EASTER IS ALL ABOUT GRACE
We celebrate Easter this week, Resurrection Day! The day that above all other days put God’s stamp of authenticity on the work of his Son. It is the happiest day of the year for me, because as Paul said, He was delivered over to death for our sins and was raised to life for our justification. (Rom 4:25NIV)
Jesus’ mission was to die for our sins and be raised for our justification. His was the mission of grace. Phillip Yancey defined grace in his book What’s So Amazing About Grace.
Grace means there is nothing we can do to make God love us more. And grace means there is nothing we can do to make God love us less.
Yet, we are uncomfortable with the idea of grace. We can’t get our minds around it. We can’t adjust our feelings to it. We have a hard time living in the reality of it. It upsets the balance of how most of us live because most of us live under the merit system.
A terrorist like Timothy McVeigh gets the death penalty and we’re ok with that.
We are comfortable with that. It makes sense to us. Our lives are built around merit, justice, rewards and punishment. Do good, work hard, love others, keep your nose clean and you will be rewarded. Be selfish, be mean, be slack, be criminal and you get what you deserve.
But DESERVE and REWARD are words that have no meaning under grace. That is the scandal of Grace – even a Tim McVeigh can receive a full pardon from God.
“For the wages of sin is death. But the free gift of God is eternal life in Jesus Christ our Lord.” Death is something we earn. Eternal life is a gift. IT’S GRACE.
If you have trouble absorbing that, consider these three thoughts.
Grace Is Costly – Justice was done. Sin was paid for but not by us. “He made him who knew no sin to be sin for us.” (2 Cor. 5:21).
In the film The Last Emperor, a young child anointed the last emperor of China lives a magical life of luxury with a thousand eunuch servants at his command. “What happens when you do wrong?” asks his brother. “When I do wrong, someone else is punished,” the boy king answers. To demonstrate, he shatters a jar, and one of the servants is beaten.
God reversed that pattern. When the servants sinned, the king was punished. Grace is free only because the giver has born all the cost.
Grace Is Extravagant – Think of the parable Jesus told about the lost sheep (See Luke15). The shepherd leaves the ninety-nine in the open country, vulnerable to theft, wolves and wandering, to find the one, and then celebrates with friends. That’s extravagant. I would think, “Miserable little ingrate sheep. Let him wander. Wolves would do me a favor if they ate him,” but not God. God’s grace is extravagant.
Grace is Overwhelming.
This story is from the South African Truth and Reconciliation Process.
A South African woman stood in an emotionally charged courtroom listening to white police officers acknowledge the atrocities they had perpetrated in the name of apartheid.
Officer van de Broek acknowledged his responsibility in the death of her son. Along with others, he had shot her 18-year-old son at point-blank range. He and the others partied while they burned his body, turning it over and over on the fire until it was reduced to ashes.
Eight years later, van de Broek and others arrived to seize her husband. A few [hours] later, shortly after midnight, van de Broek came to fetch the woman. He took her to a woodpile where her husband lay bound. She was forced to watch as they poured gasoline over his body and ignited the flames that consumed his body. The last words she heard her husband say were "Forgive them."
Now, van de Broek stood before her awaiting judgment. South Africa's Truth and Reconciliation Commission asked her what she wanted.
"I want three things," she said calmly. "I want Mr. van de Broek to take me to the place where they burned my husband's body. I would like to gather up the dust and give him a decent burial.
"Second, Mr. van de Broek took all my family away from me, and I still have a lot of love to give. Twice a month, I would like for him to come to the ghetto and spend a day with me so I can be a mother to him.”
"Third, I would like Mr. van de Broek to know that he is forgiven by God, and that I forgive him, too. I would like someone to lead me to where he is seated, so I can embrace him and he can know my forgiveness is real."
As the elderly woman was led across the courtroom, van de Broek fainted, overwhelmed. Someone began singing "Amazing Grace." Gradually everyone joined in. (Stanley W. Green, The Canadian Mennonite (9-4-00), p. 11.)
That same grace – God’s Amazing Grace – is here, now offered to us. The resurrection proved that it’s true. That’s why Easter is the happiest day of the year.