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Description: Christ’s Love Surpasses all Knowledge
Christ’s Love Surpasses All Knowledge
Sermon Transcript by Rev. Ernest O’Neill
Will you turn loved ones, to Ephesians 3 and the next verse we’re looking at today, Ephesians 3:19.
The prayer is, “For this reason I bow my knees before the Father.” Paul says, “For this reason I bow
my knees before the Father,” and then he says in verse 18, that “you may have power to comprehend
with all the saints what is the breadth and length and height and depth,” and in verse 19, “and
power to know the love of Christ which surpasses knowledge, that you may be filled with all the
fullness of God.” We might even get to the last part of the verse, but the first part we can
probably think about today, “And to know the love of Christ which surpasses knowledge.”
There was a picture in the Herald Tribune newspaper this week of a little girl who was in Baghdad.
She was 10 years of age and she was a pretty little girl. She was sitting there, really I would
say, utterly depressed and sad. The picture explained how she was now in one of the Islamic
schools, and how before, when she was beaten by the authorities, it was because she was out in the
streets. Now she was beaten by the Islamic people because she was disobeying their laws. So it was
a pathetic picture — but then it got even more so as you read that her grandmother had died in the
war. She had been roaming the streets of Baghdad until she eventually took up with a gang of older
boys and then gave herself just to prostitution. You looked at her dear face and it was the face of
a woman, not a girl. So it was really pathetic looking.
Of course, the truth is in Ephesians 2:10, “For we are his workmanship.” So you have to say, “She is
God’s workmanship, created in Christ Jesus for good works, that she should walk in them, and she was
made in Jesus just as we were, and she is part of him.” We’ve dealt in the past with the idea that,
“Oh well maybe it’s just we are his workmanship. We are Christians and we’re brought up in that
tradition and we believe the Christian gospel. But she of course is obviously a little Islamic girl
and she’s just a little piece of the flotsam and jetsam floating on the surface of the world’s
life.” She isn’t.
We have talked about John 1:2 where it says clearly that, “All things were made in him and without
him was not anything made that was made.” We know, too, that it’s true that everybody, whatever
they are like today, they were made in Christ, and he is the complete image of the invisible God,
and he’s the first-born among all in creation and in him all things hold together and there’s no one
that is apart from him. So of course, that little girl has been in him all the time. All the time
— right from when she was one year old, and through all the things that have happened to her in the
slums in Baghdad, and through all the desecration that her dear little body has suffered. She has
been in Christ and he has borne her in him all the time. That’s part of what Isaiah 53:4 means. It
says, “He has borne our sins and carried our sorrows,” because he has borne in himself everything
that has happened to her.
That’s the meaning of it — from the beginning of creation she was made in him and she has been in
him in everything that has happened. The almost inconceivable truth is that he was also in each man
who took advantage of her and he bore that pain also. The man had nothing but presumably lust or
even hatred, but he himself was in that person. He bore the agony of guilt and the sense of
abandonment to evil that that man felt –and at the same time, he bore the pain in the little girl
and the dreadful sense of fear and shame that she felt.
We can begin looking through the eyes of relativity — or the theory of relativity that Einstein has
brought to us — because that’s really what Barth does: he brings home to us the sense of the
infinite and the fact that everything is bound up in God, and that he holds all of us inside himself
and bears everything that everybody does to everybody else, and bears what is done to every person.
As we look at it in the light of truth and infinite reality, you can see that the love of Christ is
beyond anything that anybody else is in a position to show, but obviously is beyond anything that
you and I can even think of. That’s part of what it means to “know the love of Christ” that Paul is
praying — that we would begin to know and understand the depth and the breadth of Jesus’ love that
he still has all inside himself.
It’s important to see that he knew what it was going to be like, that when he acquiesced in his
Father’s heart and wanted the same as his Father wanted, he knew what he was wanting. He knew all
that was ahead. He knew all the agony, all the terror that he would endure through centuries,
through centuries. That’s part of what Paul means when he says, “This love surpasses knowledge.”
That comes home to you in all kinds of situations: when they hauled Mary Magdalene, the woman
caught in adultery before Jesus, they were expecting the great teacher to point out exactly where
she had broken the law and exactly why they had every right to stone her and punish her. Of course,
he didn’t go into that at all.
So there’s another way in which it surpasses knowledge. His love, Jesus’ love, surpasses certainly
our knowledge of that kind of love in ourselves. We’ve never met that kind of love that has that
commitment, but there’s another way in which it surpasses knowledge. He did not come out with
knowledge. He did not come out with a whole lot of learned disquisitions on the law and on how they
had done the right thing to pick out this woman that had offended against their traditions. He
didn’t. He just said, “Which of you?” And then he said, “Neither do I. Go and sin no more.”
What it did brings home to an idiot like me, that Jesus’ love surpasses knowledge. Though it is
very useful at times to know how to sell and to know how not to sell, and though it’s very useful at
times to know how to do business and how not to do business, and though it may be very useful for
each one of us here to be able to point out to each other exactly where we have messed up, the “Tree
of the Knowledge of Good and Evil” doesn’t heal anybody. It can help a little to enable a person to
know what they don’t know, but as soon as the Tree of Knowledge is used to try to make people what
you want them to be, then it becomes a tree of death. It’s interesting that Christ’s love always
It’s very irritating, I mean, how he can put up with this miserable crowd that we are, year after
year, after year — as not only he watches us, and feels us hurting each other, and hurting other
people, and hurting ourselves — but as he sees us then self-righteously standing up on our two
little legs, and thinking that the good things that we do manage to do are due to our own brightness
and brilliance? And all the time, it’s him that puts the idea into our minds — and yet, he stands
silently by and loves us even as we claim the brilliance that is his alone. His love goes on past
knowledge, and leaves knowledge behind, and puts its arms around us and says, “I love you. I love
you. I will love you to the end.” It brings home to us ourselves that the final reality in this
life is a love and care for each other, and a desire for each other to enter into the good place
that God has given us in Jesus – and that that is greater and more powerful than everything else we
might manage to say or do to each other. It brings home to you that there really is little place in
redemption for just informing each other what to do — or thinking that if we tell each other what
to do, that will do the trick.
Redemption is not about knowledge. Redemption is about love, and a good will towards each other,
and a desire that each other will be all that God has made us to be. You see that very plainly with
the dear old prodigal son. I always had a sympathy with the elder son, so that tells you where I
was. But it is interesting that the dear father doesn’t get involved in a whole lot of postmortems
on the younger son. He doesn’t get involved in pointing out to him that he’s learned his lesson now
and now he knows what not to do. He doesn’t even do that with the elder son. He doesn’t even start
explaining to him the finer points of doctrine and theology. He just says, “You’re always with me,”
because love finally is an attitude of heart towards each other, something that goes beyond
knowledge, something that goes beyond the desire to point out to each other where we failed or where
we could do better.
I think we’ve talked often about the importance of Joe [member of the church] showing me how to use
this tool or that tool. Or if I can do it with him, it’s important for me to share what I know. So
there’s nothing wrong with knowledge as we’ve often said. There’s nothing wrong with advertising
that is information. It’s when it becomes motivation that you have to be careful. So it is
especially with knowledge. It’s when we try with our knowledge to thinking that the other person
hasn’t got it, and that we just have to hammer it into them a little more firmly. It’s when we do
that, that we’re involved in falling back into the disaster that Adam entered into in the Garden of
Eden when he thought that the Tree of the Knowledge of Good and Evil was what he needed.
Jesus makes it plain what we really need is the Tree of Life. That’s why we need to pray for each
other that we’ll know the love of God and we we’ll know the love of Christ that surpasses all
knowledge. Let us pray.