Summary: A sermon which explores the meaning of the Grace of Jesus Christ: what is means, how Jesus secured our salvation, what it meant to the Jews and Gentiles of Jesus’ time and what it means to us today. FAITH ALONE, GRACE ALONE BECAUSE OF JESUS ALONE.
“The Way of Grace is Different”
Stephen H. Becker, M.Div.
St. Peter’s Lutheran Church—Elk Grove, Ca.
September 2nd, 2007
In our reading today, Jesus told a parable, and in fact throughout Jesus’ ministry, He often taught using parables. The Apostle Mark in his Gospel tells us that Jesus “did not say anything to [the people] without using a parable” (Mark 4:34). About 700 years before Jesus, the prophet Isaiah once explained that, “You will be ever hearing, but never understanding; you will be ever seeing but never perceiving. For this people’s heart has become calloused; they hardly hear with their ears, and they have closed their eyes. Otherwise they might see with their eyes, hear with their ears, understand with their hearts and turn, and I would heal them.” Another time the disciples came to Jesus and asked, “Why do you speak to the people in parables?” He replied, “The knowledge of the secrets of the kingdom of heaven has been given to you, but not to them.. This is why I speak to them in parables…” Then Jesus quoted the same passage from Isaiah that I just read to you, telling his disciples, “Though seeing, they do not see; though hearing, they do not hear or understand. In them is fulfilled the prophecy of Isaiah: (pause) But blessed are your eyes because they see, and your ears (pause) because they hear.” So what Jesus is saying here is that He teaches with parables in order to help us believers to see what our sin otherwise might keeping us from seeing…helping our eyes to see and our ears to hear the truth and, sometimes that He uses parables to emphasize to those who don’t have faith just how lost and confused they really are. And, as we see here in our passage in Luke, Jesus not only expected, but in some cases intended, that the Pharisees and all the people that opposed him and his message would not understand what he really meant when he used a parable. Certain things that He had to say were only for the ears and hearts of believers, and were just words or stories to non-believers.
At this dinner that Jesus was at, He really had two message that He wanted to get across, that selfishness and self-righteousness were so deadly, and that these Pharisees would rather see a person die on the Sabbath than let go of their self-righteousness, and furthermore, this selfishness was so self-defeating that it was literally blocking all the Goodness and Love God has for His children.
To unbelievers, it probably sounded like Jesus was babbling about dinner etiquette…who to invite and where to sit, and about children and oxen falling into wells. But friends, Jesus wasn’t teaching dinner etiquette. And He really wasn’t concerned about telling dinner guests where they should or (pause) where should not to sit at dinner. No, what Jesus really wanted to get through everyone’s heads — and hearts — was that the way that they were believing, thinking, and acting was not God’s way. It wasn’t — and isn’t — the way truly righteous people behave, because believers are not concerned with self-promotion and self-glorification. You see, Christ’s way is clearly different, and Jesus wanted these Pharisees — and everyone, really — to look to God’s Grace instead of their own interests because God’s way is different; the way of Grace (pause) is different.
Now, to many people, “Grace” isn’t much more than just a word. They’re aware that it has some kind of religious meaning, but they’re not exactly sure what exactly Grace means. They just know that Christians think Grace is amazing — from the song. They know that their Dad would sometimes say “grace” before dinner. The better informed in our society may recognize that Grace has something to do with religion and maybe with salvation — with how or why people get to heaven — (pause) but that’s often about the extent of their knowledge of the word, “Grace.” So since the point of this parable is Grace, and before we go any further in looking at the Grace that Jesus is talking about here, let’s define what Grace is: Grace is God’s free gift of salvation for everyone who believes. Grace is the forgiveness of our sins not because of who we are or what we’ve done but instead Grace is OUR forgiveness that Jesus purchased on the cross with His body and His blood. Grace means that we don’t have to do anything to be saved because Jesus (pause) did it all. We believe that and through our belief—our faith—we receive this wonderful gift of Go called Grace.
So how does this parable take advice about where to sit and whom to invite and teach Grace? What does Grace have to do with how we think and live? Now, a moment ago I said that we don’t have to do anything to be saved because Jesus did it all. In my last sermon about a month I also said that we don’t wait for eternal life because we have eternal life and we have it, right now. So what does Grace have to do with how we think and live here on earth? It’s a good question. And Jesus probably would have been very happy if one of the Pharisees had asked him that. But they didn’t. So Jesus showed them anyway—He showed them the connection between the love of God and Christian humility. He showed the way of God’s Grace. And the way of Grace is different!