Up Close and Personal

October 12, 2020

Luke 23

“And Jesus replied, “I assure you, today you will be with me in paradise.” Luke 23:43 (NLT)

Big Idea: The Son of Man died among us and for us. 

There is a kind of love that can take place at a distance. Indeed, if I take the New Testament seriously, I must love some people I could never meet. But there is also a level of love that requires contact. It comes in the wake of a hurricane with mud on your jeans and blisters on your feet. This is love that holds the hand of a coronavirus widow who, even in her grief, is waiting to see if she will succumb to the same fate as her husband. That love which Jesus demonstrated when He was crucified between two thieves, their blood and sweat mingling in the hot Israeli dirt. He did not love us only from a distance but descended to die among us. 

He was surrounded by the wicked as He died. Beneath His pierced feet, soldiers gambled for His clothes. He prayed, “Father, forgive them.” Walking past on the street, passerby mocked Him and spat on Him. He stayed on the cross for them. They nailed “King of the Jews” above His head. Their King died for them. Charles Wesley wrote well: “‘Tis mystery all! The Immortal dies! Who can explore His strange design? In vain, the firstborn seraph tries to sound the depths of love divine!” 

Jesus could have called out: “I am not like them!” Then He could have proven it with a host of angel armies slaughtering Roman legions. But He stayed. And when one of the thieves turned from rejection to faith, Jesus promised Him, “today you will be with Me in paradise.” Jesus came and died with us so that we could live with Him. What an incredible model of love!

A local church can love her community in name and maybe even in theory, but the kind of love that transforms is up close. Are we willing to cross the boundaries of comfort and follow in the footsteps of Jesus? It may hurt. When we give our all, we may find that the thief on one side accepts us while the other continues to laugh. But this is the trail blazed by our Lord, and we cannot do better than to follow Him. 

Discussion Idea: Why do you think Jesus’ behavior drew one man to him while another stayed away? How does this inform our theories of ministry?

Prayer Focus: Pray for the opportunity to show Christ-centered love to someone, up close and personal.