What actually happened when “God was reconciling the world to himself in Christ” is a mystery whose depths we shall spend eternity plumbing –John Stott
We will never fully comprehend the love God has for us. A love and commitment to His creation that was so great that it resulted in the crucifixion of His Son. For many of us, John 3:16 is the first verse we learned and memorized and one in which we now tend to just quote from rote memory. However, the intensity of this verse still remains as we are told exactly how much God does love us…
For God so loved the world, that he gave his only Son, that whoever believes in him should not perish but have eternal life.
God loves us SO MUCH that HE GAVE HIS SON. And when God the Father gave us His Son, the world didn’t even recognize him. John writes, He was in the world, and the world was made through him, yet the world did not know him. He came to his own, and his own people did not receive him (Jn. 1:10-11).
In place of bestowing a crown upon the King of Kings, we nailed Him to a cross. Instead of building Him a palace, we placed Him between two thieves. But all was a part of the plan of God. Christ did not come to be served but to serve, and to give his life as a ransom for many (Mark 10:45). Jesus gave Himself up for us (see Gal. 2:20). Though He knew no sin, He became sin on our behalf (2 Cor. 5:21).
So as we gaze upon the cross, we witness the inexhaustible love of God. A love in which we must continue to remind ourselves of. In a graceless world in which love is shallowly rewarded according to merit and charm, the cross tells us that we are loved unconditionally by the one who created us. Though we look for love in all the wrong places, hoping it will fulfill the cravings of our heart, there is no other love than that found on the cross which will fill the deepest longings of our soul.
Jesus words that greater love has no one than this, that someone lay down his life for his friends, were not just proverbial fluff for Jesus, but were demonstrated upon the cross. Jesus words took on flesh and blood at the place of the Skull. Jesus, who is the very “radiance of the glory of God and the exact imprint of his nature, and [who] upholds the universe by the word of his power (see Heb. 1:3), laid down His life on our behalf.
We cannot, therefore, graduate from the cross. The love of God is too deep to plumb it’s depths and our need to be loved is to great to be met anywhere else. Isaac Watts, in his hymn “When I Survey The Wondrous Cross,” concludes it by writing…
Were the whole realm of nature mine,
That were a present far too small;
Love so amazing, so divine,
Demands my soul, my life, my all.
When we survey that wondrous cross, we come face to face with the amazing grace of God and begin to realize that there is no greater love. For while we were still weak, at the right time Christ died for the ungodly. For one will scarcely die for a righteous person—though perhaps for a good person one would dare even to die— but God shows his love for us in that while we were still sinners, Christ died for us (Rom. 5:6-8).
John writes that this is love, not that we have loved God but that he loved us and sent his Son to be the propitiation for our sins (1 Jn 4:10). As it has been written over and over, we cannot, and must not, graduate from the cross! For it is our continual gaze upon the cross in which we begin, as well as continually feast upon, the unending love of God.