I tried to find a simple explanation of the word “GRACE” from scholars, from the Bible, and from Webster’s dictionary, but still I find it hard to define what grace is. “Unmerited favor”, yes, but an unsophisticated man cannot even grasp what it is.
I myself had a hard time and got frustrated trying to grasp intellectually how some scholars tried to explain what grace meant. So here, out of frustration I am going to tell the story about an incident one day on Calvary.
Two robbers were crucified with him, one on his right and one on his left. Those who passed by hurled insult at him, shaking their heads and saying, “You who are going to destroy the temple and build it in three days, save yourself! Come down from the cross, if you are the Son of God!” In the same way the chief priests, the teachers of the law and the elders mocked him. “He saved others,” they said, “but he can’t save himself! He’s the King of Israel! Let him come down now from the cross, and we will believe in him. He trusts in God. Let God rescue him now if he wants him, for he said, ‘I am the Son of God’.” In the same way the robbers who were crucified with him also heaped insults on him.
They crucified two robbers with Him, one on His right and one on His left. Those who passed by hurled insults at him, shaking their heads and saying, “So! You who are going to destroy the temple and build it in three days, come down from the cross and save yourself!” In the same way the chief priests and the teachers of the law mocked him among themselves. “He saved others,” they said, “but he can’t save himself! Let this Christ, this King of Israel, come down now from the cross, that we may see and believe.” Those crucified with him also heaped insults on him.
One of the criminals who hung there hurled insults at him: “Aren’t you the Christ? Save yourself and us!” But the other criminal rebuked him. “Don’t you fear God,” he said, “since you are under the same sentence? We are punished justly, for we are getting what our deeds deserve. But this man has done nothing wrong.” Then he said, “Jesus, remember me when you come into your kingdom.” Jesus answered him, “I tell you the truth, today you will be with me in paradise.”
Is there any contradiction in the Gospel? The book of Matthew and the book of Mark says that the two criminals who was hanging on their crosses were casting insults at Jesus. But in the account of the book written by Luke we read that the criminal rebuked the other and said, “Do you not even fear God, since you are under the same sentence of condemnation? We are indeed punished justly for we are receiving what we deserve for our deeds; but this man has done nothing wrong.” And he was saying, Jesus, remember me when you come in your Kingdom!”
Was there a contradiction here? No. I do believe that for a while he too was casting insult and mocking Jesus. But you see as I have emphasized in my other sermon about faith that faith comes from hearing. Although the people shouted at Him abusively, but they were hurling at Jesus the very word written from the scripture.“He trusted in God, Let Him delivers Him now if He takes pleasure in Him, for He said, I am the Son of God.” It is written in Psalms 22:8. They quoted the Scripture when they shouted at Him mockingly; “You are the Son of God!” “He is the king of Israel!” “Let this Christ, king of Israel…!” and so on.
The criminal was hanging long enough and heard the abusers who quoted the scripture long enough. Until he suddenly realized that faith grew in his heart. The people were hurling at Jesus derogatory remarks, but they were quoting scripture about Jesus’ claim that He was the Messiah. He was the Savior. He was the Christ. Even though the people’s intent was to humiliate the Lord but God utilized those insults to convert a criminal.
Faith will never come if you only see Jesus physically. At that very moment He was naked, bathed with His own blood, His face hardly looked human. The Bible says that He was so disfigured that He hardly looked human. Faith on that criminal didn’t come by looking at Jesus, it was impossible, but his faith came by hearing God’s Word even though it was intended to insult Jesus. HALLELUJAH!
And then the criminal changed his mind and said, “Jesus remember me when you come in your Kingdom.”
Did Jesus posed and think for a moment or for a second? Did Jesus hesitated and say, “Wait a minute I’ll think it over.” Remember that these men were hardened criminals. If these were not hardened criminals, they won’t have the nerve to insult and mock Jesus while they themselves were hanging to death. They felt excruciating pain, yet they still can hurl insult to someone in pain too. That was how tough these men were.
I believe that God’s hand is behind on different translations of the Bible. In other translations the word criminals is translated as robbers, bandits and malefactors.
LET US DEFINE THESE WORDS:
CRIMINAL - One who has committed a crime. One who has been convicted of a crime.
ROBBER - A person who unlawfully take the property of another by use of violence or intimidation.
BANDIT - A rude an unethical gangster.
MALEFACTOR - An evildoer, just like the word malice-the desire to harm others or to see others suffer, one who often does a great deed of mischief to people. These are the characteristics.
These criminals were not ordinary criminals or ordinary human beings. They were so bad that it takes different translations to describe how evil those men were. But did Jesus say, “Oh, come on, a while ago you were mocking at me? A while ago you insulted me! And besides you are a criminal, a bandit, a robber and a malefactor. You are so bad a person. You are good for nothing now you want me to remember you? No way!” Did Jesus say these words? Did Jesus pose and think for a second? No! He said right away “Truly I say to you, today you shall be with me in Paradise.”
That is GRACE! HALLELUJAH! What definition do we still need?
“For by GRACE you have been saved through faith; and that not of yourselves, it is the gift of God; not of a result of works, that no one should boast.”
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