|Loving His Enemies
The cross displays the glory of God, and one aspect of his glory that should astound us is his love for those that have rejected and abused him. Jesus told us to turn the other cheek. He told us to love our enemies. He said this because he turned the other cheek. He loved enemies, and this is glorious news for sinners.
First, in his hour of great need he asked his disciples to watch in prayer with him, but they failed him miserably. So great was his agony in Gethsemane that he sweat blood. “My soul is very sorrowful, even unto death” (Matt 26:38). In other words, he was so depressed and anxious that he was suicidal. Yet, the three––Peter, James, and John––fell asleep on him, not once, but three times.
The three disappointed him. They showed callous indifference in his hour of greatest need. Yet this is why Jesus will die, to atone for their lack of love, for their lack of faithfulness, and their lack of care.
To make matters worse while Jesus is being tried by the Jewish authorities, Peter is in the background confessing, “I swear I do not know the man” (Matt. 27:74). Three is the number for exclamation. The three fall asleep three times, and Peter denies Jesus three times. The threefold repetition points to the seriousness of the sin and the bankruptcy of the sinner. For this Jesus died, to atone for Peter’s betrayal.
Then to make matters even worse, the Jewish people, the chosen people, those who professed to love God, those who looked down on the Gentiles for not loving him, when given an opportunity to free the God they profess to worship, cried out “crucify him” twice and then called down a sacred curse upon themselves. “Let his blood be upon us and on our children” (Matt. 27:25). Again, the number three. They rejected him three times. Jesus will die to atone for the sins of many in this crowd that have betrayed and forsaken him.
What can we say? God’s love, mercy, and grace are too remarkable for words. God’s love is not love for friends. With that we are all familiar. We all love friends. No, God loves his enemies. He dies for those that betray him. He suffers infinite pains for those that reject him, mock him, and spit upon him. No wonder Paul described it as love that surpasses knowledge.
If this is true, how should we respond?
First, we need to revel in God’s forgiving love. Many reading this have also denied him, rejected him, or been unfaithful to him. He loves you. He forgives you. He has gone the full mile for you, and if need be, he will go further.
Second, we need to go and do the same. Jesus said “love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you, so that you may be sons of your Father in heaven” (Matt. 5:44-45). In other words, this is what God is like. Like Father, like Son. God’s children share their father’s moral and spiritual paternity. They love their enemies, they forgive their enemies, they do whatever is necessary to reconcile with their enemies, even at great personal expense.
God’s infinite love for sinners is a wonder to behold!