READ: Mark 15: 25-39, John 3:16
Valentine’s Day was a sight to behold when I was in high school. I remember how, after the last class, my classmates and I would open the windows of our second floor classroom to see the line of boys waiting outside. They all carried flowers with them, as if they all talked about it beforehand. My friends would cheer for them from the windows, and hid before any of them saw our faces.
When dismissal came, we would watch the same scene repeatedly—the girls exiting the gate and meeting up with their boyfriends, the boyfriends presenting to their girlfriends the flowers, the girls giggling or acting surprised.
Even as early as high school, I knew that there was something special about Valentine’s Day. I remember wishing I was one of those girls who received flowers, even if I wasn’t a huge fan of them. I remember happily watching the couples leave the grounds hand-in-hand. But my idea of Valentine’s has changed since then, and even more so when I met Christ.
If you think about, Valentine’s comes late for Christians every year. But this time it doesn’t come with kisses, flowers, chocolates, or romance. Instead of kisses, mockery. Instead of flowers, a crown of thorns. Instead of chocolates, sour wine. And instead of romance, the death of an innocent man. A friend to few, an enemy to many, and a stranger to the rest of the world.
If Valentine’s was how the world celebrated love, Good Friday would be how Christians all over the world experienced love. But what was there to celebrate about Good Friday anyway?
Perhaps the most popular verse in the Bible would be John 3: 16 which says,
“For God so loved the world, that he gave his only Son, that whoever believes in him should not perish but have eternal life.”
One verse, yet packed with the reasons why we can celebrate today.
- “For God so loved the world…”
God, in all his holiness, majesty, and glory, loved a world of sin, brokenness, and suffering.
God did not choose to love the world when it became better. God did not choose to love the world when it became more like Himself. God so loved the world… and that was it. God initiated love even before the world wanted Him, asked it from Him, or even realize it needed Him.
- “…that he gave his only Son…”
This morning, I wrestled with the thought. What makes love love anyway? How do you know if you’ve really loved another person? As I read this verse, I found the answer.
Love cannot and can never be love without sacrifice.
God gave. He did not demand. He did not argue. He did not punish.
God gave all He had. He gave his only Son. He gave Himself. He gave nothing short of what He had. He gave nothing less than all He was; generously and willingly.
- “…that whoever believes in him…”
In just five words, the Bible qualifies what is requires of us in order to gain all that He has to offer.
Whoever believes in him. Not whoever promises to be a better person next time. Not whoever vows to change one day. Not whoever will compensate for all the wrong he or she has committed in the past. While these are good things, they aren’t what Jesus is looking for.
Jesus isn’t looking for any compensation or payment from us. Jesus isn’t looking for any assurance about what he did. Instead, what he wants us to believe and remember what he did for us. Because it was never about our performance, but his performance on the cross.
- “…should not perish but have eternal life.”
I try to imagine myself as part of that scene. Would I be standing at the foot of the cross like Mary and John? Would I be with the women weeping from a distance, but never turning away? Would I be in hiding like most of his disciples?
As I thought about this more and more, I realized that it didn’t matter where I was standing during Jesus’ last hours on earth because they all were changed by their encounter with Jesus.
This is the result of encountering God’s love—it changes us. It changes the course of our destiny, from separation to intimacy with Him. It changes us before we can even begin to comprehend how he loved us first. How he traded the comforts of heaven to love a world that didn’t know or love him back. How he took our place on the cross and gave us eternal life.
While we didn’t receive kisses, flowers, chocolates, or romance on Good Friday, we received the one thing we could never accomplish on our own—Jesus in the place of death. For these reasons (and the thousands of other reasons that this article hasn’t mentioned), we can celebrate today like it’s Valentine’s… only better.
Before this day ends, show love to someone you don’t normally show it to, or someone who you think needs it. It doesn’t have to be a grand gesture. The important thing is that it comes from the heart.