“From his abundance we have all received one gracious blessing after another” (John 1:16, NLT)
Thanksgiving is a wonderful opportunity for us to consider the blessings of God that we might ordinarily overlook. When given the opportunity to take inventory, we quickly realize that we are amazed at how much we have received from God, so much in fact, that it makes our burdens and challenges pale in comparison.
In his epic introduction, the Apostle John presents his theology of the incarnation of Jesus Christ. This year, the sixteenth verse became the basis of last week’s sermon. The word picture that John offers is one of waves that come crashing into the seashore. If you’ve been to the ocean, you know that ocean waves come continuously without pause. They don’t stop. Ever. And that image is how John wants us to think of the gracious blessings of God.
These continuous blessings contain invitations for us to respond. Each blessing is an opportunity for us to acknowledge and respond to God with praise, thanksgiving, and love. The key is how we respond. In the narrative of our Lord, we see three responses to his blessings.
Some are receptive, such as the woman in Mark 14:1-9, who anointed Jesus prior to his crucifixion by breaking an alabaster jar of expensive perfume. The text reports that it was a magnanimous offering worth one year’s wages. While there is some debate regarding the identity of the woman, it appears clear that she had experienced forgiveness for what many may have considered unforgivable. She responded to Jesus grace with confession and contrition which resulted in transformation. Grace changes lives.
Others, on the other hand, are resistant. Three of the four gospels record a story of a wealthy young man who approached Jesus one day inquiring what must be done to receive eternal life. Jesus, in response to the “rich young ruler” cited commandments 5-10. The young man said, “check! What remains?” Jesus said that he needed to sell everything and follow him. The young man, torn between two interests, went away sorrowful. The idolatrous grip of money was overwhelming. It is apparent that he wanted to add Jesus to his divided heart. Grace doesn’t work that way. So he walked.
While some are receptive and others are resistant, there is a third type — those who actually resent grace. John 6 is devoted to the miracle of the feeding of the 5,000. Free bread and fish was more than enough reason for Jesus’ audience to drop everything to “follow” him. Jesus recognized their shallow pursuits, stopped, and said, “Unless you eat my bread and drink my blood, you cannot be my disciple.” They were offended by Jesus’ words and followed him no more. They were interested in bread, but not the bread of life.
God’s waves of grace, the bread of life, is what we’re offered. And its beneficial. But we have to respond. May we continue to be receptive to the waves of God’s grace, and allow him to continue his work of transformation in our lives!