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No Greater Love

"Greater love hath no man than this, that He lay down His life for his friends." John 15:13.

When Jesus spoke these words to His disciples they were gathered around the Passover table on the eve of His crucifixion. He knew the path which lay before Him. He knew His death was eminent. Jesus' words were instructive and meant to be an encouragement to His friends who were so soon to witness His cruel death.

In the story of the Good Samaritan (Luke 10:25-37), Jesus gives us a picture of Himself. The Samaritan people were hated by the Jews. The Jews considered the Samaritans worse than mongrel dogs and they would have nothing to do with them. Jesus, portraying Himself as the Samaritan, paints a vivid picture of His mission to save a lost world. He was hated and despised by the people He came to save, yet He stooped in love to minister to them.

The human family has been deceived, bruised, robbed, ruined, and left to die by Satan. But from the first moment of sin in this world, at the very instant Adam sinned against God, the Saviour had compassion on our helpless condition. He came to our rescue by laying down His life for His friends.

Jesus found us covered with wounds (Isaiah 1:6), and He healed us (Psalm 147:3, Luke 4:18). He found us naked and covered us with His robe of righteousness. He opened for us a refuge of safety (Psalm 91:1-2), and paid the full price for our recovery from sin. Jesus is "the Lamb slain from the foundation of the world" (Revelation 13:8). The price of our redemption has already been paid by Jesus Christ; was paid from the foundation of the world, and ratified on the cross of Calvary.

"For if, when we were enemies, we were reconciled to God by the death of His Son, much more being reconciled, we shall be saved by His life." Romans 5:10. Here Paul seems to contradict Jesus' words. Paul says God sent His Son to die for His enemies. Jesus said He would die for His friends. Did Jesus die only for a select few? For only those who claim to be His friends? As sinners, are we enemies of God? Does our "status" change when we believe God and are baptized, so that after baptism we become God's friends?

What does sin to do us? The story of Adam and Eve in the Garden shows us exactly what sin does to us.

Before sin, Adam and Eve knew God personally. They talked with Him face to face every day in the Garden. They had no fear, no suspicion, no resentment, no shame. God was their Friend. As soon as our first parents sinned, the consequences of that sin were immediately manifested in their actions and words. Shame was the first result. Adam and his wife "hid themselves from the presence of the Lord." They knew they had done wrong. Shame filled their hearts. They no longer looked forward to talking with God face to face and they hid themselves from Him.

Next, fear griped their hearts and minds. When their Friend came looking for them, Adam answered: "I heard your voice and I was afraid." Why should he be afraid? God had ever hurt them or threatened them.

Third, Adam found himself unwilling to own his guilt and confess it. He turned to Eve and laid the blame for his sin upon her. Eve blamed the serpent. Both Adam and Eve were ultimately blaming God who gave Eve to Adam and who created the serpent. Adam said: "the woman You gave me . . ." and Eve implied: "the snake You created . . ."

The sum of these three things—shame, fear, and an unwillingness to confess sin—created a barrier, or hatred, that all mankind has felt toward God ever since. It is this barrier that God pledged himself to remove when He gave the first Gospel promise in Genesis 3:15: "I will put enmity between thee and the woman, and between thy seed and her seed; He shall bruise thy head, and thou shalt bruise His heel."

Who is the enemy? Who is the Friend?

It is sin that makes people afraid. When we finally understand all that God has done to remove the barrier sin has erected between us and Him, then all fear is gone.

"But God commendeth His love toward us, in that while we were yet sinners, Christ died for us." Romans 5:8

"Christ died for us." What condition were we in when Christ died for us? Paul says we are "ungodly," and "without strength." Romans 5:6. We have no ability to save ourselves. With our characters twisted and deformed by the ugliness of sin, Jesus loved us enough to give His precious life for us. Even when we were His enemies, Jesus called us His friends. He gave His precious life for us, that we might have eternal life in Him. Greater love hath no man than this, that He lay down His life for His enemies.

Through a correct understanding of the Cross, we see a God who loves us supremely. Yielding to this love, we are reconciled to our God. Our hatred, our fear, and our shame are removed. The barrier between us and our Friend is destroyed. All who look upon the Saviour's matchless love will be elevated in thought, purified in heart, and transformed in character. Pride and self-worship cannot flourish in the heart that keeps fresh in memory the scenes of Calvary.

Believe this Good News, allow your best Friend to have a part in your life, and experience the life-transforming power of the love of God!

See articles related to this subject: "Lesson of the Cross"; "He Tasted Death for Every Man"

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