Why is it good to remember the passionate love of Christ for us? Is it so we will feel bad for putting him through such pain? Or is it some kind of ploy for using guilt as a tool to manipulate our obedience?
Not at all. We remember Jesus’ passion because, although carried out by evil men with evil intent, it was God’s means of executing Death and birthing Life.
Disclaimer: For the squeamish, this post contains more than you wanted to know about childbirth.
While I don’t remember much—make that anything—about my own birth, the births of my three children are still vivid to me. Especially the first one.
After forty-one weeks of heartburn and swollen ankles, I woke up just in time to keep the gush of water from soaking our bed. “Honey! It’s time!!” We stumbled to the car, grabbing my bag, his snacks, some towels, and the car keys.
My husband didn’t take off the parking brake until we were halfway down the street.
At first the pains were bearable. Not so bad after all, I thought. That’s because nothing was actually happening. Eight hours later the doctor decided I needed some help.
Once the Pitocin established a steady drip, I was suddenly punched by a contraction that built into a massive wave of pain, then crested into a moment of relief, only to be overtaken by the next one, building bigger and faster. The rest of the day was a blur of gasping, panting, groaning.
I was submerged in the pain.
Many people had tried to prepare me for this day, but the only words I remembered were these: It hurts. But it accomplishes something. That’s why they call it labor. Labor pain with a purpose.
It hurts. But it accomplishes something. That’s why they call it labor. Labor is pain with a purpose.
The final stage was the hardest work. Everything in me pushed. With a final cry Rachel was born.
Remembering His Passionate Love
Why would I bore you with these personal details?
This past week in our study of Mark 15, we’ve been remembering Jesus’ death for us. Each scene in this chapter brought specific details into focus. We relived the moment of his condemnation. The fact of his rejection. The specifics of his suffering. The reality of his anguish.
We heard his cry of dereliction, “My God, my God, why have you forsaken me (Mark 15:34c)?” It pierced our hearts with pain, as we remembered our own forsaken moments. We shook our heads, as every unanswered why of our own lives floated before us.
But then we remembered. Jesus wasn’t emoting his despair, he was quoting Scripture! He wasn’t reciting like some child parroting a Bible verse to earn a sticker, but quoting as the Messiah, fulfilling prophecy. He spoke as David’s heir, suffering in the wilderness before being crowned king. And he spoke as our representative, the True Man suffering with us as well as for us.
Why remember? Why invest time and emotional energy thinking about his sufferings?
Is it to make us feel bad for our sins? See what he had to go through for you. Now don’t you go causing him any more trouble! Don’t you think he’s done enough for you?!
Is it to make us appropriately grateful? Look what it cost him. Look! He was condemned so you could go free, rejected so you could be welcomed, abandoned so you could be embraced. The least you could do is be grateful!
Or is it to see and hear, firsthand, the most passionate love in the universe?
His Labor of Love
Once they placed my first born child in my arms, I forgot everything else. I wasn’t aware that my legs were still trembling and jerking. I wasn’t worried about how to take care of this helpless bundle of human life. Not only that, I hadn’t begun to fret about her tantrums or her grades or her love like. I was transported away from every pain and fear.
I forgot everything but joy.
Jesus prepared his disciples for his passion only a few hours earlier. Right before they departed the upper room, on the way to the Garden with its prayers and arrest, Jesus described himself as a woman in labor. John records his words:
“When a woman is giving birth, she has sorrow because her hour has come, but when she has delivered the baby, she no longer remembers the anguish, for joy that a human being has been born into the world.” John 16:21
“When a woman is giving birth, she has sorrow because her hour has come, but when she has delivered the baby, she no longer remembers the anguish, for the joy that a human being has been born into the world.”
Were these words mean to describe the disciples’ experience? That they would watch with anguish and three days later burst with joy? No. He wasn’t describing their sorrow and joy, he was describing his own. Once again his emotions were being informed by Scripture:
“Out of the anguish of his soul he shall see and be satisfied…” Isaiah 53:11a
The word “anguish,” also translated “travail,” was the word also used for a woman in labor. The word “satisfied” is rich with the meaning of utter joy, nothing missing, complete contentment and happiness.
Passionate Love Forgets the Pain for Joy
Jesus was submerged in pain on the cross. He endured the labor that was required—condemnation, rejection, abandonment—until that final cry (Mark 15:37) when he pushed out his spirit into his Father’s hands. John records it as a cry of triumph, “It is finished” (John 19:30). His labor was over.
That’s when you and I were placed in his arms.
Jesus no longer remembers his suffering because joy has replaced it. But we remember his suffering, because it shows us his love like nothing else.
Let’s keep seeing Jesus suffering God’s judgment for us. Let’s keep hearing the good news of his passionate love for you and me.