The Greatest Revelation of Christ’s Love

I would like to inspire you with what I think is the most moving, sublime thought the human mind can attempt to comprehend.  It has inspired in me to be all that I can be in loving obedience and service to my Lord.

Please enter this subject prayerfully, reverently, and with a humble heart as I believe we are entering “holy ground.”  As our human minds meditate upon divine concepts of scripture we must accept them by faith, for the human mind is incapable of reasoning them out to give complete understanding, for they are beyond our range of comprehension.

As I was studying one morning I found 22 verses that tell us that God raised Jesus from the grave: Acts 2:32; 3:15, 26; 4:10; 5:30, 33, 34, 37; 17:31; Ro 4:24; 6:4; 8:11; 10:9; 1 Cor 6:14; 15:15; 2 Cor 4:14; Gal 1:1; Eph.1:20; Col 2:12; 1Th 1:10; Heb 13:20; 1 Pet 1:21.

It seemed a mystery to me to find no verses that say that Jesus raised Himself from the tomb when John 10:17,18 clearly states Jesus had the power and ability to raise Himself: "Therefore doth my Father love me, because I lay down my life, that I might take it again. No man taketh it from me, but I lay it down of myself. I have power to lay it down, and I have power to take it again. This commandment have I received of my Father."  (John 10:17,18 KJV)

We know Jesus came not only to die for the human race but to show us how to live by depending upon God for power to live a godly life free of sin.  For this reason He wanted us to know that He had received “this commandment” or permission from His Father to raise Himself from the grave.  Without this permission He would have failed in being our example for He would have done something we cannot do.  Knowing He was destined to die and His inherent power as God in the flesh, Jesus here revealed to His disciples that He had power not only to take or lay down His life but to take it up again. 

It was by faith that Jesus made this claim because Jesus could not see beyond the portals of the tomb: 

Satan with his fierce temptations wrung the heart of Jesus. The Saviour could not see through the portals of the tomb. Hope did not present to Him His coming forth from the grave a conqueror, or tell Him of the Father’s acceptance of the sacrifice. He feared that sin was so offensive to God that Their separation was to be eternal. Christ felt the anguish that the sinner will feel when mercy shall no longer plead for the guilty race. It was the sense of sin, bringing the Father’s wrath upon Him as the sinner’s substitute, that made the cup He drank so bitter, and broke the heart of the Son of God.—Ibid., p. 753. {CTr 277.4}

The very fact that Satan came to Jesus in the wilderness, testing Jesus with doubts as to who He was reveals that Jesus grew up with no advantages over us, for Jesus would have failed or disqualified Himself in being a perfect sacrifice and Satan would have made an issue of Christ’s qualifying to redeem the human race.  Jesus had to conquer in every detail wherein we had failed, and there had to be victory over every temptation in order to perfectly succor or ransom mankind.  In fact in the book Confrontation Ellen White says that Satan accused Jesus of being the fallen one, Satan himself:

Satan told Christ that one of the exalted angels had been exiled to the earth, that His appearance indicated that, instead of His being the king of heaven, He was the angel fallen, and that this explained His emaciated and distressed appearance. {Confrontation 40}

When Jesus spent His time with His Father, God did not manifest Himself to Christ in any different way than he does with us.  If He had Satan would have accused Him of advantages and He would have failed in being the perfect redeemer.  As Jesus faced the cross He realized that by faith He was God and as such had the inherent power to raise Himself from the grave, even though He did not use this power for any personal gain while on earth.  This is why Jesus told us that His resurrection would be the greatest “sign” that would forever prove or establish His messaiahship.  (Mt 12:38-40)

As Adventists we believe that Jesus came to this earth and put on humanity.  He was all God and all Man--a mystery we can only accept by faith.  Ellen White says that when Christ died, it was His human nature that died. It would have been impossible for His divine nature to die. "When Christ was crucified, it was His human nature that died. Deity did not sink and die; that would have been impossible." {LHU 76.2} 

But the question before us is why are there no recorded verses telling us that Jesus raised Himself from the dead?

Could it be that within this dilemma is a revelation that gives us a new and heightened insight into Christ’s amazing love?  Could there be a meaning, a reason why scriptures tell us that God raised Jesus from the tomb and not Christ himself?  

What does Christ’s last desperate cry reveal?  The words of Jesus, “My God, My God, Why have You forsaken Me” expose the extreme crisis of the moment. Herein were expressed the anxiety and anguish of His soul. Our human mind is incapable of comprehending such emotional feelings.  Human language is inadequate to describe such agony.  We struggle to find words that adequately define the grief and sorrow experienced by our Redeemer.  The soldier’s sword thrust into Christ’s side revealed that Jesus did not die of the sufferings of the cross but rather of a ruptured or broken heart.  When Jesus died we must believe that He died actually thinking that His Father God had forsaken Him.  God in effect was saying to His Son, “Because You are the sin bearer, I can no longer associate with You, I can have nothing to do with You.”  Sin is so dark, so heinous that God’s righteous, perfect character demanded a barrier be erected that even God in His virtuous justice could not penetrate.  The serious nature of sin is called the “mystery of iniquity” and as such we will never fully realize the depth of God’s love and mercy in ransoming the human race from the grip of sin through the redeeming blood of Jesus Christ. 

So what can we learn from the fact there are no verses telling of Jesus raising Himself from the grave that early morning hour?  May I propose this awe-inspiring thought as we strive to comprehend an amazing concept:  Picture with me Christ’s holy body laying there in that cold, dark tomb, wrapped in the shroud of death, His human nature dead, cold and lifeless.  Yet, in spite of a lifeless human body there is a second divine nature, God Himself.  This nature can think, reason, feel and is struggling to comprehend the true meaning of reality and facts pressing upon His mind.  He realizes that the heinousness of sin is so dreadful, and the requirements for pardon so demanding it is calling for the one and only thing He has left, His immortality!  

Our mind struggles to comprehend the mental anguish of that moment.  As Jesus’ Divine immortal, nature, still living with the ability to think, reason and choose, lay there, with all the capacity to feel the emotions of the soul, He realized that because He had accepted the sins of the human race he had now willingly placed Himself in a position where the justice of God required the most extreme, demanding payment for sin, eternal separation from His Father. God’s eternal law and the justice of God demands it. This decision to bear the sins of the world would forever sever His connection with His Father!  Was His love for the sinner greater than His desire for personal fellowship with His Loving Father, He intimately had known forever before this severe trial? 

Our minds struggle to grasp such a thought? The great creator God of this vast universe is now struggling with the thought of being forever separated from the One He has spent eternity with.  How strong is this love for a race that has corporately rejected Him.  Even His closest friends have deserted Him.  He faces the reality of the hard facts, not only the human race but God himself has forsaken Him! 

He cannot see beyond the stone barricading the entrance that darkens His tomb.  This barricade is so immense, broad and deep that His divine nature trembles before it.  Will His love be strong enough to resist the temptation to reject His feelings of self-preservation?  The Crisis before Him demands an answer.  Would He use His omnipotent, inherent, divine nature to raise Himself and end this struggle He is experiencing or would He be willing to lie there, forever separated and forsaken of God?  This suffering anguish was more than His mind had previously expected, beyond what He thought was predicted.  Would the demands for a broken law require a greater sacrifice than what His divine nature could endure?  Is He willing to die the second death, unending estrangement from God, His Eternal Comrade?  Will love prevail?  Will love for the human race be triumphant?  His divine nature shudders and agonizes in the balance. 

Even though Christ’s divine nature did not die, which would have been impossible, we should forever be driven to reverence and serve our precious Redeemer, realizing that to this very day and throughout eternal ages to come, Christ willingly and voluntarily would still be enshrouded in the darkness of that tomb, forever and eternally cut off and separated from the living had not God called Him forth that resurrection morning.  Jesus willingly suffered the second death for every soul born into this world of sin, whether or not it be accepted or rejected.  To comprehend such love should drive us to our knees in awe, reverence and adoring love in return throughout eternal ages to come.  How could anyone reject such love?  Truly, “we love Him because He first loved us”, for “God is love”. (1 John 4:16,19).

I would like to share an almost incomprehensible quotation that reveals Christ’s love for each of us.  I can meditate upon this thought day and night. It inspires me to serve and obey.  I marvel in wonder and amazement.  Let me share:

Read this quotation slowly and carefully, relishing every word.  It still leaves us in a state of awe and wonder as we realize our nearly total inability to comprehend God’s amazing love for humanity!!

All the paternal love which has come down from generation to generation through the channel of human hearts, all the springs of tenderness which have opened in the souls of men, are but as a tiny rill to the boundless ocean when compared with the infinite, exhaustless love of God. Tongue cannot utter it; pen cannot portray it. You may meditate upon it every day of your life; you may search the Scriptures diligently in order to understand it; you may summon every power and capability that God has given you in the endeavor to comprehend the love and compassion of the heavenly Father; and  yet there is an infinity beyond. You may study that love for ages; yet you can never fully comprehend the length and the breadth, the depth and the height, of the love of God in giving His Son to die for the world. Eternity itself can never fully reveal it.  {5T 740}

Other significant quotations regarding Christ’s nature and death:

When the voice of the angel was heard saying, "Thy Father calls thee," He who had said, "I lay down my life, that I might take it again," "Destroy this temple, and in three days I will raise it up," came forth from the grave to life that was in Himself. Deity did not die.

He who had said, "I lay down my life, that I might take it again," came forth from the grave to life that was in Himself. Humanity died: divinity did not die. In His divinity, Christ possessed the power to break the bonds of death. {5BC 1113.6} 

Only the Father Could Release Christ.--He who died for the sins of the world was to remain in the tomb the allotted time. He was in that stony prison house as a prisoner of divine justice. He was responsible to the Judge of the universe. He was bearing the sins of the world, and His Father only could release Him. {5BC 1114.1} 

“…the soul of Christ did not go at once to heaven, as many believe… The spirit of Jesus slept in the tomb with His body… All that comprised the life and intelligence of Jesus remained with His body in the sepulcher…”  {3SP 203, 204}

The limited capacity of man cannot define this wonderful mystery--the blending of the two natures, the divine and the human. It can never be explained. Man must wonder and be silent.  (Letter 5, 1889).  {7BC 904.5} 

He possessed in Himself power to lay it down and take it up again. {7BC 933.5}

Christ was invested with the right to give immortality. The life which He had laid down in humanity, He again took up and gave to humanity. "I am come," He says, "that they might have life, and that they might have it more abundantly." . . .  {ML 295.3} 

He is the spring, the fountain, of life. Only He who alone hath immortality, dwelling in light and life, should say, "I have power to lay it [my life] down, and I have power to take it again" (John 10:18).  {1SM 301.2} 

But dear friend, how does Christ’s death relate to you and me?  What is the purpose in studying this topic? A subject we will never fully understand or exhaust its moving truth.  Why? Because it brings us to the amazing power of the gospel, for it is in realizing such love that we are driven to love in return, for “we love Him because He first loved us” (1 John 4:19).  In fact Jesus longs for you to discover His love for mankind.  This is the power and essence of the gospel!  It brings about in the depths of the human heart a motivating force of action that inspires worship, reverence, and servitude.  Dear one, He longs for you to know Him, for He wants to have a vibrant and meaningful relationship with you!  He wants to be real in your life as you learn to trust His promises.

Imagine once a year, Jesus opening the portals of His heavenly kingdom for all to view with wonder and delight.  We would be awestruck with its beauty and splendor!  But what would it accomplish?  We would no doubt determine to be there at any cost!  We would maintain one selfish focus in life at the expense of indifference towards others, because our motives would be selfish!  It would lead to a self-centered, greedy pursuit of outward religion, a form of godliness, a form of obedience, a course of action that would not incorporate the spiritual principles of God’s law.  Our outward actions would not be from love for our Redeemer.  Jesus strove to teach the far-reaching principles of His law in His Sermon on the Mount, and this same law He longs to write “not upon tablets of stone, but on tablets of our heart.” (2 Cor 3:3) In fact this is the essence of the new covenant. (Heb 8:6-13)  In striving to comprehend Christ’s death we see a little of Christ’s love.  Our souls are transformed and love springs from within. We can’t help but respond.  Such study develops into a vibrant, meaningful, and devoted relationship, bringing forgiveness, peace and joy to the soul.  Eternal life is just a forever gift that comes with it.

Consider this Quotation from the classic book on the life of Jesus entitled The Desire of Ages:

“All true obedience comes from the heart.  It was heart work with Christ.  And if we consent, He will so identify Himself with our thoughts and aims, so blend our hearts and minds into conformity to His will, that when obeying Him we shall be but carrying out our own impulses. The will, refined and sanctified, will find its highest delight in doing His service.  When we know God, as it is our privilege to know Him, our life will be a life of continual obedience.  Through an appreciation of the character of Christ, through communion with God, sin will become hateful to us.  {DA 668.3}

To know Jesus is therefore my greatest goal.  How about you?