PLAIN THOUGHTS: So great a love

By Judith Hensley

As the skies darkened and they heard Jesus say, “It is finished,” the disciples who had walked with Him during His earthly ministry looked on with broken hearts. It wasn’t supposed to end that way! Their Messiah, the One they believed to be the true Son of God, surely could not have died on a cross designed to torture  law breakers and sinners.

Is it any wonder that they scattered into the crowd and away from each other? They had just seen Jesus give up the ghost after having been beaten, scourged, and exposed on a cruel cross. Fear must have gripped their hearts as they wondered what was going to happen next. As His followers, they were known and could be targeted by the same people who pushed for the execution of Jesus based on false testimonies. Perhaps they would be rounded up and executed as well.

They had heard Him preach. They had heard Him teach. They had seen Him delivery the demon possessed and insane back to their right minds. They had seen Him heal the sick. They had even witnessed Jesus raising the dead! How, then could He, the one they had put their whole trust in and followed, not have saved Himself from such a fate? Where was His Father in Heaven that He prayed to and spoke of continually?

Had they been wrong about Jesus? Was He NOT the Christ, the Messiah of whom the ancient prophets had spoken? Pain and doubt must have assailed them. They were only human, wounded in spirit and thought.

I once had a vision of the crucifixion and Jesus’s bruised and wounded body still hanging there in the growing darkness. I began to thank God for the incredible demonstration of His power that only three days later resurrected Jesus from the dead and fulfilled every prophecy and promise about the Messiah.

I said, “Father, thank you for this demonstration of your power!”

In a very kind, but saddened voice (because I had totally missed the point), the Holy Spirit spoke to me. “Judy, this wasn’t a demonstration of My power. This was a demonstration of My great love.”

My heart melted.

How could Jesus, who could have called down ten thousand angels to destroy the political and religious leaders of the day and deliver Himself from the horrific death on the cross, have gone to this end voluntarily because He loved us so much? How could God have loved mankind so much that he was willing to sacrifice His only begotten Son, so that mankind could enter into a relationship with Him if they chose to do so?

Such love overwhelms and mystifies me. I know that I, nor any person I know, would suffer such brutalities for the sake of people who didn’t know us or care about us. When I held my newborn baby boy in my arms more than forty years ago, the verse of John 3:16 sprung to life in my heart. “For God so loved the world that He gave His only begotten Son, that whosoever believes in Him should not perish but have everlasting life.”

How could God love us enough to sacrifice His own Son in place of us and our sins? How could Jesus knowingly accept this cruelty and submit Himself to it?

The answer is LOVE… incredible, amazing, all consuming, redeeming, life altering love.

But the story doesn’t end at the cross. The rest of the story can be found in many places in the Bible, for example in the 28th chapter of the gospel of Matthew.

“After the sabbath, as the first day of the week was dawning, Mary Magdalene and the other Mary went to see the tomb. And suddenly there was a great earthquake; for an angel of the Lord, descending from heaven, came and rolled back the stone and sat on it. His appearance was like lightning, and his clothing white as snow. For fear of him the guards shook and became like dead men. But the angel said to the women, “Do not be afraid; I know that you are looking for Jesus who was crucified. He is not here; for he has been raised, as he said. Come, see the place where he lay. Then go quickly and tell his disciples, ‘He has been raised from the dead,  and indeed he is going ahead of you to Galilee; there you will see him.’ This is my message for you.” So they left the tomb quickly with fear and great joy and ran to tell his disciples.”

It was the Father’s love that took Jesus to the cross, and the Father’s love that resurrected Him. There is no power on earth greater than the resurrecting, transforming power of God’s love.