By Dr. Kevin Thomas —
Jesus stepped into a world governed by elitist religion that fully included devout Jewish men and almost no one else. “Honorable” Jewish women were assigned their own separate room for worship. God-fearing Gentiles were welcome to listen from the front porch. Religious leaders excluded many, if not most, others from worship. Shepherds were dirty and had to tend sheep on the Sabbath. Fishermen weren’t much better. Lepers were confined to their own colonies on the outskirts of town. Tax collectors, prostitutes, and adulterers were too unclean to share a meal with the devout. And, proper religious people treated Samaritans as though they were a different species. Pharisees set the bar so high for the general population that, to most, God seemed completely out of reach. “They tie up heavy, cumbersome loads and put them on other people’s shoulders, but they themselves are not willing to lift a finger to move them” (Matthew 23:4 NIV).
It’s no wonder they didn’t like Jesus! He dared to love the “unlovable!” He delighted in dining with the “dirty!” He refused to condemn the woman caught in adultery, and He welcomed a “sinful” woman who worshipped at His feet! To the religious, Jesus was defiling what is holy. He took what the elite believed was exclusively theirs and offered it to all who chose to follow.
Jesus demonstrated God’s extravagant, unconditional love. It’s a gift that is never deserved and cannot be earned. In fact, the Pharisees were no closer to God than the tax collectors and prostitutes, because favor with God is never earned through good behavior. It is always given freely and generously to all who will receive it! Jesus freely scattered grace everywhere He went.
Sometimes, I’m afraid the church has become a treasury of grace, carefully dispensing God’s blessings on those we deem worthy. But, none are worthy! Instead, the church is a fountain of grace, soaking entire communities in God’s goodness. May we be messengers of that kind of love today!