Have you ever made a really great dish and been super proud of it?
Have you ever made what you thought was going to be a really great dish only to have it be a total flop?
You may be familiar with the show on Food Network called “Chopped”. In the show, they give each contestant a basket of seemingly random ingredients and ask them to create a dish along with a few staples available to them.
I have always found this show to be somewhat lackluster but equally intriguing until I realized that this is what I do nearly every day when I open the refrigerator to make a meal for my family. I see a random assortment of food and have to come up with something fairly nutritious yet equally appealing to the five hungry monsters that live in my house. It doesn’t happen often anymore, but it has indeed happened that my random creations have been so incredibly bad, that it was tasted and promptly disposed of, sometimes through violet means thanks to my dramatic daughters.
I imagine this kind of occurrence is not unique to my home, or your home, or really any home. I got to thinking the other day about the family home of Jesus. I cannot even begin to fathom the pressure of Mary, the mother of our Lord, preparing a meal for Jesus. I was thinking about the things she did for Him, all the while Him knowing what He would do for her. I like to imagine little boy Jesus climbing up on a stool to help His mama knead the bread, His divinity knowing exactly what this would symbolize. Or Jesus helping His family each Passover preparing the lamb to be slaughtered, knowing full well that He would take the place of that lamb soon enough. Since Jesus was certainly old enough to be on His own when His ministry began, I wonder if that meant He knew how to cook for Himself. This train of thought made me wonder about the recipe that Jesus might use. Was He memorizing ingredients for His mom’s favorite strew or going to the market with her to get the secrets on picking the best spices? Was His divine knowledge of the greatness of bacon a temptation to His perfect keeping of the ceremonial laws of the Old Testament? I think about this trivial nonsense and somehow I feel the reality of Jesus as a person that much more.
But what about today? If Jesus, in His gloriously resurrected body were to write a recipe now, what might it look like? Would it be for perfect bread for the Lord’s Supper or maybe the greatest bacon cheeseburger that His human body was never permitted to consume? Perhaps, but I think what occupies His mind and His heart much more is the extension of His grace and forgiveness. So today, I’d like to think with you about Jesus’ Recipe for Forgiveness.
The first thing on Jesus’ recipe card would be an open heart and a heaping dose of humility. The forgiveness that Christ extends is only accessible for those that are aware of their need for Him. A heart that is arrogant and proud of our own accomplishments will do us no good in this recipe. We contribute nothing to this forgiveness on our merit, good works, or hard effort. Labors for our families and even for the Lord have no part. We can only begin this recipe for forgiveness by acknowledging our total dependence on the work of the Lord Jesus.
Next, He must add to us faith to believe Him and take Him at His Word. How easy it is to mentally assent to the tenants of the Christian faith. Pagans and demons can agree to the facts about Jesus. It is only by the faith He instills in His people that we can accept His free gift and have His mercy begin to transform our hearts and our minds.
Finally, Jesus can add a double portion of love and new affections. As we begin to experience this transformation by His Holy Spirit in our lives, we can see His love bleeding into everything we do. His grace enables us to think differently about giving grace to those around us, His lovingkindness allows us to trust His sovereignty, His mercy births new passions. It is His love for us that gives us a new desire to please Him out of a genuine love for Him. As we see that His love was bestowed on us in spite of us, we can walk in appreciation for the love He has lavished upon on.
This is the kind of recipe that always goes well. The fool-proof kind that He has done so many times that He has memorized the list. He does not skimp out or forget a step. He does not use the cheap ingredients or take the shortcut. No, perfecting this recipe cost Him everything. In his book, “Gentle and Lowly”, Dane Orland says “He went down into the horror of death and plunged out through the other side in order to provide a limitless supply of mercy and grace to his people.” (p.37)
And like a favorite recipe, Jesus is content to make this recipe of forgiveness for each of us every day. He does not grant new mercies or bestow new grace reluctantly. No, Christ “does not get flustered and frustrated when we come to him for fresh forgiveness” (Ortland, p.36), but rather Hebrews 12:2 tells us that it was for joy that Jesus endured the cross. He experiences joy in the midst of such agony because this was the means of ensuring our forgiveness. “It was the joyous anticipation of seeing his people made invincibly clean” (Ortland, p.40).
So the next time you royally mess up dinner or you find yourself ashamed for a much quieter offense, rest knowing that the forgiveness Jesus provides is not second rate or hesitant. But rather what He delights to provide for you each day is a fresh batch of His forgiveness.
Christ’s own joy, comfort, happiness, and glory are increased and enlarged by his showing grace and mercy, in pardoning, relieving, and comforting his members here on earth. ~ Thomas Goodwin