Amazing grace! How sweet the sound, …” Can you finish it? “Wretch” seems a little harsh doesn’t it? There’s a line in a song I heard over 15 years ago that kept ringing in my ears as I read for today’s Advent reading, “Paul said he was the worst of sinners, but I know I’m not that bad…” The song goes on to point to all the ways that we get offended by the sinfulness of others all while ignoring our own. We are amazed that God would choose us to be his people yet astonished when God would choose others.
This is the tension that develops in Jesus’ reading of Isaiah to the people. He spoke with inspiration that drew everyone to him. They were astonished by his words of sheer grace. How amazing is it that this is the God who chose us?! Jesus then pushes them further and points to Elijah and Elisha. I’ve read this passage numerous times and it was only now that I’ve caught the deeper meaning. On first blush, Jesus is pointing to the rejection of the prophets and how he too will be rejected. Is this what made them fly into a rage? Looking deeper, we hear the message that they refused to hear. Jesus came to liberate the oppressed. Like Elijah, who helped a widow, and Elisha, who healed a leper. Not seeing the offense yet. Look closer. Elijah helped a widow, but she wasn’t Jewish. Elisha healed a leper, but he wasn’t Jewish. Not only was he not Jewish, he was the commander of the enemy army! It would appear that God was rescuing the wrong people.
They were astonished by Jesus’ words of grace because grace was for everybody, including the nations, instead of grace for Israel and fierce judgement for everyone else. The servant-Messiah came to bring God’s love and mercy to the nations, fulfilling Israel’s calling to be a light to the nations. This message was, and continues to be, shocking. The Gospel challenges all of our personal interests and agendas and all forms of injustice and oppressions with the news of God’s love and surpassing grace.
How does God’s grace challenge your human interests and agendas? Identify interests and agendas in our culture that cause forms of injustice in the world today. How does the Gospel of God’s love and grace speak to those situations? How should God’s love and grace shape the way you see situations in the world?