In the beginning of the Gospel of John, John summarizes his and the other disciples experience with Jesus with these words,
And the Word became flesh and dwelt among us, and we have seen his glory, glory as of the only Son from the Father, full of grace and truth.
Even though these words are found at the beginning of the book, John wrote this years after his time with Jesus. He describes Jesus with an innocuous sounding paradox, “full of grace and truth.” After Jesus’ three years of ministry, the two things that John and the other disciples used to describe Jesus was grace and truth. It may not sound like it, but grace and truth don’t usually go together. They are about as opposite as they can get, but somehow fit together in harmony in Jesus.
Truth is what is in accordance to fact. Truth tells us the sins we have committed cause us to deserve death and damnation. Grace is a gift given that is not deserved. It is by grace that we have been saved from sin and will receive eternal life.
The Old Testament Law was based on truth. When God said to rest on the Sabbath, you rested or you were killed. The Jewish culture was built around obeying the Law to the tee. But when Jesus came, He brought grace that we had only glimpses of in the Old Testament, but wasn’t fully realized until His coming. Grace is the merciful kindness of God. Without it, we would not be welcomed into God’s family. We couldn’t ever measure up.
Let’s look at some times when Jesus showed grace.
When he went ashore he saw a great crowd, and he had compassion on them and healed their sick.
Right after Jesus’ cousin, John the Baptist died, Jesus went away to be alone and mourn, but the people followed Him. Jesus saw them and even though He wanted to be alone, He had compassion on them and healed them. He went on to do one of the biggest miracles recorded and fed five thousand men with just five loaves of bread and two fish.
The grace Jesus had for these people allowed Him to help them in their need, even though He was in need himself.
One day Jesus was teaching a large crowd and some men carried a paralytic to Jesus,
And when Jesus saw their faith, he said to the paralytic, “Son, your sins are forgiven.”
Jesus went on to tell the man to stand and being fully healed, he stood and was able to walk on his own. It was grace that allowed Jesus to heal the man, but it was a more awesome grace that allowed Him to forgive the man’s sins. We know hardly anything about this man, but if he was anything like you or I, he sinned many times in his life and should have been condemned because of those sins. Jesus forgave him anyway, because of grace.
Let’s look at a couple of examples of Jesus acting in truth.
Jesus and his disciples went to the temple where Jesus found money changers and people selling animals. This may seem benign to you and me, but these people weren’t trading properly. They were trading deceptively to gain a huge profit from what God had commanded in the Law.
And making a whip of cords, he drove them all out of the temple, with the sheep and oxen. And he poured out the coins of the money-changers and overturned their tables. And he told those who sold the pigeons, “Take these things away; do not make my Father’s house a house of trade.”
Jesus took cords and made them into a whip. Then acting as what must have seemed like a wild man, Jesus whipped and chased all of the money changers and animals out of the temple. He acted with zeal for the truth; these men were using God to cheat people out of their money.
After being with His disciples for some time, Jesus began to explain to them that He would have to be crucified. After hearing this, Peter took Jesus aside and told Him that he wouldn’t allow this to happen to Jesus.
But he turned and said to Peter, “Get behind me, Satan! You are a hindrance to me. For you are not setting your mind on the things of God, but on the things of man.”
Jesus, acting in truth, plainly told Peter that he was acting against God and hindering Jesus from fulfilling His purpose on earth.
When you meet people, you’ll find that some are full of grace, while others are full of truth. People are hardly ever naturally balanced with both. Even attending different churches you’ll find that some churches are very much full of grace and others lean heavily towards truth. But Jesus had both.
Let’s take a look at one last example.
One day, many scribes and Pharisees brought to Jesus a woman who had been caught committing adultery. They said,
Now in the Law Moses commanded us to stone such women. So what do you say?
Jesus, seeming to ignore them, knelt down and wrote something in the dirt on the ground.
And as they continued to ask him, he stood up and said to them, “Let him who is without sin among you be the first to throw a stone at her.”
Jesus went back to his dirt writing and as the time passed, the people began to set down their stones and walk away. Eventually, everyone had gone except for Jesus and the woman. When he saw that they were gone,
Jesus stood up and said to her, “Woman, where are they? Has no one condemned you?” She said, “No one, Lord.” And Jesus said, “Neither do I condemn you; go, and from now on sin no more.”
Jesus was acting in perfect harmony with both grace and truth. The truth of the Law said that the woman must die for her sin, but Jesus acted in grace and didn’t let her be stoned to death. Grace by itself would have told the woman her sins were forgiven and sent her on her way, but Jesus acted in truth by telling her that she must sin no more. He didn’t give the woman the immediate consequence for her sin, but he didn’t condone her sin either. He acknowledged the woman’s wrongdoing, but gave her another chance to do the right thing.
Grace and truth lived harmoniously inside of Christ. He acted in grace when it was time to act in grace; he acted in truth when it was time to act in truth. When we are given just truth, we can never measure up. When we are constantly given grace, we will never stop sinning and doing wrong. We need a balance in our lives. And so do the people around us.
Like Jesus, it is important to balance grace and truth in our lives. We must learn to give grace to those who need grace, and act in truth to those who need truth. If we can only do one or the other, we aren’t giving the world a good representation of Christ. If we can find the balance between grace and truth, then we will see God change the lives of those around us.