He was always gracious and kind to the most despicable low-life sinners, even to those caught in sin, who should be stoned under Mosaic law. He ate with them in their houses, shared stories about the Kingdom, played with their children…. It’s almost as if Jesus saved all of His anger and condemnation for people who behaved themselves.
Why did Jesus behave so ungraciously toward the religious leaders?
It seems to me it was because they were not gracious. Sinners were.
The Pharisees and scribes did not extend grace to others. They separated everyone into an “us” and “them” camp; those who are “in” and those who are “out”…those who are “righteous” and those who aren’t.
The Pharisee stood by himself and prayed this prayer: ‘I thank you, God, that I am not a sinner like everyone else. For I don’t cheat, I don’t sin, and I don’t commit adultery. I’m certainly not like that tax collector! (Luke 18:11 NLT)
And it was this separating of people that incurred Jesus’ wrath. And need I remind you, Jesus was the “exact expression” of God (John 14:7; Heb.1:3).
This doesn’t mean that Jesus justified sinful behavior, or that sinners were indeed righteous. It means that He was gracious to them and didn’t separate Himself from them. They were invited…welcome to commune with Him, if you will. They heard the good news about His loving Father’s gracious Kingdom, and many did gladly receive it. Those who thought they were “in” didn’t hear it and, therefore, didn’t receive it.
Here’s what we can take away from all of this:
You receive grace to the degree that you give grace.
Another way to say it, of course, would be that God gives grace to the humble and resists the proud.
Our innate human problem is that you and I want grace for ourselves but we really don’t want to extend it to others; especially if they’ve wronged us or believe differently than us. We prefer retribution to restoration and revenge rather than forgiveness.
And just like the Pharisees, we like to separate people into camps—those who are with us and those who aren’t; those who are in and those who are out.
I find that I don’t like it when others get what they don’t deserve…or when they don’t get what they do deserve.
I want the Bible to convict and expose those other people…I wish they were here to hear this convicting message…I certainly don’t want it to shine the light of truth on me. Of course, my problem is, that’s the very purpose of grace and truth.
Jesus seems to always be masterfully sticking my nose in it, using my own measuring stick back on me, constantly revealing what’s lurking underneath my own carefully crafted “Christian” exterior. I talked about this form of “Jesus Jujutsu” here.
But wait a minute, Jesus…let’s not talk about me!
Here is a “Jesus measuring stick” verse that I probably ignore the most and believe the least in the whole Bible (emphasis added):
“Judge not, that you be not judged. 2 For with what judgment you judge, you will be judged; and with the measure you use, it will be measured back to you. 3 And why do you look at the speck in your brother’s eye, but do not consider the plank in your own eye? (Matt.7:1-3 NKJV)
I really don’t like this passage. So I come up with an explanation that lets me off the hook, gives me a reason to do the very thing it tells me not to do.
The word, “judge” is the Greek word, krino. It means “to separate; to make a distinction between; to exercise judgment upon…” (Mounce). It’s also where we get the word, critic.
This type of judgment is exactly what the Pharisees were doing. They knew they were better and more deserving than those sinners. And it was this that put them at odds with Jesus…and therefore, with God.
And, just like them, I have my own personal grading system…writing off people who’ve hurt me, my family, my church, my country, who look, talk and think differently than me, and those who don’t measure up to my standards…especially, in matters of God.
How many times did Jesus tell me that if I won’t extend forgiveness and mercy to those who hurt and offend me, or love my enemies and treat the “least of these” with the same grace I would want for myself that I would find myself on the wrong side of God?
I do believe Him. But again, He was talking about somebody else.
The truth about grace is that it reveals the truth about me—what’s really inside of me. And it usually does this by how I extend grace to others…or don’t. And I don’t like this inescapable truth, so I dismiss it from my own self-examination. Instead, I play the game of Tag, where there are no teams and the goal is to make sure that someone else is “it.”
5 Hypocrite! First remove the plank from your own eye, and then you will see clearly to remove the speck from your brother’s eye. (Matt.7:5 NKJV)
I love the second part of this verse and do it gladly; I only give lip service to the first part or ignore it completely, never seeing that without doing the first part, the second part doesn’t apply at all.
The word, hypocrite (hypokritēs), was used in the Hellenistic world of Jesus to describe a stage player or actor. The point is, it’s phony and pretentious.
Not only is my unexamined self hypocritical but, as James tells me, it’s a form of self-deception (James 1:22-24). It’s thinking I know something because I heard a message or studied it in the Bible.
And the trouble with self-deception is that I don’t realize I’m deceived.
Like Jesus said of the Pharisees, I become blind when I think I see, whenever I think I know what’s really going on in other people’s hearts (John 9:38-41). So, I judge.
What does God want me to learn about grace and truth? It’s really quite simple.
He has shown you, O man, what is good;
And what does the Lord require of you
But to do justly,
To love mercy,
And to walk humbly with your God? (Micah 6:8 NKJV)
Sounds like some pretty good advise. Now, I just need to pray…for me.