounts. But we’re suspicious of free. So when we hear the offer of free, we squint, looking for the fine print. We assume there are hidden costs that we’ll end up paying sooner or later. We keep our hands behind our back.
If we do reach out to take the gift, we pinch and squeeze and check it out. If it’s free it must be a piece of trash. We weigh it in our hands. Is it solid? We examine it for flaws. Is it damaged? We’re used to advertising hype. Even if it passes inspection, it must be too good to be true. We hand it back.
John’s gospel helps us here. He tells us that grace isn’t just a concept, it’s embodied in a person. The Word of God–Jesus–came into our world to show us the grace of God. When God sent his Son, he literally gave us Grace.
And the Word became flesh and dwelt among us, and we have seen his glory, glory as of the only Son from the Father, full of grace and truth…And from his fullness we have all received, grace upon grace. For the law was given through Moses; grace and truth came through Jesus Christ. John 1:14, 16-17
These three sentences show us three things about grace.
- Jesus reveals God’s rich grace. Grace is multifaceted. We see that in the life of Jesus. The story of his earthly life is the story of the self-giving God. His words explain the truth about God. His miracles show the mercy and power of God. His life shows the beauty of the Law of God. His death for sinners brings the justice and mercy of God together at last. He came down to show us the riches of God’s grace in the details of human life.
- Jesus reveals God’s generous grace. It’s one thing to display your wares behind a store front window. It’s quite another to put your best stuff on a sidewalk table with a sign saying “free to all takers.” Jesus entered our world not just to show us God’s grace but to place it in every empty hand stretched out to him. The gift we receive when we believe in him turns out to be God himself. God takes up residence in our lives through the Holy Spirit and begins pouring out gracious gifts for every need we have. How that we have him, we have everything.
- Jesus reveals that grace and truth belong together. Far from being an “anything goes” free pass, grace affirms truth. The truth of God’s law (given by Moses) is affirmed by grace because even though we break it continually, Jesus fulfilled it winsomely. The truth of God’s justice is affirmed by grace because though we receive it freely, he paid for it fully. Grace doesn’t undermine the truth of God’s holiness, it pushes it to a shocking new level. The Holy one became sin so we could become holy.
What do you and I think about this grace now? Let’s cast aside our cynical consumerism and race to the front of the line. There’s no need to push or shove. Just hold out empty hands to the One whose supply will never run out no matter how fast he gives it away.
Grace and peace to you this Christmas season.