Is Grace Amazing or Appalling?

Regis Nicoll
Regis Nicoll

The religion professor asked the students, “Why do you think Jesus was persecuted by the religious establishment of his day?” Their answers: “He healed on the Sabbath,” “He dissed the Jewish leaders,” “He hung out with sinners and tax collectors.” Finally, the daughter of a personal friend replied,

It was because of grace. The Jews believed that God’s favor was a matter of ethnicity and works. But Jesus came along offering salvation not as a Jewish entitlement or divine obligation, but as a gift to anyone who would receive him.

The good news of Jesus was bad news for the religious establishment. Grace nullified their merit-based religiosity and self-serving exclusivity. The Gate to the Kingdom was not the Law or the keepers of the Law, but the Author of the Law whose grace extends to all regardless of race, ethnicity, or social standing.

No message could have been more appalling to the Jewish elite. Grace was a threat to their sociopolitical leverage. If left to feed the human imagination, it could trigger a leadership vacuum that the erstwhile, hands-off Roman occupiers would step in to fill with the iron fist. What should have been received as a gift leading to eternal life was rejected as a danger that could lead to ethnic persecution. Thus, in a closed-door meeting the Sanhedrin ruled it better “for one man to die than for the whole nation to perish.”

But despite their efforts to suppress the gospel and save their nation, they accomplished neither. After the Resurrection, the spread of the gospel led to explosive growth in the Church. And within forty years of the Sanhedrin ruling, Jerusalem was destroyed, the temple was razed, and the Jewish state was dissolved with the Israelites driven out of the home they had inhibited for over a millennium. It was the consequence of attitudes formed centuries earlier, as reflected in the story of a prophet who was similarly appalled by grace. Continue reading here.

 
Originally published April 10, 2018.

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