The Greatest Act of Love
4. How did a Roman soldier come to see that Jesus was no ordinary man, and what did that soldier conclude?
4 The Roman centurion who supervised the execution of Jesus was astonished both by the darkness that preceded Jesus’ death and by the violent earthquake that followed it. “Certainly this was God’s Son,” he said. (Matthew 27:54) Clearly, Jesus was no ordinary man. That soldier had helped to execute the only-begotten Son of the Most High God! Just how dear was this Son to his Father?
5. How might the vast amount of time that Jehovah and his Son spent together in heaven be illustrated?
5 The Bible calls Jesus “the firstborn of all creation.” (Colossians 1:15) Just think—Jehovah’s Son was in existence before the physical universe. How long, then, were Father and Son together? Some scientists estimate that the universe is 13 billion years old. Can you even imagine that much time? To help people grasp the age of the universe as estimated by scientists, one planetarium features a time line 360 feet (110 m) long. As visitors walk along that time line, each step they take represents about 75 million years in the life of the universe. At the end of the time line, all human history is represented by a single mark the thickness of one human hair! Yet, even if this estimate is correct, that entire time line would not be long enough to represent the life span of Jehovah’s Son! How was he occupied during all those ages?
6. (a) How was Jehovah’s Son occupied during his prehuman existence? (b) What kind of bond exists between Jehovah and his Son?
6 The Son happily served as his Father’s “master worker.” (Proverbs 8:30) The Bible says: “Apart from [the Son] not even one thing came into existence.” (John 1:3) So Jehovah and his Son worked together to bring all other things into being. What thrilling, happy times they had! Now, many will agree that the love between parent and child is amazingly strong. And love “is a perfect bond of union.” (Colossians 3:14) Who of us, then, can begin to fathom the power of a bond that has existed over such an immense span of time? Clearly, Jehovah God and his Son are united by the strongest bond of love ever forged.
7. When Jesus got baptized, how did Jehovah express his feelings about his Son?
7 Nevertheless, the Father dispatched his Son to the earth to be born as a human baby. Doing so meant that for some decades, Jehovah had to forgo intimate association with his beloved Son in heaven. With intense interest, He watched from heaven as Jesus grew up to be a perfect man. At about 30 years of age, Jesus got baptized. We do not have to guess how Jehovah felt about him. The Father spoke personally from heaven: “This is my Son, the beloved, whom I have approved.” (Matthew 3:17) Seeing that Jesus faithfully did all that had been prophesied, all that was asked of him, his Father must have been so pleased!—John 5:36; 17:4.
8, 9. (a) What was Jesus put through on Nisan 14, 33 C.E., and how was his heavenly Father affected? (b) Why did Jehovah allow his Son to suffer and die?
8 How, though, did Jehovah feel on Nisan 14, 33 C.E.? How did he feel as Jesus was betrayed and then arrested by a mob in the night? As Jesus was deserted by his friends and subjected to an illegal trial? As he was ridiculed, spat upon, and struck with fists? As he was scourged, his back torn to ribbons? As he was nailed, hands and feet, to a wooden pole and left to hang there while people reviled him? How did the Father feel as his beloved Son cried out to him in the throes of agony? How did Jehovah feel as Jesus breathed his last, and for the first time since the dawn of all creation, His dear Son was not in existence?—Matthew 26:14-16, 46, 47, 56, 59, 67; 27:38-44, 46; John 19:1.
“God . . . gave his only-begotten Son”
9 Words fail us. Since Jehovah has feelings, the pain he suffered over the death of his Son is beyond the power of our words to express. What can be expressed is Jehovah’s motive for having allowed it to happen. Why did the Father subject himself to such feelings? Jehovah reveals something wonderful to us at John 3:16—a Bible verse so important that it has been called the Gospel in miniature. It says: “God loved the world so much that he gave his only-begotten Son, in order that everyone exercising faith in him might not be destroyed but have everlasting life.” So Jehovah’s motive amounted to this: love. Jehovah’s gift—his sending his Son to suffer and die for us—was the greatest act of love ever.
12 A·gaʹpe refers to love that is guided by principle. So it is more than just an emotional response to another person. It is broader in scope, more thoughtful and deliberate in its basis. Above all, a·gaʹpe is utterly unselfish. For example, look again at John 3:16. What is “the world” that God loved so much that he gave his only-begotten Son? It is the world of redeemable mankind. That includes many people who are pursuing a sinful course in life. Does Jehovah love each one as a personal friend, the way he loved faithful Abraham? (James 2:23) No, but Jehovah lovingly extends goodness toward all, even at great cost to himself. He wants all to repent and change their ways. (2 Peter 3:9) Many do. These he happily receives as his friends.