Commentary on "Love"
Day 6: Thursday, April 2, 2009
Today’s lesson is “Love Personified”. It begins with a paragraph explaining how Jesus was our “ultimate Role Model” even though he “had every reason to dislike or even hate a lot of people.” It points out that spiritual leaders, family, and disciples often were unsupportive, hostile, or internally bickering.
Moreover, the second paragraph explains, Jesus showed His love particularly to the marginalized: prostitutes, lepers, Samaritans, Romans, and tax collectors. It then gives three texts of examples of Jesus showing His love. The first is the story of the leper who returned to thank Jesus for healing Him. The second is when He washed the disciples feet, and the third is Jesus giving John the responsibility for His mother from the cross.
The lesson ends with admonitions to show love to the unlovable. The last paragraph contains this statement: “When we grasp something of the magnitude of Christ’s love, it will create a loving response, and this will give us the intense desire to share that love with others.” It then asks how we show our love for those on the fringes of society.
As has been the case throughout this week, today’s lesson looks at Jesus from a “natural man” perspective and does not deal with the reality that He was not primarily our role model but our Substitute. Jesus did not come to show us how to live; He came to save us from our sin. He came to be our Substitute. He came to call sinners to repentance. The fact that he had “every reason to dislike or even hate a lot of people” is irrelevant to the way Jesus lived His life. He had one goal: to obey His Father to the point of death on the cross.
Hebrews 2:14-15 says, “Since therefore the children share in flesh and blood, he himself likewise partook of the same things, that through death he might destroy the one who has the power of death, that is, the devil, and deliver all those who through fear of death were subject to lifelong slavery.”
Jesus did not come to demonstrate good living. He came to destroy the power of the devil and to deliver us from the fear of death by His own death and resurrection.
Unless we are born again of the Spirit we have no hope of loving the unlovable. Jesus’ life was not lived as an example. He lived to become “the source of eternal salvation to all who obey him” (Hebrews 5:9). He lived to be the propitiation by His blood “so that he might be just and the justifier of the one who has faith in Jesus” (Romans 3:25-26).
Moreover, Jesus did not show love to the marginalized because they were marginalized and needed attention. The lesson points out that Jesus gave love to those who didn’t get positive attention from the religious leaders of the day. Jesus did not “hang out” with the unsavory because they needed love; He spent time with them because they had hearts hungry for truth. The Jewish religious leaders chose to refuse to believe. In Matthew 12, when they accused Him of casting out demons by Beelzebub, Jesus identified the unpardonable sin as attributing to Satan the work of God. From that time on He spoke to them in parables instead of straight, open talk.
Jesus showed love to people because they came to Him for mercy and hope, not because they were needy or deserving of love. They were all sinners, enemies of God (Romans 5:8, 10)—but Jesus was calling them to His kingdom and revealing to them their deep need. He didn’t show love because it was “the right thing to do”. He showed love because He came to save sinners, and when sinners hardened their hearts against Him, He no longer gave them the pearls of the kingdom directly.
The three examples in the lesson of Jesus showing love were likewise not examples of proper Christian behavior. They were demonstrations of His identity and His faithfulness. The story of the leper was not primarily a demonstration of Jesus’ love. Rather, it was a sign of His identity as the Messiah and a demonstration of the fact that the chosen people were not necessarily the ones who would recognize Him. In healing the lepers, Jesus demonstrated God’s own power to heal the un-healable. Moreover, the lone Samaritan who returned to give thanks foreshadowed the Gentiles being called into God’s church. It would not primarily be the Jews who would receive Jesus and become His bride, but it would be Gentiles who would burgeon the church and carry the living Christ into the world. The leper incident was a sign to the Jews of who Jesus was: the promised Messiah who would heal their diseases,.
The foot-washing incident was also more than a demonstration of love. It was a commissioning of His disciples to become His witnesses as the leaders and builders of the church. Verse three gives the context that Jesus knew He had come from God and was going back to God, and in this knowledge, He washed the disciples feet. He even addressed the deeper meaning of this service by telling Peter that he didn’t understand what He was doing then, but He would “afterward”. In verse 14-16 Jesus told His disciples that they needed to wash one another’s feet as He had washed theirs…but then He stated, “…a servant is not greater than his master, nor is a messenger greater than the one who sent him.”
Jesus was preparing and commissioning his disciples to become the apostles upon whom the church would be built. The church was founded on Jesus the cornerstone and upon the apostles and prophets who would carry the gospel into the unbelieving world and make new disciples (Ephesians 2:20-21). He was demonstrating to them that they would carry His name and His message, and they were never to think of themselves as any more important than Jesus thought of Himself. They would always be His messengers and servants, even when He was gone. They would never be important in their own rights. They would be His witnesses in a hostile world, and He wanted them to know that His blessing and commission was that of being His servant, never that of being the Master.
The incident of Jesus commissioning John to care for Mary was a glimpse into the commitment of the Son of Man. Although He was the Lord of lords and would return to heaven within days of His horrible death, He tangibly provided for His aging mother and also honored His disciple (who very likely was the son of Mary’s sister Salome) with her care. His leaving would be a triumph, but for his mother who remained, His leaving would have been a life-threatening abandonment without His provision for her. He tangibly showed how God cares for His own family—of which we are members when we are born of the Spirit (Romans 8:14-17).
A loving Response
Finally, the lesson suggests that we can grasp “something of the magnitude of Christ’s love”. Again, this assumption fails to deal with the necessity of becoming spiritually alive by repenting before the Lord Jesus and being born of His Spirit with His own eternal, resurrection life. As natural humans we cannot grasp the love of Christ. In fact, 1 Corinthians 18-31 explains that “the message of the cross is foolishness to those who are perishing”. It is a stumbling block to the Jews and foolishness to the Greeks.
Moreover, 1 Corinthians 2:14 states, “But the natural man does not receive the things of the Spirit of God, for they are foolishness to him; nor can he know [them], because they are spiritually discerned.”
Grasping something of the magnitude of Christ’s love is impossible for natural man. We cannot look at the life of Jesus, grasp His love, and find loving responses thus being created in us. Only if we have the Holy Spirit in us will Christ’s love begin to be clear. And the only way we have the Holy Spirit in us is by the gifting of God Who seals us with the Spirit when we believe in the Lord Jesus (Ephesians 1:13-14).
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