The greatest act of love ever displayed in all of human history is found in Jesus Christ. If you are looking for the proof of God’s love for sinners, even for you, then look to Christ. As those who have received Christ’s love, may we crown him with many crowns and devote our lives to living out his command, “Love one another as I have loved you.”
On the night before his crucifixion, Jesus gave a parting command to his disciples, “This is my commandment, that you love one another as I have loved you.” But love is not an abstract, sentimental idea. Jesus makes it clear that love is shown most powerfully in the act of self-sacrifice, even to the point of death. “Greater love has no one than this, that someone lay down his life for his friends.” But Jesus wasn’t only talking about what we must do. He was also pointing to his death for us, the greatest of all acts of love.
Preaching on this text in 1873, Spurgeon gives seven reasons for why Christ’s laying down his life was infinitely greater and more glorious than any act of sacrifice that has ever been performed. For each one of these, Spurgeon calls for crowns of glory and worship to be placed upon Christ’s head.
Crown #1: Jesus was immortal and never needed to die
Christ’s death was utterly unique because it was an entirely voluntary act of love.
When a man lays down his life for his friend, he does not lay down what he could keep altogether; he could only have kept it for a while, even if he had lived as long as mortals can, till grey hairs are on their head, he must at last have yielded to the arrows of death. A substitutionary death for love’s sake in ordinary cases would be but a slightly premature payment of that debt of nature which must be paid by all. But such is not the case with Jesus. Jesus needed not die at all; there was no ground or reason why he should die apart from his laying down his life in the room and place and stead of his friends.
Crown #2: Jesus sacrificed himself knowing he had no chance of escape
Some people may volunteer to die for another and yet may still have hope that they will escape death. This was not the case for Jesus.
He knew that if he was to give a ransom for our souls he had no loophole for escape, he must surely die. Die he or his people must, there was no other alternative. If we were to escape from the pit through him, he must perish in the pit himself; there was no hope for him, there was no way by which the cup could pass from him. Men have risked their lives for their friends bravely; perhaps had they been certain that the risk would have ended in death they would have hesitated; Jesus was certain that our salvation involved death to him, the cup must be drained to the bottom, he must endure the mortal agony, and in all the sufferings of death extreme he must not be spared one jot or little; yet deliberately, for our sakes, he espoused death that he might espouse us.
Crown #3: Jesus’ sacrifice was motivated by pure, unmingled love
One person might die for another out of a sense of duty or gratitude or debt. But Jesus had no such motivation. His death was an act of pure love.