The Love of Jesus 4: The Love of the Risen Jesus
The story so far
We have seen how the love of Jesus is forged in Divine community. Within the Trinity Father Son & Spirit we see the expression of perfect love.
We have built on this foundation to see that the love of Jesus for us is purposeful, not sentimental. He has a zeal and a passion for us which burns in Him. Throughout His ministry this focused almost every act to tear down barriers that keep us from knowing Him; knowing that same relationship with God that He has known and knows. That continues to be His driving motivation still for us now.
We have then looked and saw that in his love for us Jesus on the cross endured far more than physical pain, He faced the betrayal of friends, being forsaken by God, and Death itself. In all this He triumphed to achieve for us forgiveness and a way in to the presence of God- He broke for us the last barrier for all time.
So we stand at the cliff edge; Jesus is dead. For the disciples it was a moment of complete hopelessness, and confusion. For us this side of the events of that first Easter Sunday morning, it all seems to make perfect sense.
“For this reason the Father loves Me, because I lay down My life so that I may take it again. No one has taken it away from Me, but I lay it down on My own initiative. I have authority to lay it down, and I have authority to take it up again. This commandment I received from My Father.”
This just one of a whole number of times Jesus makes reference to His death & resurrection. –(John 2:18-22. Matthew 16:21. Matthew 27:62-64. Mark 8:31)
And of course he did take it up His life again.
He was dead, buried and sealed inside a borrowed tomb.
But He is alive. –I simply cannot wait until Easter to celebrate, He is not just alive on Easter Sunday, He’s alive now and I know it.
The facts of the resurrection maybe contested by many in the world and it is not my intention to place the weight of evidence for the resurrection in front of you.
I am not belligerently saying go on then prove he is not alive- we all have travelled our journey to a place where we are convinced OR not that Jesus Christ rose from the dead.
My intention is rather to again remind those who do believe of the amazing love Jesus expresses to us NOW in His risen power.
Love NOT Duty
All through this series about the love of Jesus I have become aware of a bit of a back story, a digression if you like. I have become aware that this reconciliation between God and man might have all been achieved in another way. If the character of God were in some way different. The facts that Jesus came and taught and healed and went to the cross and rose again, could all have been done in another way.
You are allowed to disagree with me, but using the Old Testament nature of the Covenants. God might have achieved all of this just from a place of planned strategy but completely dispassionately, as a judge would, according to law alone.
God in Trinity could have decided that the fall of man and the chaos it had bought to the world needed to be resolved; and have chosen to bring a change. Those of you with experience of the benefit system, will understand the difference I am trying to make here. The difference between a legally established grant and a free gift that comes from a heart full of love; a heart breaking at the sight of our desperate need. (We could not argue that the legalistic response would not have been totally good and wholly righteous and we would have been very grateful.)
John 3 verse 16 might have said
“For God decided to bring order to a broken world so He sent His son to pay a ransom and defeat sin and death.”
I mean it’s good and absolutely right and it is what He achieved.
But John 3 16 doesn’t say
For God decided to bring order to a broken world
It says for God so….Loved-
Throughout all we have said we have seen that God is passionately concerned to build a loving relationship with His people- with the entire human race. His Loving Kindness brought about all the covenants of the Old Testament; it was His Loving-Kindness that brought the Jewish people out of slavery in Egypt and His loving kindness that brought them into their own land.
That, in my opinion, is why religion is deadly- because it speaks of contract obligation and ritual rather than a relationship and a conversation.
The stories in the Gospels of people having encounters with the risen Jesus are not business meetings, contract signings they are full of deep meaning loving care and compassionate restoration. Let’s just take three briefly. All are recorded in John’s Gospel The risen Christ meets three flawed and broken people
1. Mary Magdalene in the Garden. (John 20:10-18)
The love we see in Jesus as he responds to Mary’s anguished question
‘Sir they have taken my master away and I do not know where they have laid him…’
In just one word, His reply conveys a depth of love and compassion…
and in that moment of recognition Mary is restored to hope and joy and wonder. It is a completely beautiful moment of friendship and restoration.
We can so often feel unsure, confused by circumstances and asking for help. The key is to listen out for His voice in the midst of the confusion… Not the earthquake, not the wind and fire, but the still small voice calling your name.
2. Peter on the beach (John 21:15-17)
When our wonderful friend Peter sees Jesus on the shore, he cannot wait for a moment but dives in to get there first- still as impetuous as ever yes. But we see the love of Jesus for him after they have had breakfast.
There has been an ‘elephant in the room’ for Peter ever since Jesus rose from the dead. His denial of Jesus in that courtyard just days before is like a great weight in his heart.
and I can imagine as Jesus asked His question “Simon do you love me more than these do?” there may well have been a tear and a fiddling with net mending or a gruff cough as his mind went back to the night of Jesus’ trial.
Three times he had denied Jesus and three times Jesus asks him Do you love me?
The depth of the love of Jesus. Peter could not, would not face up to his need to say sorry, but Jesus’ love is so deep he wanted Peter to face up and move on from that terrible denial and it is Jesus who has makes the first move.
Our own frailty often leads us where we do not want to go and each time we fall, it is a denial of the saving work of Jesus, but each time, EVERY time Jesus looks us in the eye and asks us the question- Do you love me?
3. Thomas in the upper room. (John 20:24-28)
We can all so identify with Thomas and that moment when his cynicism and disbelief are ripped away and shown for what they are.
Jesus again is all about love and restoration, if there is rebuke in there it is so lovingly done.
Jesus knows the human heart and having embraced Thomas now turns to look right in your eyes each one of you and reaches out his arms with the same love he showed to Mary in the garden to Peter on the beach and Thomas, and he says to you “Blessed are you who have not seen and yet believe.”
4. It is NOT over
So of course it is not over. Jesus is still completely driven by a passion to see everyone restored to relationship with God. He still reaches out in love to you and through you to the world.
It is not just Peter and Mary & Thomas He embraces in resurrection power and love but… you
It is this love that was forged in Trinity over an eternity and that broke through every barrier, that still breaks every chain, that is at work in you now. That offers you eternal life now.
Can I recommend this week that, if you can, you listen to Keith Brockbank’s word to the Church in February from John 17 He challenged us not to see eternal life as time with God for ever and ever into the future, but rather the quality of that life being offered by Jesus now.
Now this is eternal life—that they know you, the only true God, and Jesus Christ, whom you sent
If there are barriers to be broken in you knowing the love of God let us bring them to the risen Jesus now.
All Heaven declares the glory of the risen Lord
Who can compare with the beauty of the Lord
Forever you will be the lamb upon the throne
I gladly bow the knee and worship you alone
I will proclaim the glory of the risen Lord
Who once was slain to reconcile man to God
Forever You will be the Lamb upon the throne
I gladly bow the knee and worship you alone
(Noel & Tricia Richards)
Some further reading
(All available to borrow from Tim Blake if you would like!)
‘Simply Jesus’- Who He was, what He did, why it matters- Tom Wright (SPCK 2011)
‘The legacy of Jesus’- Philip Greenslade (CWR 2005)
‘Jesus then & now’- David Watson (Lion 1983)
‘Jesus and His relationships’- Martin Goldsmith (Paternoster 2000)
‘The Kingdom of Jesus’- Roger Forster (2001 Authentic books)
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