The love of God! – John 19:23-30
By Pastor Lee Hemen
February 14, 2016
What is love? Poets, songwriters, novelists, psychologists, and philosophers have all tried to answer what love is all about. It is more than being hooked on a feeling and high on believing. Some sing that they want to know what love is but then they get confused that it is a feeling or a sex act, so they want to say they’re sorry ’cause he’s “missing more than [her] body.” Wow, do you think they misunderstand what love is all about?
Here in John’s gospel we discover not only what love is all about but how it was manifested for all time. It is the kind of love where Paul would write that “love is patient, kind, doesn’t envy, boast, or is proud. It isn’t rude, self-seeking, easily angered, and it never keeps a record of wrongs. Love does not delight in evil but rejoices with the truth. It always protects, trusts, hopes, and perseveres. Love never fails.” (1 Corinthians 13:4-8) and John would later write, “Whoever does not love does not know God, because God is love. This is how God showed his love among us: He sent his one and only Son into the world that we might live through him. 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 4:8-10 NIV) He was speaking of the love of God and here we see it manifested for us, so this morning let’s discover just what the love of God is all about…
In a world where the individual comes first it is sometimes difficult to define what love is. Kind of like when we try to define what marriage is in our day and age. Marriage is more than a feeling, a piece of paper, or legality. It is a lifelong commitment between one man and one woman. Marriage should express the final outcome of two people’s willingness to set aside their wants, desires, and needs and sacrifice them for another. And here in John’s gospel we discover that…
I. The love of God sacrifices! (Vv. 23-24)
When the soldiers crucified Jesus, they took his clothes, dividing them into four shares, one for each of them, with the undergarment remaining. This garment was seamless, woven in one piece from top to bottom. “Let’s not tear it,” they said to one another. “Let’s decide by lot who will get it.” This happened that the scripture might be fulfilled which said, “They divided my garments among them and cast lots for my clothing.” So this is what the soldiers did.
1. There is not much one could do when you are hanging nailed on a cruel cross. You would be stripped of all you clothing so that your shame would be total. You and your crime and punishment would be laid bare for the entire world to see; and as I have stated before this duty of crucifixion had been done many times by the Roman soldiers. It was a job and they were very good at it and so “When the soldiers crucified Jesus, they took his clothes, dividing them into four shares, one for each of them, with the undergarment remaining.” This is often how these men who were given this ugly duty earned extra money for themselves and their families. They would divide up any possessions the condemned might have. We learn that they find Jesus was also wearing an undergarment. This was not what we would think of as underwear but rather like a long shirt that extended down to one’s feet. Cloth was expensive and this garment was special because it “was seamless, woven in one piece from top to bottom.” Rather than fight over it or divide it into several shares they come to a mutual understanding. “Let’s not tear it,” they said to one another. “Let’s decide by lot who will get it.” This was not the lots the Hebrews played where they used differing colored stones, but it was more like our dice of today. People have loved to gamble for thousands of years and some of the oldest games discovered involve games of chance. And so as the destined hang dying, the Roman soldiers kneel down at the foot of the crosses and gamble for the clothes of the condemned Jesus. However, unbeknown to them this was fulfilling God’s plan and John relates, “This happened that the scripture might be fulfilled which said, ‘They divided my garments among them and cast lots for my clothing.'” (Psalm 22:18) With simplicity John writes, “So this is what the soldiers did.” Here we find not just Jesus giving himself as a sacrifice but everything he owned as well. He had nothing left to claim. Jesus gave his all. The love of God sacrifices!
EXAMPLE: Selfishness is propagated by pathetic politicians who promise to take care of us from the womb to the tomb. Selfishness is seen in the commercialism where hamburgers are bigger than our heads and where every intimate detail of our lives is constantly displayed electronically for all to see whether they want to or not. Therefore is it often hard for our society to understand what sacrifice means. Before, at the time of Moses and on, one took his most prized lamb and sacrificed it to show the cost involved because of one’s sin. Today we think sin should be our right and we do not need to sacrifice anything because of it or anyone or anything else! But this attitude brings death. How glorious to know then that “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 NIV) The love of God sacrifices!
What could a condemned criminal give? What could a young man unfairly fated for death give his family, his friends, or those who did not know him? Jesus gave himself and in this offering made all of repentant sinful mankind clean before the judgment seat of God. And in this moment we find a wonderful thing happening. We look upon Jesus and discover his mother there at the cross. John writes that…
II. The love of God provides! (Vv. 25-27)
Near the cross of Jesus stood his mother, his mother’s sister, Mary the wife of Clopas, and Mary Magdalene. When Jesus saw his mother there, and the disciple whom he loved standing nearby, he said to his mother, “Dear woman, here is your son,” and to the disciple, “Here is your mother.” From that time on, this disciple took her into his home.
1. I cannot imagine watching my innocent child being slowly killed in the cruel way Jesus was. Can you imagine a mother’s horror? I cannot. Here is her mother’s desire, her first born, right before her eyes being flayed by uncaring guards nailed to the beams of a cross and hosted into place so he could slowly die in the heat of the day. Yet we discover in this horrendous moment a tender thing, a beautifully poignant moment whereby “Near the cross of Jesus stood his mother, his mother’s sister, Mary the wife of Clopas, and Mary Magdalene.” They did not want him to die alone without those he loved near him. Interestingly some of these same women who stand watching Jesus die would be the first ones to discover his empty tomb. But here is Mary, the mother, standing by her son’s cross weeping struck by the awful nature of what her son is going through. However, even now as he is dying and finishing the work and plan of God he looks through the confusion and fog of pain and death and sees his mother. The one who swaddled him at his birth, clothed him as a child, kissed his cheek, fed him, comforted him to sleep and provided for his safety and care and John writes, “When Jesus saw his mother there, and the disciple whom he loved standing nearby, he said to his mother, ‘Dear woman, here is your son,’ and to the disciple, ‘Here is your mother.'” Jesus asks the one closest to him of the twelve, the one whom he loved, and his friend to provide for the woman who bore him into the world. The concern and care of Christ on the cross! The provision of God knows no boundaries. The Son of God provides. It is a tender and moving moment in time. Perhaps Mary remembered the words of the elderly prophet Simon, who she and Joseph met so long ago when taking Jesus to be consecrated to the Lord. When joyfully holding Jesus he told her that “This child is destined to cause the falling and rising of many in Israel, and to be a sign that will be spoken against, so that the thoughts of many hearts will be revealed. And a sword will pierce your own soul too.” (Luke 2:34-35 NIV) Whatever occurred we do know that “From that time on, this disciple took her into his home.” The love of God provides!
EXAMPLE: Jesus would ask, “What can a man give in exchange for his soul?” (Mark 8:37 NIV) We find in plays, TV, and the movies the theme that people actually believe they can bargain either God or Satan for their souls and in return get something. This is not only complete theological nonsense, but Satan cannot bargain for anything he was never given by God. He is a created being and destined to an eternal death because of his rebellion. Life is not some kind of lottery where some hit it big and others are doomed because of the whims of God. Our choices in life are our own and we suffer or enjoy the consequences of our choices. Bad things happen to the good and bad because we live in a sin-fallen world. Yet in this life, God provides for us a way to him and the answer for our lives: “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. For God did not send his Son into the world to condemn the world, but to save the world through him. Whoever believes in him is not condemned, but whoever does not believe stands condemned already because he has not believed in the name of God’s one and only Son.” (John 3:16-18 NIV) The love of God provides!
In the movie The Jerk, Steve Martin is goofy rhythmically challenged white boy who was adopted by black sharecroppers. He becomes rich through an invention but loses his wife and all of his money because of a class action lawsuit. Destitute he begins to grab what he can from what was thrown in the street and laments, “I don’t need any of this. I don’t need this stuff, and I don’t need ‘you’. I don’t need anything. Except the ashtray, and these matches, and the remote control, and the paddle ball… and this lamp.” Sadly, it is a short commentary on how a lot of folk’s lives are lived. How wonderful to know then that…
III. The love of God is complete! (Vv. 28-30)
Later, knowing that all was now completed, and so that the Scripture would be fulfilled, Jesus said, “I am thirsty.” A jar of wine vinegar was there, so they soaked a sponge in it, put the sponge on a stalk of the hyssop plant, and lifted it to Jesus’ lips. When he had received the drink, Jesus said, “It is finished.” With that, he bowed his head and gave up his spirit.
1. Paul would wonder that “at just the right time, when we were still powerless, Christ died for the ungodly.” (Romans 5:6 NIV) Here in John’s gospel we find that the right time had come. In every life there is a season, a time for everything. There is a time to be born and a time to die as Ecclesiastes 3:2 tries to teach us. Why did Jesus have to die in this way? Couldn’t the plan of God have been different? Paul gives us the reason: “But when the kindness and love of God our Savior appeared, he saved us, not because of righteous things we had done, but because of his mercy.” (Titus 3:4-5 NIV) It was the love of God! His mercy and nothing we have done or could do! Notice that in that moment as Jesus was dying the normal functions of life continued for just a bit and we find that “Later, knowing that all was now completed, and so that the Scripture would be fulfilled, Jesus said, ‘I am thirsty.'” Death is close and Jesus has provided for his immediate family and now he is getting ready for his final moments in this life. It is interesting what folks remember when they are witnesses to someone’s death and we discover John remembers that by the cross “A jar of wine vinegar was there, so they soaked a sponge in it, put the sponge on a stalk of the hyssop plant, and lifted it to Jesus’ lips.” Roman justice demanded its pound of flesh and they wanted those condemned to die not just in an unworthy fashion but also in as long of time as there could possibly take in order to discourage any further resistance from the local populace. Psalm 22 prophetically states, “My strength is dried up like a potsherd, and my tongue sticks to the roof of my mouth; you lay me in the dust of death.” (Psalms 22:15 NIV) The one who thirsts would soon provide living water for those truly parched in life. And remember, Jesus had told them, “No one takes [my life] from me, but I lay it down of my own accord. I have authority to lay it down and authority to take it up again.” (John 10:18 NIV) So “When he had received the drink, Jesus said, ‘It is finished.’ With that, he bowed his head and gave up his spirit.” The love of God is complete!
EXAMPLE: Humans are such self-conscious and insecure creatures. We often see things in relationships that do not exist and wonder why we aren’t loved as we think we should be when we give nothing of ourselves. In our insecurities we often torpedo our relationships by our own actions or lack thereof. I began this sermon by asking the question, “What is love?” I am so glad then to learn that true love is manifested in the final work of Jesus and is not dependent upon anything I do at all except to accept what he did! Just as I cannot add one day to my life, I cannot do anything to earn the love of God. He already gave me everything I need through Jesus’ death on the cross! God’s plan for all mankind was finished and fulfilled. The love of God is complete!
In Jesus’ death on the cross we discover that the love of God sacrifices! The love of God provides! The love of God is complete! Do you know the love of God?
This article is copyrighted © 2016 by Lee Hemen and is the sole property of Lee Hemen, and may not be used unless you quote the entire article and have my permission.