Ikuro Teshima

We know love by this, that he laid down his life for us; and we ought to lay down our lives for the brethren.
I John 3:16

The Lord laid down his life, ψυχη (psukhe) for us; by this we have known the Love, την αγαπην (ten agapen). This love has to be specifically personified by adding the definite article την (ten: the) in order to show us what love is. This heavenly Love, John confesses, can be experienced for the first time in the death of the Lord Jesus Christ. This is truly an important statement. Indeed His death on the cross was not only an epoch-making event in the history of mankind, but spiritually a world-shaking incident.

Nygren, a Swedish theologian, says, "Although we might have come to know the concept of love without the proof of the love of the cross, we might not have understood love in its highest and deepest meaning without it. The death of Jesus on the cross is the absolute and highest proof of the love of God." Truly the life of this love is stronger than death.

This spiritual love works transcendentally through heaven and earth; it is invisible, and yet it exists. The event of the crucifixion thoroughly revealed the mystery of its reality. Without the cross this love might have remained invisible as a hidden eternal mystery.

For the most part man knows love only in terms of human love – selfish and superficial love motivated by man's desires and expediency. Therefore, readers may be dubious about "the love of God." The heart-strings of the modern generation, whose spiritual senses are withered, will not be touched to hear that this love is the center of the whole creation in heaven and on earth beyond time and space, and that it is the life which has been struggling to bring completion to the universe.

Even as far back as the first century, the self-assured chosen people of God showed violent resistance and dreadful opposition to the revelation of this love. It happened during the great Passover Feast, when thousands of Israelites were streaming toward Jerusalem to worship. Jesus Christ, at the peril of his life, had expounded to them God's righteousness and love. While the people were stunned by Jesus' teaching, the legalistic sect of the Pharisees was in a fury, and the high priest of the Temple was consumed with rage. The hatred and enmity of the ruling class who held both religious and political control turned murderous.

As a result, Jesus was captured and taken before the Sanhedrin, the Supreme Jewish religious court. The entire Holy City was in an uproar and the ignorant citizens were incited to become a furious mob. By them Jesus was cruelly beaten, insulted and subjected to an unlawful lynching, having finally been sentenced to death by the Roman proconsul of the occupation forces.

Both hands nailed to the crossbeam, Jesus was executed by the Roman form of capital punishment, the cruel crucifixion. Like a condemned criminal he was exposed on the hill of Golgotha, convulsing in excruciating pain on the cross. Yet in this deadly, bloody agony, Jesus cried out, "Father, forgive them!"

While looking sadly at his executioners and the mocking crowd, this sinless Jesus prayed to God for them and took their sins upon Himself. Instead of accusing them of their sins, He interceded for their transgressions. Is this not an act of love such as the world had not yet seen or heard? The whole life of Christ was nothing but the outburst of this heavenly love; it revealed the limitless divine love, the climax of which was the crucifixion. Obstinate men, however, were not only unable to recognize this love but actually rejected it by killing the man of love. This is the love that loved but was not loved, and the rejection of this love of God is the essence of sin. It is but the natural reaction of man who has lost the spirit of the divine world.