Yes, Jesus Loves Me

His love binds us to himself.

Every night when I lay my son down to sleep we sing the same song. He will hear me begin, “Jesus loves me this I know…” and then jump in: “The Bible tells us so!” What began as a way to disciple my four-year old has turned into nightly catechesis for Dad and son. We confess our weakness and rest in the strength of Jesus. We remind ourselves that it is to him that we belong.  As the familiar refrain tenderly reminds us, “Yes, Jesus loves me; yes,Jesus loves me; yes, Jesus loves me. The Bible tells me so.”

These words resonate with Christians young and old because of their simplicity and depth. The melody is simple enough for a child to remember, but the meaning demands prayer to even comprehend it. The Scriptures declare that Christ’s love for us is immeasurable. With intercession Paul prays that Christians “… may have strength to comprehend with all the saints what is the breadth and length and height and depth, and to know the love of Christ that surpasses knowledge, that you may be filled with all the fullness of God (Ephesians 3:18-19). In other words, yes, Jesus loves us—and that love is so immeasurable we can’t even comprehend it without his help.

I lead my son in singing the line “little ones to him belong.” Naturally we might think of Jesus’ reception of children and the humble way adults are to come to Jesus in faith (Matt. 18:1-4; 19:14-15). But I can’t help but also think of how belonging to Jesus means we are caught up in a love that is both eternal and perfect. The Father’s love for the Son (John 3:35; John 5:20; 17:24-26) and the Son’s love for the Father (John 14:31) is the basis for our redemption in Christ Jesus. Our belonging to Jesus means that Jesus loves us as the Father loves him (John 15:9). Jesus even prays that the love the Father has for the Son might be in us (John 17:26). Those in Christ are, as D.A. Caron says, “friends of God by virtue of the intra-Trinitarian love of God…”[1] Is there a greater motivation for obedience than this? After the day’s battles with temptation, doubt, and fear, this musical nightly rhythm reminds me that I belong to Jesus, who loves me as the Father has loved him. This is what refreshes the heart to desire to abide in the love of Jesus by keeping his commands (John 15:9).

The confession of our weakness leads to trust in Jesus’ strength. The nightly proclamation that He is strong grants us gospel rest. Was not God’s love made manifest in our weakness? “For while we were still weak, at the right time Christ died for the ungodly.” (Rom 5:8) It is Christ who intercedes for us after all; who can separate us from this intercessor? Who shall separate us from the love of Christ? Shall tribulation, or distress, or persecution, or famine, or nakedness, or danger, or sword? (Romans 8:32)

Our world is ever changing. The most loving parents can’t protect their children from the worry and distress of every day. I may want to be strong for them, but I can hear my own weakness in the melody as I sing. So my frail voice points to the strength of Jesus. His love binds us to himself and the reaches of Hell will never be able to pull us from his grasp; “neither death nor life, nor angels nor rulers, nor things present nor things to come, nor powers, nor height nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God in Christ Jesus our Lord.” (Romans 8:38-39)

We sing the final verse and he slowly drifts off to sleep. I retreat into the quiet of the night, leaving the business of the day behind. My mind, finally “free,” is now reminded of failures, past and present. The feeling begins to build along with anxiety, doubt, and despair. But there has been grace in this nightly repetition. The melody is stuck in my head. Unlike other children’s songs I don’t rush to block it out, but breathe deeply and sing, “Yes, Jesus loves me; yes Jesus loves me; yes, Jesus loves me; the Bible tells me so.”

[1] D.A. Carson, The Difficult Doctrine of the Love of God (Wheaton: Crossway, 2000) 43.

We Will Die, But We Will Live

When Jesus speaks, death yields to his voice.

We have all attended more funerals than we cared to. I remember standing with my family as we grieved the loss of my sixteen-year old cousin who went into cardiac arrest at church just days before. I’ll never forget the small caskets that held two young children who tragically drowned when the car they were in rolled into the Ohio River. And I can still feel the grip of my friend’s hand as she withered away because of cancer. I kissed her forehead and cried, leaving Illinois knowing I would never see her again.

Funerals remind us that there is something wrong with this world. Things are not as they should be—at least for now. If the world is going to be made right there must be someone who is greater than death. There must be one who can make death yield to the sound of his voice. This is what Jesus does throughout the gospels. He told Jairus’ daughter to rise and she did. He told Lazarus to come out and he came. Jesus spoke, and death yielded.

When we see Jesus resurrect the dead in the gospels we want to insist like Martha, “Lord, if you had been here, my loved one would not have died.” (John 11:21) If he had been here we could have sent the hospice workers home. If he had been here the diagnosis would have changed, the scans would have become clear, and pain would have ceased.

There is hope in these passages, but hope is never about the present. After all, Jairus’ daughter and Lazarus were not raised to live that state forever. They weren’t meant to. Eventually they died again. Perhaps they grew old and died peacefully in their sleep, but their deaths may have been difficult, long, and painful. There is hope in these passages, but that hope doesn’t alleviate every pain now. The hospice workers will stay, the diagnosis may not change, and the scans may remain unclear.

Our culture often greets death as a friend. Physician-assisted suicide alleges hope for those suffering. In these cases death is to be embraced and appreciated. We are told to make friends the very thing that is wrong with the world. The gospel never confronts death as a friend. Because death is the result of sin (Rom. 5:12) the gospel meets death as an enemy (1 Cor. 15:26), an enemy it can and will overcome.

The hope in these passages is that the one who can raised the dead will himself be raised from the dead. When Martha pleads her case to Jesus, he tells her, “I am the resurrection and the life. Whoever believes in me, though he die, yet shall he live, and everyone who lives and believes in me shall never die.” No wonder Jesus could look at Jairus in the midst of skeptics and say, “Do not fear. Only believe!” (Mark 5:36)

The gospel narratives show us that Jesus is greater than death, but the resurrection of Jesus shows us that Jesus defeats death. As Luther said, death’s doom is sure. The resurrected Christ will one day end death for all eternity (1 Cor. 15:26). The Christian’s hope is sharing in the resurrection of Jesus. He can raise the dead, was risen from the dead, and will one day raise us from the dead.

I wonder how hopeful Lazarus and the little girl were when they faced death the second time. They had personally experienced that Jesus is the resurrection and the life. They would die, but because of Christ they would live. This is our hope as well. It is how we live with hopeful eyes in the midst of death, the funeral parlor, and the graveside. To be in Christ is to be in the resurrection and the life. We will die, but because of Christ, we will live.