Doesn’t this strike you as odd? After all, grace and truth came through Jesus Christ. Jesus is grace personified. So why didn’t he talk about it? The word “grace” appears just four times in the gospels and not once does Jesus say it. In contrast, the word “law” appears hundreds of times, often in connection with Jesus’ preaching. Paul dedicated his life to preaching the gospel of grace, but Jesus was the greatest law preacher of all time.
Here’s something else Jesus never said to any individual: “I love you.” Jesus may not have said it but he sure showed it. His selfless sacrifice on the cross was the greatest demonstration of love the world has ever seen. On the cross, he wrapped His arms around the world and gave us a big “I love you.” It is exactly like that with grace. He may not have said it, but he showed it big time. Here are just five of the ways that Jesus revealed the unmerited favor of a good and gracious God.
How did Jesus reveal grace?
1. By showing up!
Do not be afraid. I bring you good news of great joy that will be for all the people. Today in the town of David a Savior has been born to you; he is Christ the Lord… Glory to God in the highest, and on earth peace to men on whom his favor rests. (Luke 2:10-11, 14)
I have heard people preach this verse as though God was selective with his favor. “Maybe his favor rests on you, maybe it doesn’t. You’d better behave yourself and hope for the best.” But the angel brought good news of great joy that was for “all the people.” Are you people? Then God’s favor rests on you!
What does the favor of God look like? It looks exactly like Jesus. God’s favor and God’s Savior are synonymous. In every Old Testament mention of promised Savior, we get a hint of grace. Then on the night of his birth we get a shout. “Peace has come to earth!” As Mary discovered and we’re still learning, we are highly favored. How so? Because the Lord is with us. He is not against us; he is for us and with us. You cannot have the Lord and be anything other than highly favored. He is a magnet to his own favor.
2. By proclaiming the acceptable year of the Lord
The Spirit of the Lord is on me, because he has anointed me to preach good news to the poor. He has sent me to proclaim freedom for the prisoners and recovery of sight for the blind, to release the oppressed, to proclaim the year of the Lord’s favor. (Luke 4:18-19)
I used to think this verse was good news for handicapped people and those living below the poverty line. Then I realized that Jesus is describing all of us. Relative to God we are all poor and needy. Every one of us is bankrupt of life and righteousness. “The whole world is a prisoner of sin” (Gal 3:22). That’s why Jesus announced the Year of Jubilee. Because of Jesus, we can come home. Our debts are cleared, and we can reap what we haven’t sown. In the Year of Jubilee all the slaves were freed. Again, that’s us. We were bound but knowing the Truth we are free indeed. That sounds like the good news of God’s grace to me.
3. By telling stories about grace
The kingdom of heaven is like a merchant looking for pearls of great price; it is like a treasure hidden in a field. (Mt 13:44-45)
Jesus preached law to the self-righteous, but ordinary folks got stories of grace. And what stories! The parables weren’t morality tales for there was no catch, no lesson to be learned. The lost coin did nothing to be found. The lost sheep did not rescue itself. The prodigal returned as a worker but was received as a son.
Without saying the word grace, Jesus left lasting impressions of unmerited favor. He came for us because in his eyes we are the treasure; we are the pearl of great price. Jesus’ stories leave us, like the prodigal, speechless in the loving arms of their Father.
4. By showing (and preaching!) unconditional forgiveness
Some men brought to him a paralytic, lying on a mat. When Jesus saw their faith, he said to the paralytic, “Take heart, son; your sins are forgiven.” (Matt 9:2)
When preaching to those under the law, Jesus made forgiveness conditional. But on the street, Jesus revealed a forgiveness that is unconditional. The paralytic had forgiven no one yet he was forgiven. It was the same with the sinful woman (Luke 7). It was the same for the whole world when Jesus hung on the cross (Luke 23:34).
If this seems confusing to you, look at the cross. The cross is the dividing line of history and the crossroads of two covenants. Before the cross it was, “Forgive and you will be forgiven.” But speaking of what would happen as a result of the cross, Jesus also said, “every sin and blasphemy will be forgiven men” (Matt 12:31). When was every sin and blasphemy forgiven? At the cross! Unconditional forgiveness is one of the most liberating manifestations of grace. When you know that you have been completely forgiven, you are free to forgive yourself and others.
5. By preaching faith over flesh
For God so loved the world that he gave his one and only Son, that whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life. (Joh 3:16)
Look carefully at the end of that verse. There is a full-stop, a period. Thank God for that period! It is the greatest period in the history of periods. That period declares the scandalous grace of God that will not share the stage with any man. The old covenant required about a hundred chapters to list all the things you need to do if you were to have any hope of impressing God, but here in the new, you just have to believe. Full-stop!
Jesus didn’t come with a list of commandments. We already had those from Moses. It’s true that Jesus preached law before the cross to those under the law but that wasn’t his main reason for coming. He came to open blind eyes, set the captives free, and give us new life. All that he asked was that we receive what he wanted to give. This is the only thing Grace will ever ask of you. “Receive.”
Jesus = grace
Jesus may not have said “I love you” but those who met him went away knowing they were dearly loved. Just ask John. For the rest of his life he went around telling people, “I’m the disciple Jesus loves.” So are you.
To know his love is to know his grace. They are inseparable. God is gracious because he is love.
Why did Jesus come? He came to reveal the grace of a good God who loves us like a Father. He came to bring us good news of great joy that is for all people.