“Eli, Eli, lama sabachthani?”
THE INTER-TRINITARIAN LOVE
Of all the apostles, it was John who wrote the most on the theme of the love of God. It seems as though he could not speak enough about God’s love. He appears to have been overwhelmed by this love. John experienced something of God’s indescribable love in his own heart and it became to him his meditation and delight. This love that passes knowledge not only flooded his heart, but it also flowed over into his writings. Certainly the indescribable love of God often caused John’s heart to race and his pen to skip for joy.
John declares directly that “God is love.” God not only loves, but His very essence is love. His divine character and being is love. Each Person of the blessed Trinity is love.
The love between the Persons of the Trinity is often referred to as the Inter-Trinitarian love. The Father loves both the Son and the Holy Spirit. The Son loves both the Father and the Holy Spirit. And the Holy Spirit loves both the Father and the Son. There is an unbreakable bond of love between the Three Persons of the Godhead. This is the eternal love that passes all human comprehension. It is a love so deep, so pure, and so amazing. God is love!
This bond of love could never be broken!
In John 3:35 and again in chapter 5:20 we read that “the Father loves the Son.” Think for a moment what this means. There are depths and heights here that we can only contemplate with wonder and adoration. Who can measure or explain the unsearchable oceans of God’s love? The Father’s love to His Son must yet be declared in the presence of man and so we hear the Father speaking audibly from heaven at both the baptism and transfiguration of Jesus, “This is My beloved Son, in whom I am well pleased.” (Matthew 3:17; 17:5). It would seem that heaven had come down upon earth. The loveliest One, the most precious One has come down among men. How the angels must have adored in amazement to see the Beloved of the Father dwelling with the children of men. The Father looked down upon the Son of His love with a holy affection and pleasure. In the words, “This is My Beloved Son”, we are privileged to have a glimpse of the loving heart of the Father. The Father loves His Son!
But if our hearts are not yet melted by such a meditation, let us for a moment meditate upon the love that the Son has to Father. The Son loves the Father! Jesus declares plainly in John 14:31, “I love the Father.” But who is there that would dare to question this love? Was there ever a more a tender and childlike love than His? From eternity He had rejoiced in, and experienced the blissful presence of His Father. “I was daily His delight, rejoicing always before Him,” (Proverbs 8:30). But now while upon earth, something of the glory that He had with His Father was for a time veiled and hidden on account of the guilt and shame of His elect that He willfully bore upon Himself. His Father’s intimate presence had been His heaven and His Father’s smiling face was more precious to Him than life. The Son of Love therefore longs for the same nearness that He had with His Father before the creation of the world. He prays with a heart full of longing in John 17:5, “O Father, glorify Thou Me with Thine own self with the glory which I had with Thee before the world was.” We should not reason from this that the Incarnation had weakened the love of the Son to His Father. No, for this could not be. The Incarnation, rather, caused His perfect love to become all the more enflamed, so that it flowed forth in a new manner that was never realized before. Now the eternal and unchangeable love of the Son found a new expression of desire which revealed itself by means of earnest and prayerful petitions.
His Father’s love was so sweet and fragrant.
The love of the Father to the Son is eternal and unchangeable. There was never a time that this love was broken. There is clear proof from John 10:17 that the Father’s love towards His beloved Son was no less ardent or intense at the time when Jesus was experiencing the undiluted wrath of God upon the cross. Jesus says in this verse, “Therefore does My Father love Me, because I lay down My life”. The Triune God had the salvation of His sheep always before His thoughts. Therefore, the Father had a deep interest and delight in the work of His Son and it was the Father’s rejoicing to see His Son willfully lay down His life for His sheep. The words here almost seem to imply that there was never a moment that the Father loved the Son more deeply than when the Son was laying down His life. This was the grand moment on which the Inter-Trinitarian love from eternity had ever been fixed. This was and shall remain the grand moment that the eternal love will ever contemplate and adore throughout the endless ages to come. The cross is the deepest mystery of love. Here it was that love found a way to express itself in a manner that had never been shown before.
But why did Jesus weep so bitterly in Gethsemane? Is it not in a great part because of this? He had always known and experienced the love of His Father. This was the rejoicing of His heart. His Father’s love was so sweet and fragrant. But soon, on the cross, He would have to experience the separation of this love. Oh, to be separated from this love was more bitter than death. It is in reflection of this coming separation that caused His soul to be in agony. Even in Gethsemane, He begins to have foretastes of what it will mean to be separated from the felt presence of His Father’s kindly face.
What had never happened before, now happens!
The darkness of midnight has come upon the earth. At the same time darkness fills the heart of the blessed Son of God. And then, we hear an expression from His lips that would seem to cause the very rocks to melt for pity. What heart will not bow in reverence and wonder at what takes place in these hours? While on the cross, the Son cries out to the Father with words that cannot be paralleled in intensity of sorrow or in depth of mystery. Here the Son of the Father’s love cries out from the awful desertion He experiences in His inmost soul, “Eli, Eli, lama sabachthani? that is to say, My God, My God, why hast Thou forsaken Me?”
What must have been going through the heart of the Father at this very moment? Surely the Father was at the same time crying out with longing towards His beloved Son. This is a great mystery. Here when wrath is being poured down, the Father is at the same time crying out with tender affection for His Son. How could it be any different? The Father’s love to His Son was never broken. How could it be possible for the Father to not experience something of this separation? Here are mysteries too deep to be understood. Well might they be covered by the darkness that overshadowed these hours on Calvary.
No person is now involved or spoken to by the Son of God. He is totally alone. Now that He has lost sight of His Father, nothing else matters. There is now only one throbbing desire that fills His troubled soul - “My God.” He must have His Father again! This is more precious than life. “My God, My God.” His Father is everything to Him. This is the true longing of love: Take everything away, but take not Thyself from Me. He cries for God with words full of inexpressible longing. For what had never happened before, has now taken place! The love that could never be broken, now experiences the dreadful pain of separation. Oh, this is too bitter to understand. Because of sin, (because of my sin) the God of love (who is love) experiences the separation of love. Selah.
It was only for a little while that the Father hid His kindly face from His beloved Son. But why this moment of separation? It is precisely because the Father did not spare His own Son, but delivered Him up for the redemption of sinners. It is here, even at the cross, that we begin to better understand the Inter-Trinitarian Love between the Father and the Son. We know from natural life that a baby is a wife’s love-gift to her husband, and at the same time this baby is the husband’s love-gift to his wife. In a similar, but far deeper way, the Father gave the elect as His love-gift to His Son, and the Son purchased and redeemed the elect as His love-gift for His Father. It was at the cross that the Father found a way to give the elect to His Son and it was at the cross that the Son was able to give the elect to His Father. Do you not see in this that it was the love between the Father and the Son that required the separation of love? Here at the cross love found a way to express itself. God is love!
In John 17:10, Jesus says to His Father, “All Mine are Thine, and Thine are Mine.” Then in verses 23 and 26 He speaks of the believer partaking of and experiencing the very same love that the Father has for the Son. In verse 23 we read: “That the world may know that Thou hast sent Me, and hast loved them, as Thou hast loved Me.” Again in verse 26: “That the love wherewith Thou hast loved Me may be in them, and I in them.” Through the cross the believer comes, as it were, between the Father and the Son and is privileged to partake of and enjoy the same Inter-Trinitarian love that the Father has to the Son and the Son has to Father. The very same love that the Father has to His Son is poured upon the believer who has been purchased by the blood of His Son. And in like manner, just as the Son loves His Father, so He loves His own who have been given to Him by His Father. These are amazing truths and hard to be understood. “For now we see through a glass, darkly; but then face to face; now I know in part; but then shall I know even as also I am known. And now abideth faith, hope, and charity (love), these three; but the greatest of these is charity,” (1 Cor.13:12-13)
“Herein is love, not that we loved God, but that he loved us, and sent his Son to be