2nd Sunday in Lent
Grace, mercy, and peace to you from God our Father and our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ! In the name of Jesus our Savior dear friends in Christ: “Love hurts” was a song written in the early 60s and released by a couple song artists but gained its most popularity when it was sung by the Scottish hard rock band Nazareth and released in 1975. Perhaps you’ve heard the song before, this is the first verse, “Love hurts, love scars, love wounds and mars, any heart not tough or strong enough to take a lot of pain, take a lot of pain, love is like a cloud holds a lot of rain, love hurts…ooh, ooh love hurts.” If you like classic rock, you’ve probably heard the song before. Is it true? Does love hurt? C.S. Lewis a well-known Christian theologian and writer once wrote: “Love anything, and your heart will certainly be wrung and possibly broken. If you want to make sure of keeping it intact, you must give your heart to no one, not even to an animal. Wrap it carefully round with hobbies and little luxuries; avoid all entanglements; lock it up safe in the casket or coffin of your selfishness. But in that casket – safe, dark, motionless, airless- it will change. It will not be broken; it will become unbreakable, impenetrable, irredeemable. The alternative to tragedy, or at least to the risk of tragedy, is damnation.”
Is that true? Ask anyone who has lost a “loved one” if love hurts. Ask anyone who has lost a job that they loved, lost a pet that they loved, lost a friendship they loved. You see, grief is the price we pay for having loved. But the alternative, not loving is having a cold, stony, unbreakable heart. You see, love means sacrifice, love means allowing myself to be hurt, love means changing and adjusting myself for someone else. And the only alternative to loving is having a stone, cold, unbreakable heart.
Here in our text we get to see into the heart of Jesus, which is the heart of God Himself. And what we see is the ultimate determination of love. This is about 3 months before Jesus’ final ride into Jerusalem. And we’re told that some Pharisees came to Jesus and said, “Leave this place and go somewhere else; Herod wants to kill you.” Now, let’s think about this. How many times do the Gospels tell us that the Pharisees are concerned about Jesus’ safety? Are they really warning Jesus? Not likely. This is probably Herod’s sly way of trying to get rid of Jesus. Jesus was considered a rebel, he didn’t conform to the false ideas of the Pharisees and religious teachers, Herod didn’t want to repeat the fiasco he had with John the Baptist. Where he had John the Baptist put to death and a bunch of people became really upset with him because they knew it was terribly unjust and an abuse of his power. He wanted Jesus gone, so it seems that either he sent the Pharisees with this message or the Pharisees came by themselves with this ruse in order to get Jesus to go elsewhere so he would be someone else’s problem.
But Jesus knows. “Go tell that fox, ‘I will drive out demons and heal people today and tomorrow, and on the third day I will reach my goal.” In other words, Jesus says, “I’m going to keep on doing exactly what I came to do, the work of the Messiah, until my work is done.” Then Jesus went on, “In any case, I must keep going today and tomorrow and the next day –for surely no prophet can die outside Jerusalem.”
Do you see the determination in what Jesus is saying here? He knows exactly what awaits him in Jerusalem. He knows the spit, the insults, the beating with the staff on the head, the blindfold, the mocking, the ridicule, the flogging, the crown of thorns, the chanting of ‘Crucify him, crucify him!’ the nails that are going to pierce his hands and feet, and worst of all the soul torment of having the crushing weight of the sins of mankind heaped upon his soul so that he might become the lightning rod of all the wrath and righteous anger of God against the sin of humankind! He knows it! And he says, “I MUST keep going.”
And here God pours out his very heart. Do you want to know what God is like? Philip one of Jesus’ disciples asked Jesus once, “Lord, show us the Father and that will be enough for us.” And this is how Jesus responded, “Don’t you know me Philip? Even after I have been among you such a long time? Anyone who has seen me has seen the Father.” In other words, Jesus is our window to God the Father. We want to know God, we look to Jesus. Here Jesus’ pours out His heart, God pours out His heart for all to see. “I must go to Jerusalem to…die.” This is determination to death for those he loves.
“O Jerusalem, Jerusalem, you who kill the prophets and stone those sent to you, how often I have longed to gather your children together, as a hen gathers her chicks under her wings, but you were not willing!” That’s what the people did to God. God sent prophet after prophet to them – one of them was Jeremiah and we saw what they wanted to do to him – they wanted to kill them. But what did God desperately want? He longed for them, He longed to gather them like a mother hen gathers her chicks. Who would dream of this? God likens himself to a mother hen. He says, “That’s what I’m like, a mother hen, who wants to gather her little chicks under the protection of her wings.” God is love, God sincerely wants ALL to be saved and to come to the knowledge of the truth. God does not desire the death of the wicked but that they turn from their wicked ways and live – why will you die, O house of Israel? God says. But what’s the problem? Why did a majority of the Israelites reject Jesus? Why will the majority of people in our world end up going to hell? “But you were not willing.” The Bible is absolutely clear that the reason people go to hell is not because of God, but because we humans have the capacity to shut Jesus out of our lives, to turn away from Him, to reject him, to harden our hearts into stone against Him. But the result in doing so is death and hell. The Bible is just as absolutely clear that if we’re going to heaven, WE had NOTHING to do with it! God gets ALL the credit. But if we go to hell it’s NOT God’s fault, it’s our fault.
Jesus’ love, God’s love, led Him to the ultimate pain – to die, to suffer God’s eternal wrath against the sin of every human being who has ever lived – even of those who harden their hearts against him and miss out on the blessings of it. That’s the determination of the love of God, a love determined to be hurt for those He desperately loves.
So, the question for us is, how determined is your love? God wants us to love others with the kind of love that He has loved us. What was God’s love? It involved pain, it involved sacrifice, it involved loving his enemies, it involved loving people not like him, people in a different situation than he. How determined are you in your love for him? How determined are you in your love to God? Do you love him even if it involves pain? Do you love him more than other things? Do you love him even if he asks you to give up something or someone whom you really love? How determined is your love for God? Do you do whatever it takes to love Him not matter what happens in life? What about your love for other people? Are you determined to set aside your own interests for the benefit of your marriage? Are you determined to love your parents even when you disagree with what they tell you? Are you determined to love people who are not like you? Are you determined to love little children even when they make noise during the worship service? Are you determined to love people with developmental disabilities even when they act differently from you? Are you determined to love someone who comes from a different race, ethnicity, tribe, or language than you do?
You see, love involves pain, it involves self-sacrifice, it involves giving, it involves adjusting and changing. Could Jesus say to us, “O people, how I’ve longed to gather you like a hen gather her chicks, but YOU were not willing. You took the alternative to love- hardening your heart to stone. You loved yourself more than God, you loved yourself more than others.” He could. None of us have any right to God’s love, we can’t say, “God owes me, I deserve His favor.” We don’t. On our own, we’re lost.
But Jesus is determined to love us. God’s determination to love us led him to adjust to us in the most radical way. In Jesus, God became a limited human being, vulnerable to suffering and death. On the cross Jesus took on our condition of sinfulness and died in our place to forgive us. In Jesus, God has said to us, “I will adjust to you, I will change for you. I’ll love you and serve you even though it means hurt and pain and sacrifice for me.” And if Jesus has done that for us, if Jesus has such a determined love for us, then won’t we want to have a determined love to love Him back? Won’t we want to have a determined love for others – all others – a love like Jesus that led Him to die for His enemies and friends alike?
But did He do it grudgingly? Like, “Ugh, I guess I have to do this.” You see, when you’re in love with someone, what do you want to do? You want to do things for them, you want to please your beloved, you don’t even wait for them to do something for you first, you eagerly search for ways to delight her, to make her face smile, you get it for her even though it might cost you a lot of money or inconvenience. On the outside someone might say, “She’s got him wrapped around her finger.” But ask him, does it feel oppressive, burdening or imprisoning? His answer, “No, it feels like heaven, I’m enjoying every bit of it.”
That’s what the love of Christ does for us. His determined love to go to the cross and pay for our sins no matter the cost moves us to a determined love that wants to serve Him and wants to serve others with our lives no matter the cost. Amen.