To Demonstrate His Own Love for Us
There are plenty of songs, particularly children's songs that celebrate Jesus' love. You know many of them I'm sure. If I cite some lines, can you, I wonder, finish them off?
Jesus' love is very (wonderful)
Jesus' love is very wonderful
Jesus' love is very wonderful
Oh, wonderful love.
I am so glad that our Father (in Heav'n)
Tells of his love in the Book He has giv'n;
Wonderful things in the Bible I see,
This is the dearest that Jesus loves me
I am so glad that Jesus loves me,
Jesus loves me, Jesus loves me.
I am so glad that Jesus loves me,
Jesus loves even me.
Jesus loves me this, I know,
For the Bible tells me so;
little ones to Him belong,
they are weak, but He is strong.
Yes, Jesus loves me,
yes, Jesus loves me,
yes, Jesus loves me,
the Bible tells me so.
I imagine that wasn't too hard for us and we readily agree with the ideas these songs express – we believe that Jesus loves us and we're more than happy to sing about it.
But what do we know about Jesus and his love? I have sometimes wondered to just where in the Bible I must go to find these clear statements about Jesus and his love for me. This evening we're going to look at this whole subject together.
If it is true that Jesus loves me (and it is) we'll see the fullest deepest revelation of that love expressed in the Cross of Calvary where Jesus gave his life for his own. But let's not get ahead of ourselves…
Who does the Bible say Jesus loved?
There are a range of people in the Bible of whom we read that Jesus loved them. Here they are:
The rich, young ruler:
Mk.10:21 "And Jesus, looking at him, loved him, and said to him, "You lack one thing: go, sell all that you have and give to the poor, and you will have treasure in heaven; and come, follow me.""
This must have been an attractive, highly agreeable person. He came to Jesus with his earnest enquiry and his coming stirred this emotion in the heart of our Lord. It is of particular interest because as far as we can tell this young man was not a disciple and never became one either. As such he is an example of the unbelieving world – a world for which Jesus had love. (Don't we sense something of this same love as Jesus wept over Jerusalem expressing his willingness to gather the inhabitants who simply refused to be gathered by him? (Mt.13:37)
This young ruler came for to Jesus for spiritual help but had apparently no heart to follow the advice he received – and yet, we are told, Jesus loved him
We've looked at this particular example for completeness sake but it is the exception and not at all the pattern we normally find when considering the verses that speak of Jesus' love. The remaining verses all address not the unbelieving world but the friends and followers of the Lord Jesus.
The apostle John:
Five times in his gospel John refers to himself in the following manner:
"the disciple whom Jesus loved" 13:23; 19:26; 20:2; 21:7; 21:20.
Nothing in particular seems to be added to explain just why this description was so appropriate for John but it was evidently sufficient for others to identify him. Jesus' love was once again evident. It may be because John felt Jesus' love so keenly that he was the gospel writer who made so much of it.
The Bethany family group:
This little group contained one brother and two sisters – Lazarus, Martha and Mary – and they play important roles in John's gospel account.
We have a statement that simply declares Jesus' love for this family; then a recognition from within the family of the reality of that love; and finally the assessment of outsiders looking on as it were:
Jn.11:5 "Now Jesus loved Martha and her sister and Lazarus."
Jn.11:3 "So the sisters sent to him, saying, "Lord, he whom you love is ill.""
Jn.11:36 "So the Jews said, "See how he loved him!""
From this we deduce that Jesus' love was real and tangible – it was no mere private sentiment that he kept hidden away. His love was known by those who benefited from it – they knew they were loved and counted upon the reality of this love. It was also a love that was visible to onlookers – Jesus went public when he committed himself in love!
You know how all this panned out in the case of Lazarus don't you? Jesus in his love did him good and raised him from the dead. In so doing he honoured and glorified God and showed love for Lazarus' sisters too.
The 12 apostles
We have read earlier from Jn.13 where Jesus' love for his closest followers is described. The chapter opens with a verse that sets not just the scene but determines the content of that scene:
Jn.13:1 "Now before the Feast of the Passover, when Jesus knew that his hour had come to depart out of this world to the Father, having loved his own who were in the world, he loved them to the end."
This demonstration of Jesus' love is specifically put in the context of Jesus' departure from this world, a departure that would take place when he calmly and very deliberately laid down his life as a substitutionary sacrifice for his people. In humility he stoops to wash their feet and in greater humility he was to stoop to bear the curse of God on their behalf that they, and we, need never be exposed to it again!
The love that Jesus displayed as he neared his end is presented to us as increasing in magnitude:
Firstly, he washed their feet leaving them an extraordinary example of what his love looks like.
Jn.13:34 "A new commandment I give to you, that you love one another: just as I have loved you, you also are to love one another."
Secondly, after having reminded them of just how he had loved them he would point out to them what the significance was of that which he was about to do for them in dying for them:
The apostle Paul:
Paul wrote about the love of Christ in two ways:
As a personally applied and experienced truth
Gal.2:20 "I have been crucified with Christ. It is no longer I who live, but Christ who lives in me. And the life I now live in the flesh I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave himself for me."
Saul of Tarsus had been full of his own importance and was ferociously attacking the church until Jesus broke into his life on that momentous day of the Damascus Road. Saul would never be the same again – he was utterly transformed and his old way of living was over and gone just as his old name of Saul disappeared to be replaced by the new Paul.
How had all this come about? Paul came to understand who Jesus was and what he had come to do. As he embraced the gospel Paul's life became dominated by the Lord Jesus Christ – and the heart of that gospel as Paul understood it was that Jesus loved him and in that love had held nothing back but had given his life for Paul!
It is important for us to be able to identify with the way in which Paul speaks and to understand our personal involvement with Jesus Christ. The Christian faith is a faith where personal pronouns are of vital importance: can you say "He loved me and gave himself for me"?
You might wonder whether it is legitimate to do this. After all Paul was writing about his own experience so is it right to widen what he says to apply it to others?
The simple answer is "Yes, it is!" And this is why:
Paul doesn't only speak in individual terms when he writes of the Jesus' love and of Jesus' death he also does so in a corporate manner. The reality of Jesus' love for his people expressed in his laying down his life for them is so rock-
Eph.5:2 "And walk in love, as Christ loved us and gave himself up for us, a fragrant offering and sacrifice to God."
Do you see how Paul is using the same description but not now in a purely personal manner but in a way which is relevant to all the Christians to whom he is writing in the church in Ephesus, and with them to all Christians everywhere?
He does the same thing a little further on in the same chapter as he tells husbands what their marital responsibilities are:
Eph.5:25 "Husbands, love your wives, as Christ loved the church and gave himself up for her,"
The apostle could have pointed to many different ways in which Jesus had shown love during his earthly life:–
he could have highlighted his tenderness in allowing mothers to bring their infants to him to receive a blessing;
he could have mentioned his compassion in healing the sick or in meeting the material needs of the hungry;
he could have focussed upon the way he helped the ordinary man-
he could have drawn attention to the way in which he brought salvation to those who were the spiritual outcasts of society.
Yes, he could have done all that to show Jesus love but he prefers to draw together thoughts of his love to the matter of his death, for it is in his death that the love of Jesus shines forth most clearly.
Jesus' death on the cross, his death as a substitutionary sacrifice, was not some empty gesture, some media event with no more significance than some photo op grabbed by a desperate politician.
Jesus' death was for Paul, for us, for the church that is it was destined to achieve something and the apostle John spells it out for us:
Rev.1:5 "Jesus Christ the faithful witness, the firstborn of the dead, and the ruler of kings on earth. To him who loves us and has freed us from our sins by his blood and made us a kingdom, priests to his God and Father, to him be glory and dominion forever and ever. Amen."
In his love for us Jesus went as far as to die for us – that is what John is referring to when he writes "by his blood" – and this death accomplished things for us. John mentions two of those things here:
a. The past is dealt with: freedom for sin – that is freedom from its, guilt, penalty, pollution and power
b. Looking into the future pointlessness and hopelessness are replaced by purposeful living as a kingdom of priests to serve God.
Jesus' love is shown to us in its fullest extent in his death for us upon Calvary's cross but the Cross does not mark the end of his love for us.
Having placed our trust in him he now keeps us safe and will go on doing so until the end. He wants to take all his people home to be with him and to be in a position to fully appreciate just who he is and what it is he has done for his own:
Jn.17:24 "Father, I desire that they also, whom you have given me, may be with me where I am, to see my glory that you have given me because you loved me before the foundation of the world."
So then, let us then rejoice in this wonderful love of the Lord Jesus Christ and go on trusting in him.
To God be the Glory.