Wide, Long, High, Deep
How wide, long, high, and deep is the love of Jesus.
That is Ephesians 3:18. It is the theme of today’s message. It is a wonderful proclamation that has a vast application, which we will think about in this message. However, in a devotional I recently read, I was introduced to the idea the verse also can have a much smaller application.
The devotional was written by a woman who tells of a medical test she had. She wrote, “I lay still on the vinyl-covered mat and held my breath on command as the machine whirred and clicked. I knew lots of folks had endured MRIs, but for claustrophobic me, the experience required focused concentration on something - Someone - much bigger than myself.”
She continued, “In my mind, a verse in the Bible moved in rhythm with the machine’s hum. It was Ephesians 3:18. How wide and long and high and deep is the love of Jesus.”
Leaving the woman for a moment, we will, as mentioned, think about the vast application of the verse in just a bit. However, as the woman shared, the extent of the Lord’s love is not limited to the vast measures. It can be felt in small spaces as well, including for that woman in the MRI machine that day.
Here is what she wrote about that. “My position while lying in the MRI provided a new image for my understanding of Ephesians 3:18. Wide? The six inches on either side of where my arms were tightly pinned to my body within the tube. Long? The distance between the cylinder’s two openings, extending our from my head and feet. High? The six inches from my nose up to the ceiling of the tube. Deep? The support of the tube anchored to the floor beneath me, holding me up.”
That ends the woman’s devotional, and of course, the Lord’s love is vast. It has no limits. We will discuss the vast range of His love in a moment. But how good to know that since His love is everywhere, it is right where we are individually. In every circumstance we face, whether happy or scary.
A similar explanation came my way a few years ago. It was this. Do you sometimes feel like your prayers are getting no higher than the ceiling? That is alright because Jesus is everywhere. Not only above the ceiling, but below the ceiling as well. So yes, He does hear our prayers whether we feel listened to or not.
I think that point is so wonderful. Are you going through a troubled time? A time when you feel isolated or alone? I suspect that might be the case for some.
I hope we are supportive of one another at such times. But may we remember, even in times of difficulty, that the love of Jesus is with us. As His love extends everywhere, that includes right around us. Let’s strive to feel His love, as mentioned, even on difficult days or in difficult situations
In fact, let’s share our experiences with others so they, too, can be encouraged to know and feel and benefit from the Lord’s love, which takes us from the small, individual extent of that love to the vastness of it. Let’s consider the four dimensions proclaimed in the verse thought about by the woman in the MRI machine.
First, how wide is the love of Jesus.
A verse that pops into my mind is John 3:16. This is a well-known verse, and I know we have talked about it before, but what an amazing description of the width of Jesus’ love as it proclaims that He extends His love to all people everywhere.
John 3:16. “For God so loved the world.” This mentions the love of God, but remember God and Jesus are one. Also remember Jesus agreed to leave Heaven and come to this world. “For God so loved the world that He gave His only begotten Son.” He gave Jesus. Jesus willingly came, “that whosoever believeth in Him [in Jesus] should not perish, but have everlasting life.”
Whosoever. What a wonderful way to describe the width of the Lord’s love. Whosoever. Not just those of us who are nice people. Not just us good people in the midwest. Not just Americans.
Whosoever, which includes all people around the world - men, women, boys, and girls, those who are poor and those who are rich, those who are educated and those who are not, those in MRI tubes and those who are healthy .Jesus loves whosoever. God sent Him to share His love with whosoever.
Of course the key is that each individual whosoever must accept Jesus’ love before he or she will benefit from it. The fantastic benefit of eternal life - good, wonderful, satisfying life in Heaven forever. But the point is - the fact is - Jesus’ love is wide enough to cover anybody and everybody anywhere and everywhere.
May we feel that, even if we mess up sometimes, and may we share His love with others.
How wide is the love of Jesus? Wide enough to reach us individually. Wide enough to reach anybody and everybody else around the world.
Next, how long is the love of Jesus.
A Psalm popped into my mind for this part of the description of the Lord’s love. It is Psalm 136. Again it is God’s love that is referred to, but again, God and Jesus are one. The love of God in the Old Testament is what Jesus displayed in the New Testament.
The key words in the Psalm are “for His steadfast love endures forever.” That is how long His love is.
The words are repeated over and over again in the Psalm. Let’s recite the Psalm together. I will give some of the instructions. You are invited to respond with the key words.
O give thanks to the Lord, the God of gods, the Lord of lords, for His steadfast love endures forever.
He alone does great wonders and made the Heavens and spread out the earth upon the waters, for His steadfast love endures forever.
He made the sun, moon, and stars. Remember Jesus was involved in creation, for His steadfast love endures forever.
He was able to free His people from slavery in Egypt and helped them through the wilderness and eventually into the Promised Land, for His steadfast love endures forever.
The LORD is the one who remembers those of low estate - those not considered important or who are sick or lonely. He is the one who rescues us from our foes. He is the one who gives food to all people, for His steadfast love endures forever.
O give thanks to the God of Heaven, for His steadfast love endures forever.
The love of God - the love Christ shows to the world - is so long it will endure forever. It will never end.
Let me add that is the truth, no matter what. It is so easy for me to think that Christ loves me and will continue to do so as long as I am a nice person, doing my best to obey Him. Do not get me wrong. I should obey Him every moment of every day. So should you. But even if I mess up, He will still love me because His love is completely unconditional.
The benefit of that should be that if I or you do mess up, we should be so appreciative of His love - love that will endure forever - that we will be drawn to repent and return to obeying, thereby assuring His continued blessings now and the hope of Heaven later.
How wide is the love of Jesus? Wide enough to reach us individually. Wide enough to reach anybody and everybody around the world. How long is the love of Jesus? So long it will endure forever. It will never end.
Next, how high is the love of Christ. So high He can lift us up.
For this, what happened right after His birth and then something toward the end of Jesus’ earthly life pop into my mind.
Luke 2. Remember when Jesus was a few weeks old, Joseph and His mother Mary took Him from Bethlehem, where He had been born, to Jerusalem. He was taken to be presented to God.
One person they met in Jerusalem was Simeon, a devout follower of God who was thrilled when he saw Jesus, knowing Jesus was the Savior for whom he, like all of Israel, had been waiting.
Simeon took Jesus in his arms and blessed God, proclaiming Jesus was the one awaited and that the salvation Jesus would bring would be for both Jews and Gentiles.
Simeon then had some words for Mary. Verse 34. “Behold, this child is set for the fall of many in Israel. “That was not such good news. It meant Jesus would humble many who were important, which of course would and did get Him into serious trouble. But Simeon continued. “This child is also set for the rising of many in Israel.”
Interestingly, earlier Mary, when she had learned she had been chosen by God to give birth to Jesus, had proclaimed that God had, throughout history, put down the mighty, but that God had also exalted those of low degree, including her, who was a young, not-quite-yet woman.
Now Mary heard that Jesus was going to do the same.
Which was displayed in something that happened toward the very end of Jesus’ earthly life. Matthew 21. Right after Jesus entered Jerusalem on Palm Sunday, at the start of the last week before His death and subsequent resurrection, Jesus went into the Temple.
Remember? With great force, He overturned the tables of and drove out those who sold sacrificial animals and changed money from normal to Temple currency. The selling and the money changing were going on inside the Temple, thereby interfering with praying. And the prices charged were too high. So Jesus’ actions were justified. But listen. By doing those things, He was putting down the mighty - those working for the Jewish High Priest and his family.
But right after that - verses 14 and 15 - Jesus helped those of low estate. He healed the blind and the lame who went to Him, and He accepted the praises of children as they cried out to Him, “Hosanna to the Son of David.”
Remember the woman in the MRI tube? At least that day in that spot, she was of low estate. Obviously she was sick. Being in the tube made her feel very alone. But at that moment, she remembered and understood how high is the love of Jesus. High enough to raise her up from her fear and loneliness. High enough to encourage her.
How wide is the love of Jesus? Wide enough to reach us individually. Wide enough to reach anybody and everybody around the world. How long is the love of Jesus? So long it will endure forever. It will never end. How high is the love of Jesus? High enough that He can lift up any and all who are of low estate.
I need to mention that not all who are of high estate will be brought low. Those of importance who rely on the Lord for the strength and wisdom needed to use their power for the good of others, doing so to serve and honor the Lord, will be fine. But for any of us of low estate, how good it is to know the love of Jesus can and will lift us up and encourage us.
Then, how deep is the love of Jesus. So deep, He can reach us.
For this one, Romans 8:39 pops into mind.
Actually, a couple verses before verse 39 also make the point of this message, that being that Jesus’ love is all around us.
Verse 35. “Who shall separate us from the love of Christ?” That is a rhetorical question, the answer accepted to be, “No one.”
Still verse 35. What thing can separate us from the love of Christ? “Can tribulation, distress, persecution, famine, nakedness, peril, or sword” do that?” That is another rhetorical. The answer is again accepted to be, “No thing.”
Verse 38. “Neither can death or life, angels, principalities, or powers, nor anything that happens now or will happen in the future. Nothing can separate us from the love of Jesus.”
As stated in Ephesians, that is how wide and long His love is. Then verse 39. “Height” cannot separate us from the love of Jesus. We just talked about that. Here it refers to the highest mountain we could climb. Even at the peak of Mt. Everest there is Jesus’ love.
Neither can - here is the fourth part of the description of the Lord’s love - neither can “depth” separate us from His love, which here refers to being in the deepest ocean of our world.
I have read that one of the biggest fears of Jewish people was dieing in an ocean. It would of course be a horrible way to die, but I understand there was, in their culture, the belief that such dieing was a humiliation. I am not sure the reasoning behind that belief, but it is significant that even if facing a humiliating death, the love of Jesus is with us. That is how deep is His love.
The love of Jesus is wide enough to reach us individually. It is wide enough to reach anybody and everybody around the world. It is so long it will endure forever. It will never end. The love of Jesus is high enough that He can lift up any and all who are of low estate. It is deep enough to reach into the deepest ocean. Deep enough to reach down to whatever humiliations we face. Even there - even then - loving us.
May we know that on the grand scale. May we share the width, length, height, and depth of His love with others. May we feel that love wherever we are, whatever we face in our lives, even when we are troubled or alone.
How good to have the Lord’s love with us all the time and everywhere.
Today’s closing song is O the Deep, Deep Love of Jesus. Though the words refer specifically to the last part of the description of the Lord’s love, the theme extends to all the parts, and in verse 2 there is the challenge that we thank the Lord for His love. Verses 1 and 2.
O the deep, deep love of Jesus,
Vast, unmeasured, boundless, free!
Rolling as a mighty ocean
In its fullness over me!
Underneath me, all around me,
Is the current of Thy love -
Leading onward, leading homeward,
To Thy glorious rest above!
O the deep, deep love of Jesus -
Spread His praise from shore to shore!
How He loves us, ever loves us,
Changes never, nevermore!
How He watches o’er His loved ones,
Died to call them all His own;
How for them He intercedeth,
Watching o’er them from the throne!
Jesus, Your love is wide. Your love is long. Your love is high. Your love is deep. That applies to all people.
For those of us who accept Your love, You give us fantastic benefits, even in times of trouble. Thank You for Your love. Amen.