2 Samuel 1:26
I am distressed for you, my brother Jonathan: very pleasant have you been to me: your love to me was wonderful…
My text is a fragment of the lament, composed and sung by David, to the memory of the slain. Let us forget the battle scene where poor Jonathan, all still and stark and blood-stained, lies, and let us turn to Calvary, and behold the wounded dying form of God's beloved Son.
I. THE LOVE OF CHRIST WAS WONDERFUL WHEN WE CONSIDER THOSE HE LOVED.
1. There was nothing lovely in us. It is as natural for anything lovely to draw forth our admiration as for the magnet to attract the iron or the flower to attract the bee. There was great reason why Jonathan should love David. But when we come to consider our Lord's love for us, we have to say —
What was there in me that could merit esteem,
Or give the Creator delight?It is recorded that a minister once announced his intention of being in the vestry of his Church, for a certain time on a certain day, to meet any one who might have scriptural difficulties, that he might try to solve them. Only one came. "What is your difficulty," said the minister. The man answered, "My difficulty is in the ninth chapter of Romans, where it says, 'Jacob have I loved, but Esau have I hated.' "Yes," said the minister, "there is great difficulty in that verse; but which part of the verse forms your difficulty?" "The latter part, of course," said the man. "I cannot understand why God should hate Esau." The minister's reply was this: "The verse has often been a difficulty to me, but my difficulty has always been in the first part of the verse; I never could understand how God could love that wily, deceitful, supplanting scoundrel, Jacob."
2. There was nothing loving in us. — We haw a familiar saying, that "love begets love." And it is very largely true in daily experience. "Why is it that everybody loves you?" said Dr. Doddridge to his little daughter when she was dying. "I do not know, without it is because I love everybody." Many a one who could not aspire to be called beautiful, nevertheless has become greatly loved because of an affectionate, loving disposition they possess. But this is not the key that unlocks the mystery of Christ's love to us. No love of ours drew it forth. If we love Him at all, it is because lie first loved us. "Come, bright spirit, I charter you to find for us when first Christ's love began." Away into the past speeds our messenger. He lingers at the cross. "Pause not there," we say, "He loved us before that." He waits a moment at the manger cradle. "We know that His coming was a great sign of love, but it began not then." He flies on to the days of creation, and seeing the loving provision made for us he pauses yet again. Yet His love began not then. On flies the spirit into the dim recesses of eternity, when as yet there was no creation, when God was wrapped about in His own solitude, even there he finds God loved us. The task is given up, for he finds from all eternity God loved His people. We are stricken dumb at the greatness of such love. Its nature is indeed a marvel to us. Nothing lovely and nothing loving in us, and yet He loved us. Again let us give utterance to our text, and say, "Thy love to me is wonderful."
II. THE LOVE OF CHRIST IS WONDERFUL IN ITS EXPRESSION.
1. Calvary. The greater expression of the love of Christ is seen in Calvary. A tragedy in the street will always attract a crowd. Business men will spare a moment to make inquiries, frail women will venture in the throng to hear of the deed, and even the infirm and aged cannot be kept away. There was once a tragedy which stopped the flight of angels as well as the flight of men. A cross is lifted up, bearing its load of shame and pain. Who is He? How came He there? He is the Son of God! Love brought Him there. Thinkest thou it was the nails, the cords, that Roman soldiery kept Him there? It was none of these, it was love! Jesus our love was crucified. Here was love passing what tongue can tell, or mind imagine, or heart conceive. His love to us was wonderful.
2. We still have expressions of His love. It was the misfortune of David that he had to speak in the past tense — "Thy love to me us was wonderful."
III. THE, LOVE OF CHRIST IS WONDERFUL IN ITS POWER.
1. There is its melting power:, We feel confident there is more power in love than in fear. Fear is a power, but love is a greater power. Some may have been driven into the kingdom by fear, but more have been wooed into it by love. It is said that when the Moravian missionaries first laboured in Greenland a considerable time passed without any fruit being seen to their labour. They had been earnest, truthful, consecrated, and yet there was no result. Anon they gathered the Greenlanders together and read the story of the Lord's death as recorded by Matthew. The bare recital of the story without any comments upon it had a marked effect upon the Greenlanders. Tears were in many eyes. Some said, "Did He die for me?" Many gave themselves to the Lord, and thus commenced a great revival in those regions. The love of Christ is wonderful when we remember its melting power.
2. Think, too, of its constraining power. It bends the saint to the will of Christ. "The love of Christ constraineth me." The word "constrain" is a strong word, meaning to press, to press painfully. It is used by Paul in the Acts of the Apostles, where it is translated, "being pressed in spirit." That well-known text, "I have a baptism to be baptised with; and how am I straitened till it be accomplished!" contains this same word, translated "straitened." The love of Christ is a great power. It restrains our life from useless aims, and compresses it into the right channel. There is a beautiful Greek story, which may be mythical in its origin, but bears in it a beautiful moral. It is said a prince, his wife, and two sons were taken prisoners by a neighbouring monarch, and were brought before him. Said the king to the prince, "If I let your eider son go free, what givest thou me?" And the prince made answer, saying, "I will give thee half my possessions." "And if I let your younger son go free what givest thou me?" And the prince answered, "I will give thee the other half of my domains." The monarch spoke again, saying, "If I let the princess go free, what wilt thou give me?" Now the prince had given all away for the redemption of his sons, and knew not what answer to make; but anon he said, "If thou lettest my wife go free, I will give thee myself." So pleased was the monarch that he let them all free. As they went homeward the prince said to his consort, "Didst thou see the beauty of the king's countenance?" "Nay," said the princess. "Didst thou see the glory of his court?" "Nay," again said the princess. "Didst thou see the splendour of his throne?" "Nay," again replied his wife, "for I had only eyes to see him who was willing to give himself for me." Oh, my soul, Jesus was net only willing but did give Himself for thee. Have only eyes for Him. The realisation of His love will be a power in thy life. No command of his will be grievous. His love will prove to be wonderful in its constraining power.
3. Christ's love has also a translating power. There seem to be many persons, even good persons, who all their life are held in bondage by the fear of death. The only reason why this is so is that they must fail to understand the power of the love of Christ. What is death? It is the journey home. "To be with Christ" is how the apostle described the result of death. "Absent from the body, present with the Lord." Now, if you really love a person, and realise deeply the love of that one to you, you long to get to them, and no journey, however inconvenient and distressful, would make you hesitate or shrink. You would be glad to go. Apply this to Christ and death.
(W. L. Mackenzie.)
Parallel VersesKJV: I am distressed for thee, my brother Jonathan: very pleasant hast thou been unto me: thy love to me was wonderful, passing the love of women.