If you do a word search for the word “grace” in the Gospels you will find it a handful of times. You will find it in Luke 2:40 and three times in John 1. People see that and reach the conclusion that because they don’t find Jesus saying the word that Jesus was silent on the matter…that Jesus didn’t preach on grace…that, grace came in through Paul’s teaching, not Jesus. That conclusion is sorely mistaken on several counts. First, it denies the very fundamental nature of the Son of God that is found in the passages that are readily found:
- Luke 2:40 – “And the child grew and became strong; he was filled with wisdom, and the grace of God was on him.
- John 1:14-17 – “The Word became flesh and made his dwelling among us. We have seen his glory, the glory of the one and only Son, who came from the Father, full of grace and truth…Out of his fullness we have all received grace in place of grace already given. For the law was given through Moses; grace and truth came through Jesus Christ.”
- Luke 2:52 – “And Jesus grew in wisdom and stature, and in favor with God and man.“
Grace is fundamental to the very nature and character of Jesus. That shouldn’t be any surprise. Jesus lived and died grace…he ate and drank it and even died as a fundamental act of the grace of God. As Luke said, “God’s grace was on Jesus” and as John said…it was by Jesus (one who was full of grace) that we were able to receive grace. Grace is all over his miracles. It is all over the way he treated others. It is even reflected in the accusations that were constantly leveled against Jesus, that he was a friend of sinners. It was what drove him in John 8 to have the men drop their stones and it was what drove Jesus to not pick up a stone himself.
But that still leaves the question, did Jesus teach us anything about grace in his spoken teachings? Those who do a quick word search for the English word grace, find nothing there and conclude Jesus had nothing to say about it are incorrect. The Gospels weren’t written in English. They were written in Greek. What is more, Jesus didn’t speak Greek…he spoke Aramaic. Here is what we have:
Luke 4:22 – “All spoke well of him and were amazed at the gracious words that came from his lips. “Isn’t this Joseph’s son?” they asked.” Jesus spoke gracious words in the synagogue in Nazareth? What were those gracious words? It was Jesus reading Isaiah 61:1-2
“The Spirit of the Lord is on me,
because he has anointed me
to proclaim good news to the poor.
He has sent me to proclaim freedom for the prisoners
and recovery of sight for the blind,
to set the oppressed free,
19 to proclaim the year of the Lord’s favor.”
What we have is an example of Jesus’ teaching grace without using the Greek word χαρις (charis). It is entirely possible to teach a principle without using the word. Jesus saying he embodies these words from Isaiah 61 is Jesus being a person of grace and teaching grace even though the word is not used.
Luke 6:32-36 – 32 “If you love those who love you, what credit is that to you? Even sinners love those who love them. 33 And if you do good to those who are good to you, what credit is that to you? Even sinners do that. 34 And if you lend to those from whom you expect repayment, what credit is that to you? Even sinners lend to sinners, expecting to be repaid in full. 35 But love your enemies, do good to them, and lend to them without expecting to get anything back. Then your reward will be great, and you will be children of the Most High, because he is kind to the ungrateful and wicked. 36 Be merciful, just as your Father is merciful.”
Three times Jesus uses the word χαρις in these verses Jesus is talking about grace as being shown extra favor. The words grace and favor are basically synonyms in both testaments. He is saying, if you are just doing what comes natural to you, should you receive any extra favor for doing just that? Someone who really walks in χαρις is willing to do the tough things.
Luke 17:9 – “7 “Suppose one of you has a servant plowing or looking after the sheep. Will he say to the servant when he comes in from the field, ‘Come along now and sit down to eat’? 8 Won’t he rather say, ‘Prepare my supper, get yourself ready and wait on me while I eat and drink; after that you may eat and drink’? 9 Will he thank the servant because he did what he was told to do? 10 So you also, when you have done everything you were told to do, should say, ‘We are unworthy servants; we have only done our duty.’”
Grace is a reaction to generosity…that we show someone favor for what they have done. Jesus is teaching on grace here and that even as we do all that we are told to do that we still must consider ourselves as unworthy servants. The ironic thing is that people talk about how much Jesus talked about obedience without mentioning grace. In this passage, Jesus actually mentions both and basically says it is a grace just to be a servant of the Lord…that all of our acts of obedience won’t get us there because we are just doing what we are supposed to be doing anyway.
Of the recorded words we have of Jesus, we don’t get a lot of attention given to the specific word χαρις. Nevertheless, it is there and he did teach on it. One last point that has to be made is this – a rabbi didn’t just teach with words. They taught with actions. A disciples was to learn to say what your rabbi said and do what they did. Those two things complimented each other. Jesus was grace. Jesus taught grace. Jesus lived grace. He wants us to do the same.
One final thought…emphasizing grace doesn’t mean we just do whatever we want. It doesn’t mean we disregrad scripture. It doesn’t mean we go on sinning so that grace may increase (Rom 6:1). By no means! The grace and favor that comes through Jesus Christ should be just as much a part of lives because we have seen it in him whether he said no words on it, 10 or 10,000…if you miss grace in Jesus you miss most of the Gospels.
So go and be graceful…don’t think you are any better than an unworthy servant who is just doing their job because the favor doesn’t come because you did it perfect. It comes because the Master has included you in his household. So let us not treat others as if we were their master, to whom they are accountable…rather, as fellow servants in the House of our God!
Romans ch. 6 at verse 1 reads “What shall we say then? Shall we continue in sin, that grace may abound? 2God forbid.”
This was used to counter any grace offered by Jesus. Someone somewhere believed and subsequently taught that grace was a license to sin and so it must never been extended or offered. Thus, many of us who grew up in the cofC never heard that Jesus offered grace.