Just across the road from my office in Bristol is the headquarters of the Avon Fire & Rescue service. Outside is a monument to firemen who have been injured or killed in the line of duty (see picture below). Beneath a statue of a fireman is an inscription which reads,
Greater love hath no man than this, that a man lay down his life for his friends.
This has caught my eye on a number of occasions and is of course a quote from the Bible. It can be found in John’s gospel in a passage where Jesus is speaking to his disciples about love. He says,
This is my commandment, that ye love one another, as I have loved you. Greater love hath no man than this, that a man lay down his life for his friends. Ye are my friends, if ye do whatsoever I command you. (John 15:12-14)
Jesus is here setting a very high standard, commanding his disciples that they should love one another just as he loves them. He goes on to give a clue as to the extent of his love for them. Remember, Jesus had yet to die on the cross, but he tells his disciples that the ultimate extent of love is for one person to sacrifice his life on behalf of another.
How many of us would be willing to do this, even for our best friend? Of course, people have done this, but through the whole history of the world, the most notable example is that of the Lord Jesus himself.
On the cross at Calvary Jesus gave his own life on behalf of his people, that they might be forgiven for their sins and receive eternal life.
What was so notable about this?
Firstly, not only did Jesus suffer and die in a physical sense, he also suffered spiritually, bearing upon his perfect self the wrath of God for all his people’s sins, and even enduring the forsaking of his Father for a time.
Secondly, Jesus died for people who had willingly and actively rebelled against him, people who by nature were not his friends, but his enemies. This was extraordinary love. None of God’s people deserved Jesus to die for them, yet because he loved them, he was willing to suffer for them.
If we are amongst those for whom Jesus died, he has promised us that we are his friends. Importantly though it doesn’t stop there – Jesus demands a response from us. What does he say? – ‘ye are my friends, if ye do whatsoever I command you’, and, as Jesus gave his life for us, therefore there is nothing he can request of us that is unreasonable. The Apostle Paul writes,
I beseech you therefore, brethren, by the mercies of God, that ye present your bodies a living sacrifice, holy, acceptable unto God, which is your reasonable service. (Romans 12:1)
Jesus asks that in love to him, because of what he has done for us, we follow him and obey him. Simply put, we have him as our Lord as well as our Saviour.
Think about your response to all this?
Did Jesus lay down his life for you? Are you one of his friends? If so, are you willingly keeping his commandments, putting him first in your life and presenting yourself as ‘a living sacrifice, holy [and] acceptable unto God’?
[A00025 – 03/04/2017]