You know, it’s kind of funny to think of the amount of theological truth in kids church songs. I read a story about a great theologian, a swiss man named Karl Barth who was once asked near the end of his life if he could summarize all of his life’s theological work in one sentence? And he replied, “Jesus loves me, this I know, for the bible tells me so.”
A song might be simple, yet the truth behind it profound. Jesus loves me. And this song – Behold what manner of love the father has given unto us.
Both of these songs celebrate the love of God through Jesus.
This week is a special week for those of us who follow Christ. It is the week we celebrate the last week of Jesus life. Today is Palm Sunday, named because the Sunday before Jesus was crucified, Jesus rode into Jerusalem on the back of a donkey. And the crowd laid down palm branches in front of him. And that sounds like a very weird thing to do.
But here’s the deal. Back in the Old Testament, in a book called 1 Kings, there was a king, named King David, who as he neared the end of his life wanted the kingdom to know that he had crowned his son Solomon as the next King, and so David sat Solomon on a donkey and walked him into town. It became part of the inauguration ceremony for a new king.
And throwing the cloaks down, the palms? That’s what they did when they inaugurated another King – jehu – and so again, it was also associated with the inauguration ceremony of a new king. It was also prophesied in Zecheriah that that would happen – So when Jesus came into Jerusalem, he came was announcing that the King had come.
But this king was unlike any other king to ride into Jerusalem. For this king was not coming to live in Jerusalem. King Jesus was coming to Jerusalem to die. Jesus was riding into Jerusalem – not to rule over his people – but to lay down his life for his friends.
In the book of John – the fourth book in the NT, we read about the last night of Jesus life – during the last supper – Jesus gathered his disciple around and tried to prepare them for what was about to happen on the cross, where Jesus would soon be hanging in less than 24 hours.
John 15:13 13 There is no greater love than to lay down one’s life for one’s friends. 14 You are my friends…
What manner of love is this? What manner of love is this, that God becomes man – where the creator serves the creation? Where the only perfect man lays down his life for us? What manner of love picks up a debt that was not his, and allows us to share in a victory we could have never one on our own?
What manner of love is this? That Jesus would lay down his life for us, his friends?
Now can we just be honest here and admit that a pastor preaching a sermon on God’s love, well, there’s an old saying that familiarity breeds contempt. Meaning that one becomes so accustomed to hearing that message that it comes to mean nothing anymore.
And so we can sing a song like 1 John 3:1 and we can say, how silly. We sang a silly song. And if we aren’t careful we sing song right over the incredible truth within. Right? Sometimes we are so exposed to a message that we tune it out. And so we can hear, God loves you. And we go, yeah, sure…. Yawnn.
Well, in spite of the fact that you have probably heard this before, I’ll say it again… the deal is that God really does love you. God has always loved human beings. It’s not a NT thing!
Do you know that the bible says in Isaiah 49:16 that God has written your name on the palm of his hand? What do you write on your hands? Important things I want to keep in front of my mind. Milk! Now I don’t love milk, I often forget milk. But when it’s written on the palms of my hands it’s something that is always in front of me.
You are loved by God. Do you know that Jesus says God knows the number of hairs on your head? Well, maybe God loves hair? And why do I get the feeling that if I were to count Donald Trumps hair it would be hair singular? One awesomely long strand of hair? Is it wrong of me to wonder?
God loves Donald too, so there you go – that should get your attention! He loves Hillary and Bernie and you. See what I have to do to get your attention about the ridiculous availability of the love of God? I had to lump rump, Hillary and you all in the same boat! He loves you as much as He loves Hillary, Trump and whoever your least favorite candidate might be – in politics or at work.
What manner of love is this? What manner of love would cause Jesus to get on the donkey and ride into a city He knew would murder him before the week was over? What manner of love causes this?
1. It a love that is difficult to grasp.
And so, it’s easy to not try to think about. For one thing, it’s not a normal, me centered kind of love we are used to. The normal mode of operations for human beings is to love people who deserve it. Or to love people who can return it.
But this love comes from God, 1 John 4:7 Dear friends, let us continue to love one another, for love comes from God.
One reason why it’s hard for us to wrap our heads around this kind of love is because it’s foreign to our natural habitat. It’s an invasive species of love. It comes from God – it’s not of this earth. It’s alien and unusual.
God’s kind of love that was being shared within the trinity – the Father, Son and Holy Spirit – eternally – long before we were created. And so within the trinity you have a situation where I love you, you love me, and together we love someone else.
And some place along the way God decides to create us – why? Not to rule us or Lord over us in power – but rather to join in the love of God. He created us and invites us to dance with them in love.
And we were created to be able to share in this fundamentally different kind of love.
And when we place our faith in Jesus, Jesus clears the table of all the sin in our life and makes room for this strange and wonderful – God kind of love, to penetrate the deepest layers of our soul, and turn us into different kinds of human beings.
And in turn we become a different kind of community – brothers and sisters in our faith.
And do you know what Jesus says the rest of the world will notice about you as you turn your life over in increasing measure to Him? They will notice your love. This is Jesus’ promise to us. He will infuse us with love, and Your love for one another will prove to the world that you are my disciples.” John 13:35
What manner of love would motivate Jesus to ride into the city that would kill him? A love that is difficult to grasp. It originates from God. And it flows from him into us through faith in Jesus.
Can I show you this thought-provoking prayer that the Apostle Paul prays for his fellow followers of Jesus in that lived in the city of Ephesus 2000 years ago? Let’s read what Paul prayed for..
Ephesians 3 And I pray that you, being rooted and established in love, 18 may have power, together with all the Lord’s holy people, to grasp how wide and long and high and deep is the love of Christ, 19 and to know this love that surpasses knowledge— (Eph 3:17-19 NIV)
Paul prayed very specifically that we would be able to grasp the love of Christ. And don’t rush past those words he uses to describe it. Wide and Long and Deep and Wide. Paul understood how difficult it is for us to grasp this love of God. He admits that it surpasses understanding – we will not quite understand it until perhaps long into eternity.
But his prayer for us – that we might be able to grasp God’s love for us.
For the past two weeks I’ve asked people to read 1 Corinthians 13 every day, if possible. Why? Because it’s a great description of God’s kind of love. It is the beginning of understanding God’s love. This love that we read here – there is an infinite supply of it within the Godhead. There is no bottom to it. It’s unfathomable.
What manner of love filled Jesus as he rode into Jerusalem this morning some two thousand plus years ago? This kind of love – and as hard as it is to grasp, it’s worth the effort. Because it’s this kind of love that will also inhabit you and I as we follow Jesus.
2. It’s a costly kind of love.
Some people are familiar with John 3:16, which is also about the love of God, which says, 16 “For this is how God loved the world: He gave his one and only Son, so that everyone who believes in him will not perish but have eternal life.
But the apostle John, who wrote the gospel of John, as he neared the end of his life – wrote letters to encourage followers of Jesus. (BTW John was the only one of the twelve disciples that died of old age. All the others were killed for their faith. And I mention that only for the sake of those skeptics out there. ten of the remaining 11 disciples after Judas died because of the message they brought to the world, which was we saw Jesus alive. We saw him dead. We saw him raised to life again. They died because of that message. And so they literally staked their life on the truthfulness of their message. And that can’t easily be discounted.)
Back to John – he’s an old man and he writes three letters to believers in churches and the first letter John wrote is cleverly entitled 1 John, and the entire letter is really about God’s kind of love. And always, it’s a costly kind of love. It’s a love that lays down it’s life for another.
1 John 3:16 We know what real love is because Jesus gave up his life for us.
John hammers the same message over and over. He really wants us to try to grasp the same thing Paul wants us to try to grasp – the wonderful love of God through Jesus.
The Bible is trying to make a point that God’s love can be measured by what it costs – and the love of God is the costliest love of all. Because of love, Jesus laid down his life.
Author Chuck Colson, in his book Loving God, tells the story of a group of American prisoners of war during the Second World War, who were made to do hard labor in a prison camp. One day the prisoners were sent out to dig ditches and each of the 20 POW’s were handed a shovel. At the end of the day the prison guard retrieved the shovels, but when he was finished counting he only counted 19 shovels.
The guard was furious and lined up the 20 prisoners and demanded to know which one did not bring his shovel back. No one responded. The guard took out his gun, pulled the first five men off the line and said that he would shoot all five men as a penalty for trying to steal the shovel if the guilty prisoner did not step forward.
After a moment of tense silence, a 19-year-old soldier stepped forward with his head bowed low. In his rage the guard grabbed him and immediately shot and killed him. The guards then searched the barracks for the missing shovel but found nothing. They went back and recounted the shovels only to discover that were, in fact, 20. The first guard had miscounted. The boy had given his life for five of his friends.
He writes, “Can you imagine the emotions that must have filled their hearts as the POW’s knelt down over his body? In those five seconds of silence, as his friends were being lined up to be shot, the boy had weighed his whole future —a future wife, an education, children, a career, fishing with his dad after the war—and he chose death so that others might live.”
What manner of love is this kind of love? How can we begin to grasp it? We begin to only when we consider what was given up to make it ours.
And here is Jesus. How much did he have to give up? Well, just from a human perspective, Jesus was a young man. 33 years old. He was the oldest son of a widowed mother. And he was utterly innocent.
The most perfect man to ever live. He was the most brilliant man to ever live. The worlds greatest philosopher.
How is it that for 2,000 years now Jesus’ teaching has been relevant to the lives of billions of human beings. Why has Jesus mattered so much? Why does he matter now? He matters because of what he brought and what he brings to ordinary people today – he brings wholeness, healing and hope.
Jesus comes where we are, and he makes available to us the life we’ve always wanted. And he is here today extending that same invitation to you and me. The opportunity to be incorporated into his governance of the universe. He makes sense of our existence. He gives our lives purpose and significance.
But He knew it would take the cross to be able to make that promise a reality. What manner of love is this? It’s a costly, sacrificial kind of love.
Philippians 2 tells us that though Jesus was God,
7 he made himself nothing
by taking the very nature of a servant,
being made in human likeness.
8 And being found in appearance as a man,
he humbled himself
by becoming obedient to death—
even death on a cross!
Phil 2 – NIV
When we ask “How do we know that God loves us?” the Bible has a consistent answer. It always takes us to Jesus on the cross.
How do we know God loves us? It’s not because you have money, or a good job, or any other blessing you might have. Instead it takes us to the cross. Romans 5:8 But God showed his great love for us by sending Christ to die for us while we were still sinners.
When we come to the communion table, as we will very shortly, we remember just how much Jesus loved us? What manner of love is this? It’s a love that lays down his life for his friends.
Granted, it’s a difficult to grasp, but it’s God’s kind of love. A love that cost Jesus everything in order to be made available to you and me. For God so loved you, that he gave his one and only son, that if you should believe in Him, you would never need to worry about perishing. Eternal life is yours, beginning the moment you believe.
Lastly this morning – It’s a life changing kind of love.
First – check out this great invitation from Jesus…
John 15:9 “Just as the Father has loved Me, I have also loved you; abide in My love.
“Abide” means “Make yourself at home.” Take off your coat and stay a while. Relax, take a load off, Make yourself comfortable in the love of God. Allow yourself to receive it.
“But Phil, how can God love me, you don’t know what I’ve done?” Well, apparently YOU don’t know what Jesus has done to prove just how much He loves you. He rode into Jerusalem, laid down his life so that you don’t ever have to be defined by your sins any longer.
Through faith in Jesus, all things are made new. You become a child of God. Behold what manner of love the Father has given unto us, that we should be called children of God.
This love changes our life. Gives us a new beginning. Fresh purpose. Hope, wholeness and health.
But this love is not meant to be bottled up inside of us. It is meant to flow through us, like streams of living water.
Ephesians 5:2 Live a life filled with love, following the example of Christ. He loved us and offered himself as a sacrifice for us, a pleasing aroma to God.
What manner of love is this? It is the kind of love that is intended to make it’s way through your life.
This Communion passage sums it up…
Romans 5:6 When we were utterly helpless, Christ came at just the right time and died for us sinners. 7 Now, most people would not be willing to die for an upright person, though someone might perhaps be willing to die for a person who is especially good. 8 But God showed his great love for us by sending Christ to die for us while we were still sinners. 9 And since we have been made right in God’s sight by the blood of Christ, he will certainly save us from God’s condemnation. 10 For since our friendship with God was restored by the death of his Son while we were still his enemies, we will certainly be saved through the life of his Son. 11 So now we can rejoice in our wonderful new relationship with God because our Lord Jesus Christ has made us friends of God.