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John Calvin puts forward a very simple reason why love is the greatest gift: “Because faith and hope are our own: love is diffused among others.” In other words, faith and hope benefit the possessor, but love always benefits another. In John 13:34–35 Jesus says, “A new command I give you: Love one another. As I have loved you, so you must love one another. By this everyone will know that you are my disciples, if you love one another.” Love always requires an “other” as an object; love cannot remain within itself, and that is part of what makes love the greatest gift.
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The suffering of Jesus

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Before his arrest Jesus prayed that if it were possible he might avoid being crucified.


And he came out and went, as was his custom, to the Mount of Olives, and the disciples followed him. And when he came to the place, he said to them, “Pray that you may not enter into temptation.”


And he withdrew from them about a stone’s throw, and knelt down and prayed,saying, “Father, if you are willing, remove this cup from me. Nevertheless, not my will, but yours, be done.”


And there appeared to him an angel from heaven, strengthening him. And being in agony he prayed more earnestly; and his sweat became like great drops of blood falling down to the ground. And when he rose from prayer, he came to the disciples and found them sleeping for sorrow, and he said to them, “Why are you sleeping? Rise and pray that you may not enter into temptation.” (Luke 22:39-46 ESV)


He wanted to avoid the crucifixion but he submitted to God’s will and as you know it was God’s will for him to be crucified.


I have spent a lot of time on internet forums discussing the Bible with atheists and some of them felt that it was unreasonable for Jesus to dread crucifixion so much. It meant a few hours of suffering but it would be followed by an eternity of pleasure. If you consider only the physical pain they have a good point. But I don’t believe Jesus was thinking about that at all.


During his crucifixion Jesus said something that seems entirely out of character for him.


Now from the sixth hour there was darkness over all the land until the ninth hour. And about the ninth hour Jesus cried out with a loud voice, saying, “Eli, Eli, lema sabachthani?” that is, “My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?” (Matthew 27:45,46 ESV)


Jesus was not merely a man but he was also God, and he had lived a sinless life. How could such a person believe that God had forsaken him?


He prayed at the start of his crucifixion.


And Jesus said, “Father, forgive them, for they know not what they do.” (Luke 23:34 ESV)


He prayed just before he died.


Then Jesus, calling out with a loud voice, said, “Father, into your hands I commit my spirit!” And having said this he breathed his last. (Luke 23:46 ESV)


In both of these prayers he addressed God as “Father”. Yet in between he felt so abandoned by God that he could not even call him Father. Peter explains the reason for this.


He committed no sin, neither was deceit found in his mouth. When he was reviled, he did not revile in return; when he suffered, he did not threaten, but continued entrusting himself to him who judges justly. He himself bore our sins in his body on the tree, that we might die to sin and live to righteousness. By his wounds you have been healed. (1 Peter 2:22-24 ESV)


For all eternity Jesus had experienced perfect, unbroken fellowship with the Father. When he was crucified our sins were placed on him and because God is so holy he can’t even look on sin this fellowship was broken. It was this broken fellowship that Jesus dreaded rather than the physical suffering.


Since none of us have ever experienced the perfect relationship with God that Jesus had, we can’t conceive of how painful it would be for that relationship to end. Unsaved people have never had any fellowship; what Jesus experienced seems normal to them. Those of us who are saved experience an imperfect fellowship due to the fact that we are still capable of sinning. We can understand a little bit of what Jesus suffered. It will only be in Heaven that we experience the perfect fellowship that Jesus had. Only then will we fully understand the pain Jesus experienced for our salvation and the degree of love that made him willing to endure that pain.

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