Summary: you can’t understand the call of the cross if you don’t understand grace. It’s in the cross that we find God’s grace most fully given and experienced. Grace is one of the hardest things for us to grasp and live out
The Journey Towards Grace
DL Moody tells the story of preaching one night in winter—one of the coldest winters they had and the winter after the Chicago fire. He had been studying grace, and it was the first time he was going to preach on it. He said, “I was just full of grace”….That night when he got through speaking, he asked if any one who would like to hear about grace they could to stay. He expected some would have stayed, but was mortified to see the whole audience rise up and go away. They hadn't any interest in grace at all; they didn't want to learn anything about grace. He put his coat and hat on and was going out of the hall, when he saw a poor fellow at the back of the room crying. "I want to hear about the grace of God," said he. "You're the man I want, then," said I. "Yes. You said in your sermon that it was free, and I want you to tell me something about it." Well, he got to talking to him, and the man told him a pitiful story. He had drank away $20,000, his home had been broken up, and his wife and children had left him. DL Moody spoke to him, and it was not long before they were down on their knees together praying. That night he got him a night's lodging, and the next day they got him on his feet to begin building anew life. And when DL Moody went to Europe on an evangelistic crusade, that man was one of the most earnest workers he had. He not only heard about grace, he had received grace. He believed that the peace of God was sufficient for him, and he took God at his word and he was a saved man.
In this series, we’ve been talking about the Crux which in Latin means cross. But you can’t understand the call of the cross if you don’t understand grace. It’s in the cross that we find God’s grace most fully given and experienced. Grace is one of the hardest things for us to grasp. We’ve experienced it in our life, but it’s difficult for us to understand. And it’s probably one of the most difficult things for the Church to express to the world and the fact is we haven’t been very good at it. It’s much easier to judge than to extend grace. And the world knows it. The Barna Organization interviewed 18-35 year-olds across America and asked, “What is the church?” The top responses were “Judgmental and hypocritical.” Jesus experienced this same attitude as he walked with the disciples through Samaria and they asked him if they should call down fire from heaven to destroy them. Samaritans were considered half-breeds because they intermarried with the Gentiles. They weren’t allowed in the Temple so they built their own and considered it the only temple where sacrifices were acceptable to God. So tensions were high between Jews and Samaritans. Most Jews walked directly through Samaria on the way to Jerusalem but Jesus decides to stop along the way to minister and teach the Samaritans. And if that wasn’t enough, he teaches a parable that would challenge the disciple’s attitude of judgment toward those they thought God hated and in the process teaches them about grace.
In our Scripture today, Jesus is challenged by the Pharisees with a question, “What must I do to inherit eternal life?” The Pharisees were Jews passionately committed to honor God with their lives by following the Law to the letter. Unfortunately, in their zeal to honor God, they gradually evolved into an Insider-Outsider theology. They and others following the law were the righteous ones and then everyone else were sinners which included those who had birth defects, chronic diseases, physical maladies. These conditions were proof that they had sinned and were being punished by God. Sinners also included those who had scorned occupations like shepherds, tax collectors and prostitutes and even whole classes of people like the Gentiles and the Samaritans. It is these people who are excluded from God’s love and care and the compassion and mercy of observant Judaism. So Jesus in Luke 5-8 intentionally brings God’s compassion and mercy to these outcasts and sinners as He invites them to participate in the Kingdom of God. But the disciples still don't get it, exhibited by the disciples attitude toward the Samaritans. When the dialogue with the Pharisee about eternal life turns to, “Who is my neighbor?” Jesus responds with a parable. The common view in Jesus’ day was your neighbor was your fellow Jew who precisely kept the Law and there was a long list of people who God hated and were not your neighbor, like the Gentiles and the Samaritans. So in Jewish eyes, your neighbor is people just like you. In response, Jesus teaches a parable about the limits of God’s grace and ours and you can’t live by the cross unless you live by grace.