Last Sunday, we celebrated Resurrection Day—a high point in the year. In fact, it’s the summit. So what comes afterwards? It’s a hard act to follow. Here is a suggestion, starting with a rather unusual choice of passage.
If you, then, though you are evil, know how to give good gifts to your children, how much more will your Father in heaven give good gifts to those who ask him!
If we lived back then, you could imagine a few of us sitting around later discussing this.
“That bit about good gifts from our Father in heaven, I loved that.”
“Me too. But did you hear what he said?”
“He called us evil.”
“Are you sure? I must have missed that.”
“Yup. He said, ‘though you are evil.’”
“That’s a bit strong, isn’t it?”
“I thought so too.”
We are evil. Not just bad. Evil. Let’s just take that in for a moment. The Lord calls us evil. It’s such a reminder of how dualistic the Bible is. (Dualistic here doesn’t have to do with balance, as much as distinction or opposition.)
Light – Dark
Life – Death
God – Satan
Spirit – Flesh
Right – Wrong
Love – Hate
Church – World
And in this dualism, we are described as evil. It’s so far from our modern sensibilities, isn’t it? Nowadays, we like to think of ourselves as a bit of a mixture. Part good, part bad. But given a choice, we often characterise ourselves as good. He’s a good person, we say. So consider this.
There are essentially two ways of looking at the world.
The problem is out there—in society, government, institutions. We are fundamentally good, but we’re damaged by external forces.
The problem is in here—we are evil, and so we damage our governments, institutions and society.
Enter the prophet Jeremiah.
The heart is deceitful above all things, and desperately wicked; Who can know it? I, the Lord, search the heart, I test the mind, even to give every man according to his ways,
According to the fruit of his doings.
The Lord Jesus doesn’t lack clarity when he simply re-affirms Jeremiah’s observation. Human beings are evil. That doesn’t mean we are incapable of noble acts or good choices, but deep inside, we are idolators and rebels. We are sinners. And that means, in Jesus’ words, we’re evil.
By contrast, God is always described as good and holy. Both of those.
What is to become of us? For never the twain shall meet.
So let’s follow Simon Peter after the Crucifixion. There he is, reflecting on what’s happened, and one can only imagine that he’s in despair. He has betrayed his Lord. He has fled. He has abandoned his Lord. And he remembers too that his Lord and friend described him as evil. How further down could he go?
Which brings us to a party on the lake shore. An after-party. Not only is Simon Peter now sitting with his Lord, who is alive again, he is sharing food with him. Yet the shame weighs heavily on him still. So three times the Lord Jesus asks his friend, “Do you love me?”
I, who denied him, who fled, who is evil, even I am invited back in and more than that, He gives me an important job—to feed his sheep.
No wonder we sing of grace so much. Our hymns and carols are full of this theme.
Come, Thou Fount of every blessing,
Tune my heart to sing Thy grace;
Hail him who saves you by his grace,
and crown him Lord of all.
Silent night, holy night!
Son of God love’s pure light.
Radiant beams from Thy holy face
With the dawn of redeeming grace,
Jesus Lord, at Thy birth
Jesus Lord, at Thy birth
Amazing grace! How sweet the sound
That saved a wretch like me!
I once was lost, but now am found;
Was blind, but now I see.
This is amazing grace
This is unfailing love
That You would take my place
That You would bear my cross
Grace is the air we breathe, the wind in our sails, the very oxygen of our lives. We are saved by grace and live each day by God’s grace. It is the beginning, middle, and end of all we have in Christ Jesus, for once we were lost, but now we are found. We were blind, but now we see.
Little wonder that on that lake shore, Jesus makes grace the major theme of his interaction with his dear friend, Peter. He reinstates him and speaks this deep truth into his heart:
I have called you, chosen you, and I forgive you. You, Peter, are the recipient of the extravagant grace of God.
Live in it. Live to share it.
It turns out, then, that the after-party isn’t a disappointment at all. It’s not a gathering of the deflated after the high of Easter morning. Instead, it is where grace is first shared and then experienced. All made possible by the events of the Easter story.
I wonder how much grace is shared among your community. If a stranger spent time with you all, would they conclude, “This is a place where grace and more grace is extended and shared every day”? So, to finish, here are some questions to consider this week. Take some time sitting before the Lord, reflecting on how he is speaking to you.
What difference does grace make in my own life?
Is there anyone to whom I need to extend grace?
What has God taught me during Lent and the Easter period about his grace?
May the Lord bless you as you serve him.