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“Let us fix our eyes on Jesus, the author and perfecter of our faith, who for the joy set before him endured the cross, scorning its shame, and sat down at the right hand of the throne of God.” (Hebrews 12:2)
Yesterday was Memorial Day, and we rightly paused in our lives to remember those who gave their lives for our country. The day before, however, was a different kind of Memorial Day, as I preached on Jesus’ death on the cross, remembering how the eternal Son of God gave His life for the world. In last week’s Pulse article, I referenced Brennan Manning’s autobiography, All is Grace. This week, I wanted to share one of my favorite quotes of his, from his book The Signature of Jesus:
“On the night of December 13, during what began as a long and lonely hour or prayer, I heard in faith Jesus Christ say, ‘For love of you I left my Father’s side. I came to you who ran from me, fled me, who did not want to hear my name. For love of you I was covered with spit, punched, beaten, and affixed to the wood of the cross.’
These words are burned on my life. Whether I am in a state of grace or disgrace, elation or depression, that night of fire quietly burns on. I looked at the crucifix for a long time, figuratively saw the blood streaming from every pore of his body, and heard the cry of his wounds: ‘This isn’t a joke. It is not a laughing matter to me that I have loved you.’ The longer I looked, the more I realized that no man has ever loved me and no one ever could love me as he did. I went out of the cave, stood on the precipice, and shouted into the darkness, ‘Jesus, are you crazy? Are you out of your mind to have loved me so much?’ I learned that night what a wise old man had told me years earlier: ‘Only the one who has experienced it can know what the love of Jesus Christ is. Once you have experienced it, nothing else in the world will seem more beautiful or desirable.”
Please consider these words. Meditate on them. Take them in to your heart, into your soul. I know that every time I read Manning’s words, I am personally affected by the line “This isn’t a joke. It is not a laughing matter to me that I have loved you.” I know that I have a tendency to take things lightly and to not recognize how serious many things are. But the eternal Son of God – leaving the bliss of heaven, taking on our flesh, walking this world as a man of sorrows, familiar with suffering, experiencing the betrayal and abandonment of his friends, the rejection of his people, the physical torture of crucifixion, and finally being forsaken by His Father as He took the punishment we deserved for our sins – is no laughing matter. It isn’t meant to be something that we say “isn’t that nice,” and then go about our self-centered lives. It is meant to evoke the kind of response that Manning had, shouting into the darkness, “Jesus, are you crazy? Are you out of your mind to have loved me so much?”
And yet He does. Hebrews 12:2 tells us to fix our eyes on Jesus, who for the joy set before Him endured the cross. What was the joy that was set before Jesus? It wasn’t heaven, or the Father – He already had those realities for all eternity. No, the joy set before Him was the one thing He did not have: you. The joy set before Him was your salvation, your reconciliation to God, to have you back as His beloved. That joy motivated Jesus to endure the torture of the cross.
You are loved, more than you could ever know. Believe that truth today, and embrace the undeserved, majestic, transformative love of God.
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