By David Faust
What amazes you most about Jesus? Are you astonished by his power over nature—walking on water, multiplying bread and fish, changing water into wine? or the way he healed the sick—giving first-time sight to a man born blind, reversing the effects of deafness, restoring skin tissue ravaged by leprosy?
His stories and sayings, parables and prayers amazed those who heard him in the first century, and his words remain eminently quotable and thought-provoking two millennia after he uttered them. He boldly identified himself as the revealer of God and the redeemer of humanity, but instead of accepting him, his enemies killed him.
“A Ransom for Many”
If you were reading the New Testament for the first time, you would be shocked to discover that the man who did and said such wonderful things was condemned and sentenced to capital punishment. His brutal death by crucifixion seems unjustified, yet the cross is essential to the story, for Jesus came “to give his life as a ransom for many”
Death isn’t amazing. It happens every day. Hearts stop beating, lungs stop breathing, bodies stop moving. All of that happened to Jesus. Friends took his lifeless corpse down from the cross, wrapped it in linen, packed it with spices, and laid it in a tomb. What happened next was amazing though. On the third day his body was reanimated, re-energized, resurrected. Once again Christ walked and talked with his disciples, giving them “many convincing proofs that he was alive . . .
over a period of forty days” (Acts 1:3). New life and second chances seemed to follow Jesus around.
“I Will Pay It”
Whenever the Master encountered humble faith, forgiveness flowed freely. Four friends carrying a mat brought a paralyzed man to Jesus, and the Lord healed his body and forgave his sins. Frowning accusers brought the Lord a woman caught in adultery, and the only one without sin that day was Jesus; but he refused to cast any stones at her. A repentant woman’s tears rained down on Jesus’ feet; he forgave her and sent her away in peace. A dying thief had a last-minute change of heart, and Jesus promised to be with him in paradise. A Pharisee spewed out hatred and threw Christ’s followers into prison, but soon Saul himself was baptized in Jesus’ name and eventually spent time in prison for preaching the gospel he once opposed.
Grace wasn’t a mere theological concept for Jesus’ followers. It was practical and transformational. What else but life-changing grace could reconcile a first-century slave owner like Philemon with a runaway slave like Onesimus? The apostle Paul urged Philemon to receive Onesimus back without penalty as a brother in Christ, adding, “If he has done you any wrong or owes you anything, charge it to me. . . . I will pay it back” (Philemon vv. 18, 19).
That’s the kind of thing a person says and does when he’s motivated by God’s grace. An authentic encounter with the merciful Christ leads to extraordinary acts of love and redemption. Offering to cover the debt of Onesimus didn’t seem like a burden to Paul because his own sin-debt already had been covered at Calvary.
At the cross the sinless Son of God said, in effect, “Father, whatever wrongs your runaway servants have done—whatever they owe you—charge it all to me. Don’t count their debts against them. I will pay the price.”
What could be more amazing than that?
1. What do you appreciate most about God’s grace?
2. To whom do you need to offer mercy and forgiveness?
David Faust serves as the Associate Minister at East 91st Street Christian Church, Indianapolis, Indiana.
The Lookout’s Bible Reading Plan for August 31, 2014
Use this guide to read through the Bible in 12 months. Follow David Faust’s comments on the highlighted text in every issue of The Lookout.
Esther 5, 6
Esther 7, 8
Esther 9, 10
Isaiah 1, 2