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In theological terms, our treatment of Matthew lies in the realm of morality, of Mark in atonement, of Luke in ecclesiology, and of John in Christology. Time and again our intuitive expectations of who Jesus is and what He has come to do are turned upside down—whom He excludes, what He came to do, whom He welcomes, and who He is. The Jesus of the Gospels defies our safe, law-saturated, recompense-mindful existence. But though Jesus’ intuition-defying grace surprises us, our confusion does not surprise Him. He knows all about it. And He is a patient teacher, more patient than we have yet dared believe. But how can such grace be ours? Each gospel account not only takes a particular angle on grace, but each also concludes on a lonely hill outside Jerusalem. There, on a cross, we see the foundation for how God in Christ can treat us with such mercy. The obedient one suffered for our disobedience in Matthew. The king suffered for our crimes in Mark. The insider suffered as for us outsiders in Luke. The Creator suffered for us creatures in John. This is great grace. But it is not a soft grace. With Jesus it is all or nothing. He is not asking to be added to our lives. He is insisting on uprooting our festering anxieties and redirecting all our cowering hopes squarely onto Himself. Jesus does not medicate our lives. He renovates our lives. Perhaps some of us have been wading in the offshore pools of fellowship with Christ, thinking we’ve exhausted the ocean? Could it be that there is more for us to experience in Jesus than we have yet dreamed? In his 1950 reflection, “What Are We to Make of Jesus Christ?” C.S. Lewis answers this very question by remarking: “There is no question of what we can make of Him, it is entirely a question of what He intends to make of us. You must accept or reject the story.”7 Lewis then concludes with a penetrating depiction of what it means to hand ourselves over to Jesus. This is the defiant grace of Jesus Christ and where such grace takes us.
The things He says are very different from what any other teacher has said. Others say, “This is the truth about the Universe. This is the way you ought to go,” but He says, “I am the Truth, and the Way, and the Life.” He says, “No man can reach absolute reality, except through Me. Try to retain your own life and you will be inevitably ruined. Give yourself away and you will be saved.” He says, “If you are ashamed of Me, if, when you hear this call, you turn the other way, I also will look the other way when I come again as God without disguise. If anything whatever is keeping you from God and from Me, whatever it is, throw it away. If it is your eye, pull it out. If it is your hand, cut it off. If you put yourself first you will be last. Come to Me everyone who is carrying a heavy load, I will set that right. Your sins, all of them, are wiped out, I can do that. I am Re-birth, I am Life. Eat Me, drink Me, I am your Food. And finally, do not be afraid, I have overcome the whole universe.”8