No greater love

“Greater love has no one than this: to lay down one’s life for one’s friends” (John 15:13)

What an incredible sight it would have been if we were able to see The Lord Yeshua immediately after His transfiguration on the mount.

Think about it. He became whiter than snow, radiating the glory of God, majestic and full of splendor, as a king should look. If others had seen him like that, they probably would have rushed to crown him on the spot as king. After all, people were expecting a king to come and save them, a man who would deliver them from the Roman oppression, just as they sought a king to rescue them during the time of the prophet Samuel. Surely, the Lord Yeshua as he appeared on the Mount of Transfiguration fit the bill for majesty. He chose to reveal Himself at that time only to three of his disciples and to two more men – Elijah and Moses. But, it wasn’t a time to talk about the rule and the reign of the King. The Lord’s discussion with Elijah and Moses focused on His coming death. So often, we want the joy without the sacrifice that enabled it.

But still, it would have been such a sight to see Him in His glory. Even Matthew had a difficult time explaining His radiance and said “His face shone like the sun and His garments became as white as light” (Matt. 17:2). What a privilege it was for Peter, James and John. Yet, The Lord Yeshua chose toforego for a season His heavenly glory to take on the form of His creation and become as a sin offering for us. If he had chosen to end his ministry on earth right then and there, we would have remained dead in our trespasses and sins, with no eternal hope, no certainly of salvation and no intimacy with God, forever.

Such an act, of putting aside His honor and becoming despised, of putting aside His glory as Creator to take on Himself the form and penalty of the sinful creation, all turn enemyship into friendship, a friendship that caused Him to lay down His life for us.

The Lord Yeshua made the blind see, the deaf hear, the mute speak. His sacrifice on the torture rack of the cross enabled people to become free from slavery to sin. By His stripes we were healed, by His death, we were made alive, when He rose from the dead, we were raised with Him and were seated together with Him in the heavenly places. While He was in His glory, we would have wanted Him to be King over us. Yet, when He was willing to suffer for our sakes as a man, when the crowd was given a chance to free Him, they shouted – “Crucify Him! Crucify Him!” They recognized no king except Caesar. Their excuse: “We will not have this man to rule over us.” I tried to imagine the crowd shouting. After everything that He had done up to that point, they chose to reject Him and send Him to the cross. He could have exercised all of His prerogatives of Lordship, but instead, He forgave everyone who called for His death and He went to the cross to die for them … and us.

What could have prompted such a willingness to die for those who hated Him, mocked Him and called for His death? Only His amazing love for the Father and for us. His love was so great that  while people mocked and laughed and challenged Him to come down from the cross, He asked God to forgive them.

The Lord Yeshua’s whiter-than-snow garments were replaced by blood-stained garments, so that you and I will have a way made clean to approach God, personally and intimately. He has clothed us with garments of salvation. How amazing is that?

The King of Kings and Lord of Lords is also the Lord of Love, Who has chosen to love me and you despite our actions, despite all we have done and said and even thought. He lifted us from the miry clay, caused us to stand on solid ground, took our filthy garments and replaced them with garments of righteousness.

While reading a biography of Spurgeon, one quote, in particular, stood out and caused me to shudder as I read it. Here is a part of it:

“There was a day, when I was walking, it came to mind, forever engraved upon my memory, where I saw this Friend, my best, my only Friend, murdered. I stooped down in shock, and looked at Him. I saw that His hands had been pierced with rough iron nails, and His feet had been rent in the same way. There was misery in His dead countenance so terrible that I scarcely dared to look upon it. His body was emaciated with hunger, His back was red with bloody scourges, and His brow had a circle of wounds clearly made by thorns… I said within myself, “Where can these traitors live? Who are these that could have smitten such a One as this?… Oh! What jealousy, what revenge I felt! If I might but find these murderers, what would I not do with them!… At last I put my hand upon my breast. ‘I have you now,’ said I, for lo! He was in my own heart; the murderer was hiding within my own bosom, dwelling in the recesses of my inmost soul. Ah! Then I wept indeed, that I, in the very presence of my murdered Master, should be harbouring the murderer; and I felt myself most guilty while I bowed over His corpse”. (Spurgeon C., “Heroes of the Faith” 1997).

The Lord Yeshua was willing to die for us. Are we willing to live for Him? He loves us more than anything. Do we love him more than anything?

He is my king, my “Prince Charming”, who swept me off my feet and lifted me up all the way to heaven, to sit alongside Him. Another human love may follow, but my first and most precious love will always be for my Savior.

 

Dare to be a Gaius

It gave me great joy when some believers came and testified about your faithfulness to the truth, telling how you continue to walk in it” (3 John 3)

Last week I returned from a visit to a country that is almost half way across the world from here. My friend was getting married and I went there to celebrate with her.

It was a beautiful time, filled with fun and sweet fellowship. I enjoyed spending time with my friends, whom I hadn’t seen in a long time, talking and going out for coffee. The wedding was beautiful. It was a special time

As I prepared to leave, saying “good-bye” was harder than ever. I felt like I was leaving my family behind. When I think about my time there and the way I was welcomed, I thought of Gaius.

The name Gaius was a popular name at the time the letter was written, so it is not easy to say exactly who Gaius was. All that is known for certain is that he was an Elder in a congregation and that the Apostle John loved him. We also know of his character. John addresses the third epistle to Gaius and testifies to his character as well as to Demetrius’ character from what he heard from others.

John wrote that Gaius was faithful to the truth and that he walked in truth. He was faithful to brothers and sisters in the Lord, even to total strangers! John encouraged him to send these brethren on their way in a way that honors God and to show them hospitality.

Gaius was able to walk in the truth, because he was first faithful to it. But. first and foremost, he was faithful to God and to his commands. This, in turn, enabled him to be faithful to others. His actions truly spoke louder than words! He had no need to testify for himself, because others did it for him. Those who came to his congregation, friends, acquaintances and even total strangers  were welcomed in the same manner. He showed hospitality and demonstrated The Lord Yeshua’s love for all. We are reminded of the correct order of things from the believers in Macedonia. “And they exceeded our expectations: They gave themselves first of all to the Lord, and then by the will of God also to us” (2 Corinthians 8:5). To the Lord first and then to the brethren. This is foundational and a good principal to apply in our lives. We can serve others, because we have bowed the knees in prayer before the Lord.

I’m sure that we’ve all been to meetings or events where everyone, except us, knew everyone else. We felt awkward and out of place. Have you ever visited a different congregation, where you didn’t know many people? How about a youth group where you are the “new person”, or you were just there for a short while and you probably wouldn’t see those people again? I have. And I’ve seen others in that position as well. Sadly, I’ve seen newcomers sit alone and hardly communicate with anyone, even in a large group. The tendency of most people, myself included, is to greet and socialize with those we know and feel comfortable with. It’s not easy leaving our comfort zone. But Gaius did. He welcomed total strangers, because he saw them as members of his family in God. He “made the effort” to make the brethren feel at home and related to them with brotherly love and kindness. In short, he extended himself to others.

Do we welcome the brethren? Would we welcome a total stranger into our homes and give him/her a place to stay for a while? “Do not forget to show hospitality to strangers, for by so doing some people have shown hospitality to angels without knowing it” (Hebrews 13:2). Hospitality is a gift we all can cultivate. It takes a willingness on our side.

In addition to hosting others, we can help others by going an extra mile – delivering food to a family that is sick or needy, driving someone who has no means of transportation to get somewhere, helping someone to move, helping to clean, and the list goes on and on. Going the extra mile is something I am still learning to do. It is a way of showing love for our “neighbour”. Not helping when we can is simply being “self”-ish, which does not reflect Christ’s love. There is, indeed, much that we can learn from Gaius.

But, John emphasises the godliness of his character by comparing it to the character of Diotrephes, who was the complete opposite, who received no one and put people out of the church.

Am I a Gaius? Are you? I truly desire to be. I want to be one whose faithfulness and love reflects the character of God. I want to reach out and greet those who sit alone, aside from the crowd, or in the middle of a crowd. I want to share the Lord Yeshua’s love, so that others would glorify God glory because of his work in me.

The people I stayed with during my trip reminded me of Gaius. They acted out what they said they believed. They showered me with love and warmth and made me feel as part of their home and family.

Lest we get the wrong impression, Gaius was not perfect. None of us are. But we all strive to be like The Lord Yeshua, the perfect One, who is the best example of all. He left his comfort zone, to make complete strangers, even His enemies, his own.

Will we dare to be a Gaius?

© Hannah Kramer