Wednesday, October 1, 2014

Love - the Good News!

By Angela Bhandal


Love takes on a whole new meaning when it’s written about in the New Testament of the Bible. It’s really exciting because it actually takes on the form of a man – the man Christ Jesus. Jesus is the picture of what true love represents and that is self-sacrificial love, or love that is given away and is other-centered. It is not kept for yourself. And this is exactly how Jesus ‘loved’. The Greek word for this form of love is ‘agape’, and it is quite different to other forms of love such as erotic love or brotherly love. “This is love”, the Apostle John affirmed, ‘not that we loved God but that He loved us and sent His Son as an atoning sacrifice for our sins” (1 John 4:9-10). When we define ‘agape’ by Jesus’ self-less action, we realize it is completely different to the way we define ‘love’ in our human way. It keeps on caring, despite the flaws in others, it acts for the benefit of others even when they don’t deserve it and it costs the person who offers it everything.


This is how God showed His love amongst us: He sent His One and Only Son into the world, that we might live through Him. This is love, not that we loved God, but that He loved us and demonstrated that love by sending His Son as an atoning sacrifice for our sins.


When I think of Jesus being born into Mary and Joseph’s family, I wonder if it was hard for God to give Him up in this way?  He’s kind of lending or giving away His much loved Son to another couple, who are going to raise Him according to their culture, traditions and beliefs. If I consider this act of sacrifice from my perspective as a mother, I would find it almost impossible to do this, to give away my baby to be cared for by someone else. (In another sense God gives us children and trusts us to care for them. They don’t really belong to us, but to God). In a similar way, God was trusting Mary and Joseph with this task. God’s plan for Jesus was that He would be fully human right from birth while also being God incarnate!


But God’s love for us didn’t start at the cross, it began way before this. I wonder at what age Jesus realized what His mission on this earth was. For example our daughter Eden who is nearly 3yrs old has no concept of “the big picture of life”, she has no insight into responsibility, the need to get a good education for a secure job later in life etc. and as a little, boy, Jesus would have been no different to Eden, except He was! For example, we know from the Bible that Jesus never sinned, not once, not even a little bit. Hebrews 7:25-26 describes Him as ‘holy, blameless, pure and set apart from sinners. Imagine having a child that never sinned! What a blessing He must have been to His Mum & Dad and His brothers and sisters.


When Jesus was 8 days old, he was taken to the Temple to be circumcised as prescribed by the law and Simeon (a righteous man), prophesied to Mary that her child would have an amazing future and impact on the nation of Israel (Luke 2:33-35). I wonder if she had any insight as to what that meant or if God had shielded her from understanding? As parents, we only want what is best for our children and to shield them from all harm, we want a happy existence for them and not one of suffering and hardship. But Jesus life was to be different from the very beginning, He chose to go and redeem people from bondage to satan and sin and the subsequent separation from God through spiritual and physical death.


The Bible only gives us a small glimpse of Jesus’ childhood in Luke 2:40, ‘...and the child grew…’ It says that when Jesus was 12 years old he went to Jerusalem with his family for the Feast of Passover and amazing to think that one day this would be fulfilled in His own death on the cross. He would be the human ‘Passover Lamb’. Human flesh and blood, present at the ceremony which commemorated what had happened in Egypt, 1400 years earlier. What amazes me though is what happened next. When the family returns home, they were unaware that they had left Jesus behind. They must have been travelling in a big caravan of people for them to not notice their 12 yr old son wasn’t amongst them! Three days later, they find him still in Jerusalem and mum gives him a ticking off! They were very worried and anxious for him.  As a parent I really can understand how they would have felt.  Now Jesus reply was simply quite beautiful – but his parents did not understand what he was saying (usually it is the other way around). Nevertheless, he was obedient to them and went home with them. And his mum, treasured all these things in her heart. And Jesus grew…


In Luke 3:23, it tells us that Jesus began his ministry at about 30 yrs of age. There seems to be a gap between the age of 12 up to now at age 30 of his life. Any ideas of how you think Jesus filled his life during this time (18yrs)?


Jesus is baptized and thus His ministry begins. He is no longer a little boy, He is a man – the Son of Man – the purpose and reason for His life starts to take shape. The genealogy that is listed that Jesus hails from is pretty impressive ending in Luke’s gospel account of his Father’s name: God (Luke 3:37).


Now Jesus, full of the Holy Spirit meets with someone He would have been very familiar with  - satan. Satan was never a threat to Jesus and I’m sure satan knew this, but blinded by his own greed and pride and arrogance, satan tried to make Jesus sin, but he failed! And furthermore, Jesus overcame the temptation of satan with the Scriptures that He had memorized as part of His education. He who is described as the ‘Word’ by John 1:1, overcame with the Word that became flesh! Hallelujah. Similarly, we also can overcome through the Word, by the Word when we belong to Jesus.


When Jesus returns to Galilee after His time in the desert, His fame has spread and when He spoke in the synagogue, everyone praised him. They spoke well of Him and were amazed at the gracious words that came from His lips (Luke 4:23). And when He speaks the truth to them, it does not make them happy and from here on in, Jesus’ enemies and those that hate Him begin to grow. This is also the time that the Scriptures describe His miracles and His ability to heal the sick and do amazing wondrous things for people who sought him out. People were beginning to see that this man who came from the house of Joseph and Mary was different. He spoke with authority and had power in Him that could only come from God Almighty. Even the evil spirit in a demon-possessed man recognized who Jesus was, but Jesus told it to be quiet, because it wasn’t the time for Jesus to be revealed in this way.


Luke 4:43 tells us why, ‘But He said…’  and before He lay down His life willingly for mankind, He first needed to preach about the Kingdom of God which had drawn near – the good news, His good news – He was literally ‘the good news’ of forgiveness for sins and the granting of eternal life to all who would believe that Jesus, died, was buried and on the third day rose to life and lives for evermore! Amen!

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