Summary: The cross is the place of grace. Grace is one of the hardest things for us to grasp. We’ve experienced it in our life, but it ‘s diifult for us to understand.
The Place of Grace
In this series, we’ve been talking about the Crux which in Latin means cross. But you can’t understand the cross if you don’t understand grace. The cross is the place of grace. Grace is one of the hardest things for us to grasp. We’ve experienced it in our life, but it ‘s diifult for us to understand. It is 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 three top responses received were “Judgmental, hypocritical and anti-gay.” We see this in our Scripture today when Jesus sent messengers ahead into a Samaritan village to get things ready for him, but the people there did not welcome them. When his disciples James and John saw this, they asked, “Lord, do you want us to call fire down from heaven to destroy them?” As Christians, we are good at that, especially in political arenas. It’s much easier to judge than to extend grace. Jesus turned and rebuked them, and they went on to another village.
One of the things we need to understand is grace includes the excluded. Jesus sent the disciples on ahead to a Samaritan village. Who were the Samaritans? The Samaritans were despised by the Jews because they had intermarried with the Gentiles even though it was forbidden by God. Although they worshiped Yahweh as did the Jews, their religion was not mainstream Judaism. They accepted only the first five books of the Bible as canonical, and their temple was on Mount Gerazim instead of on Mount Zion in Jerusalem. They also did not refrain from pronouncing Gopd’s name which was forbidden in Judaism. Because of their imperfect adherence to Judaism and their partly pagan ancestry, the Samaritans were despised by ordinary Jews. Jews so despised the Samaritans, they would take two to three days longer to go around Samaria rather than go through when traveling from Judean to Galilee.
So if it was forbidden to have any contact with Samaritans, why is Jesus going through villages in Samaria which Jews would avoid like the plague? Because grace includes the excluded. In Luke 10, Jesus is uses the parable of the Good Samaritan. In the Jew’s eyes, how can any Samaritan be good? Look at Luke 10:25, an expert in the law stood up to test Jesus. An expert in the law was someone who had totally memorized the Pentateuch or Torah, which are the first five books of Moses and its 613 laws. Now this expert asks Jesus, “What must I do to inherit eternal life?” Jesus asks, “What is written in the law? And the man said, “Love the Lord your God with all of your heart, soul, mind and strength, and love your neighbor as yourself.””
The key word is love. If you want to understand God, you have to understand his love. The best explanation of God in Scripture is love. To see love in its purest form is to see who God is. He is love. But it’s not any old love, it’s unconditional love. There’s not anything you can do to earn or deserve God’s love and there’s nothing you can do to lose God’s love. It’s unconditional. God’s love has no conditions. So, Jesus says, “You have answered correctly. Do this and you will live.” That leads us to our second point: grace is unconditional love.
He doesn’t say anything about following and living out the 613 laws. He focuses one thing: love, loving God and loving neighbor. The expert presses Jesus further when he asks: “Who is my neighbor?” In other words, who is in and who is out? Who is right? Who is wrong? Who is in good standing with God and who isn’t? Who am I obligated to love and who don’t I have to love? So Jesus tells the parable, of the Good Samaritan.
There were no good Samaritans in the eyes of the Jews, they had violated too many of God’s laws. But Jesus tells the story of a man who was mugged, beaten and left for dead. A Priest passed by and moves to the other side of the road ignoring the hurt man and then a Levite. Levites were one of the twelve tribes of Israel. All priests of the Temple came out of the Levite tribe. Thus, they were immersed in the word of God and sought to live out perfectly the law of God. But they pass on by this Samaritan who is beaten ad bloodied because they had no obligation by the law to stop and help. He was a Samaritan for God’s sake! Then a Samaritan saw the man and took pity on him. He bandaged his wounds and took him to an inn to care of him. The next day, asked the inn keeper to look after the man promising to pay for the cost. And Jesus asks, “Which of these do you think was the neighbor of the man who fell in to the hands of the robber?” The expert replied “the one who has mercy on him.” And Jesus said, “Go and do likewise.”