Being Loved by Christ

Maundy Thursday

Now before the feast of the Passover, when Jesus knew that his hour had come to depart out of the world to the Father, having loved his own who were in the world, he loved them to the end.

The Love of Christ for Paul

I want us to think for a few minutes about being loved by Christ. I wish there were something I could say that would give you the sense of being loved by Christ that the apostle Paul had. Listen to the way he talked about being loved by Christ:

The life I now live in the flesh I live by faith in the Son of God who loved me and gave himself for me. (Galatians 2:20)

His whole life was nothing but a daily experience of working out what it meant to be loved by the Son of God—what it meant moment by moment to bank on being loved by Jesus.

In another place he said,

The love of Christ constrains us. (2 Corinthians 5:14)

Being loved by Christ was the controlling force of his life. When he turned into any wrong way it was the love of Christ that constrained, held him back, and put him in the way of truth.

The most unshakable reality of his life was being loved by Jesus Christ. It was the granite foundation under a life of immense suffering. It made Paul utterly indestructible in his confidence toward God.

Who is to condemn us? (He asked) Christ Jesus is the one who died, yes, who was raised from the dead, who is at the right hand of God, who indeed intercedes for us. Who shall separate us from the love of Christ? Shall tribulation, or distress, or persecution, or famine, or nakedness, or peril, or sword? As it is written, “For thy sake we are being killed all the day long; we are regarded as sheep to be slaughtered.” No, in all these things we are more than conquerors through him who loved us.

When Paul met the miseries of life and felt himself threatened, like a lamb sent to the slaughter, he never used this misery as an argument that he was no longer loved by Christ. Instead, he threw the love of Christ back into the face of misery and said, “You cannot separate me from this massive love. In fact, this love with which I am loved by the Son of God will make me more than a conqueror in this distress!”

To be loved by Jesus Christ is literally an indescribable thing. It is deeper than any of us knows. And O how Paul wanted us to know the love of Christ the way he knew it! Do you remember how he prayed for us in Ephesians 3:18-19?

… that you might have power to comprehend with all the saints what is the breadth and length and height and depth, and to know the love of Christ which surpasses knowledge, that you may be filled with all the fullness of God.

Paul virtually equated knowing the love of Christ with being filled with the fullness of God. Being loved by Christ means being full of God.

Jesus' Unique Love for His Own

And so what I want to do is take this single verse from that last Thursday evening and hold it up before you with the prayer that God would cause you to know what it is to be loved by Jesus Christ.

Now before the feast of the Passover, when Jesus knew that his hour had come to depart out of the world to the Father, having loved his own who were in the world, he loved them to the end.

First notice whom we loves: “Having loved his own... he loved them to the end.”

“He calls his own sheep by name and they follow him.” “The good shepherd lays down his life for the sheep” (John 10:3, 15, 27). “Greater love has no man than this, that a man lay down his life for his friends” (John 15:13). “I do not pray for these only but for all who will believe on me through their word” (John 17:1).

“His own.” “His sheep.” “His friends.” “Believers.”

Here is something very precious and powerful and life-changing. The love of Jesus for his own, for his sheep, for his friends, for believers is more than the love held out to the world—the compassion that fed the hungry and healed the sick and preached good news to the poor.

And in this verse John want those of us who are “His own,” his sheep, his friends to hear something uniquely for us. It is not by accident that Jesus’ love for the church is compared to the love of a husband for his wife in Ephesians 5. It’s because Christ has a love affair with “his own” that is not like the general love that he has for the world.

There is a kind of love I can have for all women and men, but when I have vowed in solemn covenant to forsake all others and cleave to Noël alone and to love her and cherish her for richer for poorer, for better for worse, in sickness and in health, til death do us part, our love becomes a slight reflection of what it means for Jesus to love his own, his sheep, his friends, his bride.

If you believe in Jesus Christ, don’t think of his love for you merely in terms of the love he has for the world. Think of the love that takes captive and cleaves and unites and cherishes and defends. Think of a marriage covenant between you and him in which he has sworn by his holiness to love you with a saving, cleansing, glorifying love. And remember the words of Psalm 89:34, “I will not violate my covenant, or alter the word that went forth from my lips.”

Ponder in these final, awesome days of Holy Week what precious reality there is in the words “his own.” “Having loved his own who were in the world, he loved them to the end.”

The Length and Depth of Jesus' Love

Then, finally, ponder the two directions of his love: “having loved… he loved to the end.” As I pondered those two phrases this morning this is what I heard.

He loved us in life and he loved us in death. Having loved us in the easiest times he loved us in the hardest times. Having loved us with words and bread and touch he loved us with blood and pain and death. Having loved us extensively over years he loved us intensively to the depths.

We are moved to believe that someone loves us when two things appear—they stick with us over time, and they stick with us when it is costly. These are the two things I see here in this verse: having loved us over the years (patient with all our sin and misunderstanding) he now loved us to the uttermost, to the depths of suffering for us.

This is what we long for, and this is what we have by faith—an experience of being loved with a love that lasts, that is not fickle, or uncertain, or capricious, but durable, constant, stable. But not only a love that is extensive, that lasts over time, all time, but also a love that is intensive. We long to be loved radically, deeply, excessively, passionately.

And the word tells us, “having loved his own who were in the world, he loved them to the end.” It went long and it went deep.

O, may God give us the power to comprehend with all the saints what is the height and depth and length and breadth and to know the love of Christ which passes knowledge that we might be filled with all the fullness of God.