“How many of my father’s hired hands have bread enough and to spare, but here I am dying of hunger! 18 I will get up and go to my father, and I will say to him, ‘Father, I have sinned against heaven and before you; 19 I am no longer worthy to be called your son; treat me like one of your hired hands.’” Luke 15:17-19
Where does the story that inspired Amazing Grace start? For the Apostle Peter, it started when Jesus called him to follow. John Newton confessed his helplessness as he was facing death on the seas and had depleted his energy. He tied himself to the helm, and tried to navigate. In that experience he came to the end of self and cried out to a God he was not sure would receive him. The Apostle Peter also had a major paradigm shift, a worldview transformation as he got to know Jesus. He and his men had fished all night and caught nothing but Jesus told them to cast their net to the other side of the boat. When they did, they were overwhelmed with a huge catch of fish. Peter fell on his knees and said, “Depart from me for I am a sinful man.” Grace is the realization that we cannot do or be and we do not deserve. Grace is an undeserved gift.
Jesus tells the story of a prodigal son. The boy demanded his inheritance and went off and squandered it, spiraling into poverty. The Bible describes his experience of grace as starting when “he came to himself.” The prodigal realized he did not deserve anything more than to be a slave in his father’s home. Newton came to himself in the storm and knew he deserved nothing. Peter came to himself when he realized he failed as a fisherman and what was happening had to be of God. The prodigal came to himself in his poverty. I just saw the movie, “Jesus Revolution”, Greg Laurie comes to faith as he is being baptized at Newport Beach, CA. Many may not have as dramatic a conversion story but grace starts at that moment we realize we are undeserving. We deserve nothing and cannot be good enough. Grace is “amazing” because we receive that which we do not deserve, eternal life in the kingdom of heaven where there is true justice, love, hope and a future with the God of our creation.
I remember memorizing Ephesians 2:8-9, “by grace we are saved through faith, and that not of ourselves. It is a gift of God and not of works least any person should boast.” Let us take a moment to honestly admit our need for grace. In Kenya, when given a gift, you “receive it with both hands.” Perhaps pray with your hands open, palms up, to receive his grace, his gift to you this Easter season.