Preparing for Holy Week and sharing my thoughts here on the blog, I thought it would be Good Friday that I would struggle with. After all, that is the dark day when our Saviour died in the most painful way possible. Surely that should be the hard one to write about while Easter Sunday, full of joy, would be easier to write.
Yet I find that I am more comfortable in the melancholy and mercy of Good Friday. Those are emotions and language that I am familiar with. I’m comfortably uncomfortable with the truth that Jesus died for my sins. I don’t like it but I can accept it.
Easter Sunday, on the other hand, is unfamiliar territory. It is filled with a joy that I haven’t let myself fully embrace in literal years. While mercy has brought me to the foot of the cross time and again, I have fended off the grace of the empty tomb with both hands.
Until recently that was. Part of being in a gospel-centred church is that the word grace is mentioned a lot in relation to the Gosepl. Only now I can’t ignore it anymore. None of the lies I used to tell me, little half-truths, are working anymore. Instead, I want to find a balance between mercy and grace.
What is Grace?
What shall we say then? Are we to continue in sin that grace may abound?Romans 6:1
For the wages of sin is death, but the free gift of God is eternal life in Christ Jesus our Lord.Romans 6:23
I can’t believe I’m feeling brave enough to tackle this question but here goes…
Grace is God’s good gift to us. It is the opportunity to spend the rest of time with God, knowing that we will not be separated from Him. The act of mercy that is Jesus’ death on the cross was the cost of this gift. The fact that God gives us this gift without us paying for it is what makes it grace.
But surely if God has given us a free pass to eternity with Him, we don’t need to stop sinning. We can just enjoy life, and do whatever we want. Seems like a good deal to me…
…Unfortunately, this isn’t the case. Sure, it feels the easy way out. Probably why the Romans needed to be reminded of it by Paul 🤷🏻♀️ For if we sin, then death will come for us because that is the cost. So by continuing to sin, we are no causing grace to abound. Instead, we are simply increasing the debt we owe that will be paid by death eventually!
Isn’t That Where Mercy Comes In?
Well, yes. As I write this post, I am struck by how crucial the mercy of the resurrection is. Jesus died to cover this debt for us. He paid the debt so that we didn’t have to. But the story didn’t end there!
Then He said to the, “These are my words that I spoke to you while I was still with you, that everything written about me in the Law of Moses and the Prophets and the Psalms right be fulfilled.” Then He opened their minds to understand the Scriptures, and said to them, “Thus it is written, that the Christ should suffer and on the third day rise from the dead, and that repentance and forgiveness of sins should be proclaimed in his name to all nations, beginning from Jerusalem.”Luke 24:44-47
When Jesus rose from the dead, He did not just pay the price for the sins we commit. He defeated death in every possible way. He smashed it to smithereens. This isn’t like a comic book, with Batman defeating Joker for a while or Superman temporarily stopping Lex Luthor. This was full-stop, 100% never going to be a rematch, complete and utter defeat. And Jesus did it all by rising from the dead as a fully-live person. We even know that He was physical flesh thanks to the disciples effectively poking His fresh, healing, wounds from the cross.
The Cross is the Punishment, the Empty Tomb is the Gift
So we have established that by sacrificing Himself, Jesus stands between us and God to bear the full punishment for our sins. By coming back from the dead fully alive, He then showed that the punishment for sin no longer had any power.
The empty tomb is the proof of this. Even the cloth wrapped around Jesus had been left as if He had phased out of it. The thing is, when it came to sacrificing the traditional lamb in place of sins (Leviticus 4), there was never an expectation for the lamb to come back to life. After all, death was permanent. There was no coming back from there.
Only Jesus did come back. By coming back and destroying death’s power, Jesus opened up eternal life to us as a gift. We wouldn’t have to continue making sacrifices to pay for our sins or stave off our own eternal death. Jesus eliminated the need for those continual sacrifices. He flung open the gates of heaven so that we could go running in. He (literally) ripped up a curtain so that there was no barrier between us and God. None of this was expected of a sacrifice for sin!
This is grace. The gift that we do not deserve. That we can spend eternity with God.
Mercy is Jesus taking our punishment for us. Grace is Jesus opening up the gates of heaven to us.
P.S. Sorry It Took So Long
I guess you could call this a postscript. I intended for this post to go out on Easter Monday, so that it would be all nice and timely. However, two things stopped this from happening. 1) Life happened in the form of a broken down car, which took 29 hours to be recovered. 2) My relationship with grace.
You’d think it would be easy to talk about this amazing free gift that Jesus gave us. And it should because grace is AMAZING! But when you have a magnificently overactive guilty conscience (hey there 👋🏻), being able to accept that gift is so difficult. Mercy, on the other hand, goes straight to my heart. I cry with guilt and agony over the Crucifixion because I put Jesus up there! But the joy of the Resurrection? I cannot accept that so I do everything in my power to avoid it. Including avoiding writing this blog post for every conceivable reason. (Honestly, the temptation to stop typing and get on with customising my Avengers: Endgame t-shirt for Friday is real!)
But here is what I have realised as I wrote this post, listened to Easter Sunday readings and sermons, and even a few worship songs. Grace isn’t an optional extra in Christianity. Yes, it is a gift BUT it does not come with a receipt. We can’t return the gift in exchange for the money or something else we would prefer (like easy-to-accept mercy). We need grace as much as we need mercy because together they show us a glimpse of God’s unconditional love.
I’m only just starting to accept that I need grace like I need mercy. That they are both water for my life. So no doubt both will appear on this blog as I try to work through the next part of my life with you, dear, dear reader. I hope you’ll stick with me throughout this and together we can explore the life-changing amazingness that is God’s love.