Greater Love Hath No Man . . .

Title: Great Love Hath No Man . . .

Text: John 15:3, 19:12, Matthew 26:37, 27:46

Time: April 10, 2011

This second week of April during the Easter season I’d like to talk about the love of Christ, especially in respect to his willingness to suffer for our sake.  When we think of Christ suffering we usually think only of his agony on the cross, but it’s really much more than that. Out of love, Jesus suffered not only on the cross for us but also before the cross. He suffered mentally, physically and spiritually. It wasn’t only physical suffering that Christ endured, but also in the mind and spirit. It’s really a powerful demonstration of his love for all of us to undergo such complete suffering. John 15:13 comes to mind, “Greater love hath no one than this, that one lay down his life for his friends.” Think about that, Christ calls you his friend. You are a friend of Christ if you put your trust in him, if you repent and surrender your will to him. He suffered and died for you because he loved you that much. But how much is “that much?” Do we stop and reflect enough of the suffering Christ went through to demonstrate his love for us?  Probably not. With so much going on in this temporary life, we often neglect to fully appreciate all that Christ has done for us. We are running here or there, involved in so many things. We busy ourselves with work, hobbies, entertainment and recreational activities, eating, sleeping, and commuting here and there. We are busy reading, watching television, surfing the Web. We don’t stop and reflect on the great suffering endured for us. But let’s take the time this morning to go through the suffering of Christ, not only on the cross but also before the cross as well. I hope it will give us a better appreciation for all that Jesus has done and how much he loves each and every one of us. How can we say no to that kind of love? How can anyone turn away and ignore that demonstration of care and concern and love? Yet people do turn away and treat it in a casual and careless way. Let not us be guilty of such neglect. Let us do the opposite. Let us purposefully and with intention recount the ways Christ loves us through the different ways he suffered for us during his passion. The word “passion,” like in the title of the movie, “The Passion of the Christ,” literally means, “suffering.” The movie could have been called, “The Suffering of the Christ.” We’ve heard of the passion plays in Germany that are held every year around Easter. They might just as easily be called the suffering plays, but it means the same thing. So let’s take some time this morning looking at the different ways Christ suffered during his passion. First, we’ll look at his mental sufferings. Second, we’ll examine his physical sufferings. Third, finally, we’ll look at his spiritual sufferings. All three paint a complete picture of how much Jesus Christ realty loves us.

First, Christ loved enough to suffer mentally for us.  Matthew 26:37, “He took Peter and the two sons of Zebedee along with him, and he began to be sorrowful and troubled. Then he said to them, ‘My soul is overwhelmed with sorrow to the point of death. Stay here and keep watch with me.” So the suffering or passion of Christ didn’t begin on the cross, it ended on the cross. It began in the Garden of Gethsemane when he prayed, “Let this cup be removed from me” out of the anguish of his heart. You see as both God and man Christ knew what would happen before it even happened. He knew that he would be arrested, he knew he’d be beaten, he knew they’d tear open his flesh with whips and put the crown of thorns upon his head. He knew that hit him with clubs and spit on him. And finally, he knew they’d nail him to the cross. So he was fully aware of all these things coming soon – and the thought of these sufferings depressed him. Who wouldn’t be discouraged and depressed in thinking of such things. Now thank God we don’t know the future so we can’t worry about our troubles and problems when they come. Yes, we can worry about what might happen, but it’s not the same because we don’t know for sure it will happen. We know that many or even most of our fears will never materialize. Isn’t that great to know – most of our worries never come about? I may worry about getting into an accident on the road, but most of the time, nearly all of the time, these worries never happen. I might worry about the plane crashing when I travel, but it never has, thank the Lord. So most of our fears never come to fulfillment. But imagine that you had the ability to know the future — that you knew the day of your death and how you will die. Would you want to know? I wouldn’t. I’d be worrying about it as the time got closer. Also, what if you knew you’d die a violent, painful death? You certainly wouldn’t want to know when and how that happens, if there was nothing you could do to prevent it. But Jesus as the divine Son of God knew the time and circumstances of his coming death. He knew he would suffer terribly on the cross. Yet he was willing to suffer such mental sufferings because he loved us so much. John 15:13 comes to mind, “Greater love hath no one than this, that one lay down his life for his friends.” And Christ not only died for us because he loved us, he suffered for us. It’s one thing to die, it’s another thing to suffer. When someone we hear dies we always ask, “Did he suffer pain?” If someone dies we always hope they don’t have to suffer terrible pain. The best way to die, I guess, is to die peaceful, a kind of falling asleep. But Jesus died a painful, violent death – and he was willing to go through with it because he loved us so much. I’m speechless at that degree of love. It just causes me to love Christ all the more thinking about how much he was willing to suffer to save me. Doesn’t it cause you to love Christ all the more because of that great demonstration of love for you? Jesus suffered mental pain for you, because he loved you. But that’s not all.

Second, Christ loved enough to suffer physically for us. John 19:1-3, “Then Pilate took Jesus and had him flogged. The soldiers twisted together a crown of thorns and put it on his head. They clothed him in purple robe and went up to him again and again, saying, ‘Hail O king of the Jews!’ And they struck him in the face.” Now if you’ve seen the movie The Passion of the Christ you know that Jesus suffered terribly even before he reached the cross. He was arrested in the Garden by Temple guards and they probably roughed him up, putting him in chains and leading him to the Jewish authorities for questioning. Then, after his mock trial before the leaders of the Jews, he suffered also. Matthew 26:67-68, “Then they spit in his face and struck him with their fists. Others slapped him and said, ‘Prophesy to us, Christ. Who hit you?’” Now it wasn’t as if the mental anguish stopped and the physical torture began. No. The two were going on simultaneously. All the physical abuse was connected with deep humiliation as well. He was psychologically sufferings too. It must have grieved him to see his own people, the chosen people, treat their own Messiah with disrespect and hatred. He reached out to them with love, yet they responded with hate. So there was physical pain and mental pain happening at the same time. As he was led away from the Garden of Gethsemane he was probably roughed up, although we don’t know the extend of his injuries there. Then, as he was on trial before the high priest he was abused. He was struck after replying to an accusation from the high priest. “When Jesus said this, one of the officials nearby struck him in the face. ‘Is that any way to answer the high priest?’ he demanded.” He appeared also before Herod, whose guards no doubt treated him roughly. Then, of course, the Roman guards before and after his appearance before Pilate. Finally, he was forced to carry the heavy cross to his place of death. All of these could have killed a man. But then, after all that suffering, he was nailed to the cross and made to suffer a slow, agonizing death. Now if that doesn’t move one’s heart, if that doesn’t generate sympathy and pity in our hearts, then nothing will. If you haven’t ever done so, take the time some day and look at pictures of some of the paintings done of Christ suffering. The great masters have captured these moments very well. They really give us an appreciation for the love of Christ for us in that he was willing to go through the agony of suffering and not escape it, which we know as Son of God he could have if he had wanted to. Jesus suffered terribly for you in order to save you. Do you thank him for that? Do you reflect on Christ’s love enough? That’s why we remember communion, so that we never, ever forget Christ’s love on the cross for our sins. But there’s more.

Third, Christ loved enough to suffer spiritually for us. Matthew 27:45-46, “From the sixth hour until the ninth hour darkness came over all the land. About the ninth hour Jesus cried out in a loud voice, ‘Eloi, Eloi, lama sabachthani?’ – which means, ‘My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?’” The greatest suffering Christ endured wasn’t physical or mental; it was spiritual. Jesus cries out to the Father in heaven because during that time he was taking upon himself the sins of the world. He was becoming a sinner for sinners. Now that sounds strange. Christ a sinner? Yes, he had to be, in order to be the sacrifice for our sins. He who knew no sin became a sinner in order to take upon himself our sins. He became the atoning sacrifice on our behalf. Unless he became sin for us, we could not be forgiven of sin, we couldn’t be saved. But he took our sins upon himself, became sin for us, in order to save us. But in the process, he had to endure the wrath and judgment of God for our sins. That’s the spiritual agony he endured. Now the physical suffering was terrible, because it was essentially Roman torture. And the emotional suffering was tremendous because of the knowledge Christ had of the suffering to come, and then the humiliation and psychological pain he went through. But the worst of all was the spiritual anguish Christ suffered being separated from his Father in heaven. That’s why he cried out, “My God, My God, why have you forsaken me?” At that moment, God the Father turned away from God the Son in rejection, in wrath, in punishment for the sins of the world. He became separated from God so that we wouldn’t have to every experience separation from God in the same way. Now this kind of suffering is hard to imagine because we’ve never died, been judged guilty and sentenced to hell before. I don’t ever want to directly experience that, and I hope nobody here ever will experience that. Nobody has to go through that, if they would but turn to God through faith in Christ. But some, we know from the Bible, will experience separation from God because they refuse to turn to Christ for salvation. Jesus already suffered the separation from the Father on our behalf so that we don’t have to. He already went through the spiritual anguish of rejection by God the Father on our behalf. Who would be foolish enough to not believe and receive Christ’s salvation? Have you availed yourself to Christ’s sacrifice on the cross for your sins? Have you turned your life over to Christ? Christ suffered physical, mental and spiritual pain to save your soul. What’s keeping you from receiving his sacrifice on your behalf? As we continue in this year’s Easter season, think of Christ’s great love for you and his willingness to suffer on your behalf. How can you not surrender to such love?


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