Grace Ain’t Free Sucker... or is it?
Matthew 21:33-46, 22:1-14
I want us to talk through guilt. What does it feel like? It is pain, but it is not just pain. It is shame, but it is not just shame. It is regret, but not just regret What does guilt feel like? Why does it feel that way? Let me help you into this conversation:
I am going to give you a few minutes on this one. It is a two part question. Dig deep into this.
What does guilt feel like?
How do those feelings affect different aspects of people’s lives?
We start with guilt today because we come across a moment where Jesus’ words lead to that feeling. Now, guilt isn’t alway bad, and it isn’t always good either.
Chapters 21-25 of Matthew is the section where the tension between Jesus and the religious authorities builds to its climax. It builds to a degree of conflict where:
Witnessed, cheered for and even orchestrated the death of Jesus. So What happened that lead up to this? Can we contemplate and talk about anger that leads to irrational violence? In the formula of story, conflict is an important piece. Because of this formula, conflict in “story” bombards us.
While cinematic rage can be funny, it also can be disturbing and inappropriate. As we read Matthew, this was not a story to build cinematic affect. This was real people, doing real things. Responding in anger.
What are some noble or vile causes of rage?
What is the difference between the two?
With conversations about guilt and rage in our minds, we look at Matthew where Jesus tells this parable:
33 “Listen to another parable. There was a landowner who planted a vineyard and put a wall around it and dug a wine press in it, and built a tower, and rented it out to vine-growers and went on a journey. 34 When the harvest time approached, he sent his slaves to the vine-growers to receive his produce. 35 The vine-growers took his slaves and beat one, and killed another, and stoned a third. 36 Again he sent another group of slaves larger than the first; and they did the same thing to them. 37 But afterward he sent his son to them, saying, ‘They will respect my son.’ 38 But when the vine-growers saw the son, they said among themselves, ‘This is the heir; come, let us kill him and seize his inheritance.’ 39 They took him, and threw him out of the vineyard and killed him. 40 Therefore when the owner of the vineyard comes, what will he do to those vine-growers?” 41 They said to Him, “He will bring those wretches to a wretched end, and will rent out the vineyard to other vine-growers who will pay him the proceeds at the proper seasons.”
42 Jesus said to them, “Did you never read in the Scriptures,
‘The stone which the builders rejected,
This became the chief corner stone;
This came about from the Lord,
And it is marvelous in our eyes’?
43 Therefore I say to you, the kingdom of God will be taken away from you and given to a people, producing the fruit of it. 44 And he who falls on this stone will be broken to pieces; but on whomever it falls, it will scatter him like dust.”
45 When the chief priests and the Pharisees heard His parables, they understood that He was speaking about them. 46 When they sought to seize Him, they feared the people, because they considered Him to be a prophet.
Matthew continues. We turn the page to Matthew 22 where Jesus shares another parable (I know this is a lot of reading today, but just hang with me).
1 Jesus spoke to them again in parables, saying, 2 “The kingdom of heaven may be compared to a king who gave a wedding feast for his son. 3 And he sent out his slaves to call those who had been invited to the wedding feast, and they were unwilling to come. 4 Again he sent out other slaves saying, ‘Tell those who have been invited, “Behold, I have prepared my dinner; my oxen and my fattened livestock are all butchered and everything is ready; come to the wedding feast.”’ 5 But they paid no attention and went their way, one to his own farm, another to his business, 6 and the rest seized his slaves and mistreated them and killed them. 7 But the king was enraged, and he sent his armies and destroyed those murderers and set their city on fire. 8 Then he said to his slaves, ‘The wedding is ready, but those who were invited were not worthy. 9 Go therefore to the main highways, and as many as you find there, invite to the wedding feast.’ 10 Those slaves went out into the streets and gathered together all they found, both evil and good; and the wedding hall was filled with dinner guests.
But the parable doesn’t end. I want it to, but it doesn’t:
11 “But when the king came in to look over the dinner guests, he saw a man there who was not dressed in wedding clothes, 12 and he said to him, ‘Friend, how did you come in here without wedding clothes?’ And the man was speechless. 13 Then the king said to the servants, ‘Bind him hand and foot, and throw him into the outer darkness; in that place there will be weeping and gnashing of teeth.’ 14 For many are called, but few are chosen.”
These parables bring out the tension between self righteousness, grace and the manipulation of grace. The point of today, our conversation, is not to unpack those things completely. It is something you and I will continue to wrestle and struggle with, and I think that’s the point. I love Paul’s struggle with this:
1 Corinthians 15:9-10
9 For I (Paul) am the least of the apostles, and not fit to be called an apostle, because I persecuted the church of God. 10 But by the grace of God I am what I am, and His grace toward me did not prove vain; but I labored even more than all of them, yet not I, but the grace of God with me.
The foundation is this:
We can’t be good enough to deserve relationship with God.
Because we can’t be good enough, we need grace that comes through relationship with Jesus.
While grace makes us good enough to have relationship with God, it is not an excuse dismiss all efforts of being good.
Matthew is building foundation. I want us to talk through two things and then we will conclude:
What is going on inside of a person that feels guilt and rage when confronted by the reality that his or her self righteousness is insufficient in earning relationship with God?
You probably can predict the next conversation:
What is going on inside of a person that feels guilt and rage when they are confronted by the realty that he or she is manipulating or taking advantage of God’s grace?
Read these two scriptures:
5 He saved us, not on the basis of deeds which we have done in righteousness, but according to His mercy, by the washing of regeneration and renewing by the Holy Spirit, 6 whom He poured out upon us richly through Jesus Christ our Savior, 7 so that being justified by His grace we would be made heirs according to the hope of eternal life.
22 But prove yourselves doers of the word, and not merely hearers who delude themselves. 23 For if anyone is a hearer of the word and not a doer, he is like a man who looks at his natural face in a mirror; 24 for once he has looked at himself and gone away, he has immediately forgotten what kind of person he was. 25 But one who looks intently at the perfect law, the law of liberty, and abides by it, not having become a forgetful hearer but an effectual doer, this man will be blessed in what he does.
The tension between grace and works is not an issue or conflict within God. It is my issue.
How can you fully realize the grace you have been given?
How does your response to grace change the things (work) you do?
Take it Deeper Questions:
Google search “what does Paul say about grace.”
Google search “what does James say about works.”
What are your immediate findings from these two searches?
Is it easier for you to dismiss the need for grace or manipulate the gift of free grace?
What does life look like fully embracing grace and being changed because of grace?
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