A popular monk in the Middle Ages, revered by all the townspeople, was known for his godliness and his love. One morning He said, This evening at vespers I’m going to preach on the love of God. The townspeople were excited. As the sun began to set, the people gathered at the great cathedral. They came to hear the monk preach the love of God. The last rays of sunlight glistened through the stained glass windows. Darkness began to creep into every corner. Total darkness engulfed the cathedral and the people were still waiting for the monk. Then they saw candlelight, a tiny little light came from the side room. It was the monk–He walked over to the great crucifix. The old monk held the candle and put it to the forehead where the artist had painted in red the symbol of the blood. The monk didn’t say a word and the people waited. Then he brought the candle down to the torn hands that symbolized love. He still didn’t say a word. They waited. The candle moved to the soiled feet. Finally, he brought the candle to Christ’s side. The artist had captured torn flesh of the Savior’s side. There wasn’t a sound, except for soft crying. The old monk then said, “This is my sermon on the love of God. In His head, in His hands, in His feet and in His side. For God so loved the world that He gave His only begotten Son that who so ever believeth in Him shall not perish, but have everlasting life.” He concluded by saying, “This is my sermon on the love of God.”
The Gospels are much easier to read when we hear about the events surrounding Jesus’ birth with the manger and angels or with the feeding of the five thousand or the healing of the sick. These events bring us joy and give us a sense of awe. However, when the message turns from a cute little baby to the brutality of the Cross, we tend to want to turn away. But like those folks who watched as the monk illumined each of the wounds, we too are witnesses to these same wounds of Christ.
As we contemplate these events, we are often so overwhelmed that we fail to understand what is taking place, but the wise old monk helps us to see more clearly.
We hear that the side of Jesus was pierced and in our minds we see death. We hear that the curtains of the Temple were torn in two and we witness the anger of God and the destruction of His holy place. However, by being consumed with the horror of these images we miss the greater point, for both of these events point to God’s great love for his people.
In the shedding of his blood Jesus declares, “I love you enough to die for you.” In the curtains of the temple being torn, God the Father declares, “I will no longer limit access to my love, but will instead pour it out on all flesh, so that you may be a part of me and I might be a part of you.”
These mighty events show us how far God – the Creator of the Heavens and Earth – will go in order to love us. Therefore, if this is how far God is prepared to go to love us, what must we do in return? There must be something. Some type of payback.
Maybe we should make sacrifices? Isaiah 1:11 – “What to me is the multitude of your sacrifices?,” says the Lord; “I have had enough of burnt offerings of rams and the fat of fed beasts; I do not delight in the blood of bulls, or of lambs, or of goats.”
Maybe, then, we should keep the law? Romans 3:20 – “For ‘no human being will be justified in his sight’ by deeds prescribed by the law, for through the law comes the knowledge of sin.”
So what must we do? Pray more? Give more? Try harder?
In No Man is an Island, Thomas Merton wrote, “The wise man has struggled to find You in his wisdom, and he has failed. The just man has striven to grasp You in his own justice, and he has gone astray.
But the sinner, suddenly struck by the lightning of mercy that ought to have been justice, falls down in adoration of Your holiness: for he had seen what kings desired to see and never saw, what prophets foretold and never gazed upon, what the men of ancient times grew weary of expecting when they died. He has seen that Your love is so infinitely good that it cannot be the object of a human bargain.”
So again, what must you do in order to receive God’s love? The love he poured out on all flesh? The answer: accept it. That’s it. All you have to do is accept it. If you refuse, this is all in vain. Accept the love of God. It is what makes this Friday good.