Jesus’ dying love

Two years ago, Caleb Watt connected me—fresh out of my first summer journalism internship—with an extraordinarily zealous rising freshman named Sydney Sun, who had a crackpot dream of starting a Christian magazine at the University of Pennsylvania. Never could I have imagined that this dream would bear such tremendous fruit—through dozens of articles, thousands of readers, print editions, social media posts, edifying moments, jokes at one another’s expense, and decisions that called for wisdom beyond our years.

I now find myself confronted with the daunting task of writing one last article for the Penn Epistle. Moments ago, I finished editing Avery Johnston’s piece about the pursuit of divine truth—surely a tough act to follow. But, as I am pushing the limits of my deadline and therefore causing a vein to bulge from Sydney’s temple, I am in haste.

As the outgoing worldview editor for the Penn Epistle, I could remind you of the calling to see our campus as an unreached people group—and indeed, I encourage you to find ways to spread the gospel through every opportunity you are afforded during your pilgrimage at this institution. As a leader in Quakers for Life, I could remind you to battle the culture of death that grips our campus and our city—and indeed, I encourage you to speak up for the preborn babies who are slaughtered by the thousands with few to intercede for them. And as a soon-to-be husband, I could remind you of the sanctity of marriage—and indeed, I encourage you to rediscover how the relationship between bride and bridegroom reflects that of Christ and His Church.

Surely all of these are excellent and worthy topics. Yet I am reminded of an account from the life of famous nineteenth-century missionary Adoniram Judson, who preached one day at a small church in the United States after years of unspeakable hardship in modern-day Myanmar. Judson perceived that his listeners were disappointed over the lack of stories from the mission field in his sermon. In response, Judson said he had “presented the most interesting subject in the world to the best of my ability”—namely, “the wondrous story of Jesus’ dying love.”

And it is that glorious and weighty subject—the story of Jesus’ dying love—that I shall endeavor to extol in my final article for the Penn Epistle.

First, let us consider the person of Jesus Christ.

The apostle John reminds us that in the beginning—recalling the beginning of creation itself (Genesis 1:1)—”was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God” (John 1:1). From eternity past, the Son of God has enjoyed perfect communion with His Father, sharing in His divine nature as the “radiance of the glory of God and the exact imprint of His nature” (Hebrews 1:3).

This Word was the creative instrument through which the universe was created, as “all things were made through Him, and without Him was not any thing made that was made” (John 1:3). This Word, the light that “shines in the darkness” (John 1:5), was now entering history.

However, the Word was not entering history by immediately establishing His divine throne and treading “the winepress of the fury of the wrath of God the Almighty” (Revelation 19:15)—although make no mistake, that Day fast approaches. Nor was He entering as an earthly political king, to succeed His father David—although make no mistake, He does sit upon the throne of heaven as God’s Anointed. 

Rather, Jesus entered history through the most humble means possible—as a newborn baby ”wrapped in swaddling cloths and lying in a manger” (Luke 2:12). The Word “became flesh and dwelt among us” (John 1:14), taking “the form of a servant” and being “born in the likeness of men” (Philippians 2:7). As He wrapped Himself in flesh, Jesus’ condescension and humiliation knew no bounds.

The Lord Jesus Christ is truly God and truly human—two distinct natures in one glorious person. He is the Mediator between God and man “who might lay his hand on us both” (Job 9:33; 1 Timothy 2:5). He is the Shepherd who has compassion on the lost and helpless flock (Numbers 27:17; Matthew 9:36). He is “Wonderful Counselor, Mighty God, Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace” (Isaiah 9:6)—and yet a humble child born to the poorest of His people (Isaiah 9:6). 

Next, let us consider the work of Jesus Christ.

As Jesus Himself explains to the disciples, His food is “to do the will of Him who sent me and to accomplish His work” (John 4:34). What was this will and this work? Jesus again explains: “And this is the will of Him who sent me, that I should lose nothing of all that He has given me, but raise it up on the last day” (John 6:39).

The price of providing eternal life to sinners was a hefty sum—requiring His very own blood to secure.

God, in His infinite justice, can never merely overlook sin; yet fallen humanity has no hope of adhering to the law and thereby paying their moral debt to the high court of heaven (Romans 3:20). The Lord Jesus Christ was therefore “born under the law, to redeem those who were under the law, so that we might receive adoption as sons” (Galatians 4:4-5). 

We are not redeemed through some cold, mechanical transaction; rather, we are enjoined to the very family of our Father, united to His Son by grace through faith (Ephesians 2:8). We are “a holy priesthood” that exists “to offer spiritual sacrifices acceptable to God through Jesus Christ” (1 Peter 2:5). 

Though we deserve death and hell, the privileges merited by our Redeemer and graced to us as a free gift are boundless. “What no eye has seen, nor ear heard, nor the heart of man imagined, what God has prepared for those who love Him” (1 Corinthians 2:9).

Finally, let us consider the love of Jesus Christ.

As sinners who have offended the holy and righteous God of the universe, we have merited nothing but punishment, sorrow, and damnation. As unspeakably evil men and women, our portion from the hand of the Lord is “is a cup with foaming wine, well mixed,” which “all the wicked of the earth shall drain down to the dregs” (Psalm 75:8). 

Yet Jesus, who knew no sin, came to drink the cup of God’s righteous wrath (Luke 22:42; John 18:11). His very purpose in being born into the world was to die for sinners (Romans 5:8).

The essence of love is sacrifice—the surrendering of one’s life on the behalf of others, counting them more significant than oneself. “Greater love has no one than this, that someone lay down His life for His friends” (John 15:13). The Lord Jesus Christ perfectly exhibited this love for His people—even transforming them from His enemies into His friends. 

If you are one of His sheep, Jesus has promised to cleanse you from your sins and preserve you unto glory (Jude 1:1; 1 Corinthians 1:8). When you stand before God, you will pass through the fires of judgment without even the smell of fire (Daniel 3:27)—not because of anything you have done, but because of the perfect righteousness of Christ which covers you. “For our sake He made Him to be sin who knew no sin, so that in Him we might become the righteousness of God” (2 Corinthians 5:21).

If you are in Christ, nothing can separate you from the love of your Redeemer, Shepherd, and Friend; Advocate, Bridegroom, and King; Savior, Lord, and God. “Neither death nor life, nor angels nor rulers, nor things present nor things to come, nor powers, nor height nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God in Christ Jesus our Lord” (Romans 8:38-39). 

And it is at this lofty summit that I will conclude my time with the Penn Epistle. Through your years at this university and beyond, abide in the love of Jesus Christ. From day to day—from homework assignments and exams, from athletics to relationships, from church membership to ministry on campus—draw near to Jesus. He will finish the good work He started in you, and He will bring you home. You will soon behold the kind and adoring face of He who purchased you with His own blood. “He who calls you is faithful; He will surely do it” (1 Thessalonians 5:24). 

May the love of the Lord Jesus Christ be with you all, now and forever. Amen.

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