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#17 - A Love Story
NRT’s Grace Chaves highlights the deeper meanings of three songs celebrating the death, resurrection, and second coming of Jesus

Posted: February 07, 2023 | By: GraceChaves_NRT
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A few months ago, I watched The Princess Bride for the first time. In case you need to become more familiar with the plot, the movie is set in medieval times in the fictional kingdom of Florin. 
A young woman named Buttercup lives on a farm in the countryside and falls in love with the farmhand, Westley. Within the film's first few minutes, it appears the couple will live happily ever after. But there's a catch: Westley has no money, so he goes overseas to pursue a fortune to marry Buttercup. 
When the two are forced to part, Buttercup asks, "What if something happens to you?" Westley looks at her and says, "Hear this now: I will always come for you."
Shortly after, pirates attacked Westley's ship, and Buttercup received the news that Westley was murdered. Five years later—instead of holding on to the hope that her love would come for her as he promised—Buttercup became engaged to the prince of Florin. 
Although she wasn't in love with the prince, he chose her as his bride, and she didn’t relent. She forsook her first love and surrendered all hope that Westley would come for her.
Buttercup's story takes a turn for the worse, and she's kidnapped by three men who hope to start a war by capturing the princess-to-be. But when it seems like Buttercup's fate has been decided, Westley comes in to save the day—alive and well. He hadn't been murdered at all. 
Disguised, Westley doesn't reveal his identity—at first. He questions Buttercup and asks why she became engaged to the prince. Once he reveals his identity, he says, "I told you I would always come for you. Why didn't you wait for me?" Buttercup replies, "Well... you were dead." Westley says, "Death cannot stop true love. All it can do is delay it for a while."
The rest of the story is an adventure with many highs and lows. Buttercup and Westley are forced to separate again, and once more, all hope is lost. Buttercup is still betrothed to the prince. Westley is being tortured, and eventually, the prince and his men kill him. But death still could not stop him from rescuing his true love.
Westley's friends know it will take a miracle for him to come back to life. But a miracle is exactly what they seek. It's Buttercup's wedding night, and it's all coming down to the wire. The prince only has evil intentions and violence in mind for his betrothed. So much is at stake—if Westley doesn't rescue her, it will mean death and a kingdom divided.
Miraculously, Westley comes back to life. And at the very last minute, he rescues his bride from the grip of death. He forgives Buttercup for all the mistakes she made and all the ways she had forsaken her first love.
At the film's end, they triumphantly ride on white horses, having defeated death and all the evil forces that had driven them apart. Nothing could tear their love apart now.
After watching The Princess Bride, all I could think of for the next several days was how much this story reminded me of the Israelites and Jesus. Just like Buttercup had been unfaithful to her first love, the Israelites kept forsaking their First Love. 
They repeatedly turned their back on the one true God and sought after the gods of the nations around them. Because of their sins, the Israelites were exiled to Babylon. They were separated from their True Love, as storied in 2 Kings 7:17-23. 
But just like there was much more to Buttercup's story, there's much more to the Israelites' story. Eventually, the Israelites turned their eyes back to God, and He came to rescue them once again. But there was still a separation between them. Still, a veil was between them and God. So, God sent His Son to defeat the evil that separated them.
In The Princess Bride, Westley had to die and come back to life before he could rescue his bride. That's precisely what Jesus came to do. He died and was raised back to life to rescue His bride. He was forsaken for us so we would never have to be. He died a death He did not deserve and came back to life against all odds—all so He could save us. Death could not stop true love.
That seems like a fairy-tale story with a beautiful happily ever after. But, as we all know, life sometimes feels nothing like a happily-ever-after. There must be more to the story, and, indeed, there is.
There will be pain and heartbreak if we're in this broken world. If Jesus broke the chains of death and saved His bride, why do we still have to suffer such agony? Because there's a sequel coming. This great rescue mission was act one. Act two is coming soon.
Soon, Jesus will come back, riding on a white horse with fire in his eyes to defeat the enemy, rescue us, and bring us home, as stated in Revelation 19:11-16. Like in the last scene of The Princess Bride, Jesus will ride in on a white horse and take us with Him into the dawn of a brand-new day.
Today, I'll dive deeply into this love story that Jesus has written for us. It's greater than the greatest romance novel and more potent than true love's kiss at the end of a Disney movie. Let's go ahead and jump in.
Matt Redman, "Son of Suffering"
The year is A.D. 33. Just outside of Jerusalem, a man named Jesus is being nailed to a Roman cross between two criminals. The charge against Him is written in bold letters on a sign above His head: “THIS IS JESUS, THE KING OF THE JEWS.” 
Everyone nearby is hurling insults at Him. Everyone laughs and mocks Him. "Come down from the cross if you're the son of God," they shout. Matthew 27:40 tells the story well.
Jesus's agony and pain at this moment are greater than He's ever felt. Not just the physical pain but also the emotional pain. The taunts and the jeers. Strangers laugh and spit at Him. He pushes himself up against the cross to catch his breath. The wood scrapes His already torn-up back with every breath he takes. Blood runs down his side as he gasps for air. "Father, forgive them, for they do not know what they are doing." He says in between breaths. Luke 23:34 also tells the story well.
Imagine being there on that hill as Jesus hung there on the cross, dying a humiliating death that He didn’t deserve. Imagine watching Him suffer. Imagine watching Him say in between gasps, "Forgive them." What would have been your reaction? I doubt anyone realized what was happening as Jesus hung on the cross. While His followers saw an unjust murder, His Father saw His great rescue mission on display. Love was pouring out from His side.
Contemporary Christian music veteran Matt Redman recently released a beautiful song called "Son of Suffering," Every time I hear it, I'm struck by both the beauty and the agony of the cross. The chorus says, "Blood and tears/How can it be?/There's a God who weeps/There's a God who bleeds/Oh praise the One who would reach for me/Hallelujah to the Son of suffering."
In John 15:13, before the crucifixion, Jesus told His disciples, "Greater love has no one than this: to lay down one's life for one's friends." When Jesus spoke the words, "forgive them," from the cross, with tears in his eyes and blood pouring from His wounds, He demonstrated the greatest act of love that the world has ever seen. He laid down His life and forgave our sins—He was our atoning sacrifice. And yet, there is still more to the story.
"Your blood, still speaking/Your love, still reaching/All praise King Jesus/Glory to God forever/Your cross, my freedom/Your stripes, my healing/All praise King Jesus/Glory to God in heaven."

Benjamin William Hastings, "Eden (Isn't It Just Like You?)"
When Jesus laid down His life for us, the veil in the temple was torn in two. He filled the gap between man and God and laid our guilt and shame upon Himself. But is that it? Jesus' death on the cross was a beautiful demonstration of His love for us (I mentioned this earlier). 
But, going back to The Princess Bride, what would have happened if death had been the end of Westley's story? Buttercup would never have been rescued. She, too, would've had to face death. There had to be more to their story—and more to Jesus' story.
If Jesus had been left in the grave, there would have been no hope for eternity. He had to conquer death to give us life. There needed to be forgiveness for our past and redemption for our future. That's why Jesus came back and promised to come back again. Soon, act two is coming—Eden's our eternity.
Worship artist Benjamin William Hastings has a song called "Eden (Isn't It Just Like You?)," a journey through the pages of scripture. Benjamin starts by singing about the Garden of Eden, the perfect world in which Adam and Eve lived. The song continues with imagery surrounding the death of Jesus and reaches its climax at the bridge, where Benjamin sings, "I don't owe a thing to death/Should ever he appear/For death can only borrow breath/No longer can he steal."
Death isn't the end of our stories. Jesus defeated death once and for all, so we would never have to face it. Of course, we will pass away from this earth. But the grip of the grave no longer has a hold on us. "Death can only borrow breath; no longer can it steal." 
Jesus has promised He's coming back for us—because that's how much He loves us. We're going with Him to Eden.
Revelation chapters 21 and 22 are filled with beautiful pictures of a new heaven and earth. But this earth is not like our own. In it, there's no mourning or pain. It's the Garden of Eden—God's original, perfect world, fully restored. In Revelation 22:20, Jesus Himself says, "'Yes, I am coming soon.'"
Jesus is coming back for His bride. That means us. In Benjamin’s words, "Eden's my eternity." That's how great His love is. He doesn't want Eden without us. He's coming back, riding on a white horse, to rescue His bride.
"Isn't it just like You/To turn it all around for good/Like only You could/Like only You would/You turn it all around for good?"

Phil Wickham, "How Great is Your Love"
If you read my last Trinary Reflection devotional, you know how much I love Jesus’s disciple, Simon Peter. He was bold, outspoken, and fully committed to Jesus. But he messed up big time. During Jesus' greatest hour of need—shortly before the crucifixion—he denied Jesus, his best friend, and closest companion. 
Imagine denying a friend moments before their death and never having the chance to apologize. For several days, that's the guilt that Peter had to live with. But that wasn't the end of his story (see John 21).
When he first met Jesus, Peter was fishing with some of his friends. He hadn't caught anything all night and must have been exhausted. I imagine Peter was thinking back to the day he met Jesus. He was in the same predicament as he was now. He had caught nothing all night, but then Jesus showed up, and Peter caught more fish than he could count. 
It must have been a bittersweet memory. Sure, Peter knew Jesus was alive. He saw Him with his own eyes. But surely there would be no miraculous catch today. Would Jesus even want a man like him again?
As dawn was beginning to break, something strange happened. Peter saw a man on the shore. "Friends, haven't you any fish?" He asked. "No." They replied.
"Throw your net on the right side of the boat, and you will find some." The stranger said. Next, the impossible happened. Their nets filled with so many fish that they couldn't even haul them into the boat. Then it hits them. It's Jesus. So, Peter jumped into the water and swam to the shore as fast as he could.
When Peter arrived, he was not faced with condemnation or anger. He stood face-to-face with love. A campfire on the beach. Breakfast with the resurrected Jesus. Redemption.
There must have been some tension in the air as they ate breakfast. So, Jesus broke the ice. He looked into Peter's eyes and asked, "Simon, son of John, do you love me more than these?" The answer seemed obvious to Simon Peter. Of course, he loved Jesus. Even though he had denied Him, he still loved Jesus more than anything. "Yes, Lord, you know that I love you," Peter replied.
"Feed my lambs," Jesus said.
Jesus asked this question two more times. "Do you love me? Do you love me?" The response from Peter was the same each time, "You know that I love you." Jesus' reply was also the same: "Feed my lambs."
Three times Jesus spoke these words. Three times each time, Peter had denied Jesus. And each time, Jesus gave Peter a task. "Feed my lambs." In other words, Jesus was saying, "I love and forgive you."
Before the crucifixion and Peter's denial, Jesus changed Simon's name to Peter. Jesus said in Matthew 16:18, "I tell you that you are Peter, and on this rock, I will build my church." 
The name Peter means rock in Greek (Petros). By changing his name, Peter was given a mission. And even though he had made huge mistakes, Jesus wasn't done with him. Jesus was still going to use Peter to build His church.
Each time Jesus spoke, "Feed my lambs," He was reinstating Peter and reminding him of the mission still in front of him. Despite all the mistakes that he had made, Jesus still wanted Peter to be the rock on which He would build His church. Jesus made breakfast on the beach and looked him in the eyes to say, "I still love you."
The same is true for you. No matter your mistakes, Jesus holds out His nail-scarred hands to you and invites you to have breakfast on the beach. He loves you so much that He chose to die in your place to forgive you of your sins. 
He loves you so much that He rose again to give you life. And He loves you so much that He would make breakfast for you and remind you that you are still His.
Similar to popular contemporary artist Phil Wickham sings in his song, "How Great Is Your Love," "In Your kindness, You lead me home/In Your presence, where I belong/You called me out, lifted me up/How great is Your love."
Jesus is calling you home. He wants you to fall into His arms where you belong. Do you love Him? He loves you beyond all comprehension. You are His bride, His beloved. Soon, He'll return to our broken world and take you with Him to Eden. It's the greatest love story that the world has ever known.
"There has never been, there will never be/A God like You, a love so true."

Grace Chaves has been a fan of all things Christian music since 2016. She is NRT's news editor, and one of NRT's youngest writers. Homeschooled, Grace is an author, loves Jesus, concerts, and road trips.

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