When we speak of a gracious person we normally envision a polite and courteous individual who is pleasantly considerate of others. The noun in Greek (charis) is regularly understood as “unmerited favor.” Gracious people are attentive to the needs of others, amiable in their relationships, and benign in character. Jesus was a gracious and gentle man but without some of the contemporary nuances that have gotten attached to the word. There was no weakness of any sort in the graciousness of our Lord.
The essence of the term has to do with its selfless orientation toward others. The gracious person is one who relates to others in ways that benefit not himself but them. Like Jesus’ consistent teaching about relationships, graciousness has the wellbeing of the other in mind. Of course it can be faked but in the process it becomes deceptively wicked. The smile on the face of the tormenter reveals the opposite of graciousness.
Consider Jesus as he moves through those three years of public ministry. Remember that day on the shores of Lake Galilee when he was ministering to the needy and a man with a speech impediment was brought to him for help. The text says that Jesus “took the man away from the crowd so the two of them could be alone” (Luke 7:33). There must have been something special about this case and I think that Jesus was concerned lest the man’s gibberish draw undue attention. He was gracious in his concern for the one so afflicted.
Later in his ministry Jesus finds himself in the home of his dear friends, Mary, Martha, and Lazarus. Martha was busy preparing something to eat for the occasion and Mary sat at Jesus’ feet taking in all that he was saying. In comes Martha in a fit accusing their guest of not caring that her sister was negligent in helping her. An awkward moment, but Jesus graciously broke the silence saying, “Martha, dear Martha . . . “ Everything is okay; your sister made a good choice. Jesus was concerned to relieve Martha of the embarrassing situation she had just created. It was a gracious thing to do (Luke 10:38ff).
In certain circumstances graciousness may show itself by a reserve to take what might be considered the justifiable reaction. When the Jewish leaders brought Jesus to Pilate accusing him of misleading their people, Jesus “remained silent” (Matt 27:12). When Pilate repeated the charge, much to his surprise, Jesus “made no response” (v. 13). In view of the fact that there were some 72,000 angels (“twelve legions”) that his Father would send should he ask, his restraint was an act of “unmerited favor.” It was sheer grace that the entire Roman guard along with the Jewish accusers weren’t suddenly annihilated.
The grand old story of redemption from start to finish, from the Garden of Eden to the Garden of Gethsemane, is an incredible demonstration of the grace of God. He rewards us repentant sinners by cancelling our debt and giving us what we could never deserve. Our God is a gracious God!