Friday, 11 May 2012
The Taste of Free Grace
Grace. Free grace. Sounds amazing, but what does it mean?
The chef appeared at our table with a large wooden board loaded with meats and cheese. We hadn’t ordered that item because it was too expensive.
“My apologies for the delay of your main course. Enjoy tonight’s selection of charcuterie while you wait. Compliments of the house.”
Amazing. Downright awesome. But was it grace? Certainly it was free to us. Certainly it was paid for by someone else. Certainly we hadn’t asked for or even expected it.
But the dinner was late. We were paying top dollar for an exceptional meal. We had been waiting too long. At the very least we deserved some kind of apology and explanation.
The appearance of the chef himself, the generosity of the free food went above and beyond what we were owed. But it also bought our return business. It was a savvy, classy business strategy.
The charcuterie platter tasted great, but it wasn’t the taste of free grace.
Grace In the Gospel of Mark
Mark crafts his gospel to focus on several things: He wants us to see the King who came to serve and suffer. He wants us to hear the good news of the kingdom. These are the big points. Seeing. Hearing.
Tasting grace is more subtle. Our sense of taste is hard to put into words. We know when something doesn’t quite taste right, but we have a hard time putting our finger on it. Let’s take a look at the four scenes in Mark 2 and see if we can put words to what we taste.
Healing the Paralytic
1. First we see the nature of the grace Jesus offers. Forgiveness is the free gift that’s offered here, not healing. The healing is secondary, a merciful sign that points to the greater reality of forgiveness.
2. Second we see that there are no prerequisites to meet before receiving this gift, like there was with us at the restaurant. We only received the complimentary food because we could afford to dine there. By contrast, the paralytic brought nothing to the table. He didn’t have to clean himself up. He didn’t have to get himself in the door. He didn’t even have to ask politely or correctly or even articulate faith at all.
3. Third there are no exclusions to the reach of free grace. No one can be placed or place himself past the point of no return. Matthew was called to follow Jesus–a tax collector scumbag. A cheat. A traitor. A fraud. In case that doesn’t punch you and me in the gut the way it did the eye witnesses, imagine this: Jesus approaching a pimp sitting in his Cadillac, keeping an eye on his girls to make sure they are “behaving themselves.” If I head Jesus say “follow me” to him, I would cry out in protest.
The Bridegroom and The Lord of the Sabbath
4. Let’s group these last two scenes under this heading. There’s more to the gift than we realize. Unwrap the free gift of forgiveness from God and inside you find the greater gift of relationship with God.
It’s as if the chef didn’t just bring us some free food, but sat down at the table and made friends with us. Then he offered to come over on his day off so we could cook and eat together. On a regular basis.
Grace doesn’t just mean we’re forgiven, it means we’re with him–which changes absolutely everything.
That’s the taste of free grace.