1 John 3:16 - This is how we know what love is: Jesus Christ laid down His life for us. And we ought to lay down our lives for our brothers.
In yesterday's sermon we talked about a living hope that comes from knowing the Savior who died and rose again for you. I don't think you can fully appreciate how that knowledge changes your life, until you realize just how loved you are in Jesus.
I got a glimpse of that when I read about the aftermath of a forest fire in Yellowstone National Park. The rangers made their way up the side of a mountain to assess the inferno's damage. One ranger found a bird literally petrified in ashes, perched statuesquely on the ground at the base of a tree. Somewhat sickened by the eerie sight, he knocked over the bird with a stick.
When he gently struck it, three tiny chicks scurried from under their dead mother's wings. The loving mother, keenly aware of impending disaster, had carried her offspring to the base of the tree and gathered them under her wings, instinctively knowing the toxic smoke would rise. She could have flown to safety but refused to abandon her babies. Then the blaze arrived and the heat scorched her small body. Through this, the mother remained steadfast; she had been willing to die so those under the cover of her wings would live.
All I could think about when I read about this little bird and her saved babies was Psalm 91:4, where the Bible reminds us: "God will cover you with His feathers and under His wings you will find refuge." The wings of God were the gift of His Son, the power of His cross, and the glory of His resurrection.
All of us are caught up in the conflagration of sin, death, and the power of the devil. Our death is imminent if we are left to our own power to try to escape these destructive powers. It is for this reason that God so loved each of us that He sent His own Son to gather us under His protective wings. On Calvary that conflagration of all evil and all our sins struck our Savior. He died with us gathered under His wings so that we might live. The apostle Paul says it this way in 2 Corinthians 5:21: "For our sake He made Him to be sin who knew no sin, so that in Him we might become the righteousness of God."
The dead body of Christ was not a pillar of ash that was knocked aside and forgotten -- as it was with the mother bird's body, leaving no hope for the future. Rather, on the third day, He arose from the dead giving us the living hope and assurance that He will live with us, and we will live with Him now and into eternity.
The apostle John is reminding us that there is no greater definition of love than one who is willing to lay down his or her life for someone else. How grateful we are for soldiers on the battlefield who have given their lives so we might live in freedom. How thankful we can be for those who have sacrificed their lives -- in any way -- that someone else might live. These acts of love continue to remind us that the greatest act of love is found in Jesus Christ.
Thanks be to God who gives us victory in our Lord Jesus Christ.
THE PRAYER: Dear Lord Jesus, overwhelm us with Your love so that we can love others the way You love us. Amen.
In Christ I remain His servant and yours,
Rev. Dr. Gregory Seltz
Speaker of The Lutheran Hour®
Lutheran Hour Ministries
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