God’s Infinite Love
Could we with ink the ocean fill,
And were the heav’ns of parchment made,
Were every stalk on earth a quill,
And every man a scribe by trade,
To write the love of God above
Would drain the ocean dry,
Nor could the scroll contain the whole,
Though stretch’d from sky to sky.
How we look at Good Friday
At Christmas time, we think with joy of the birth of Jesus Christ; we celebrate His coming to earth to save mankind. Yet this point was only one stop in the process of salvation, the best by far was yet to come. The birth of the Lamb of Salvation had occurred; the sacrifice had arrived; yet the sacrificial act had not been completed. Our sins had not yet been paid for. That was saved for the crucifixion.
A time of sorrow?
Whenever we come to Good Friday and the celebration of Easter, we become melancholy and sad. Jesus, purer and more blameless than any man could ever be, was convicted of what? Annoying the wrong people, rocking the boat, not conforming to the society in which he lived in the way that the powerful people thought He should. He was convicted for telling the truth. For His efforts, He was executed in a way reserved for criminals. He died in terrible pain over a long period of time; truly a terrible way to end one’s life.
A time of celebration!
However, I would like to argue that to be so sorrowful over this time and this death is to do Jesus and His Father a terrible disservice. For us to feel pain at this time is to forget the reasons why this sacrifice was made. God did not send His only son to die as a criminal just for the fun of it; He had a very important, long-reaching plan in place to save humanity from its own sin and desire to self-destruct. He freed us from the Law that said we needed to sacrifice animals to atone for our sin. God provided a sacrifice that was sufficient for all our sins. We should be rejoicing! This was the point in time when mankind was set free from sin forever.
Why did Jesus Die?
It is finished
John 19:28 – 30 (NIV)
28Later, knowing that all was now completed, and so that the Scripture would be fulfilled, Jesus said, “I am thirsty.”
29A jar of wine vinegar was there, so they soaked a sponge in it, put the sponge on a stalk of the hyssop plant, and lifted it to Jesus’ lips.
30When he had received the drink, Jesus said, “It is finished.” With that, he bowed his head and gave up his spirit.
What did Jesus mean when He said “It is finished”? Was His ministry finished? That would mean that His thirty-three years had been wasted. Do any of us really believe that Jesus came to earth in the most wonderful, yet understated birth ever to take place on this planet, lived a faultless life, performed miracles, taught His disciples so well, and died such an ignoble death just to say “It is finished” and be done with it? I don’t think that was the case; certainly not when we see the size of the Church today. Did it mean that His life was finished? Were that the case He could have easily called down legions of angels to take Him away and destroy everyone who participated in the insults they laid upon Him. I don’t think that is the case either since her rose again three days later and made Himself evident to many of His followers before ascending back into heaven. God would not throw away the life of His one and only Son – a part of Himself that would rule at His right hand forever.
I believe the key is found in verse 28 where we see that Jesus knew “…that all was now completed, and so that the Scripture would be fulfilled”. Jesus was saying that now His mission on Earth was finished; the prophecies about Him, made hundreds of years before, were fulfilled. He had sacrificed Himself for all of mankind that we would no longer have to follow the Law of Moses to try to make ourselves fit for heaven. These prophecies are found in Isaiah chapter 53.
The scriptures of Isaiah
Isaiah 53:1 – 12 (NIV)
1 Who has believed our message
and to whom has the arm of the LORD been revealed?
2 He grew up before him like a tender shoot,
and like a root out of dry ground.
He had no beauty or majesty to attract us to him,
nothing in his appearance that we should desire him.
3 He was despised and rejected by men,
a man of sorrows, and familiar with suffering.
Like one from whom men hide their faces
he was despised, and we esteemed him not.
4 Surely he took up our infirmities
and carried our sorrows,
yet we considered him stricken by God,
smitten by him, and afflicted.
5 But he was pierced for our transgressions,
he was crushed for our iniquities;
the punishment that brought us peace was upon him,
and by his wounds we are healed.
6 We all, like sheep, have gone astray,
each of us has turned to his own way;
and the LORD has laid on him
the iniquity of us all.
7 He was oppressed and afflicted,
yet he did not open his mouth;
he was led like a lamb to the slaughter,
and as a sheep before her shearers is silent,
so he did not open his mouth.
8 By oppression and judgment he was taken away.
And who can speak of his descendants?
For he was cut off from the land of the living;
for the transgression of my people he was stricken.
9 He was assigned a grave with the wicked,
and with the rich in his death,
though he had done no violence,
nor was any deceit in his mouth.
10 Yet it was the LORD’S will to crush him and cause him to suffer,
and though the LORD makes his life a guilt offering,
he will see his offspring and prolong his days,
and the will of the LORD will prosper in his hand.
11 After the suffering of his soul,
he will see the light of life and be satisfied;
by his knowledge my righteous servant will justify many,
and he will bear their iniquities.
12 Therefore I will give him a portion among the great,
and he will divide the spoils with the strong,
because he poured out his life unto death,
and was numbered with the transgressors.
For he bore the sin of many,
and made intercession for the transgressors.
Leviticus 5:15 – 19 (NIV)
15“When a person commits a violation and sins unintentionally in regard to any of the LORD’S holy things, he is to bring to the LORD as a penalty a ram from the flock, one without defect and of the proper value in silver, according to the sanctuary shekel. It is a guilt offering.
16He must make restitution for what he has failed to do in regard to the holy things, add a fifth of the value to that and give it all to the priest, who will make atonement for him with the ram as a guilt offering, and he will be forgiven.
17“If a person sins and does what is forbidden in any of the LORD’S commands, even though he does not know it, he is guilty and will be held responsible.
18He is to bring to the priest as a guilt offering a ram from the flock, one without defect and of the proper value. In this way the priest will make atonement for him for the wrong he has committed unintentionally, and he will be forgiven.
19It is a guilt offering; he has been guilty of wrongdoing against the LORD.”
This was the routine that people had to go through to gain forgiveness for their sins under the Law. When Jesus died, all that changed. Jesus was our sheep from the flock, the one chosen without defect and of sufficient value to redeem the occupants of this entire world, forever. Nothing more is required, nothing less would be enough. Jesus was perfect in every way.
True love is always costly.
BILLY GRAHAM (1918– )
What it means to us – infinite love
What does this sacrifice mean to us? We all know that Christ died for our sins. That is one of the first things we learn when we come into a Christian church. How often, however, does it ever occur to us to wonder why Jesus died for our sins? Was it just because it was His job? I don’t think so; that would be an inappropriate job to give to the Son of the Almighty God. The answer, of course, is found in what is probably the first verse we learn when we come into a Christian church.
John 3:16 – 17 (NIV)
16“For God so loved the world that he gave his one and only Son, that whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life.
17For God did not send his Son into the world to condemn the world, but to save the world through him.
God proved his love on the cross. When Christ hung, and bled, and died, it was God saying to the world, “I love you.”
BILLY GRAHAM (1918– )
This act of unselfishness, this act of ultimate generosity to all mankind, may cause us to stop and wonder – what is the extent of God’s love? So many people over the years have failed to accept Christ as their saviour saying they felt that they had been too bad, committed too many sins, been too evil to ever be included in the salvation offered through God’s love. Unfortunately, these people have never taken the time to learn exactly the extent of God’s love. This love applies to “whosoever believes in him”, not just those people who have not been too bad. They have failed to understand the meaning of this one little verse; the verse that sums up to sole purpose for Jesus to come to earth – God’s infinite love.
Throughout the Bible, we are reminded again and again of God’s unfailing love, that God is love. Understanding that, how could we possibly expect Him to behave in any other fashion?
God is love, not, God is loving. God and love are synonymous. Love is not an attribute of God, it is God; whatever God is, love is. If your conception of love does not agree with justice and judgment and purity and holiness, then your idea of love is wrong.
OSWALD CHAMBERS (1874–1917)
Love is the very nature of God – He can be no other way. Sometimes it may seem to us that things that happen should not happen if God loved us. We must have faith. We must accept, as Christians, that everything God does is for our betterment and the furtherance of His kingdom. We must accept that we may not understand why He does things. Only God understands all things. If we were to understand all that He does, we would have to be God. We are not.
If we accept that God is love, can we then question how much love He has for us? I don’t think we can. A.W. Tozer summed up what we know about the nature and extent of God’s love, based on what we know about God from His Word:
From God’s other known attributes we may learn much about his love. We can know, for instance, that because God is self-existent, his love had no beginning; because he is eternal, his love can have no end; because he is infinite, it has no limit; because he is holy, it is the quintessence [perfect example] of all spotless purity; because he is immense, his love is an incomprehensibly vast, bottomless, shoreless sea before which we kneel in joyful silence and from which the loftiest eloquence retreats confused and abashed.
A. W. TOZER (1897–1963)
The feeble little minds that even the most intelligent of us has cannot possibly comprehend the nature and extent of God’s love, any more than we can comprehend the extent of His creation, His strength, or His wisdom. We must accept that His love is as He is – infinite.
What does it mean to us now?
It is all very well for us to accept that God is infinite, that His love is infinite, and that God’s Son, Jesus, came to die for our sins as the ultimate sacrifice so that we would never again have to worry about sacrificing to obtain forgiveness for our sins. What does that mean for us? God recorded this work of love in His Word for our instruction. We know that from Paul’s writing in 2 Timothy.
2 Timothy 3:16 – 17 (NIV)
16All Scripture is God-breathed and is useful for teaching, rebuking, correcting and training in righteousness,
17so that the man of God may be thoroughly equipped for every good work.
Therefore, we must assume that we are to learn from it; not only that Jesus died for our sins, but that this act of selflessness has implications for our own lives as well.
We become what we love
Have you ever seen photographic competitions where the pictures are to be of owners and pets that resemble one another? It is amazing how close some of them are to one another. We also hear of stories where people who are obsessed with making money become more and more lifeless like the coins and bills they worship.
What we love we shall grow to resemble.
BERNARD OF CLAIRVAUX (1090–1153)
If the things we love are earthly and rough, then so like them we shall become. If the things we love are divine, we shall become more like God.
2 Corinthians 3:18 (NIV)
18And we, who with unveiled faces all reflect the Lord’s glory, are being transformed into his likeness with ever-increasing glory, which comes from the Lord, who is the Spirit.
We can never become God, of course, but our goal should be to ever move closer to Him in likeness and behaviour at all times. God does not expect us to ever become Him, but He does expect us to love Him.
God hears no sweeter music than the cracked chimes of the courageous human spirit ringing in imperfect acknowledgment of his perfect love.
JOSHUA LOTH LIEBMAN (1907–1948)
How we should behave
We should strive to behave as Jesus behaved, every day. The little question that is found on so many trinkets in Christian bookstores everywhere where I come from should stand out in our minds at all times. What would Jesus do? In any uncomfortable or uncertain situation in which we find ourselves, we need to ask ourselves how He would behave – then do it. Consider everything that we do to be for the glory of God, not ourselves. I encounter people everyday that are not so concerned with doing a good job as they are with making themselves look good, with bringing glory to themselves. It is very easy to get caught up in that. These people get the praise and perhaps someone who meekly goes about their job always concerned with doing it well for their Lord, gets overlooked. Remember this; glory here may very likely be all that they get. Let those people have their riches on earth, their few years of notoriety and fame. Our God, whom we are to serve every day, has promised us a home in heaven the greatness of which we cannot even imagine. Those riches will not go away in a few years when we die, but will last for eternity.
There is only one being who loves perfectly, and that is God, yet the New Testament distinctly states that we are to love as God does; so the first step is obvious. If ever we are going to have perfect love in our hearts we must have the very nature of God in us.
OSWALD CHAMBERS (1874–1917)
We must love as God loves, deeply and without reservation, freely as though our love is not ours to hold on to at any time. Jesus died for us. He did nothing wrong, for He was perfect, yet He was willing to sacrifice his life in an extraordinarily undignified manner so that we could be saved. Surely, you say, God would never expect us to die. That is something that Jesus did because He was pure and perfect and able to handle that kind of sacrifice.
John 15:12 – 13 (NIV)
12My command is this: Love each other as I have loved you.
13Greater love has no one than this, that he lay down his life for his friends.
Think again. Don’t ever say that God will not ask this or that of you. You don’t know what He will ask. Jesus’ command was that we love one another as He loved us. Remember that He will always care for us; that He will always give us the strength we need to get through. God knows better than we ever can what we can endure and what we need. We need to trust that He is true to His word. If we cannot accept that, then why are we here? Why are we celebrating Good Friday and Easter if we don’t believe in the basic truths that underlie them?
Along the way we have wracked up a sufficient amount of debt. Our choices have created a large due bill in our relationship with God. Easter provides the reminder of God’s grace and the reality that the gift is not free. As Ken Boles points out, God stamped our due bill paid in full. “When Christ cried out from the cross, “It is finished” (John 19:30), he uttered the word (tetelestai) that has been found on many an ancient bill of sale: “Paid in full!””
-Kenneth Boles, College Press NIV Commentary, Galatians & Ephesians
Jesus paid the price for our sins, our indiscretions, our failures. He paid a price we could never afford to pay. Can we do anything less than commit ourselves fully to Him?