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Monday, October 1, 2012

Need = Grace

There are times when I read through scripture and wonder how Jesus was so patient when accused of such things as being demon-possessed, doing miracles by the power of the devil himself, or simply being a man who could not possibly know scripture because he never sat under any of the great rabbi's of the time.  Today's passage is from one of those moments when you or I would probably have been provoked to say something more than "You're wrong about me".  We would have likely had to "prove" just how different we were from others!   Yet, Jesus answers with calmness and determination to continue to reflect the one who sent him - no "add-mixture" of personal opinion or "self-expression".

“I tell you most solemnly that anyone who chooses a life of sin is trapped in a dead-end life and is, in fact, a slave. A slave is a transient, who can’t come and go at will. The Son, though, has an established position, the run of the house. So if the Son sets you free, you are free through and through."  (John 8:34-36 MSG)

Knowing the context of any passage is always paramount to accurately understanding what is being said.  It is never okay to just take one verse out of context and expect it to stand on its own.  We could do it, but believe me, it is important to understand context, so here goes...

The woman caught in adultery was brought by her accusers - the "religious" who claim to be right in their stand - dragged naked through the streets to be even more publicly humiliated by her sin.  Jesus' answer to the accusers - the first of you with no sin may go first to cast the stone.  Their response - no one remained to cast any stone!  To the woman, he simply points out the importance of grace.  He does not condemn - he extends forgiveness, reconciliation - GRACE!

The Pharisees are up next - questioning Jesus' authority and his statements of being light in a dark world - wanting to know who he was, where he came from and by who's authority he is teaching.  Their "opinion" - we only have YOUR word on this, Jesus.  For those of us who have relationship with Jesus, we probably think this is a silly response on their part - because we know the power of his word!  Yet, Jesus is gracious - he points out they have had evidence from his birth forward.  If they had really "cared" to know who he really was and who he was really sent from, they would have recognized the reality of his origin based on the total and complete fulfillment of the prophesies of the ages.  But...since they weren't getting it, he takes time to tell them just when they will "get it" - at his death!  “When you raise up the Son of Man, then you will know who I am—that I’m not making this up, but speaking only what the Father taught me. The One who sent me stays with me. He doesn’t abandon me. He sees how much joy I take in pleasing him.” (vs. 27-29 MSG)  These words are prefaced by some pretty phenomenal words which we probably all skip over - "So, Jesus tried again."  GRACE!

Next, he turns to the Jews who claimed to believe in him.  His message to them - stick with my teachings and you will show yourself to be my disciples.  Not just my disciples - but free men.  Uh oh!  This added confusion to the mix because they never saw themselves as bound!  Once again, Jesus is faced with the "line of heritage" of an argument of why these men stood out from the crowd - they were from their father Abraham.  Family line mattered - didn't Jesus see that?  Umm...yep, he did.  In fact, he was pointing to a "higher" family line - being the Son of God.  Now, they were part of a "higher" family line - Abraham's line did not begin with him, but with God himself!  Those who never knew they were "bound" by their sin, counting on "family line" instead of true righteousness on their part, are set free by the actions of one from the "highest" family line.  GRACE!

So, you are up-to-speed with the context of our passage today.  Three groups of people - all with questions; all with the need for grace.  But...this last group didn't stop with the explanation of needing to be set free - they insist Jesus could not be of the "right" family line, because he teaches of eternal life.  Their argument:  Abraham died!  The prophets died!  These were good men of God and they died!  Now you tell us we will never have to taste death?
Isn't it amazing how much we try to interpret spiritual truth with our natural mind?  We expect for the words of God to make sense from a "natural" perspective - when God speaks from a supernatural perspective, we balk!  Jesus' response is all-telling:  God, the heavenly Father of Abraham and the Prophets, put me here for this very moment.  GRACE!

As Jesus shows repeatedly, we might not "get" who he is and understand what he is doing "perfectly", but if we will believe he is the Son of God, we have the power to be free from the very misunderstandings which have us bound.  GRACE!  If we choose to live a sinful life, we are bound.  If we choose to follow the Son of God - come into the "higher" family line - we are set free. GRACE!  We can live like "transients" - no purpose, no privilege, no position.  Or...we can choose to live as one who has the "run of the place", so to speak. GRACE!  

When I take a look at Jesus, I see nothing less than GRACE!  Repeatedly extended.  Unwarranted, but given without hesitation.  GRACE!  If you aren't getting it - maybe you are trying to see grace from the perspective of most of society - something earned, only for those who deserve it, conditioned on some right response.  The only "condition" to grace is NEED.  Naked before the world, sin apparent for all to see - your condition begs for grace.  Too caught up in your own self-importance to see what is right before your face - your condition is only changed because of grace.  Counting on "family line" to keep you safe on judgment day - your condition invites grace.  Bound by life's tragedies, sinful choices, crazy beliefs, inadequacies galore - your condition is NEED.  Your need is met in one word - GRACE!  

If you have not heard this before, he it is:  GRACE is God's Riches At Christ's Expense.  Before we knew of our NEED, he prepared the GRACE to meet the need.  Just sayin!