"Daddy, how much do you love me?" I would ask when Daddy would be leaving for work. He would stretch his arms out as wide as a six-foot-six-inch man could stretch and say, "I love you this much!" Then I would run into his loving embrace and feel very safe and very loved. Daddy was not a demonstrative person, but we never tired of this little game and my need for his assurance of love. Daddy has been gone now for nineteen years, but I can still close my eyes and feel his love holding me close.
Similarly, the cross reminds Christians just how much our heavenly Father loves us, and how He longs to welcome us into His loving, safe embrace and hold us close. God knows how we struggle, and many times fail, in our efforts to allow Him to love us. But He loves us anyway, all the time, and with an everlasting love that is hard to imagine.
John 3:16 – For God so loved the world that he gave his one and only Son, that whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life. (NIV)
"Eternal" means forever-and-ever, on-to-infinity love! Wow! It is mind-boggling how we can be loved so much!
While in Orlando, Florida, USA, we went to The Holy Land Experience. We were ushered back in time to the days when Jesus was living on earth. Even the fountains responded to the hymns of praise, rising in glorious colours to lift up the name of Jesus. Then came the Passion Play, and the whole tone changed to one of uncertainty and pain: the soldiers' cruelty, the mocking crowds, and Mary, mother of Jesus, watching as God's one and only Son was nailed to a cross for the sins of mankind. The silence screamed in agony as He was crucified, His outstretched arms proclaiming loudly to the world, "I love you this much — and even more!" The crowd departed from that scene most subdued and reflecting on how deep, how strong, and how personal that portrayal of love was for each one of us.
John 3:14b-15 – The Son of Man must be lifted up, that everyone who believes in him may have eternal life. (NIV)
Thankfully, the next scene replaced our feeling of inexplicable loss with rejoicing that Jesus defied death and triumphantly rose again to intercede on our behalf — and keep on loving us! Satan and death were defeated, assuring us of our hope of heaven and eternity. Many people that day responded to the call to follow Him and accept His love, grace, and forgiveness. Our exit from the park was on the wings of prayer! What an amazing experience it was, and its impact on me personally was the assurance that no matter what, my God loves me "this much — and even more"!
Paul's prayer for the Ephesians is still important for us today: "And I pray that you, being rooted and established in love, may have power, together with all the saints, to grasp how wide and long and high and deep is the love of Christ." (Ephesians 3:17b-18 NIV)
This Easter, there will be many who will hear again how God sent His one and only Son and how He conquered death, and longs to love us richly and deeply with a love that we don't deserve and can never fully comprehend. How we receive or reject that love will impact us for the rest of our lives. Life's journey can be mind-boggling at times and bombard us with challenges that we may not have the resources to endure on our own. Let's remember that, in spite of our limitations and past wounds, God gave His one and only Son, Jesus, to love us "this much — and even more" for all eternity. May this be the start of the real meaning of Easter — wrapping us in the warm and secure embrace of His love!
Prayer: Dear God, we are thankful that You sent Your Son to us to show just how much You love us. Help us to open our hearts and minds so that we can accept Your love with confidence and joy! Then help us to share Your love with all we meet so that they, too, can be assured that You love each one of us this much and even more! In and through the name of Jesus, we pray. Amen.