THE WAY OF THE CROSS
Friday, April 6, 2012
Love. It used to be the subject of every pop song on the charts. The death of Whitney Houston brought a flashback of those days when almost every song title contained the word “love” – like her greatest hit: “I will always love you.” What happened to love?
This is Charles Morris . . .
As we get started, I want to mention a movie of the year that won 11 Academy Awards, incuding Best Picture. It’s the fictional story of a Jewish Prince named Judah Ben-Hur in the first century who came under the wrath of Rome, but along the way he meets, Jesus of Nazareth and that changes his life. The star of the Ben Hur was the late Charlton Heston and his son, Fraser spoke with me about the last scene in the movie …
Fraser Heston clip “for you”
Fraser Heston, talking about his late father, Charlton Heston in probably his most well-known role as Ben-Hur. We have the newly digitally remastered 50th anniversary edition of Ben Hur as our thank you for your gift to HT this week. Call us after the program at 1-800-654-2836. That’s 1-800-65-HAVEN. Or go to our internet site after the program at haventoday.org. That’s haventoday.org. I should mention we have the two DVD set, but we also the Deluxe boxed set that includes a replica of the actual journal that Charlton Heston over the 10 months that it took to film Ben Hur. Thank you for getting in touch after the program.
OPENING SONG – This is How We Know – Matt Redman – We Shall Not Be Shaken
I’m turning sixty this month which means I can remember when the pop chart wasn’t dominated by songs about sex and violence – it was almost exclusively about love. Love is what you sang about back in the day. Recently the Grammy Museum hosted a Fifty Year Celebration of Dionne Warwick – Whitney Houston’s cousin. It opened with her belting out “’What the World needs now – Is love.”
The world of music may have changed but the world hasn’t – and the sentiment of that song is as true today as it was when it was first released. The world needs love. Like a man dying of thirst needs water. Where can we find it?
You find it on Good Friday – the day Christians around the world remember the death of Jesus on the cross. Why do we call it “good” Friday? Wasn’t it a terrible day – not only a day of unbelievable suffering but of infamy – the day when the religious leaders of Israel and the political powers of the Roman empire conspired to put to death the one and only innocent man? What’s good about Good Friday?
It’s good because it’s the day when the world saw what love is. It’s the day when the love the world needs so desperately was poured out into the world. We look for love. We fall in and out of love. We need love desperately. This week the autopsy report was released for Whitney Houston and is was no surprise that her apartment and her body were full of cocaine. Drug addiction is rampant and it’s because of a profound emptiness that needs to be filled – the emptiness of living without knowing we’re loved. One of Whitney Houston’s biggest hits was called “The Greatest Love of All.” Was it about Good Friday? Was it about the love of God? Listen to the lyrics:
“I found the greatest love of all
Inside of me
The greatest love of all
Is easy to achieve
Learning to love yourself
It is the greatest love of all.”
The world so desperately in need of love is sending that message to us in magazines and on Oprah and in movies and in self-help seminars and books – it’s every where -- Love yourself. Learning to love yourself is the greatest lessons you can learn. And it’s not true. We aren’t sufficient unto ourselves. Self-love is a lonely empty kind of love. And looking for love from other people – while it’s beautiful when we find it – it isn’t sufficient. Our need for love remains an unmet need, a need that can drive us to desperate measures – like finding a high in drugs. It’s a need that can only be met by the Love of God. Only the love of God can fill us and engulf us and gives us life – and it a love that was communicated to us on Good Friday. That’s where we understand love – that’s where we understand that God’s love is so overwhelming that we can never fully understand it
What the world needs now is love. Well here it is – this is love – Good Friday is the day when God poured out his love on the world.
John 3.16 “For God so loved the world that he gave his one and only Son.”
We hear it so often it rolls off our tongues. It should stagger us. In Romans 8 Paul wrote that this gift of God – this giving of his Son – is the measure of God’s love for us and that it couldn’t be greater. God has held nothing back, he’s given us everything – there’s nothing withheld– all of God’s love was poured out in the giving of his Son.
Romans 8:32 “He who did not spare his own Son, but gave him up for us all — how will he not also, along with him, graciously give us all things? If God did not without his only son then will he not also with him give us all things?”
Paul’s intentionally uses the same language God used when he commended Abraham for offering his son Isaac. In Genesis 22:12 he says to Abraham, “You have not withheld from me your son your only son.” We’re staggered when we read how Abraham loved God enough to offer his one and only son – the son he loved with all of his heart. Well, Good Friday is the rest of the story and it’s even more staggering. Instead of taking Isaac from Abraham, God gave him a ram to use as a substitute sacrifice. But that ram was just a picture of what He would ultimately give fort he salvation of Abraham’s children. God gave up his Son, his only Son, the Son he loved. And he gave him up for us.
I was recently reading Thomas Torrance – a professor who taught at Christian Theology at Edinburgh University in Scotland. This is what he says:
“Jesus is God’s very own Son, his only begotten Son – one who came to us out of the Father’s life who belonged to his very heart and innermost self. And when the Father did not spare his own son but freely delivered him up for us all in atoning sacrifice, the cross became a window into the innermost heart of God and the nature of his love. It tells us that God loves us more than he loves himself.”
That’s staggering. The cross is the window into the innermost heart of God and it tells us that God loves us more than he loves himself.
God the Father refused to be separated from us so gave up his only son.
But it’s not just the love of Father we see on Good Friday. We see the love of the Son. The Father’s heart and the Son’s heart beat as One. They beat in love for us.
As you read the Gospel of John it’s like a sweet perfume – the love the Son – the love of Jesus. Everything Jesus did was love and it was all leading up to this day of his death – this Good Friday – this day of love – when he would demonstrate the full extent of his love. “The King of Love my Shepherd Is” – a beautiful old hymn from the 1800s. Jesus is the King of Love and his love is magnificently majestically demonstrated on Good Friday.
John 13.1 “Jesus knew that the time had come for him to leave this world and go to the Father. Having loved his own who were in the world, he now showed them the full extent of his love.”
Good Friday is what shows us the full of extent of the love of the Father for us – and Good Friday is what shows us the full extent of the love of the Son for us. So let’s watch him love us Good Friday:
John 18:3-11 “The leading priests and Pharisees had given Judas a battalion of Roman soldiers and Temple guards to accompany him. Now with blazing torches, lanterns, and weapons, they arrived at the olive grove.
Jesus fully realized all that was going to happen to him. Stepping forward to meet them, he asked, “Whom are you looking for?”
“Jesus of Nazareth,” they replied. “I am he,” Jesus said. Judas was standing there with them when Jesus identified himself.
And as he said, “I am he,” they all fell backward to the ground!
Once more he asked them, “Whom are you searching for?” And again they replied, “Jesus of Nazareth.”
“I told you that I am he,” Jesus said. “And since I am the one you want, let these others go.”
He did this to fulfill his own statement: “I have not lost a single one of those you gave me.”
Then Simon Peter drew a sword and slashed off the right ear of Malchus, the high priest’s servant.
But Jesus said to Peter, “Put your sword back into its sheath. Shall I not drink from the cup the Father has given me?” So the soldiers, their commanding officer, and the Temple guards arrested Jesus and tied him up.”
It’s clear that Jesus wasn’t taken by force; He gave himself. He hid his majesty, he sheathed his power like he told Peter to sheath his sword, and he refused to save himself. There’s only this one time that you see his power. He simply says “I AM” and a whole regiment of tough roman soldiers fall on their faces. Don’t make the mistake of thinking Jesus was taken by force – he could have destroyed them all. But he didn’t – he only released a little of his glory on time so he could set the terms of his arrest. These were his terms:
“Since I am the one you want, let these men go.”
Do you hear his love in those words? “Take me, let these go.”
Those five words sum up his love: “Take me and let these go.” Jesus loves us more than he loves himself. He gives himself so we can be spared – he surrenders himself so that we can go free, he offers himself so that the Isaacs can be unbound and restored to the Father.
From the Garden he goes to the high priest and then to Pilate and then he’s turned over to the soldiers.
“The soldiers twisted together a crown of thorns and put it on his head. They clothed him in a purple robe and went up to him again and again, saying, “Hail, king of the Jews!” And they struck him in the face.
Once more Pilate came out and said to the Jews, “Look, I am bringing him out to you to let you know that I find no basis for a charge against him.”
When Jesus came out wearing the crown of thorns and the purple robe, Pilate said to them, “Here is the man!”
As soon as the chief priests and their officials saw him, they shouted, “Crucify! Crucify!”
Jesus is majestic in his love. He suffers silently. He’s awesome in this moment of humiliation -- because he is voluntarily doing it for love of his people. The King of Love my Shepherd is. He’s protecting his sheep. Jesus said the good Shepherd would die to protect his sheep. There’s a predator – a thief, a murderer – our great Enemy who’s bent on our destruction. We’re helpless to protect ourselves from him but when our Shepherd King went to his death he threw himself in front of us and protected us. He did it because he loved us more than he loved himself. “Having loved his own who were in the world, he now showed them the full extent of his love.”
And this is it – this is the full extent of his love:
“So the soldiers took charge of Jesus. Carrying his own cross, he went out to the place of the Skull (which in Aramaic is called Golgotha). Here they crucified him, and with him two others — one on each side and Jesus in the middle.
Pilate had a notice prepared and fastened to the cross. It read: JESUS OF NAZARETH, THE KING OF THE JEWS. Many of the Jews read this sign, for the place where Jesus was crucified was near the city, and the sign was written in Aramaic, Latin and Greek. The chief priests of the Jews protested to Pilate, “Do not write ‘The King of the Jews,’ but that this man claimed to be king of the Jews.”
Pilate answered, “What I have written, I have written.”
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.
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.
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.”
What do we do with a love like this?
Two things I think we need to do – we need to take it personally and we need to abide in it.
- We need to take it personally. John says Jesus saw “the disciple whom he loved standing near the cross”. That’s how John refers to himself in his Gospel – as “the disciple Jesus loved”. It doesn’t mean Jesus loved John more than all the other disciples. Jesus loves all his disciples with the full extent of his love – and each one of us can identify ourselves the same way John did. “I am the one Jesus loves.” That’s my identity “I am the beloved of Jesus, the one he loves. The one he loved to the full extent of his love.”
We hear from a lot of listeners who wonder if God loves them. They’re looking for evidence of his love in their feelings or in their circumstances. But when we do that we’re looking in the wrong place – Jesus demonstrates his love for me and for you personally right here – on the cross. He died for YOU. Take it personally. Take it like Paul did. In Galatians 2:20 he said, “I live by faith in the one who loved ME and gave himself for Me.”
CLOSING SONG – The Power of the Cross – Gettys – In Christ Alone
We need to take the love of Jesus personally – to receive it, and then
- We need to abide in it. Live in it. We don’t have to live in a loveless place – we can live in his love. We can live and move and have your being in the Love of Jesus. That’s what he wants you to do.
John 15.9 “Just as the Father has loved Me so have I loved you; now -- abide in My love.”
Fifty-three years ago the movie Ben-Hur hit the big screen creating a worldwide sensation, much as Lord of the Rings did recently. In the short list of truly epic movies, Ben-Hur is distinctive for pointing to Jesus while portraying a powerful story of love, heartbreak, slavery, heroism and redemption. Everything about this film is big - the backdrop, the music, the acting, the sheer number of actors and extras required to film it - and as you watch you can't help feeling dwarfed by the enormity of it, while being pulled into the story yourself. Now restored and digitally remastered this is a DVD worthy of your library and is available for your gift to Haven.
And if you're a big fan of this movie and of Charlton Heston, as I am, we have a 50th Anniversary Collectors Edition boxed set with a compelling documentary by Charlton's son, Fraser, and a complete copy of the diary Charton kept during the filming of the movie. Be sure to ask about that when you get in touch ....
Ben-Hur: 50th Anniversary 2-Disc DVD Set
For a gift of any amount
Fifty-three years ago the movie Ben-Hur hit the big screen creating a worldwide sensation, much as Lord of the Rings did recently. In the short list of truly epic movies, Ben-Hur is distinctive for pointing to Jesus while portraying a powerful story of love,...
[Get It Now]
Ben-Hur: 50th Anniversary Ultimate Collector's Edition (Box Set)
For a gift of $65.00 or more
50th Anniversary Ultimate Collector's Edition (Box Set) Ben-Hur: Digitally Restored and Remastered Full-length documentary on Charlton Heston and the filming of Ben-Hur Bonus disc containing special features Exact reproduction of Charlton Heston's journal during the year of filming Ben-Hur Full...
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