We used to play a game with our children in which we would start with the palms of our hands together. We’d begin by asking, “Do you know how much I love you?” Spreading our hands just slightly, we’d say: “I love you this much.” Then we’d expand the distance a bit more and say, “Actually, I love you this much.” We would continue to increase the distance, each time repeating our affirmation that we loved our child that much until at last when we had our arms spread as wide as possible, we’d shout, “And I love you this much!” Then we would throw our arms around them in the biggest hug possible and say it again: “I love you this much.”
It’s an oft-used expression, I know, that in Jesus’ arms spread wide upon the cross, God cried out his heart-rent declaration of how deeply, totally, radically and extravagantly he loves us, and always has, and always will. The almighty God who made heaven and earth and the whole vast universe loves us so much, so passionately and with such yearning for us to surrender to that embracing love, he willingly gave his own son to suffer and die for us.
Valentine’s Day has just passed. Chocolates, bouquets of flowers, a bevy of cards and presents have been exchanged as signs of love. Though hardly what might be called a romantic image, still the cross has to remain as simply the most powerful or dramatic expression and lived-out declaration of true love’s readiness to sacrifice and give everything for the sake of its beloved, which is you and which is me.
When was the last time we really marveled at how much, truly how much, God loved us. Because he does.
On the day after Valentine’s Day, the unsold boxes of candy go on sale before it goes stale. The leftover roses return to normal price to move them before they begin to wilt. Yet, the incredible love poured out for you and me on the cross has no expiry date, nor does that passionate decision for us ever fade, unlike our love often chills, forgets or becomes distant. That love of God for us remains every bit as costly, precious, potent and vibrantly beautiful as it has been eternally. This is the simple wonder: he loved us this much; he loves us this much; he will always and forever love us this much and more. That God has and does and will forever love us more completely and unconditionally and outrageously and gloriously is, quite simply, our comfort and our joy.
Elizabeth Barrett Browning asked the question, “How do I love thee? Let me count the ways…” When God asks, “Do you know how much I love you?” he shows us the answer in Jesus.