Theme: Our Lord’s Example
This week’s lessons remind us that all who have received the grace of God in Jesus Christ therefore need to demonstrate that grace in our conversations.
Scripture: Colossians 4:6
I want to study carefully what Colossians 4:6 says about how we should speak. But before I do that I want to do one more introductory thing. I want to think about the gracious speech of Jesus, since he is a great example for us in this, as in all other areas. We recall that after the first sermon of his career, spoken in the synagogue at Nazareth, the people were mostly enthralled at his gracious teaching. The text says, “All spoke well of him and were amazed at the gracious words that came from his lips” (Luke 4:22). So it was throughout his three-year ministry. Here are some examples.
His endorsement of John the Baptist. Matthew tells us in chapter 11 that when he was in prison and doubtlessly discouraged, John the Baptist sent disciples to Jesus to ask whether he was really the one who was to come or whether John had been mistaken and should look for another. From some religious leaders a question like that might have provoked harsh words: “Of course, I’m the one. Didn’t you get a sign from heaven at the time of my baptism? Don’t you believe God? What do you mean asking a question like that at a time like this? Doubt on your part may seriously undermine my credibility.”
Jesus did not say any of those things, of course. Instead, he pointed John to the Scriptures, telling the disciples to report how the blind had been made to see, the lame to walk, and how lepers had been cured, all in line with prophecies such as that in Isaiah 61:1, 2, which he had read in the synagogue in Nazareth when he began his ministry. Rather than criticizing John’s ministry, Jesus endorsed it, saying, “What did you go out into the desert to see? A reed swayed by the wind?… A man dressed in fine clothes? No, those who wear fine clothes are in king’s palaces. Then what did you go out to see? A prophet? Yes, I tell you, and more than a prophet. This is the one about whom it is written: “‘I will send my messenger ahead of you, who will prepare your way before you.’ I tell you the truth: Among those born of women there has not risen anyone greater than John the Baptist” (Matt. 11:7-11). Those were gracious words indeed.
His instruction of Nicodemus. The third chapter of John recounts Jesus’ instruction of Nicodemus when Nicodemus came to him at night to discuss religious matters. Jesus told him that he could not understand them unless he was born again. But instead of sending him away to “get born again,” as we might have done, Jesus graciously taught Nicodemus from the Old Testament, since he knew that it is through the teaching of the Word as it is blessed by the Holy Spirit that people are regenerated. Jesus must have taken a rather long time to do this, since the chapter touches on at least eight major doctrines Jesus taught him.
His conversation with the Samaritan woman. The situation was different with the Samaritan woman, whose story is told in John 4. She was no theologian. She knew only the beliefs and prejudices of her people. But Jesus nevertheless led her gently to understand who he was, what he had come to do, and her great need of him. As a result of this gracious conversation, the woman came to trust Jesus as her personal Savior and became a witness to the other people in her town. Later those people had this testimony: “We know that this man really is the Savior of the world” (John 4:42).
His concern for the woman who had been caught in adultery. One day Jesus’ enemies brought him a woman who had been caught in the act of committing adultery. Jesus was supposed to condemn her, as required by the law. But he did not. Instead, he demanded that those who were themselves innocent should be first to cast stones at her. According to the law, the first stones needed to be thrown by those who had born witness to the crime. But since this was an obvious set-up, those persons must have been guilty of what we would call entrapment. They knew it, were convicted of their greater sin, and one by one began to slink away. Then Jesus turned to the woman and forgave her on the basis of his death for sin which was yet to come. “Woman, where are they? Has no one condemned you?” he asked. “No one, sir,” she answered. “Then neither do I condemn you,” Jesus replied. “Go now and leave your life of sin” (John 8:10, 11). He forgave her but also taught the necessity of living a holy life.
His restoration of Peter. My final example is Jesus’ gentle restoration of Peter after Peter had denied him at the time of Jesus’ arrest and crucifixion. Jesus could have been harsh, humiliating Peter before the others, since Peter had boasted that even if the others denied Jesus, he at least would not. Even then Jesus told Peter that, although he would deny him, Jesus would pray for him so that his faith would not fail and that when he was restored he would use his experience to strengthen his brothers (Luke 22:31, 32). But now, following the resurrection, Jesus restored Peter both deliberately and gently.
“Simon son of John, do you truly love me more than these?”
Peter remembered his earlier boast and replied without Jesus’ pointed comparison to the other disciples, “Yes, Lord, you know that I love you.”
Jesus said, “Feed my lambs.”
This was repeated three times, corresponding to Peter’s three denials (John 21:15-17). It was an exceedingly gracious way of dealing with Peter. It was characteristic of all Jesus said and did.
Review the examples given of the gracious speech of Jesus. How might we have answered in each of those conversations?
Make a list of other conversations Jesus had with people. What are the subjects and people involved, and how did Jesus react in each case? For example, when did he show kindness, forgiveness, patience, rebuke, or condemnation?
Application: Knowing more specifically how Jesus interacted with people, ask the Lord to help you be more like Christ in the area of your conversations with others.