Sermon: Grace and Truth

Please pray with me:

Father, may your Word be our rule, Your Holy Spirit our teacher, and the glory of Jesus Christ our single concern. Amen.

These are the very words of God from the book that we love:

In the beginning was the Word,

and the Word was with God,

and the Word was God.

He was in the beginning with God.

All things came into being through him,

without him not one thing came into being.

What has come into being in him was life,

and the life was the light of all people.

The light shines in the darkness,

and the darkness did not overcome it.

There was a man who was sent from God whose name was John.

He came as a witness to testify to the light,

so that all might believe through him.

He himself was not the light,

but he came to testify to the light.

The true light, which enlightens everyone,

was coming into the world.

He was in the world,

and the world came into being through him,

yet the world did not know him.

He came to what was his own,

and his own people did not accept him.

But to all who received him,

who believed in his name,

he gave power to become children of God,

who were born,

not of blood,

or of the will of the flesh,

or of the will of man,

but of God.

And the Word became flesh and lived among us,

and we have seen his glory,

the glory as of a Father’s only son,

full of grace and truth.

(John testified to him and cried out,

“This was he of whom I said,

‘He who comes after me ranks ahead of me because he was before me.’”)

From his fullness, we have all received, grace upon grace.

The law indeed came through Moses,

grace and truth came through Jesus Christ.

No one has ever seen God.

It is God the only Son,

who is close to the Father’s heart,

who has made him known.

This is the Word of the Lord. Thanks be to God.

Through the Gospel of John, the Spirit reveals Jesus’ fullness, our emptiness, and Jesus’ abundant gift.

Jesus’ fulness, our emptiness, and Jesus’ abundant gift. That is how I’d like to organize us this morning.

Through the Gospel of John, the Spirit reveals Jesus’ fulness.

Verse 14: And the Word became flesh and lived among us, and we have seen his glory, the glory as of a Father’s only son, full of grace and truth.

Full of grace and truth.

Jesus is full of grace and truth. Jesus is full – like our stomachs and hearts after a good meal with friends – filled to bursting, filled to overflowing – full of grace and truth.

Born in a manger in Bethlehem, full of grace and truth. Growing up in Nazareth, hearing Mary call him in from playing outside, studying Torah at the synagogue, gathered with the family around the table, full of grace and truth. Walking the dusty roads of Galilee with his disciples, teaching the crowds, healing the sick, feeding the hungry, full of grace and truth. Facing Jerusalem, cleansing the temple, standing before Pilate, hanging on the cross, full of grace and truth.

And the word became flesh and lived among us, and we have seen his glory, the glory as of a Father’s only son, full of grace and truth.

Full of grace and truth.

Jesus is full of grace. Jesus is full of charis. Can you say that after me? Charis. (Charis). Charis is the greek word for grace used in the New Testament. At its core, Charis is the picture of something totally undeserved that is given freely, with no strings attached. Charis is not given because you have done enough, or been enough, were born into the right family or went to the right schools. It is not based upon blood, or lineage, or on anything a person has done. It is the totally undeserved giving of God. Charis – Grace.

But to all who received him,

who believed in his name,

he gave power to become children of God,

who were born,

not of blood,

or of the will of the flesh,

or of the will of man,

but of God.

Charis – Grace. To be filled with charis is to be filled with compassion and love for those who have done nothing to deserve it.

Jesus is full of grace, full of charis. Again and again in his ministry, Jesus is full of compassion and love for those who have done nothing to deserve it. After a lame man is lowered through the roof where Jesus is teaching, Jesus forgives the man’s sin and tells him to take up his mat and walk. Charis. When a woman bent and bound by Satan for 18 years is brought to Jesus, he touches her and she stands up straight and praises God. Charis. Ten Lepers come to Jesus, he sends them to wash in the Jordan and they all receive healing. Charis. Demons cast out – seven from Mary Magdalene and many more from the man called Legion. Charis. 5000 fed on one occasion and 4000 on another. Charis.

Again and again, Jesus comes filled with grace – filled with love, favor, forgiveness, and healing – all manifestations of grace. It even gets him into trouble. He eats with sinners, talks with Samaritans, and calls tax collectors to follow him as his disciples. To be filled with grace is to be filled with compassion and love for those who have done nothing to deserve it.

And the word became flesh and lived among us, and we have seen his glory, the glory as of a Father’s only son, full of grace and truth.

Jesus comes full of grace. Full of grace and truth. Truth – say aletheia (aletheia). In Greek, aletheia is truth in the sense of that which has been tested and found to be right. It is truth that is beautiful and good. It is truth in the sense of true facts or information, but more importantly, it is truth in the sense of being true. It is the kind of truth that guides a life. In the New Testament, aletheia is the difference between right and wrong as determined by God’s standard. To be full of truth is to embody the true way of life before God.

Jesus comes full of grace and truth. Again and again, Jesus separates light from darkness, truth from falsehood. He calls all people to repent and turn to God. In the Sermon on the Mount, Jesus claims that he came not to abolish the law, but to fulfill it. Jesus fills up the scriptures with their full meaning. Jesus tells us what it truly means to keep the commandments of God. And Jesus says we do this by keeping his commands.

Not only does Jesus’ teach, but embodies the true way of life before God in his own life. Jesus is full of truth and fully lives the truth. He resists temptation in the desert when weakened by hunger. He challenges the false understandings of scripture in his day. He even embodies God’s holy truth as he cleanses the temple and makes it fitting for worship. His whole life is one of obedience to God.

To be full of truth is to embody the true way of life before God.

Through the Gospel of John, the Spirit reveals Jesus’ fullness, our emptiness, and Jesus’ abundant gift.

And the word became flesh and lived among us, and we have seen his glory, the glory as of a Father’s only son, full of grace and truth.

Jesus came full of grace and truth – full of compassion and love for those who did nothing to deserve it AND fully embodying the true way of life before God.

Through the Gospel of John, the Spirit reveals Jesus’ fullness, our emptiness, and Jesus’ abundant gift.

Our emptiness.

I want to be like Jesus. I long to be full of grace and truth. But usually I am not. I can have a hard time receiving and showing grace, particularly to those closest to me. I long to fully embody the true way of life before God, so I can be harsh and demanding of myself, and occasionally short with my family. I pray every morning that God would forgive me, and I trust that as I daily receive his grace, he is shaping my heart to be more eager to show it.

I want to be like Jesus – full of grace and truth. But my sinful heart is twisted to more readily favor truth over grace. Anyone else been there?

Through the Gospel of John, the Spirit reveals Jesus’ fullness and our emptiness

We are not a people full of grace and truth.

We often favor one over the other. Some of you, unlike me, find it easier to show grace than truth.

Maybe we want people to be loved, we want them to feel accepted, we want to avoid the petty squabbles so prevalent in our world. Maybe having received forgiveness ourselves, we we long to have others receive it too. All these are good things – all this Jesus came with too. Jesus came full of grace.

In the name of love, we can favor grace over truth. We can deliver the undeserved gifts of compassion and love with no discernment between truth and falsehood, with no call to turn and follow Jesus. When we do this, when we get askew, we can easily fall into a benign-whateverism, a destructive tolerance that says “whatever makes you happy is good.” In the name of loving others, we can neglect to tell them and tell ourselves that sometimes the things that we believe will make us happy are simply not good for us. We can neglect to share that happiness is not the end goal of human life, but to glorify God and enjoy him forever. We can neglect to share that life with God, in relationship with God and walking in the way of God, is the best life.

Some of us find it easier to show charis than to speak aletheia – to show grace than to speak truth. But others of us, like me, find it much easier to favor truth over grace. We far too easily embody the shadow-side of the Pharisees. In our zeal to follow God and speak the truth, we can fall into a destructive judgment, obscuring the gospel of grace under the demands of discipleship. In the name of truth, we can neglect to share that the core of the Christian faith is the free forgiveness found in Christ alone. We can neglect to remember that our faithfulness does not determine our standing with God, nor exclude others from his grace, but should be a joyous response of gratitude. In favoring the truth over grace, we can lose the very truth we began with – that Christ came into the world to save sinners.

I don’t know about you, but I want to be like Jesus. I want to be full of grace and truth – full of compassion and love for those who did nothing to deserve it and fully living out the true way of life before God. But I am not full of grace and truth. I am guessing that you, too, know what is like to feel like your life is running with a few flat tires. But there is good news:

Through the Gospel of John, the Spirit reveals Jesus’ fullness, our emptiness, and Jesus’ abundant gift.

Verses 16-17:

From his fulness, we have all received, grace upon grace. The law indeed came through Moses, grace and truth came through Jesus Christ.

Jesus came full of grace and truth – full of that true life and that unmerited compassion. John tells us that from Jesus’ fulness, we have all received grace upon grace. Jesus comes full of grace and truth, but he doesn’t keep it for himself, he gives it to us. Jesus pours out grace and truth into our lives. Not only full of grace and truth, John tells us that grace and truth came through Jesus Christ.

Christ came not just to reveal what grace and truth looks like, but to pour it out upon us. He came to give it to us, not just to let us know what it looks like, but to impart it to us. From his fulness, we have all received, grace upon grace.

Isn’t that amazing? The God of the universe, who created the world with daffodils and dobermans, with cedar trees and the Cedar river, with the rich soil and the shining sun – This God came down in the flesh not only to show you what grace looks like, but to give grace to you. This God came down in the flesh not only to live the true life, but to pour out his Spirit into your heart so that you might live fully before God as well.

Isn’t that amazing? Jesus came full of grace and truth and from Jesus, through Jesus, and in Jesus grace and truth are poured out into our lives.

At the end of his earthly ministry, Jesus set his face toward Jerusalem. He walked that road, knowing where it would lead. And on a Friday long ago, Jesus was crucified. Hands and feet nailed to the cross. And the word became flesh and lived among us, and we have seen his glory, the glory as of a Father’s only son, full of grace and truth.

On the cross, we see the grace and truth of God. On the cross, as his blood poured out, Jesus Christ poured out grace and truth to all who believe in him.

But to all who received him,

who believed in his name,

he gave power to become children of God,

who were born,

not of blood,

or of the will of the flesh,

or of the will of man,

but of God.

Jesus came full of grace and truth – so full that he poured it all out on the cross for you and for me. Whenever we are in need of grace and truth, look to Christ crucified and risen, come to him, for he is the fount from whom all grace and truth come.

From his fulness, we have all received, grace upon grace. The law indeed came through Moses, grace and truth came through Jesus Christ.

In the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit. Amen.

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