“Passion: Fueled by Love” 

We are taking a break from the Gospel according to Matthew to begin the count down to one of the most significant days of the year: Easter! This is a time each year that we as believers come together specifically to celebrate the crucifixion and resurrection of Jesus Christ. Now, I know what you’re thinking: “Pastor, don’t we celebrate those events every first Sunday of the month?” This, indeed, is true. I thought it would be a good idea for us to spend the next few weeks, leading up to Easter, looking more intently at the Passion narrative, as it’s often called, that leads to resurrection Sunday.  

If you grew up in the church, chances are you’ve heard the story of Jesus told many times. Maybe some of you today are new to the narrative. Either way, it’s extremely important and powerful. 

When Jesus was hanging on the cross, He was paying the penalty for our sin that we ourselves could not pay. When this happened, many of those standing around the cross believed it was the nails that held Him there. However, we are going to see over the next few weeks that the nails where useless. It was Jesus’ passion for humanity that kept Him there.. 

Jesus loved others, and His instruction to those early disciples was for them to love others as well. In the gospel of John, Jesus says, A new commandment I give to you, that you love one another: just as I have loved you, you also are to love one another.” – John 13:34. And even as he was giving this instruction, they were still learning from, following, and watching Jesus and the way He loved others. 

Over the next few weeks, we are going to do the same. 

Just like the early disciples, we are going to learn from Jesus, through the word, how to love others. What was Jesus’ motivation and mission? What kept Him engaged through the difficulty of His mission? 


Why did He trade His life for ours? 

As we get started please open your Bible or Bible app up to one of the most well known verses of all time, 

John 3:16, or join me in reciting it, 

“For God so loved the world that he gave his only Son, that whosoever believes in Him shall not perish but have everlasting life.”

Today, I want us to focus on the beginning of this verse. There are two crucial statements made by Jesus in the opening segment of this verse, both of which have implications for us. Let’s take a look…

If you were to ask any Christian how to describe God, most of them would say something about love. It is clear to see, all throughout the Bible, that God is a God of love, compassion, and care. In fact, 1 John 4:8 tells us that “God is love.” His very being is love. 

What a powerful statement, right? 

The word for “love” used in verse 3:16 by John is the Greek word “agape.” Of the 4 different words in the Greek language for love, this is the one that is willful, pure, and sacrificial. Sound familiar?  

This is the type of love God has for His people including you and me. This love fueled God to send His son in the first place. And this is the love that fueled Jesus throughout His ministry. 

And this is the kind of love God wants to pass onto all those who believe in Him through Jesus, John 13:34,

 “A new command I give you: Love one another. As I have loved you, so you must love one another.

We are commanded by Jesus to love one another in the same manner that He loved. This leads us into a conversation about sacrifice. The key to loving people well is often found in sacrifice, when we lay aside what we want for others.  

Are you willing to sacrifice your schedule for someone who needs to chat with you? Are you willing to sacrifice your own desires to align them with God’s? Honestly, the list of sacrificial love opportunities is endless. However, John 3:16 tells us something else important after we first recognize God loves the world. 

We learn how God so loved the world. 

“God sent His Son.”

Wow! Although we can read from the beginning of creation what the climax would be, Genesis 3:14-15

So the Lord God said to the serpent, “Because you have done this,

“Cursed are you above all livestock

    and all wild animals!

You will crawl on your belly

    and you will eat dust

    all the days of your life.

And I will put enmity

    between you and the woman,

    and between your offspring and hers;

he will crush your head,

    and you will strike his heel.”

The very fact that God would come down Himself to be struck by the serpent in order to crush his head is still amazing. 

That is love. 

Jesus tries to explain this love in the parable we heard in today’s Scripture reading. Matthew 21 talks about the “why” behind God the Father sending Jesus to earth.

All throughout human history, God has been sending people to deliver His message of salvation and restoration. The landowner in this parable is God, the vineyard is His people, and the landowners’ servants are the prophets. But who are the farmers? 

They are the ones who think they have it all together. The ones who think they are without sin. How often do we slip into a similar mindset? 

“Well, my sins aren’t as bad as their sins.” 

The Bible says that we are all guilty of “falling short” of God’s glorious standard for humanity. Therefore, we need someone to save us. That’s why God sent Jesus. 

Jesus is the gift that God sent humanity to show just how much he loved us. 

Jesus is the gift we didn’t know we needed, but learned we cannot truly live without.  

So now that we know God does indeed love us, regardless of where we’ve been or what we’ve done, and we also know God displayed His love for us by sending His own Son, what does all of it mean for us?

I think God’s desire for us in response is utterly clear: 

Love Him back and love others the same way He loves us. 

We have been listening to Jesus’ Sermon on the Mount where He was teaching His disciples the reasons for the laws they had been given. Following this parable, in chapter 22 of Matthew, Jesus was specifically asked by a Pharisee, what was supposed to be trick question, verses 34-40, 

Hearing that Jesus had silenced the Sadducees, the Pharisees got together. One of them, an expert in the law, tested him with this question: “Teacher, which is the greatest commandment in the Law?”

Jesus replied: “‘Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind.’ This is the first and greatest commandment. And the second is like it: ‘Love your neighbor as yourself.’ All the Law and the Prophets hang on these two commandments.”

Jesus boiled the commandments down to two. He may have reduced the number but that doesn’t mean it’s easy. In fact, loving ones neighbor as oneself often takes great effort, commitment, and devotion. 

What if your neighbor is hard to love, difficult, obstinate, and maybe even rude or mean.? 

It can be easy to love friends and family, or not. 

But what about the person who wronged you? 

What about the person who stole from you? 

What about the person who cheated you? 

It all seems to come down to how willing we are to show the same amount of grace we have received. Here is what Jesus says, when asked how often we should show others grace, Matthew 18:21-22,

Then Peter came to Jesus and asked, “Lord, how many times shall I forgive my brother or sister who sins against me? 

Up to seven times?”

Jesus answered, “I tell you, not seven times, but seventy-seven times.

Another way to say this? Forgive, forgive, forgive and then when you think you’ve done it enough, forgive again. It doesn’t make sense. It sounds backwards based on the rest of our culture which more and more tells us to simply walk away from people who hurt us or complicate our lives. The world tells teaches us to fight for our own rights, but Jesus taught we should reconcile.

Jesus taught us, as much as it is in our power to do so, to make things right with others.  

As with many other things we learn about the kingdom of heaven, this sounds upside down, difficult, and to some in the room, impossible. But God loved the entire world; the good and bad, rich and poor, and everyone in between. He was impartial in His love. He was unconditional. 

And, as impossible as it seems, that’s what we are being called to as well. 

Unconditional, sacrificial, agape love. 

Loving others is a tough business. So often, our love is tied to how we feel or how our wants/needs are being met. And when our feelings change or our wants/needs are no longer being met then our love changes as well. This is called conditional love, and thankfully, it’s not the kind of love that fuels God for His creation. 

God loves even when it’s unreciprocated. 

God loves when you’re nasty, rude, and mean. 

God loves when He’s not getting anything out of the relationship. 

And this specific love of God is ever ready for us in His Son, Jesus. 

Over the next few weeks we’re going to learn more about the love that fuels Jesus. It’s humble, perfect, and unstoppable. Not the nails, nor the grave could stop the love of Christ. Not even death could hold Him back. 

Our challenge is to consider how we can love others like Jesus did. 

Who in your life needs to experience that kind of love. Who needs to be at the upcoming Easter service with you? Who needs to experience a love, free of demands, conditions, and rules unlike anything they’ve ever experienced before? 

Who needs your forgiveness this week? 

Who needs your sacrifice this week? 

As we worship and pray, please take some time to consider these questions. And if you’re like me, you’ll also need to pray for the strength and courage to respond in righteousness. 

Let’s pray,

“Lord Jesus, thank you for setting the example of love for us all to learn from and follow. Thank you for trading your life so that we might have eternal life. Grant us the courage to be more like you; humble, obedient, and kind… So that we may have the opportunity to share the gospel with others.”