April 27, 2023 – John 19

When I was a student at Luther Seminary more than 50 years ago, we had daily chapel services. Each of the professors was given a regular opportunity to preach at these services, and we were so fortunate to have a group of world-class preachers in those days. We always looked forward to listening to some of the most powerful and impactful sermons.

I remember especially one day when Dr. Roy Harrisville, a New Testament professor, strode up to the pulpit with an angry look on his face, and said very sternly, “If I were God, I would not have done it. If I were God, I would never have done it. If I were God, I would never have sent my beloved Son to be mocked and spit upon and beaten and nailed to a cross. Not on your life. I would never have done it.”

We were rather taken aback. WOW. He continued “In fact if I were God, I would have destroyed the whole sorry lot of them, self-righteous hypocrites, promoters of violence, and I would have started all over again with a new human race. And if the restart went as badly as the first one, I would have wiped out all of them as well. If I were God, I would never have put up with such rebellion and treachery.”

But, Harrisville paused for a few moments, “Thank God I am not God. Thank God that God is God and that God is above all the essence of love. Thank God that God’s love is unconditional, sacrificial, agape love. Thank God that the most familiar passage in the Bible gives us this unequivocal message, ‘For God so loved the world that he gave his only begotten Son so that whosoever believes in him shall not perish but have everlasting life.” (NKJV)

Thank God that Jesus did not come into the world to condemn the world, but that the world might be saved through him. Thank God that there is no greater love than this, that Jesus lays down his life for his friends.

He concluded, “Thank God I am not God. The love of our God is so deep, so pervasive, so powerful that it transforms everything. And because God is absolute love, we can respond to that love by loving others, and by loving the world God created. Thank God that God did not destroy you and me, even though we may have deserved it, but went to the cross to save us. Thank God for God.”

All these years later, I still remember that sermon like it was yesterday. I hope you will remember it as well. 

Questions for reflection:

  1. If you were God, what would you have done when the world rebelled?
  2. How great is the love of God? Is it great enough to overcome all the evil in the world?
  3. How can we share that unconditional love of God with others?