Posted: 3/23/18 at 11:30am. Column by Ed Jordan.
As Easter approaches, our minds are captivated by one of two major themes. For many children, the theme is Easter baskets and egg hunts. We Christians celebrate the awesome reality that Jesus died for us but was raised from the dead three days later. This defeat of death is a major watershed in world history with ramifications for all of us, because one day we will all physically die. The promise and proof of believers having life after death and receiving eternal life is the pinnacle of what God sent Jesus to accomplish. It assures Christians that we have eternal life, that we are forgiven, and that we will live forever in the presence of God after we die.
In our excitement we quickly jump over the horrendous things that Jesus experienced during the last days of his earthly life. Furthermore, we seem to have overlooked Jesus’ deep love for us. He demonstrated that he embodied a love to die for. There are very few people who would be willing die in our place, especially when they were sinless, perfect, and were taking on the full consequences of our sins and failures.
Many of us won’t even stand up for a friend verbally when he is being maligned. You may have just bristled in denial and thought something like: “I always stand up for my friends! I would never stand by and let them be maliciously maligned, bullied, and attacked.” I have those feelings too, but while we may feel bad and perhaps even angry about the injustice and lies being hurled at our friend, it is rare that we take the risk to stand up and stand by them.
By the way, as recipients of the gift of eternal life which Jesus purchased for us on the cross and freely gave to us when we were willing to ask him to be our Savior, we rarely take God’s side or Jesus’ side when others are maligning him, let alone if they were taking him to Golgotha to die on a cross in our place. The disciples didn’t stand up in defense of Jesus either, except for Peter, when he drew a sword and cut off the ear of one of the soldiers who came to arrest Jesus. At the cross only the ladies and three disciples are mentioned as standing nearby.
Many reading this column might be recipients of God’s free gift of eternal life and of his gift of love for each of us. How deep is Jesus’ love for you? How far did Jesus go to show you and me how much he loves us? Is the love of Jesus just a minimalist, wink-and-a-nod-in-a-crowded-room type of love? Did he just sacrifice the least amount necessary to let us know he was thinking of us?
No. Jesus came and lived his whole life with you and me on his mind. He sacrificed for us in each decision he made in life. He chose to do what was necessary to fulfill God’s will for his life, which meant to live a perfect life—never once living only for himself. Every decision and choice was made to do God’s will, so he would be sinless; and then he sacrificed his perfect, unflawed life as a substitute for our lives. He died so that our debt was paid. He took the punishment we deserved so that the whip wouldn’t fall on our backs. Why did he do this? Because his for us is a love to the maximum—not a minimalistic, counterfeit love.
We read about this love in 1 John 4:10–11 (NLT): “This is real love—not that we loved God, but that he loved us and sent his Son as a sacrifice to take away our sins. Dear friends, since God loved us that much, we surely ought to love each other.” God felt that we humans were worth dying for, so he sent Jesus to bring us back into relationship with God through the life and sacrifice of Jesus. God decided that we were a love to die for, and we should therefore realize that God’s love is a love to die for as well. At Easter we celebrate love: God’s fathomless love for us revealed in the sacrifice of Jesus on our behalf. At Easter we should also re-evaluate our love for God. Does God mean as much to us as we mean to God? God went all the way to the cross for you and me. How far are we willing to go to show your love to God? Jesus told Christians to love one another, in the same way God has loved you. Do we love being with other Christians and worshipping God together?
The cross that led to victory over sin and death through Christ’s death, the triumph of his resurrection to assure us that sin and death are defeated, and God’s gift of eternal life in Jesus are reminders of God’s love for us. What reminds the world that we Christians deeply love God and Jesus?