(Eph 3:18,19) That you may be able to comprehend with all saints what is the breadth, and length, and depth, and height and to know the love of Christ, which passes knowledge, that you might be filled with all the fullness of God.
The love of Christ is perhaps the most precious subject in the universe. From the pages of the gospels of Matthew, Mark, Luke and John may we tonight have a glimpse of its breadth, length depth and height.
The Love of Jesus is:
A personal love. The Bible clearly portrays God’s love for his people as a personal love. There is nothing remote or general about it. He says in Jer 31.3 “I have loved you with an everlasting love.” Jesus love is personal. Christ calls us all by name. He has a personal relationship with each of his followers. It was at the last supper, Jesus’ final night in this world, that he told His disciples “With fervent desire I have desired to eat this Passover with you before I suffer.” Luke 22.15 On the night before his crucifixion, where else would Christ wish to be but with his disciples, who through His death and resurrection were to become His brothers and friends? He wanted to be with them. If you love someone you want to be with them. Jesus was not ashamed to show His love for the disciples. John tells us that “Having loved his own who were in the world he loved them unto the end (completely and utterly)” John 13.1 As they sat down to eat a meal together, Jesus washed the feet of each one, an act which reveals His genuine and personal love. Then they sang a psalm of praise together. It was at the last supper that Christ instituted the communion service, a simple act in memory of Him – His body was about to be broken and His blood shed for them. It is at the communion that we remember Christ’s personal love for us. As Paul says, He is, “the Son of God who loved ME and gave himself for ME.” Gal 2. 20
Can we accept a challenge from this. Jesus said that we are to love one another as he loved us, that is personally. We are to build personal friendships and relationships with each other. When we meet together it is not out of a sense of religious duty, but because we love Christ and each other and we want to be together, especially together in fellowship with him. We are not to be ashamed to show our love in whatever practical ways we can, for our love is to be genuine not religious sham.
It is a perfect love. As they walk to the garden of Gethsemane Jesus reveals to his disciples that they will all desert him and flee. Peter’s protests of undying love fail to convince Jesus, who knows all things. He knew that Peter would deny Him at the very time when He needed him most. Yet this did not affect the Lord’s love for Peter. Peter’s failure would forever remind him that it was because Jesus loved Him that he was saved, and not because he loved Jesus. Peter’s love was imperfect, but Christ’s was perfect. Peter claimed a love that would die; the Lord was about to demonstrate His love by dying for Peter.
If Peter thought after his failure that the Lord would cast him off, then he had failed to understand the greatness of Christ’s love for him. John later describes Christ’s love as “Perfect love which casts out all fear” of rejection 1 John 4.18. Whilst Jesus was being sentenced to death, Peter was calling down God’s curses on Himself to deny that he was a follower of Christ. Then the Lord turned and looked at Peter, with such a look of love and concern that broke Peter’s heart. That look said, “Ah, but you are mine, I do this for you, and I will not let you go.” Peter went outside and wept bitterly.
Jesus had already told his disciples that “no one could pluck them out of his hand”, and as Paul writes to the Romans, “Nothing can separate us from the love of Christ.”
Peter was not strong enough to withstand the onslaught of Satan which he faced that night before the crucifixion, but Jesus love for Peter was strong enough to keep him. Peter messed up and thought it was all over for him, but it would never be all over while Jesus sill loved him. After the resurrection, by the sea of Galilee, Peter was restored and recommissioned to be a messenger of the Lord, as he realised that Christ’s absolute love requires the response of absolute commitment.
“Oh love that wilt not let me go,
I rest my weary soul in Thee:
I give Thee back the life I owe,
That in Thine ocean depths its flow
May richer, fuller be.” George Matheson
It is a purposed love. As Christ approaches the garden of Gethsemane, He begins to enter His agony, an agony only He could face. The sorrow He felt was in itself sufficient to kill him. Mark 14.34. Asking His disciples, some further off and some near by, to pray with Him, He falls on His face to intercede with God for the last time as a man, asking that if it were possible, the hour might pass from him. Was it possible? Certainly. Christ did not have to suffer and die for the sin of the world. But there was no other way for lost sinners to be redeemed for God. This was the purpose for which he had come into the world. 1 Tim 1.15 Christ Jesus came into the world to save sinners Christ’s death for man was no accident, for it had been planned from eternity. It was the reason that God sent His Son into the world. John 3.16 Realizing this, in the agony of the moment, Christ purposes to go through with it – not for His own sake, but for ours. “Nevertheless, not my will, but yours be done.” (v36) An angel appears to strengthen him, lest the sorrow be too much for his humanity.
Having purposed that He will give his life (soul) an offering for sin; and allow men to smite him; Christ approaches the arresting soldiers, led by Judas, to deliver himself up. At all times the Lord Jesus Christ was in control as he offered himself to God for our sins. For this reason the Father loves Me, because I lay down My life, so that I shall take it again. No one takes it from Me, but I lay it down of Myself; I have authority to lay it down, and I have authority to take it up again. This command I received from My Father. John 10.17,18.
Similarly, before the Sanhedrin, Christ allows himself to be mocked, blasphemed and misjudged. For the first time in his life, Christ is struck. (Mark 14.65) Christ allowed those blows to fall, and endured them for our sake, for it was part of the plan of redemption.
When he was led away to Pilate, Jesus Christ gave a good confession. The charge brought against him in this instance was true, that he was King of the Jews. Even then, Christ could have saved himself, but he did not, for he had purposed to die that he might save us.
It is a propitiatory love. After the Chief Priests had got what they wanted from Pilate, Christ was led out to die on a wooden cross. The soldiers were used to this business. There were always ready for a bit of fun to break up the boredom. There is nothing new about the abuse of prisoners by soldiers. But there was greater venom in their treatment of Christ than any of those present would have admitted. It seems that every demon in hell, headed by Satan himself, had gathered to see off the Son of God. In fact it was Satan who inspired Judas to betray Jesus and it was Satan who sought to destroy Christ on the cross.
Today we see what they could not see. Hate’s worst crime is loves’ ultimate victory. For while it was Satan’s plan to destroy Christ on the cross, it was God’s plan that Christ might die to defeat death, hell and Satan, and bring men from darkness to light, rescuing them from Satan’s power. Acts 26.18
“Was it the nails O Saviour, that bound thee to the tree?
Nay, twas thine everlasting love, thy love for me, for me.” K. Kelly
Mark records that Jesus cried with a loud voice – but Luke tells us what He cried – “It is finished!” Before bowing his head, and dismissing his spirit. Christ had finished the work he came to do.
For Christ’s death is propitiatory: He offered His life as a sacrifice to appease God’s wrath. Our sin merited divine punishment, for the wages of sin is death. Christ took the punishment we deserved and died in our place.
It is a productive love.
Christ’s love produces love in others. The Bible shows us how Jesus love was productive. We see Mary anointing his feet with perfume as an act of loving devotion prior to his crucifixion. Elsewhere we see Joseph and Nicodemus coming to devoutly bury Christ’s body in Joseph’s own tomb. We see the other women, who had been present at his death, following them to the tomb, purposing to again anoint his body. It is not that this anointing would be necessary after all that Nicodemus and Joseph had done. It was rather that the women wanted to do something to demonstrate their love to Christ. What does Christ’s love produce in us tonight. Do we return his love for us with our love for him. Unlike the women who watched Jesus being buried, we have more reason to love him, for we know he is alive to save us from our sins.
Christ’s life produces life in others
The women never did get to anoint the body of Jesus. Coming to the tomb they found it empty and if the testimony of angels was not sufficient to convince the apostles, the personal manifestation of Christ was. They would never show their love to him in quite the same way again. John spoke of the word of life whom they had “seen, heard. handled” But from now on there would be a different relationship with the Lord. Once he had lived among them, now he would live within them.
This was the significance of Christ’s words to Mary, the first to see the risen Lord. “Do not hold on to me, for I have not yet ascended” (John 20.17) From now on there would a spiritual not physical relationship.
Therefore, from now on, we regard no one according to the flesh. Even though we have known Christ according to the flesh, yet now we know Him thus no longer. 2 Cor 5:16
Christ in you, the hope of glory. Col 1.27
Now that Christ lives in us, the love of God is shed abroad in our hearts by the Holy Spirit that we might live for Him. Let us consider the depth.. that we might know the love of Christ that passes knowledge that we might be filled with all the fullness of God.