Typically, when we hear the phrase, “The Passion of Christ,” we associate it with the suffering of Jesus during Holy Week. And certainly, this is right. But when I hear the term, my mind goes first to the great love of Christ which led Him to the cross.
When God grabbed hold of my fourteen year-old heart in a deeper way, He did it primarily by speaking to me through a passage in Hosea 11. A workbook I had from a retreat asked me to substitute my name for every place where the passage read Israel. Try it with your own name as you read along in this New Living Translation of the text:
“When [_______] was a child, I loved [her] and I called [my daughter] out of Egypt. But the more I called [_________] the further [she] went from me… . I myself taught [________] how to walk, leading [her] along by the hand. But [she] doesn’t know or even care that it was I who took care of [her]. I led [______] along with ropes of kindness and love. I lifted the yoke from [her] neck and I myself stooped to feed [her].
“But since [________] refuses to return to me… [her] enemies will crash through [her] gates. They will destroy [her], trapping [her] in [her] own evil plans. For [__________] is determined to desert me. [She] calls me the most High, but [she] doesn’t truly honor me.
“Oh, how can I give you up,[_________]? How can I let you go? How can I destroy you … or demolish you…? My heart is torn within me, and my compassion overflows. No, I will not unleash my fierce anger. I will not completely destroy [________], for I am God and not a mere mortal. I am the Holy One living among you, and I will not come to destroy.
“For someday [_________] will follow me. I, the Lord, will roar like a lion and when I roar, [_________] will return trembling from the west. Like a flock of birds, [_________] will come…. Trembling like doves, [________] will return…. And I will bring [her] home again, says the LORD.” (Hosea 11: 1-4, 6-11)
For the first time in my life, when I read these words I heard the passion of my God for me. I heard His tenderness for me, I heard my betrayal, I heard what I deserved, and I heard how He would not give me up. I could see Him like a lion on my trail, unwilling to relinquish His pursuit. I could hear in His haunting, “How can I give you up? How can I let you go?” the cry of a lover who would not let the beloved go. And His words melted me.
I did come to Him trembling. I came with prodigal hope. I came with a thirst for home, a true home with Christ.
Now, as I read about Christ weeping over Jerusalem, stumbling underneath the heavy burden of a wooden cross, flayed by whips, pierced by a mocking crown, and crying, “Father forgive,” as His lungs burned for air, I hear the haunting questions of Hosea. “How can I give you up? How can I let you go?”
To me, His suffering and His passion for His bride—the Church, will always go hand in hand. He suffered because His love compelled Him not to turn back. He suffered because He wants us. He desires to be in relationship with us. He created us, He nurtured us, and He will not bear to let us go. But we must come.
We must hear the roar of His great love for us, and turn. We must hear of what we in our sin deserve, and see what in His grace He has bought us, and come running back to Him.
Does His love make you tremble? Does it make you come running? It should: no love has ever been as strong. No love has ever gone to such great lengths. This is not a love to be taken lightly.