“…When Jesus knew that his hour had come to depart out of this world to the Father, having loved his own who were in the world, he loved them to the end.” ~John 13:1b
As Holy Week begins, my heart has been wrestling to grasp Jesus’ unending love. A love that wasn’t just words, but ended in tragic death mirrored by incredible victory. This week is full of emotions, all of which lead to the glorification of Christ. It is beautiful, raw and necessary. Almost every Sunday in church we sing beautiful songs with lyrics that are beyond the mind’s comprehension, like “Your love never fails, it never gives up, never runs out on me…and on and on and on and on it goes.” This love not only “overwhelms and satisfies my soul,” but it also baffles my small mind.
Each day leading up to the crucifixion of Jesus is a stark reminder of His unfailing love. With each step He took, He did not waver or change His mind. He was firmly fixed to do the Father’s will, and the Father’s will was that He would die so that we might live. Before Jesus bore the weight of the sin of the world in His body, He commanded us to do the same. Did you get that? It was before Jesus ever actually carried His own cross that He told us we must go and do likewise. The love of Christ was not only costly for Him to give us, but is costly for us to receive. We cannot receive His love and gift of grace without giving up…everything.
count the cost
In Luke 14:27-28 Jesus lays out the the definition of a disciple: “Whoever does not bear his own cross and come after me cannot be my disciple. For which of you, desiring to build a tower, does not first sit down and count the cost, whether he has enough to complete it?” He explains even further the definition of salvation in Luke 9:23: “If anyone would come after me, let him deny himself and take up his cross daily and follow me. For whoever would save his life for my sake will save it.” This was not only a call to crucifixion, but to daily cross-bearing. The term for cross is “stauros” in the Greek., and it represents sacrifice, pain and suffering. I can only imagine what the disciples were thinking as Jesus plainly described what it meant to follow Him. Though they had heard the prophecies of Jeremiah and Isaiah, they still didn’t understand that Jesus would undergo this excruciating death for the sake of their salvation.
Jesus did not ask them to do something He would not do in return. He knew that in the cross-bearing and self-dying that salvation and eternal life would be made possible. Without the cross, there is no hope. It is the unfailing love of Jesus that never gives up that led Him to die such a death. And it is His unfailing love in us that leads us to die daily so that we might live with Him. Being a disciple of Jesus is costly. Yet the reward is of immeasurably greater value than what is lost in the cross-bearing.
love is sacrifice
In Genesis 22:2, God called Abraham to sacrifice his only son, the very son he had waited twenty-five years for, the son who God promised would have descendants numbering the stars. This is the very first mention of the word love in Scripture. From the beginning, love has always meant sacrifice. In God’s incredible sovereign design, the lamb that took Isaac’s place as Abraham’s sacrifice points to Jesus, our Savior.
Jesus died a death we could not die to gain a life we could not live apart from Him. That is the glory of the gospel. That is why our lives are a testimony that points to Christ in everything. That is why the cross is bearable. In order for me to be a disciple, I need cross-bearing, daily-dying, Christ-exalting sacrificial love to mark my life. It’s not a love that I can give on my own. It’s a love that Christ puts in me.
As we think about the steps it took to get Jesus to to the cross this week, let’s fix our eyes on what truly kept Jesus on the cross: love.