This Is Grace

Jesus died so that we might live through him to the glory of Our Father in Heaven.

This is how God loved the world: he gave his only son, so that everyone who believes may not perish but may have eternal life. (See John 3:16, Romans 5:8, 1John 4:9)

Paul’s cry from Galatians (He loved me and delivered himself up for me) says Jesus endured the cross and everything it meant, because of his enormous love for us.

Did Jesus have to die? Did He have to die condemned as a criminal, next to common criminals? Why did He have to die shivering and naked on a wooden cross on a hill outside the gates of the holy city? As Brennan Manning writes, “Why was the last breath drawn in bloody disgrace, while the world for which He lay dying egged on His executioners with savage fury like some kind of gang rape by uncivilized brutes in Central Park? Why Did they have to take the very best?”

Why indeed.

Manning gives us a graphic image in his question. It is apt and gives us a bold look at the crucifixion. The image gives us a fresh look at what the scandal of the King of the universe dying on cross for the people who had forsaken Him really means. It should give us pause as to what it means personally to affirm that Jesus died for our sin. We put Jesus on the cross. We did it. With that image in mind, doesn’t Jesus dying for our sins, for the sins of the world hanging on that rugged cross and saying, “Father, forgive them, for they do not know what they are doing” change how we see Easter. Easter is not about a bunny rabbit, jellybeans, and colorful eggs. Easter is about love, redemption, and grace.

Peter Rollins writes, “The crucifixion signals an experience in which all that grounds us and gives us meaning collapses. On The cross, Christ is rejected by his friends, betrayed by the religious authorities, and crucified by the political leaders. We witness here, in the starkest terms, the loss of all those structures that ground us and give us the comfort that life makes sense. More than this, Christ experiences the loss of that which grounds each of these realms—God.”

No one understands the love of God. None quite gets what it means that Jesus so loved the world that He forsook heaven to live a very human life and die on a very real wooden cross. I know I don’t, though I like to think I do. I don’t. We don’t get the kind of love that climbs the hill, bears the cross, takes the nails, and takes our place; that gives His life and clears our name. The kind of love that cries alone, that tastes death to bring us home. We don’t understand the love that Gives His Son, that gives hope, dries tears and brings joy. We say we want to know this love, but when it comes to the wonderful, glorious, marvelous love embodied in the broken, bloodied body of Jesus, we start talking theology, justice, God’s wrath, and orthodoxy.

The Cross stands at the center of the universe revealing God’s love, not that we
loved God, but that God loved us and sent his son to be propitiation for our sins.

The disciple living by grace has a deep trust in the redeeming work of Jesus Christ in our lives, understanding that he or she is a beloved child of God, and that God is present and at work in the world at all times. Trusting God is to stand in child-like awe and openness in the mysterious and gracious love and acceptance. The Father sent the Son, so that we might live fully and radically and love wastefully. A relationship with Jesus drives out fear, doubt, and shame that enable us to be hopeful, joyous, and loving.

Brennan Manning writes, “The gospel of grace calls us to sing of the everyday mystery of intimacy with God instead of always seeking for miracles or visions. It calls us to sing of the spirit roots of such commonplace experience as falling in love, telling the truth, raising a child, teaching a class, forgiving each other, standing together in the bad weather of life, of surprise and sexuality, and the radiance of existence. Of such is the Kingdom of Heaven, and of such homely mysteries is genuine religion made of. Grace abounds and walks around the edge of our everyday experience.”   

This is grace—

You’re behind in school and don’t get quite all of it done and you get an A anyway.

You just start a job and the boss calls you into his office and gives you a check for an infinite amount.

Your team is awarded the championship without playing a game.

You go to sleep with diabetes and in the morning, you’re free of this dreaded disease.

Grace is more than fair. Grace is too good to be true, but the good news is that it is true. We don’t deserve God’s unconditional and limitless love and grace. We could never earn it, yet it is still ours free of charge. God loves us as we are, but way too much to leave us that way.

In the hymn You Are My King, we sing, “I’m forgiven because you were forsaken. I’m accepted; you were condemned. I’m alive and well, Your spirit is within me because You died and rose again.”

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