Prepare for Grace

Then they sang a hymn and went out to the Mount of Olives.
31 Jesus said to his disciples, “During this very night, all of you will reject me, as the Scriptures say,
I will strike down the shepherd, and the sheep will be scattered.’
32 But after I am raised to life, I will go to Galilee ahead of you.”

33 Peter spoke up, “Even if all the others reject you, I never will!”        Matthew 26:30-33 (CEV)

Lectionary texts: Isaiah 11:1-10, Psalm 72, Romans 15:4-13, Matthew 3:1-12

This year Advent has been a precious time, a treasure, as I have been studying the Scripture from the perspective of God’s grace. When Jesus came, His mission was to bring salvation to all of God’s children. Most of my life I doubted that I was in that group. I wasn’t sure. I felt that my ambivalent obedience to God, strong will and rebellious nature would make it impossible for God to accept me as part of His family. And so I lived with doubt.

In this passage of the Matthew’s gospel, Jesus has just finished His final supper with His disciples. He washed their feet, sent Judas on his way of betrayal and shared the Passover meal together. They are probably experiencing a feeling of intimate fellowship. And then Jesus tells them, “You will all reject me.” And those words are words of truth about all of us, about me. I rejected Jesus and what He came to give me for over 40 years! Jesus gave true promises and fulfills them to this day.

My sheep know my voice, and I know them. They follow me, 28 and I give them eternal life, so that they will never be lost. No one can snatch them out of my hand. 29 My Father gave them to me, and he is greater than all others. No one can snatch them from his hands,30 and I am one with the Father.”      John 10:27-30 (CEV)

My life certainly has its ups and downs, ebbs and flows, mountains and valleys. But Jesus lives in a place of peace that is beyond my understanding. He offers this peace to me because I have been bought with the ultimate price and I belong to Him and with Him for all eternity. Satan sees the engraving on me that identifies me as God’s child and he is to keep his filthy hands off me. But he cannot help himself from trying to lure me away. He can only claim me if I make that choice. I am covered, sealed, by the blood of Christ and the grace of God.

Despite all those first disciples saw Jesus do and heard Him teach, Peter missed Jesus’ promise for redemption in that sad declaration that they would all desert Him. Peter immediately proclaims that he won’t leave Jesus and implies he will stand by Jesus in his own strength. Once again, Peter engages his mouth before his brain!

In Luke’s gospel account of this same time (Luke 22), Jesus tells Peter that he will be tested by Satan but again Jesus speaks words of grace and reassures Peter that he will come through the testing. Why? Will it be because of Peter’s strength or great faith? No, it is because Jesus Himself has prayed for Peter. And the writer of Hebrews tells us the same:

Therefore he is able to save completely those who come to God through him, because he always lives to intercede for them.        Hebrews 7:25 (NIV)

Jesus came to bring salvation but He brings much more. Grace, His unconditional love, births a resolve in me to do good, not evil. It brings my heart, my spirit closer to God’s image. It draws me closer to my Father and Creator.

There may be no presents under a Christmas tree but every day and every moment there is an extravagant gift in my heart from my Heavenly Father that just keeps on giving. Grace has been there from the beginning and will be there always when I finally come home to Him.

He Was There All the Time written by Gary S. Paxton and sung by Vocal Union

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