[#pictureLent] Mar. 22: Jesus Loves You

By Chris Jones
Community UMC, Fruitland Park, FL

First, read John 3:16

I think we in the Church (myself included) can be guilty at times of watering down Jesus’ love. Don’t get me wrong. There’s beautiful truth to the statement that Jesus loves us exactly as we are, all our quirks, imperfections, mishaps and hang-ups. It’s wonderful when - maybe in a worship service - the Spirit opens us up and allows that unconditional love of Jesus to penetrate into the deepest parts of ourselves, including those places we try to keep hidden.

But too often that’s where we leave Jesus’ love - in a worship service or private experience. We walk away and forget to consider the implications of that love. What does it really mean for Jesus to love us exactly as we are? I think the love Jesus talks about and embodies in John 3:16 is a responsive kind of love.

In one of my favorite stories of Scripture, Jesus is on his way to Jerusalem to do the very thing we celebrate on Good Friday—give his life for us on the cross—when he is interrupted by this rich young ruler seeking eternal life. The guy approaches Jesus and says, “Teacher, what must I do if I want to live forever?” Jesus responds, “First off, you need to obey all the commandments.”

Well, apparently not only is the guy financially well-off; spiritually, he’s heads above the rest. He says, “I have kept those commandments since I was a kid.” Then the gospel writer makes an intriguing statement: “Jesus looked at him and loved him” (Mark 10:21). Having loved the guy, Jesus tells him to liquidate his assets and give the money to the poor. Talk about demanding love!

The love Jesus came to give us isn’t just a sentimental love; it’s a love that calls us to service and self-sacrifice, to lay down our self-centered desires and ambitions and replace them with whatever assignment Jesus wants to give us. If we refuse, like the rich young ruler did (Mark 10:22), Jesus won’t stop loving us. But he also won’t soften the call to meet our demands. Jesus meets us on our terms - and that’s wonderful - but then he calls us to do life by his terms.

I was sixteen and a rising junior in high school when Jesus met me on my terms and offered me the wonderful, life-transforming love promised in John 3:16. Shortly after that, he called me to into the ministry.

I haven’t always lived up to that calling (actually, I still don’t), but I also know Jesus loves me too much to allow me to do something different. The truth is, we all have a calling. We all have an assignment. Yours may not be the same as mine, but you still have one.

The same Jesus who offered love so richly, so freely on the cross, is drawing you, in love, to work in the kingdom. How will you respond?

Prayer: Dear God, thank you for loving me, in Jesus, exactly as I am, despite all my brokenness and imperfections. Forgive me for those times when I cheapen your love by refusing to listen to your voice and answer your call. Enable me to let go of my selfish desires and ways and replace them with whatever assignment you want to give me. And, since that assignment will probably scare me, give me the grace necessary to respond in faith. In Jesus’ name. Amen.

Discussion Questions

  1. What are some of the ways we as Christians talk about Jesus’ love? Do you think some of those ways ever “water down” Jesus’ love? If so, how?
  2. Read Mark 10:17-27. What do you make of the assignment Jesus gave to the rich young ruler - sell all your possession, give the money to the poor and then come follow Jesus? Do you think that assignment was too much? How does Mark’s observation that Jesus “loved him” influence the way you read the story?
  3. What assignment do you think Jesus might be calling you to?