Sunday, April 03, 2011

The Passion and Love of Christ

The word “passion” is often a term which refers to the time between the Lord’s Supper and Christ’s death upon the cross. It indicates both His intensity and the depth of suffering He endured. We can only imagine what He endured, but only the Christ Himself can ever know the extent of His redemptive sufferings.

We tend to view God through the prism of a “supreme being” whose power is His greatest attribute, and in so doing we minimize, as well as misunderstand, His heart. This perception has been handed down through science and has found some legitimacy in the church. Grief and sadness are viewed as weakness and part of the human experience, but those kind of emotions are typically downplayed as it concerns the Creator. But that antiseptic view of God severely constricts His glory and in fact leads to a divine caricature of God rather than one that embraces Him in all His fullness.

So how does God reveal His love to a lost and fallen race? And is His love enough, or must that love act to provide a way that leads to a living eternity in His very presence? And what act can provide both an expression of love and a tangible vehicle of redemption? Remove the sandals from your heart and let us look again at the horror of God’s love.

Love as we understand it is supposed to be a display of tenderness and gentle devotion, and two young lovers in a meadow sometimes comes to mind. Who can forget our first love when our hearts were drawn to someone in school or the neighborhood? We might have been drawn by their eyes or hair or personality, but something about them captured our hearts and we experienced for the very first time the emotion we call love. It was all so like a fairy tale.

But how can we fully experience God’s love, and what about the Father can draw us to know and experience His love toward us as well as materialize within us a love for Him? Will it be the beauty of the mountains or the brightness of the stars? The majesty of the oceans or the wonder of the human figure? The expanse of the universe or the warmth of a mother’s affection? Which of these or others will God use to exhibit His matchless love for us? Of course all of these fall short in communicating the Father’s love but they all come with finite beauty and limited majesty.

But in the holy wisdom of God’s own counsel none of these created treasures are what God has chosen to reveal His everlasting love to us. Take a closer look and set your eyes upon a small hill just outside of the City of Peace, Jerusalem. Do not search for something warm and cuddly or even something pleasant to the eyes. The revelation of God’s love comes not with the normal expectations of man and his understandings concerning love, no, this revelation confounds the poetic and romantic inclinations of our hearts, this revelation is repulsive and frightening, but it is the powerful mystery that illuminates the divine love to the sinful heart of man. This is the cross, revealing the horror of God’s love.

What do I mean when I say horror? With that term I attempt to explain that the cross displays the depth of God’s love through the single most striking and chilling event that man can experience, the visual and elongated death of another man. A spectacle through which every sinner can identify because death awaits us all, but this death is so much different than any other, this is the death of God’s only begotten Son. Only the sadistic nature of a fallen man would be drawn to watch a tortured man die, but there is something about this death that has had a holy voyeuristic quality to it that has lasted until today. Something, some small inside voice says that there is more to this death than can be seen by the natural eyes, something spiritual and far more meaningful than a Jew taking his last breath at the hands of Roman soldiers.

The visual aspect of Golgotha is indeed filled with blood and water, sweat and agony, and the entire scene is most repugnant and yet there remains an attraction that is not explained by any sadistic element, this allurement has a redemptive essence that seems to seek some form of shelter from this bleeding form. People have worn it, made its sign, drawn its shape, placed it on graves, and it has found a place on and in buildings throughout the world. What is it about this death, this tortured punishment, that has so mesmerized much of the world?

Deep inside the physical nature of this death burns the inescapable motivation for it all, something that has had no beginning and existed before the first atom was spoken into existence. Underneath the bloody wounds lives the eternal love of God, the love that is now extended through this horror and which mysteriously flows out from those incarnate veins. No pleasant meadow and no tender scene comes to present God’s offer of love, no, a vicious and violent scene of torture and ultimately murder itself is the fresco upon which God expresses His love for us. The method of communicating this love, much less its very nature, is beyond the human comprehension since this crimson scene speaks of anything but love in the usual context.

This visual tells of murder and violence and vengeance and punishment, but surely not love. What kind of love lives and breathes in mutilated gore, and what loves reaches out through that which is feared most? Only the redeemed child of God can appreciate the meaning of Calvary’s mystery, but the horror of God’s eternal love draws from our bosom the sweetest emotions of gratefulness and praise for the measureless depths of that expression of divine love. It is the horror of it all that seems to awaken our souls to understand the august greatness of this love, and it is only the Spirit that can bring understanding to such a bewildering act. To say the cross was a selfless act is to severely diminish its glory, since it was God delivering His only Son for us all and that truth is incomprehensible.

But each and every sinner who, by faith, touches this love exposed in death, is transformed by its inexhaustible power. That God loves the universe is amazing, but that God loves mankind through the death of His Son is unfathomable. But that God would show His love through the horror of His Son’s murder to each of us personally leaves us speechless and indeed without the corresponding emotion that this act should require. To be horrified and yet loved at the same time remains a mystery, but it is the deepest redemptive mystery that will continue to redound to the glory of God throughout eternity. And deeper still is the mystery that when a sinner approaches this cross by faith, he himself becomes consumed by God’s love and made a part of this divine death, only to be resurrected into a new creature made in the image of God’s love, His Son. Selah.

And so a lonely man, as it were, barely walks His own beaten frame up the hill called Calvary, and allowing Himself to be nailed to the planks, and allowing Himself to be mocked, and allowing Himself to be unrecognized as to Who He was, He lasts six agonizing hours before bowing His head in death. And the glory of this horror continues to shine God's love without measure even unto today. Please bid me no further for my words only detract, but grant me this one last thought. In the end, there is no love but God’s, and the cross is the blood spattered mirror through which to see it most clearly.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

Paul Washer has said that there are some words in the Bible that are so could just tremble when saying them.
What you have spoken of here - this thing is so holy that God did - one really ought to whisper and tremble about it...
Right now - like Job - all I can do is put my hands over my mouth and sit down.
Thank you, Lisa