Summary: A message to focus on the love of Jesus for mankind.
Seven Ways to Say I Love You
Introduction: How many of you have ever heard the following: How do I love thee? Let me count the ways. I love thee to the depth and breadth and height, My soul can reach, when feeling out of sight…and thought it was William Shakespeare? The truth is that this is a poem written many years after his death by Elizabeth Barrett Browning as a declaration of her love for her husband Robert Browning. Let me read this little sonnet in its entirety:
“How do I love thee? Let me count the ways.
I love thee to the depth and breadth and height
My soul can reach, when feeling out of sight
For the ends of Being and ideal Grace.
I love thee to the level of everyday's
Most quiet need, by sun and candle-light.
I love thee freely, as men strive for Right;
I love thee purely, as they turn from Praise.
I love thee with the passion put to use
In my old griefs, and with my childhood's faith.
I love thee with a love I seemed to lose
With my lost saints – I love thee with the breath,
Smiles, tears, of all my life! – and, if God choose,
I shall but love thee better after death.”
My point in using this poem is to set up what I believe is the greatest declarations of love ever heard by the ears of mortal man. I speak of the seven statements by the Lord Jesus from the cross beginning at 9 Am Friday morning on the day of his execution and ending at 3 Pm that same afternoon when He died. It should be noted that these seven declarations or statements are those of a dying man and have the force of law behind them. In our system of law they would be considered “dying declarations” and would have to be given the greatest consideration. Let’s look at what Jesus said at 9 AM when he was being crucified:
I. I pardon you
Luke 23:34 Then said Jesus, Father, forgive them; for they know not what they do. And they parted his raiment, and cast lots.
ILL - One of the great preachers of the early part of the twentieth century, Dr. F B Meyer, says that "in uttering this first cry from the Cross, our Lord entered that work of intercession which he ever lives to continue on our behalf. He thinks, not of himself, but of others; he is occupied, not with his own pain, but with their sins. He makes no threat but instead offers a tender prayer of pleading intercession." When was that prayer answered? Seven weeks after this, on the day of Pentecost, three thousand of these people, whom Peter described as the murderers of Christ repented and believed; and, in the days that followed, thousands more, including a great number of the priests. That was the answer to this intercession, and it has continued down the centuries for we too, are the fruits of his prayer, "Father, forgive them."
II. I promise you
If the first declaration is about forgiving us collectively then the second is about forgiving us individually. Our Lord’s promise to a dying man is a further statement of his love. This man was a thief and perhaps even a murderer but Jesus gives His word to him that when death came he would be with Jesus in “paradise”. All of us are going to face death eventually and if there is anything in life that demands certainty it is what’s going to happen to us when we die. The Second Word narrows its focus to one single needy sinner. God not only sees the whole world but he sees it made up of individuals. On that fateful day in the history of the world, it happened that there were two thieves who were crucified alongside Jesus.