“You prepare a table before me in the presence of my enemies . . .” (Psalm 23:5)
What is love? We love pizza. We love grandmother. We love a sunset. We love another person. God says we are to love Him with all our heart, soul, mind and strength and our neighbor as ourselves. What is the difference between loving God and loving a good movie or a ride on a roller coaster?
Love as defined by the Word of God is about putting the ones we love first. It is exemplified in Jesus Christ for that is exactly what He did . . .
By this we know love, that he laid down his life for us, and we ought to lay down our lives for the brothers. But if anyone has the world’s goods and sees his brother in need, yet closes his heart against him, how does God’s love abide in him? Little children, let us not love in word or talk but in deed and in truth. (1 John 3:16–18)
For us, love is giving ourselves and our stuff to help others. For Jesus, it was giving His life that we might live. I know that, but thinking about the Cross is difficult and emotional. Maybe that is why we need the communion table, the Lord’s Supper, also called the Eucharist. It is for remembering what He did to express His love for us. To help us remember, He prepared a table . . .
And he took bread, and when he had given thanks, he broke it and gave it to them, saying, “This is my body, which is given for you. Do this in remembrance of me.” And likewise the cup after they had eaten, saying, “This cup that is poured out for you is the new covenant in my blood. (Luke 22:19–20)
Jesus also connects Himself to David’s psalm by calling Himself the Good Shepherd. In those days, the sheepfold had no door, so the shepherd would lie down across the entrance at night to protect his flock. This is why Jesus said, “I am the door. If anyone enters by me, he will be saved and will go in and out and find pasture. The thief comes only to steal and kill and destroy. I came that they may have life and have it abundantly. I am the good shepherd. The good shepherd lays down his life for the sheep.” (John 10:9–11)
He laid down His body, His very life as a sacrifice for His sheep. He told them it would happen and He did just as He said He would . . .
I am the good shepherd. I know my own and my own know me, just as the Father knows me and I know the Father; and I lay down my life for the sheep. And I have other sheep that are not of this fold. I must bring them also, and they will listen to my voice. So there will be one flock, one shepherd. For this reason the Father loves me, because I lay down my life that I may take it up again. No one takes it from me, but I lay it down of my own accord. I have authority to lay it down, and I have authority to take it up again . . . . (John 10:14–18)
Would I lay down my life for a pizza, or a good movie, a sunset, or a ride on a roller coaster? I don’t think so. I’m not sure if I would lay down my life for family or friends, but Jesus did say, “Greater love has no one than this, that someone lay down his life for his friends.” (John 15:13)
The demonstrated love of Jesus proves the love of God for me. His sacrifice sets me free from any anxiety about being loved. Each time I sit at the feast He prepared, I remember what my Shepherd has done and how His unconditional love sets me free from worries about myself. My heart and mind experience great emotion and gratitude, yet the intent of Jesus is that His love flows in me and through me — that I will love others as He has loved me.