If you were to have bumped into the humble “carpenter-turned-messiah” of Nazareth on one of His many walks along the dusty roads of the Judean corner of the Roman Empire, you undoubtedly would have been intrigued by the teachings He uttered, been awed by the miracles He wrought, and been astonished by His unique claims.
Of course, you would not have been alone. After all, “… the crowds were astonished at His teaching, for He was teaching them as one who had authority, and not as their scribes” (Matthew 7:28-29 ESV).
If you were to actually sit under His teaching and joined Him on His trek “to proclaim good news to the poor… to proclaim liberty to the captives and recovering of sight to the blind, to set at liberty those who are oppressed” (Luke 4:18), you may have mustered just enough courage to speak up and ask Him, “Lord, what is the most important thing in life?”
To this, He would have perhaps turned and looked at you with a smile of warmth and understanding. “The most important thing?” He might have mused. “Just this. To love God.”
I can imagine your response, unsure of all that He might have meant. You scratch your head and ponder aloud, “To love God? Well, I don’t mean to be rude but doesn’t that sort of go without saying?”
Perhaps He would arch an eyebrow. “Does it really?” He asks you as you shift uncomfortably under His penetrating gaze. He goes on, “You see, when I say that the most important thing you can do is to ‘love God’, I mean for you to really love Him… with all your heart, with all your soul, with all your mind and with all your strength. I mean for you to love Him with both deep affection and with wild abandon and passion. I mean for you to think deeply and meditatively about His love for you and all His promises, as well as offer your body daily for His glory, keeping it available for His purposes. I mean for you to take all that you are, all that you’ve ever been, and all that you may become and place everything under the feet of your Father in heaven” (adapted from Mark 12:29-30).
Maybe you would catch your breath. Perhaps you’d awkwardly clear your throat and mumble something like, “Wow! All that, huh? You mean that we’re to love Him that much?”
I think He would then smile kindly at you, place His hand on your shoulder and say, “Yeah. That’s exactly what I mean.” Maybe He would then give your shoulder a reassuring squeeze and bend close to your ear. “Don’t be afraid though: You can’t ‘out-love’ God. Just wait and see,” He might have said with a wink.
And if afterward you stood on a hill called Calvary, beneath an old rugged cross, you might have remembered all that He had told you. Maybe both a deep sorrow and a calm peace would strangely fill your heart. “He was right,” you’d think. Watching the love of God bear the horror of the cross for the sake of your sin, you then might have said to yourself, “I can never out-love God. But He’s worth all the love that I can give Him back.” And then you’d walk away, never the same, seeking to be emptied of yourself and filled up with Him.
“You were ransomed from the futile ways inherited from your forefathers, not with perishable things such as silver or gold, but with the precious blood of Christ, like that of a lamb without blemish or spot. He was foreknown before the foundation of the world but was made manifest in the last times for your sake, who through Him are believers in God, who raised Him from the dead and gave Him glory, so that your faith and hope are in God” (1 Peter 1:18-21 ESV).
Copyright © Thom Mollohan