Since the first pair of human legs walked in Eden, it's always been about one's self. From Eve's desire to be like God to my child's refusal to obey, 'Man has been dictated by a single focus : EGO.
No matter the creeds, the cultures, the life experiences, and the relationships we had, we have all operated under the focused principle that we need stuff, that we want stuff, that we must work to get this stuff.
The ultimate question we keep asking ourselves is : 'What's in it for me?'. In our base choices, everything we do is skewed towards filling our immediate or long-term hierarchical needs
That is why the concept of Biblical Grace, God's giving without our personal merit, is in such opposition of everything sin has corrupted in our lives. It fills our deepest needs, and yet we can't work for it to acquire it.
A friend of mine has put together a list of the paradoxes of our time. It is a striking portrait of of how far we have come, but how little we have actually accomplished.
It is a devastating canvas where the prominent colours are ego, greed and covetousness. And the only colour that can ever renew this dreary canvas is Christ.
The paradox of our time in history is that we have taller buildings but shorter tempers, wider freeways, but narrower viewpoints. We spend more, but have less, we buy more, but enjoy less. We have bigger houses and smaller families, more conveniences, but less time. We have more degrees but less sense, more knowledge, but less judgement more experts, yet more problems, more medicine, but less wellness.
We drink too much, smoke too much, spend too recklessly, laugh too little, drive too fast, get too angry, stay up too late, get up too tired, read too little, watch TV too much, and pray too seldom.
We have multiplied our possessions, but reduced our values. We talk too much, love too seldom, and hate too often.
We've learned how to make a living, but not a life. We've added years to life not life to years. We've been all the way to the moon and back, but have trouble crossing the street to meet a new neighbour We conquered outer space but not inner space. We've done larger things, but not better things.
We've cleaned up the air, but polluted the soul. We've conquered the atom, but not our prejudice. We write more, but learn less. We plan more, but accomplish less. We've learned to rush, but not to wait. We build more computers to hold more information, to produce more copies than ever, but we communicate less and less.
These are the times of fast foods and slow digestion, big men and small character, steep profits and shallow relationships. These are the days of two incomes but more divorce, fancier houses, but broken homes. These are days of quick trips, disposable diapers, throwaway morality, one night stands, overweight bodies, and pills that do everything from cheer, to quiet, to kill. It is a time when there is much in the showroom window and nothing in the stockroom.
Ever since I started the journey of studying the infinitely profound concept of Grace, I was burdened with the desire to understand Christ's relationship model. How did Christ show Grace in his contact with others?
I knew Love was the primary motivation (John 3:16), but how did he do it in the everyday situations? How did He demonstrate that Love with the people around Him? Was there a pattern in His interactions that I could learn from? Were there constant character traits that were shown? Was there someting that attracted them to Him and, conversly, was there something that prevented Him to show His love to them?
My first question was: Did Christ have overarching attributes that qualified who He was? Yes. I used John 1:14,17 as my foundation: Christ, full of Grace and Truth. My first thesis was that His contact with people was imbued with both amazing Grace and godly Truth.
My second question pertained to the initial contact He made with others. I had already studied
why His interactions with the Pharisees
were so different than the others. But what was the common thread between those who were attracted to Him? or those He sought out? Did they commonly demonstrate something I could learn? My thesis here was that both faith and humility were present at the scene.
My third question was one of process. Is there a particular recurring order Christ prefers when He interacts? Does He demonstrate Grace before Truth? or vice versa? My analysis showed that Grace (more often then not) preceded Truth.
First, I took the 'Harmony of the Gospels'. The episode structure within the table is based on Edward Robinson's A Harmony of the Gospels in Greek
as well as Steven L. Cox and Kendell H Easley's Harmony of the Gospels
. I wanted to establish a chronology for the events of the life of Jesus depicted in the four canonical gospels.
Second, I excluded 2 particular relationships:
- His dealings with the Pharisees because their pride prevented any graceful contact with Him
- His teachings and parables to the followers and disciples because it was an on-going three year (often one way) relationship
Jesus' relationship model (Click image to enlarge)
I was amazed to discover that Jesus had a model He used very often with the people around Him. He started by establishing contact by going to see someone, accepting someone's request for Him or sitting down with strangers who unknowingly needed Him. He was very gracious with His time with sinners, lepers, tax collectors, Samaritans
and other of society's refuse. He gave a lot of Himself.
Once He established the contact, once He developed the relationship, He gave some form of grace. It could be a healing, an encouragement, a protection from others, a glimpse of the Kingdom, a forgiveness, a touch, a listening, a relief of whatever suffering they had.
Then, after dispensing grace, He would finish with a certain truth about God or command future actions to take. Whether it was 'go and sin no more' or 'Do not tell anyone what has happened here', Christ would finish the interaction with a teaching for the crowd or an exhortation for the graced one.
The document below takes each interaction, regrouping them where they appeared in the Gospel account. I then separated the interaction in 3 parts, with the references of the verses that pertain to:
1. The relationship established with Humility and / or Faith
2. The acts of or explanations on Grace
3. The acts of or explanations on Truth
May it become my personal relationship model.
|File Size: ||94 kb|
|File Type: || pdf|
At this point, after having exposed Grace
, Jesus shifts gears and makes the conversation personal. His goal is to demonstrate her need for the gift of Grace he was talking about, without making her feel the shame and rebuke society has placed on her.
It is VERY important to note that Jesus knows her. He knows her life, her thoughts, her feelings, her past, her sins, her insecurities and her fears. He had the 'advantage' of being God and being able to see her heart. For us to attain that level of intimacy with the people we are talking to requires an enormous
amount of listening, asking questions and showing genuine care for their lives.
It is by listening and caring
for others that will bring them to listen and care about what we have to say. Not the other way around. We cannot expect people to listen to us just because we have the Bible. The pill of Truth cannot be swallowed without the water of Grace.
Jesus, the three-times holy God, was speaking with a six-times sinful woman by a well. Knowing the depth of her depravity, there are so many statements He could have uttered to her at that point.
He could have said:
- Do you not know who I am ? I am perfect ! and you most certainly are not.
- Do you know how many times I have watched you sin ? how many times you have hurt me ?
- How could you have done all you did ?
- How could you look at yourself in the mirror ?
- Aren't you ashamed of yourself ?
- Don't you see what you've become ?
- Don't you see how others see you ?
- Don't you realize the sin you are in ?
- Didn't you know that sexual sins is the worst kind of sin ?
- Don't you think you deserve the social rebuking done to you ?
- Five husbands ? That's disgusting !
- You're living with someone who isn't your husband now ? In sin ?
- How can anyone ever love you again ?
- Don't you know what the Law says about you ?
- What would 'your father' Jacob say if he saw you now ?
- You know someone like me shouldn't be talking to someone like you right ? I'm doing you a favor!
- You know you are going to hell right ?
Sound familiar ? Those judgments leave our lips and or enter our ears far too often.
Amazingly and against all expectations, he doesn't say anything remotely close to that.
John 4:16: Jesus said to her, “Go, call your husband, and come here.”
17 The woman answered and said, “I have no husband.” Jesus said to her, “You have well said, ‘I have no husband,’
18 for you have had five husbands, and the one whom you now have is not your husband; in that you spoke truly.”
What just happened ?
He makes a request knowing well what her state is. She answers back, truthfully I might add, probably looking at the ground in shame. Then Jesus does something remarkable. He states the fullness of her sin and then... stops
He doesn't go into a long tirade about the gravity of the sin, about the depth of her depravity or about the guilt she should be feeling
. He could have done so, He is God! Rather, He states it as it is and then changes the subject to talk about worship.
Jesus demonstrates that there is a line where it becomes important to stop when diving into the past. He does not shy away, belittle or bury the sin. That's Truth. He addresses it and shows her that the gift is for her... and then moves on to her other concerns.
The beginning of the interaction with the woman from the well is a fascinating one. There are intricacies of Grace that speak volumes to the way I should approach others thirsting for it.
*Side note: I realize there are many doctrines that can be exposed from this passage. The following view of the John 4:7-15 passage is done simply by looking through the lens of Grace... as with everything else at graceguy.org. v7. A woman from Samaria came to draw water. Jesus said to her, “Give me a drink.” 8. (For his disciples had gone away into the city to buy food.)
- These are Christ's first words to her
- He is proactive in establishing contact
- He joins her in what she is doing
- He talks to her even if there are a million reasons not tov9. The Samaritan woman said to him, “How is it that you, a Jew, ask for a drink from me, a woman of Samaria?” (For Jews have no dealings with Samaritans.)
- The woman reacts normally (see why here
- She questions the interaction, the request itself
- She brings up the obvious racial and gender differences between the twov10. Jesus answered her, “If you knew the gift of God, and who it is that is saying to you, ‘Give me a drink,’ you would have asked him, and he would have given you living water.”
- Jesus goes beyond the physical question and answers a spiritual question she did not ask
- He looks to her spiritual needs, not her physical ones- He immediately begins by describing ... Grace!
-- As a gift from God
-- As himself being the provider of this great gift
-- As something that is readily given following a simple, honest request
- It's amazing to me that the Creator of the universe, the Sacrificial lamb, the three-times Holy God doesn't start with critical judgements, sin, hell, but starts with Grace.v11. The woman said to him, “Sir, you have nothing to draw water with, and the well is deep. Where do you get that living water? 12. Are you greater than our father Jacob? He gave us the well and drank from it himself, as did his sons and his livestock.”
- The physical and the spiritual clash in her mind
-- She hears living water but does not see anything physical to draw it with
-- She takes the spiritual gift of living water and compares it to the physical well given by Jacob
- She questions Christ's credibility by comparing His worth to Jacob, the patriarch
- She doesn't understand Christ's initial description of Gracev13. Jesus said to her, “Everyone who drinks of this water will be thirsty again, 14. but whoever drinks of the water that I will give him will never be thirsty again. The water that I will give him will become in him a spring of water welling up to eternal life.”
- He is patient with her and listens to her questions
- He doesn't interrupt or belittle her
- He doesn't go into heavy doctrines or theology
- He acknowledges that she is struggling with the physical and spiritual differences- He repeats and completes the description of Grace (again, forgoing judgement)
-- He is the giver of this gift
-- The gift is different from everything else that exists
-- The gift is all-satisfying
-- The gift transforms from within
-- The gift brings eternal life
-- Accepting the gift once means one never has to ask for it again
- He vulgarises what living water means to her
- He personalises the message to how it could meet her precise needv15. The woman said to him, “Sir, give me this water, so that I will not be thirsty or have to come here to draw water.”
- She realises the need for such a gift
- She still believes that it is something physical and not spiritual
Oh that I should have the wisdom in my witnessing to start with Grace and to listen patiently to their needs.
In the following part of this amazing interaction, Jesus, full of Grace and Truth, considers the sin in her life.
This is the second of a multi-part part series about the interaction Christ had with the woman at the well in John 4. It is a rich, intense, inspiring, deep and profound story with many lessons on Grace. (First part here
Before we look at the actual interaction, I thought it important to explore the vast chasm of hatred between the Jews and the Samaritans. Here was Jesus, a Jewish rabbi, talking to a Samaritan woman of ill-repute at a well. John 4: 7 A woman of Samaria came to draw water. Jesus said to her, “Give Me a drink.” 8 For His disciples had gone away into the city to buy food.
9 Then the woman of Samaria said to Him, “How is it that You, being a Jew, ask a drink from me, a Samaritan woman?” For Jews have no dealings with Samaritans.
It was a mind-boggling portrait of contrasts. Even the Samaritan herself and and John underscore the magnitude of it in John 4:9.
Why did they have no dealings ? What was the history there ? Where did the profound hatred come from ? Turns out, it's quite deep-seeded.
The year was 772 B.C. Hoshea, Isreal's last king, was an evil king who had made a tribute pact with Assyria. He then betrayed Assyria by sending the tribute money to Egypt, essentially declaring war on Assyria.
'The king of Assyria invaded the entire land, marched against Samaria and laid siege to it for three years. In the ninth year of Hoshea, the king of Assyria captured Samaria (the capital of Israel at the time) and deported the Israelites to Assyria. He settled them in Halah, in Gozan on the Harbor River and in the towns of the Medes.' (2 Kings 17:5-6)
'The very poor were allowed to remain behind in the land of Israel. Foreigners from Babylon and surrounding territories were brought to the devastated region, and these intermarried with the Israelites which had been left behind. To this mixed population was given the name Samaritans (after Samaria, the metropolis, founded by Omri). The colonists from foreign lands were not pleased with conditions as they found them. They found the country overrun by wild beasts, and they correctly ascribed this plague to the displeasure of Jehovah whom they had offended. They begged their monarch to send them an Israelitish priest, who would teach them “the law of the god of the land.”
And so it came about that an adulterated Judaism was grafted on the pagan cult. When a remnant of the Jews returned to the land of the fathers (chiefly, but not exclusively, from those who had been deported in the Babylonian Exile of 586 B.C.), built the altar of burnt-offering, and laid the foundation of the temple, jealous Samaritans and their allies interrupted the work (Ezra 3 and 4). The reason for this was that they had been refused permission to cooperate in the work of rebuilding. They had asked:
“Let us build with you; for we seek your God, as you do; and we sacrifice unto him since the days of Esar-haddon king of Assyria, who brought us up hither.”
The answer which they had received was as follows:
“You have nothing to do with us in building a house unto our God.” Having received this blunt refusal, the Samaritans hated the Jews (cf. also Neh. 4:1, 2) and subsequently built their own temple on Mt. Gerizim. This was destroyed by one of the Maccabean rulers, John Hyrcanus, about the year 128 B.C. The worshipers, however, continued to offer their adorations on the summit of the hill where the sacred edifice had stood. They do so even today. At Passover the entire community leaves home and camps on top of Gerizim where, when the full moon rises, the highpriest intones the prayers, and the slaughterers cut the throats of the lambs just as they did many, many centuries ago. Of the Old Testament they accept only the five books of Moses. ' (Bible Commentary)
For a Jew, being called a Samaritan was the worst insult to recieve (Lu. 9:53). Permanent walls of bitterness had been erected from both sides. The hatred was deep, historical, intense and very real.
And yet, Christ's grace broke down all those man - made fortresses. It didn't matter that He was a man and she was a woman (sexism
). It didn't matter that He was a teacher and she had a disgusting reputation (elitism
). It didn't matter that He was a Jew and she was a Samaritan, an oppressed minority, a 'mongrel Jew' as the Jews called them at the time (racism
). It didn't matter that He believed in the whole Torah and she only had heard of the Pentateuch (religionism
). It didn't matter that He asked to drink from an impure vase (legalism
It didn't matter. None of it did.
All that mattered was that she was desperately thirsty for Grace and Truth and He wanted to give her an eternal drink. What's more... He went to die on the cross for her.
There are therefore NO excuses to write ANYONE off
for anyone who seeks to emulate Christ. As long as there is breath, there is hope for Grace to be demonstrated and accepted.
This is the first of a multi-part part series about the interaction Christ had with the woman at the well in John 4. It is a rich, intense, inspiring, deep and profound story with many lessons on Grace.
Here is a word-for-word representation of the story, taken from the very accurate movie 'Gospel of John'.
And here is a touching modern day monologue of what that woman must have felt. It speaks for itself.
The detailed analysis in parts 2+.
"Before we see the cross as something done for us, we need to see the cross as something done by us"
- John Stott
I asked him to heal me and feed me without any intention to follow him
I tested his teachings and refused to let go of my beliefs
I expected him to liberate us from the Romans
I betrayed him for 30 pieces of silver
I broke bread with him at his last supper
I fled when the soldiers came to take him
I kissed him to show the soldiers who he was
I took him into custody and brought him before the high priest Caiaphus
I put him on an illegal trial with false witnesses
I brought him to the governor Pilate
I questioned him about the accusations
I brought him to Herod and returned him to Pilate
I let the crowd decide his fate and washed my hands of it
I wanted the liberation of a known murderer instead of his
I sentenced him to death to appease the crowd and my ego
I beat and flogged him multiple times with whips
I spat on him
I made a crown of thorns and placed it harshly on his head
I made him carry his cross up the mount and pushed him to the ground
I put his hands on the cross and nailed him to it
I put his feet together on the wooden block at the base of the cross and nailed them to it
I lifted the cross and slipped it in the hole
I divided his clothes and cast lots for it
I placed a sign above his head
I give him vinegar to drink
I pierced his side and saw blood and water spill out
I looked on approvingly, content of his death
I mocked his lack of power, even while I was hanging on a cross beside him
I denied ever knowing him, three times
I doubted his messianic claims
I heard him say ridiculous words to his supposed father
I saw him draw his last breath
I took the limp body off the cross
I placed it in a tomb and rolled a massive stone to close it
I guarded the tomb and prevented anyone from reaching it
I kept the empty tomb a secret
I persecuted those who thought he was risen
I was there that first Easter. My sins did all of this. And yet, through faith, His Grace covered me.
I often marvel at Jesus' ability to see the heart, the intent and the thoughts of the person in front of Him. This ability, a unique characteristic of God, was prevalent in the Old Testament as well. For example, when Samuel searched for the next king after Saul, The Lord told him 'Do not consider his appearance or his height, for I have rejected him. The LORD does not look at the things man looks at. Man looks at the outward appearance, but the LORD looks at the heart
.' (1 Samuel 16:7)
Jesus really saw
them, saw who they were and what they were thirsting for. He saw their quest. With those who humbly and genuinely searched the truth, He graced them with His time, His knowledge, His healing, His love. He could judge their humility in 'real-time' and dispense Grace to those who needed it.
There are too many examples of Jesus seeing people truly as they were: naked, desperate, sick, humiliated, curious, empty, hungry, thirsty.
Of them: the disciples at their calling, Nicodemus, the Samaritan woman at the well, the centurion, the thousands of followers and the multitudes, the widow of Nain, Jairus, Peter on the water, the Gentile woman, the blind man in Bethsaida, the adulterous woman, Mary and Martha, Zacchaeus, the paralytic lowered from the roof, Lazarus, the one leper who came back, the rich young ruler, the blind man near Jericho, all of Jerusalem, the thief on the cross, the weeping women at the cross, Mary Magdalene at the tomb, the disciples at His appearing, etc.
One particular telling example is the forgiven woman, told in Luke 7:36-50. Simon, the Pharisee, saw what we would have seen: uncleanness, sin, a wasted life. Jesus saw the worth of her soul, the warmth of her sacrifice, the willingness of her service which brought her to the withdrawal of her sin. Ironically, Simon did not realize the depth of his own sin and his lack of love resulted in a lack of appreciation of God's forgiveness.
There were unfortunately ample 'Simons' in His time. Jesus saw hardened hearts and pride in those who seeked only to discredit Him, hurt Him, discount Him, trap Him, kill Him. He could see their insidious intentions and was often able to respond in kind (link to Pharisees).
Of them: the Devil, the Pharisees, the scribes, the Sadduceens, Judas, the moneychangers in the temple, the followers who wanted more signs.
So what about me ? It's great to see Jesus' ability in action, but how can I emulate Him ? This strange person in front of me: what is the intent ? the heart ? the thoughts ?
Here's what I discovered was the way to get to know them:
- Find the time to be completely available
- Ask open-ended questions
- Listen intently to their answers
- Repeat to make sure I understand
- Admit I don't know the solution
- Listen to them some more
- Connect with their emotion, no matter how irrational it sounds
- Genuinely care
- ... And did I mention listening ?
Are they frustrated, irritated, overwhelmed, doubting, dissapointed, searching, discouraged, angry, worried, insecure, carrying guilt, unworthy, desperate, fearful, powerless ?
Why ? and how can I listen more ?
It's at that point that Jesus gave Grace. And it's only then that I can give Grace.
The Word became flesh and made his dwelling among us. We have seen his glory, the glory of the One and Only, who came from the Father, full of grace and truth. John 1:14
The 'Grace and Christ
' series focuses on the aspects of His ministry on Earth and how He demonstrated Grace.
It is as interesting to see the way Christ demonstrated Grace to others and dispensed truth at the same time. This series will analyse these interactions and see the measure of Grace and Truth in every word he spoke.
But before that, there is one particular group that Christ had very little Grace for. It has fascinated me as to why thieves, prostitutes and killers deserved His Grace, but the Pharisees, the Sadducees and the scribes ? They received very little Grace and mostly truthful judgments close to 40 times in the Gospels.
We can read the interactions of Christ with them in the following passages:
Matt 12:34, 39, 15:7, 16:4, 19:8, 21:12,13, 22:18, 23:3, 13 - 37
Mark 3:5, 5:40, 7:6, 11:15, 12:15, 24, 27, 38
Luke 11:29-52, 12:1, 56, 13:15, 32, 34, 16:14
He openly called them brood of vipers, self-righteous, hypocrites, hard-hearted, blind guides, white-washed or unmarked tombs, wicked and an evil generation.
So why was He so hard on them ? The answer is found in James 4:6 : But he gives more grace. Therefore it says, “God opposes the proud, but gives grace to the humble.”
The Pharisees had pride
Pride to believe they knew God more than Christ. Pride to prioritise some parts of the law above others. Pride to make up laws above God's laws. Pride to try to bait Christ publicly to ridicule Him. Pride to impose rules on others but not on themselves. Pride to judge others instead of looking at their own hearts. Pride to not want to see the Grace that was before them. Pride to refuse to hear the Truth that was taught to them. Pride to plot and kill Him instead of giving in to Him.
When I look in the mirror, are there things there that resemble reasons as to why Christ refused Grace to the Pharisees ? I want Grace. I need Grace. I crave Grace. So I will learn from their example and take it as caution for my life.
Pride. It's the Grace-killer.
The Word became flesh and made his dwelling among us. We have seen his glory, the glory of the One and Only, who came from the Father, full of grace and truth.
The 'Grace and Christ
' series focuses on the aspects of His ministry on Earth and how He demonstrated Grace.
Grace is linked with Truth, Justice and Righteousness.
- Truth 2Sa 15:20, Ps 61:7, 85:10, 89:14, Pr 3:3, 14:22, 16:6, 20:28, Ho 4:1, Mic 7:20, Jn 1:14,17, Col 1:6
- Righteousness Ps 33:5, 112:4, 116:5, Pr 21:21, Jr 9:24, Ho 2:19, 10:12, Ro 5:17, 21
- Justice Ps 33:5, 101:1, Jr 9:24, Ho 2:19, 12:6, Mic 6:8, Zc 7:9
Grace and Truth are two sides to the same coin. Randy Alcorn calls it the 'two wings on a bird'. They may seem contradictory, but they are actually complimentary and demonstrated in Christ's daily ministry. Everything He did had an element of Truth and an element of Grace.
Here's how they are complimentary:
- Truth identifies the fault, Grace covers it
- Truth establishes God's holiness, Grace establishes God's love
- Truth declares the absolute, Grace reconciles me with it
- Truth is the road to follow, Grace is the transportation
- Truth gives the need for God, Grace gives the hope and the way to God through Christ
- Truth is the standard, Grace is the relationship
- Truth sends the judgement, Grace provides the shelter
- Truth hates the sin, Grace loves the sinner
- Truth is the 'what i say and live', Grace is the 'how I say and live'
- Truth is the content, Grace is the format
- Truth is the words, Grace is the tone
- Truth demands a sacrifice, Grace provides it
- Truth holds up the mirror and shows one clothed in sin, Grace changes the reflection and shows one clothed on Christ
- Truth shows us the right choice, Grace gives us the freedom to choose, and forgives us when the choice is wrong
- Truth does not shy away from announcing itself with conviction, Grace says it with love
- Truth condemns the sinner because of his sin, Grace saves the repentant sinner despite of his sin
Grace. It's hand in hand with Truth.