July 01, 2013
From the desk of Dr. A.J. Higgins
Greater love hath no man than this
that a man lay down his life for his friends.
The standard has been raised high. Love, if it is going to be real, must be willing to go to this length: to lay down one’s life for a friend. The Lord Jesus was instructing His disciples in the measure and kind of love which was expected of them – and of us – as those who represent Him in this world. They were to love one another as He had loved them. To make this applicable to us, we can say that we are to love one another as He loved us.
Our minds go immediately to the great contrast highlighted by Romans 5:10 – that it was when we were enemies that we were reconciled to God by the death of His Son. And elsewhere we are instructed to love our enemies (Matt 5:44), but here the stress is on fraternal or family love.
The adjective, ‘great’ can be applied to something defining either as measure, motive, or manifestation. Applying these to our Lord Jesus, we appreciate something of the greatness of the measure of His love. He loved with a love which defies measurement. While the descriptives of Ephesians 3 refer to the measure of the mystery of Christ, we can still apply them to His love.
Its height tells us of the goal He has for the objects of His love. Paupers have become princes; the helpless have become heirs; the enemy has been embraced and elevated.
Its depth is seen in the awful pit into which He sank; the deeps that swallowed Him up. (Ps 69) His was the lowest pit, the very dust of death.
Its length can only be measured by considering something of the tremendous distance seen at the cross. Our limitation, however, is obvious. To determine a distance, you need two points: a starting point and an ending point. Can you measure the greatness of His glory? How high He was? Can you in turn measure the depths of shame and suffering? Both points are beyond our comprehension. We cannot begin to measure the length of His love.
Its breadth takes in the population described as ‘whosoever’. While the Scripture jealously guards any mention of the love of Christ, and restricts it as being directed to His own, yet at Calvary He displayed a love for His enemies in praying, “Father forgive them …” As an expression of God’s love for the world (John 3:16), He was in total harmony with the Father.
Add to this, the beauty of His motive. It was a love which sought nothing in return. It was a love which was content to pour itself out, to display itself, without being appreciated or recognized. The best that was displayed by humankind were the pitying tears of the women on the Via Dolorosa, the smitten breasts of the observers, and the broken heart of a mother at the foot of the cross. But true comprehension and appreciation was lacking.
Now add in further the manner in which that love was manifested. It was against the background of the flood tide of man’s hatred against Him. The high water mark of human and Satanic opposition to God was being displayed. It was being displayed by means of the greatest instrument and symbol of shame then known – a cross. Yet His love never wavered.
1. Think of other aspects of love which make it ‘great’.