No Greater Love

Dear Friends,

Last year I watched the film "12 Years a Slave" which was based on the true story of Solomon Northup.  It was not easy viewing and I was sickened by the extent of the wickedness of humankind.  As I watched it I found myself comparing it with the life of our Lord and Saviour, Jesus Christ.

Solomon Northup was a freed black man enjoying a prosperous life in New York with his family in the 1840s.  He was tricked and kidnapped by two men who stole his free papers and sold  him into slavery.  Everything was taken from him, his freedom, his family, his identity.  For 12 years he was viewed as a white man's property and viewed as less than human.  He endured extreme brutality on the cotton plantations of Louisiana.  Punished and whipped severely on many occasions for no real reason, he didn't deserve any of the harsh treatment he received.  But he was helpless to stop it.  He tried to escape, but was found and sold once more to another evil slave owner.  Eventually he was helped by a sympathetic white man and restored to his family and life in New York.

Whereas Solomon Northup was taken from everything he knew and was forced to give up his true identity, Jesus willingly gave up everything to come to earth for our sake.

"Though he was God, he did not think of equality with God as something to cling to. Instead, he gave up his divine privileges; he took the humble position of a slave and was born as a human being." Philippians 2:6-7 (NLT)

Jesus suffered greatly at the hands of his enemies. His trial was farcical, in reality it was no trial at all and was based on the false testimony of witnesses who were bribed.  There was no justice. He was beaten, whipped, mocked, made to wear a crown of thorns which was forcefully and brutally pressed down onto his head by the soldiers and made to carry his own cross to the place of crucifixion at Golgotha. The result of such brutality was that  "many were amazed when they saw him. His face was so disfigured he seemed hardly human, and from his appearance, one would scarcely know he was a man." Isaiah 52:14 (NLT) Finally he experienced the shame and the agony of death by crucifixion.

He had done nothing to deserve it, he had committed no crimes. He was innocent of all sin. 

"As Jesus slowly sagged down with more weight on the nails in the wrists, excruciating, fiery pain shot along the fingers and up the arms to explode in the brain. The nails in the wrists were putting pressure on the median nerve, large nerve trunks which traverse the mid-wrist and hand. As He pushed himself upward to avoid this stretching torment, He placed His full weight on the nail through His feet. Again there was searing agony as the nail tore through the nerves between the metatarsal bones of this feet.

At this point, another phenomenon occurred. As the arms fatigued, great waves of cramps swept over the muscles, knotting them in deep relentless, throbbing pain. With these cramps came the inability to push Himself upward. Hanging by the arm, the pectoral muscles, the large muscles of the chest, were paralyzed and the intercostal muscles, the small muscles between the ribs, were unable to act. Air could be drawn into the lungs, but could not be exhaled. Jesus fought to raise Himself in order to get even one short breath. Finally, the carbon dioxide level increased in the lungs and in the blood stream, and the cramps partially subsided...The loss of tissue fluids had reached a critical level; the compressed heart was struggling to pump heavy, thick, sluggish blood to the tissues, and the tortured lungs were making a frantic effort to inhale small gulps of air... With one last surge of strength, He once again pressed His torn feet against the nail, straightened His legs, took a deeper breath, and uttered His seventh and last cry: 'Father, into Your hands I commit My spirit.'" This is part of a medical explanation of what Jesus endured
on the day he died by Dr. C. Truman Davis.  If you would like to read all of it please click on the following link:

Whereas Northup was subject to the whims and orders of his masters, helpless to do anything about his unjust treatment, Jesus was not helpless and he was not subject to any man.  He willingly chose to submit himself to God's will and purpose and he chose to endure the cross.  Jesus could have put an end to it at anytime with just one word, but he endured it for us. "When he appeared in human form, 8he humbled himself in obedience to God and died a criminal’s death on a cross."  Philippians 2:7b-8 (NLT)  He took the punishment for the world.  Let's stop and make it personal, he who was perfect, who knew no sin, bore the weight of my sins, your sins, on himself that you and I might know forgiveness.  Such is the depth of his love for me and for you.

At the end of the film about Northup he is returned to his wife and family, to the life that had so cruelly been taken from him.  He would forever have the scars as a reminder of all that had been inflicted on him.

The good news is that the cross was not the end for Jesus.  Evil did not have the victory because God, in his power, raised Jesus to life.  "He was handed over to die because of our sins, and he was raised to life to make us right with God." Romans 4:25 (NLT)

Jesus is now seated at the right hand of the Father, his purpose on earth accomplished.  He died that we might have life.  "Therefore, God elevated him to the place of highest honor and gave him the name above all other names, 10 that at the name of Jesus every knee should bow, in heaven and on earth and under the earth, 11 and every tongue declare that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father." Philippians 2:9-11 (NLT)

All that Jesus endured is made all the more incredible when we realise firstly that this was God's plan for the world from the beginning. God had purposed that Jesus would be the Saviour of the world, that he would be the one to would save us from our sins. In Acts 2:23-24 Peter tells his listeners "But God knew what would happen, and his prearranged plan was carried out when Jesus was betrayed. With the help of lawless Gentiles, you nailed him to a cross and killed him. 24 But God released him from the horrors of death and raised him back to life, for death could not keep him in its grip. " (NLT)  So that we could once again enjoy a relationship with the living God. Secondly I find it incredible because Jesus could have said no to God, but instead he chose to say yes: “'Abba, Father,' he cried out, 'everything is possible for you. Please take this cup of suffering away from me. Yet I want your will to be done, not mine.'” Mark 14:36

I confess that I have at times allowed myself to become overfamiliar with the Easter story and the events leading up to Jesus' crucifixion.  It's good for me to take the time to look at it afresh, to remind myself what it cost Jesus to show his love for me, to remind myself of what he suffered for my sake that I might know the blessing of a life lived with him.

"In him [Jesus] we have redemption through his blood, the forgiveness of sins, in accordance with the riches of God’s grace that he lavished on us. With all wisdom and understanding." Ephesians 1:7-8 (NIV)

To Think About:
In the days leading up to Easter Sunday set aside some time to read and meditate on the Easter Story.  Ask God to touch and speak to you afresh as you meditate on it.

What is your response to all that Jesus suffered for you?

How will you live your life knowing Jesus willingly gave up his for you?



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