“This is love: not that we loved God, but that he loved us and sent his Son as an atoning sacrifice for our sins.” 1 John 4:10
I’ll never forget meeting Nathan and Connie. With five sons, they loved the Lord and were busy going about His work. Suddenly, their world was decimated by an unthinkable tragedy. The three oldest boys were driving home from Wal-Mart when a drunk driver crossed the centerline, hitting them head-on. All three were killed as a result of the accident—snatched away in a cruel, horrible moment.
Connie told me that though the accident had happened three years ago, the pain was still fresh. “To this day, it’s wrenching,” she said. But then she continued, “I’ve often wondered if that’s how Mary felt when she looked at the excruciating and publicly humiliating death of Jesus as He hung on the cross.”
It’s a sobering thought. We have sung of the cross, put it on our steeples and on chains around our necks. But if we are not careful, we grow accustomed to the thought of the cross, forgetting the very real pain, real sorrow, and loss that it represents. And while we think of Mary’s agony and the torment of the cross for Jesus, I wonder if the pain wasn’t deepest in the heart of God. Think of the heartache for the One who willingly sent His only Son! No one knew more deeply what the crushing weight and torture of the sins of the world—your sins and my sins—would be like as they were embedded into the soul of the Savior. Think of how God must have felt in that moment.
The apostle John knew full well what that moment looked like. He was there at the foot of the cross, and from Christ’s words on the cross it seems apparent that he was an eyewitness to the grief of Mary (John 19:26). Years later he would describe this moment as the supreme expression of love. “This is love,” John writes, “not that we loved God, but that he loved us and sent his Son as an atoning sacrifice for our sins” (1 John 4:10).
The marvel is not that we would love God or choose to offer our lives to Him. It is that He would choose to love us and offer His only Son on our behalf! He willingly endured that pain to bring us back into relationship with Him. This alone—even if God never did anything else for us—should stimulate our hearts to live in grateful love and adoration toward Him for the rest of our lives. The thought of this indescribable love should constantly remind us that we, though undeserving and unlovable in His sight, have been blessed beyond measure and loved like no one else could love us!
I love the words to the hymn penned by Stuart Townend (who clearly has not grown accustomed to impact of the cross):
How deep the Father’s love for us, how vast beyond all measure,
That He should give His only Son, to make a wretch His treasure.
How great the pain of searing loss, the Father turns His face away,
As wounds which mar the Holy One, bring many sons to glory.
Keeping the cross in mind with all of its heavy, yet joyful, implications may just be the most important thing we do in life!
- Take a few minutes to read John 19, then turn back to 1 John 4:17-21. How do you think John’s experience as an eyewitness of the crucifixion affected his instruction in his epistle?
- One of John’s key instructions in the book of 1 John is that, because God loved us, we must love each other. In what ways can you better love others today because of God’s love for you?
- Perhaps you are experiencing some pain as a parent—a son or daughter who is not walking with Christ, a rift in a relationship with one of your children, a child’s extended illness, or the tragic loss of a child. Please know that you can bring that pain openly and honestly before the Father, who experienced it firsthand, and receive grace and help in your time of need.