This is love: not that we loved God, but that he loved us and sent his Son as an atoning sacrifice for our sins. ~1 John 4:10
The last several hours had crawled by. From the garden to this bloody hill, Jesus had very little time to rest. His accusers had toted Him around Jerusalem looking for approval to hang the man who claimed to be “the Son of God.” Such blasphemy! It was Pilate who finally gave the okay to nail Jesus to the two wooden cross beams–not permission exactly, but he wasn’t going to stop the crowd. “I am innocent of this man’s blood. Do with him what you will,” he said before turning and walking back into his mansion.
That was approval enough to send the crowd cheering and jeering. Soldiers came forward and beat Him, mocked Him, stripped Him down to nothing and shoved a sharp crown of thorns onto Jesus’ head. And through it all, He didn’t say a word. A silent Lamb being led to slaughter.
He could have fought back. The voice that had spoken the entire world into existence could just say one word and all His tormentors would drop dead. He had the power and the ability.
Why doesn’t He do something?
I’m sure that’s what His followers were thinking as they followed the procession out of town to Golgotha, that horrible hill of death. Why doesn’t He do something? Women followed crying, the disciples followed at a distance, trying to blend into the crowd lest they be taken and killed too. A man named Simon was “invited” to carry Jesus’ burden of the heavy cross beam, Jesus’ body too weak to bear the load any longer as He stumbled down the road.
At the peak of the hill, the beam was thrown down and Jesus on top of it. His arms were pinned and long, sharp, thick nails driven through His wrists. He cried out in pain and the women nearby cried even harder. Even now He could stop all of this.
Why doesn’t he do something?
After a few moments His body, along with two others, were hefted into the air, on display for all to see. Pilate, who had washed his hands of Jesus’ murder, has a sign nailed above His head. “King of the Jews.” For hours Jesus hung there, pulling up against the nails as they tore into His feet, His hands. He tried to get a good breath, but slowly He is suffocates.
As people pass by they laugh and mock and throw insults up to Him. “Aren’t you the one who claimed He could destroy the temple and rebuild it in three days? Come off that cross and save yourself!” They laughed and kept on going, not waiting for a response. “What a joke! He saved others, but he can’t save himself!”
The truth was, He could come down off that horrid cross. He could just say the word and a legion of angels would come to His aid. Again He could speak and smite everyone in the area, anyone who mocked Him or blasphemed Him. He could end His pain and suffering. He could even sip the medicated wine and ease His pain just a little. He was able. But He chose not to. He hung there, fighting for breath, feeling His skin tearing, His head growing fuzzy from pain and lack of oxygen. He stayed there and suffered.
Why doesn’t he do something?
You want to know why?
Love kept Jesus on that cross.
Love kept Him from striking the human race down at that instant, the people He came to save.
Love prompted Him to pray, “Father, forgive them for they don’t know what they’re doing.”
He could save Himself from the pain, but if He did–if He came down from that cross–our sins would still be ours to bear. The punishment would still be ours.
Instead, He endured. He stayed. He suffered. He died. He fought against death and hell and won. He made a way for us to be in relationship with the Father without all the sacrifices and rituals and having to go through a priest. He gave us access to himself. And He rose again to new life–the same life He gives us if we only believe.
Instead of choosing ease and a life apart from pain, Jesus stepped into it willingly, choosing us.
He chose us.
Suddenly John 3:16 doesn’t seem so cliche and familiar anymore. There’s a new depth to it, one I’m not sure we’ll ever be able to fully comprehend. “For God so loved the world that he gave his only son, that whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life.”
That’s the weight of God’s love–to endure all that rejection and still die for every single person that ever lived and ever will live. He died for every single sin. He took our place.
He chose us.
There’s a lot I’m grateful for this year–the fact that I’m living in Kentucky and my family is close by, that I have a job and the Lord is fulfilling His promises. But more than all of that, I’m grateful for the cross, that horrendous symbol of death made beautiful because of God’s outrageous love. I’m grateful for what happened there and the victory won. I’m grateful Jesus stayed and endured, because He didn’t have to. But He did. How deep the Father’s love for us!
Take time to dwell on that this Thanksgiving and let God show you just how much He loves you!
Live in His love!