While in Oregon last week, we heard the news of the death March 17 of iconic Boston Marathon runner Dick Hoyt, who competed in 32 Boston Marathons, beginning in 1980 through 2014. Due to some health issues, he had planned to participate in his final marathon in 2013, but that got postponed until 2014 (when Dick was 72) due to the tragic “Boston Marathon Bombing.” Over the course of his lifetime, Dick participated in 72 marathons and 257 triathlons. What an amazing feat! But, that is only part of the story. You see, when he ran, he pushed his son, Rick, in a specialized wheel chair. Rick was born with cerebral palsy and was a spastic quadriplegic.
In 1977, Rick told his father that he wanted to participate in a benefit run for a lacrosse player who had been paralyzed. Dick, inspired by his son, agreed to run with him and they finished next to last, but that was just the start. Together they competed in more than 1,000 races, including marathons and triathlons and in 1992, even completed a run and bike across the U.S. covering 3,735 miles in 45 days. Dick said, “Rick’s the heart and I’m the body.” He did what he did because of his amazing love for his son. He has inspired thousands of runners, fathers and disabled athletes. For those of you who are or have been runners, you know how grueling it is to run 26.2 miles. At some point, your body is shouting for you to quit. Well, imagine doing that pushing another person in a wheelchair! And to do it hundreds of times! Wow, what great love on display!
Well, I know another story of a Father’s great love which motivated Him to make a huge sacrifice—for each one of us. The Bible tells us, “For God (the Father) so loved the world (of humanity—each of the billions who have lived, are living or will live), that He gave His only begotten Son (Jesus Christ), that whoever believes in Him should not perish, but have eternal life. For God did not send the Son into the world to judge the world, but that the world should be saved through Him” (Jn. 3:16,17). As you consider the means by which God made salvation available to all who believe, you can’t help but be overwhelmed with how much He must love us, for Jesus had to die in our place and, according to prophecy (Psa. 22; Isa. 53), had to die by one of the most cruel means ever used for capital punishment—crucifixion. Not only did Jesus endure the pain and suffering of being nailed to a cross, but before that He was beaten and whipped until His body was shredded and bleeding. He was too weak to even bear the beam for the cross all the way to the crucifixion site. As awful as all the physical suffering, by far the worst part of His vicarious death (suffering on our behalf) was that the Father had to pour out wrath on His Son as He bore our sins. Remember Jesus’ cry from the cross, “My God, My God, why have You forsaken Me?” (Mt. 27:46).
The Apostle Paul wrote: “He (God the Father) made Him (God the Son) who knew no sin to be sin on our behalf, that we might become the righteousness of God in Him” (II Cor. 5:21). Peter adds, “And He Himself bore our sins in His body on the cross, that we might die to sin and live in righteousness, for by His wounds you were healed” (I Pet. 2:24). As Jesus conducted His earthly ministry, He was constantly mindful of the main purpose for which He came to earth, born of a virgin, living a sinless life, all to be able to pay the penalty for our sins. He often said, “My time has not yet come,” or “the hour has not yet come” in reference to that event on Mt. Calvary. At any point He could have decided that we weren’t worth dying for and just returned to the glory of heaven, but His love for us—and for His Father—drove Him to complete His task. “Having loved His own, He loved them to the end” ( Jn. 13:1 ). The writer of the book of Hebrews tells us to “run with endurance the race that is set before us, fixing our eyes on Jesus, the author and perfecter of faith, who for the joy set before Him endured the cross, despising the shame, and has sat down at the right hand of the throne of God” (Heb. 12:1b,2). Praise God, the work of redemption was done (cf Jn. 19:30), and Jesus “sat down.” There is nothing we can or need to add to what He accomplished in His death, burial and resurrection. “And every priest stands daily ministering and offering time after time the same sacrifices. which can never take away sins; but He, having offered one sacrifice for sins for all time, sat down at the right hand of God, waiting from that time onward until His enemies are made a footstool for His feet. For by one offering He has perfected for all time those who are sanctified” (Heb. 10:11-14).
What amazing love! “But God demonstrates His own love toward us, in that while we were yet sinners, Christ died for us” (Ro. 5: 8). Jesus said, “I am the good shepherd; the good shepherd lays down His life for the sheep” (Jn. 10:11). “Greater love has no one than this, that one lay down his life for his friends” (Jn. 15:13). “By this the love of God was manifested in us, that God has sent His only begotten Son into the world so that we might live through Him. In this is love, not that we loved God, but that He loved us and sent His Son to be the propitiation for our sins” (I Jn. 4:9,10).
And, the story doesn’t end there. That same love that sent the Son to die for us, comes to abide in us when we trust Christ as Savior. Paul said, “…the love of God has been poured out within our hearts through the Holy Spirit who was given to us” (Ro. 5:5). At the moment of salvation, we are indwelled by the Holy Spirit and “the fruit of the Spirit is love,……” (Gal. 5:22). The same love that motivated God to sacrifice His Son for our sins, now abides in each believer. When we allow the Holly Spirit to control us, we will be motivated by that same unconditional, “agape” love, which will characterize our lives as being His disciples (Jn. 13:34,35).