Religion tends to look for outward signs that we are qualified to follow God, but Jesus shatters that paradigm time and time again. He doesn’t wait for us to clean ourselves up or renounce our lifestyles. He finds us where we are and calls us to follow him. No application or qualifications needed. That’s why I think Matthew’s story is such a perfect illustration of Jesus’ message.
So, what was Jesus’ message? It wasn’t that good people go to heaven. It wasn’t that bad people will be judged. Those are cheap imitations of his message.
Jesus’ message was grace. It was salvation for all who believe in him. It was mercy and compassion and forgiveness for all who would put their faith in him. And I’ll go even further. Jesus was the personification and the embodiment of grace. In other words, Jesus himself is the message. Jesus is the purpose and the point. The message isn’t mere dogma or doctrine. It isn’t behavioral change. The message is that no matter who you are or how badly you’ve messed up, grace and forgiveness are available in Jesus.
That’s why Jesus came to earth in physical, tangible, human form. He came not to just tell us about grace but to literally be grace for over thirty-three years. His life was his message, and his message gives life. The more we follow Jesus, the more we find our lives defined and transformed by the love and grace of God.
Jesus’ life is the message of grace. It’s a message of unconditional and unending acceptance by God, based on his grace and received through faith in Jesus. I’ve discovered that it’s one thing to agree with grace or even recite verses about grace, but it’s another to truly understand it and live it. Honestly, that’s where we tend to miss the message the most. We listen to grace on Sunday and then live with guilt, law, and condemnation Monday through Saturday.
It’s not hard news, bad news, complicated news, or frightening news. It’s good news. The message of Jesus is one of hope, of joy, of peace, o freedom.