There Is No Greater Love!
Yes, I am a King (John 19:37).
Isaiah 52:13-53:12; Psalms 31:2,6,12-13,15-17,25: Hebrews 4:14-16,5:7-9; John 18:1-19:42
A well-known preacher was invited to deliver a sermon in the chapel of a college for the deaf. He described it as a “Preacher’s paradise, because you get two laughs for every joke: when you reach the punch line, one laugh comes from those who can hear, and a few seconds later, when the sign language interpreter catches up, you get a second laugh.” He said he noticed that on several occasions during the sermon, the sign language interpreter, in a very graceful way, would point to the palms of her hands. Later he learned that pointing to the palms of the hands is the sign for Jesus Christ. How appropriate! Of all the signs that might have been chosen for Jesus, they chose the nailprints to symbolize who He was.
The New Testament writers take the same approach, saying to us that somehow the Crucifixion sums it all up. If you really want to get close to Jesus, if you really want to know who He was and what He was doing, you do it through the Crucifixion.
With joy-filled hearts we can call ourselves “Easter Christians” and “Resurrection Christians.” But there is no Easter, no Resurrection, no New Life, except by way of the Cross!
Jesus Christ has made it unmistakably clear that if we want to identify with Him and make His life a model for our own, we must be ready and willing to accept suffering, pain, even death, for the sake of others.
This is what it means to belong to Jesus Christ. This is what discipleship means. It means adopting a style of life in which we care about others so much that we are willing to sacrifice on their behalf, give of ourselves on their behalf. “There is no greater love than this: to lay down one’s life for one’s friends,” the Apostle John has written (Jn. 15:13).
The Lord God Almighty Himself, He who gives us life and sustains us in life, actively and lovingly guides us into the way of wholeness of life. “The Lord is my Shepherd,” the ancient Psalmist sang. “To the waters of repose He leads me; there He receives my soul … Though I pass through a gloomy valley, I fear no harm; beside me Your rod and Your staff are there to hearten me … ah, how goodness and kindness pursue me, every day of my life” (Ps. 23:1,2,4,6).
Jesus teaches us that the Great God Almighty who has sent Him to us as Lord of Life, works through a process of death/resurrection. Jesus teaches us that this is the way God has chosen to bring New Life into the world. “I tell you most solemnly,” says the Lord, “unless a grain of wheat falls on the ground and dies, it remains only a single grain; but if it dies, it yields a rich harvest” (Jn. 12:24). When Jesus spoke this parable to the disciples, He was trying to help them understand that out of His death would emerge New Life.
There isn’t one of us here today who is compelled to be a disciple of Christ. Each of us is free to answer His call or to ignore it. But, in choosing to follow Him, we need to understand that there is a price to be paid. The willingness to follow Jesus’ example of sacrificial love is the cost of discipleship. And, most wonderfully, when we choose to follow, we discover that the New Life we have opted for is the most glorious, the most fulfilling, the most joyous life that a human person can know.
The poet Kahlil Gibran has written a beautiful reflection on the Divine death/resurrection process:
When Love beckons you, follow Him, even though His ways are hard and steep.
And when His wings enfold you, yield to Him, even though the sword hidden among His pinions may wound you.
And when He speaks to you, believe in Him even though His voice may shelter your dreams, as the north wind lays waste the garden.
For even if Love crowns you, so shall He crucify you. Is not the cup that holds your wine the very cup that was burned in the potter’s oven? And is not the lute that soothes your spirit the very wood that was hollowed with knives?
THE DEEPER SORROW IS CARVED INTO YOUR BEING, THE MORE JOY YOU CAN CONTAIN.
In the “Passion of the Lord” according to John, we read …
Jesus knew that everything has now been completed, and to fulfill the Scripture perfectly, He said, “I am thirsty!” A jar full of vinegar stood there, so putting a sponge in the vinegar … they held it up to His mouth. After Jesus had taken the vinegar, He said, “It is accomplished”; and bowing His head He gave up His spirit (Jn. 19:28-30).
This is what our journey with Jesus to Calvary is all about. This is what it means to belong to Jesus Christ. This is the truth revealed to us when we experience God’s Presence in the most intense way possible, at the foot of the Cross. To be willing to give of our time, our energy, our material resources, our blood, even our life for the sake of the other — this is the supreme expression of what it means to accept God’s Love. This is the way of our fulfillment in the indescribable joy of New Life in Christ Jesus. This is our way of saying, “It is accomplished!”
“So you are a King then?” says Pilate to Jesus in today’s Gospel lesson. “Yes I am a King,” Jesus replies (Jn. 18:37).
Jesus has entered His reign! Christ is King! And He has not forgotten even one of us, not for a single moment. Jesus knows who we are and loves us for who we are: God’s beloved children.
To see Him clearly now in this way, is to see clearly who we are in God’s eyes and who we must become to one another.
When a person of considerable accomplishment dies, the eulogy is likely to mention how much the world has been impoverished by the death. “A bright light has gone out in the world … the world will sorely miss the deceased’s many talents … Mankind has suffered a great loss.” Although such expressions may well express the eulogists’ true sentiments, we cannot, in truth, speak this way of Jesus’ death.
In truth the world was not impoverished by Jesus’ death. Rather, it was enriched.
In truth, it was not until that final moment on Calvary, when Jesus confidently let go, saying, “It is accomplished,” that the world took possession of its greatest Treasure.
Most people in their retirement years can remember exactly what they were doing when they heard the news of the bombing of Pearl Harbor. Those of us born before the late 1950’s can remember exactly what we were doing when we heard the news of John F. Kennedy’s assassination. And most young people remember what they were doing when they heard the news of John Lennon’s death. But whatever your age, on this Anniversary of the Cross, you must remember this:
God loved the world so much that He gave His own Son, so that everyone who believes in Him may not be lost but may have eternal life” (Jn. 3:16).
The Wounded Christ is looking down upon us with death in His bleeding hands and feet, but life in the light of His burning eyes.
The Wounded Christ will not let us alone; He will not go away!
The Wounded Christ is going to drive us to a decision.
The Wounded Christ is demanding from us all — every individual man and woman — a choice: indifference … or love.
If you know now what Jesus did for you — and for all mankind — you will take up your cross and bear it in a Christlike way. And many right and good things will be accomplished in you. And the world will treasure you — eternally!