July 06, 2020 | Steven Brooks by Steven Brooks
Earlier this year I had an afternoon in which I sat down and reread a classic book by Kenneth E. Hagin called, Marriage, Divorce and Remarriage. (You can order that book here https://www.rhema.org/store/marriage-divorce-and-remarriage-book.html). For about four hours I read slowly and mediated on what Brother Hagin shared. In my opinion it’s probably one of the best books ever written on the subject of marriage because it not only covers the natural relationship between husband and wife but it also makes the spiritual connection between Christ and his spiritual bride, the church. After reading the book in its entirety it was then nighttime so I went to sleep. Later that night I had a profound vision from the Lord which brought me further understanding of Christ’s love for his bride, the church.
In this vision, I was seated in a large restaurant with many other diners and a Catholic bishop was the chef. He stood among us and announced that on the menu were the five wounds of Christ and the featured item was the “sacred heart of Jesus”. With great joy and precise detail, he explained exactly what the sacred heart of Jesus meant from a biblical perspective and its importance to God’s people throughout church history. The more he described the “featured item” on the menu the hungrier I became. But I noticed that some others who were seated in the restaurant showed no interest in what the chef had to offer. Some quietly mocked and whispered to each other saying, “My denomination doesn’t offer these types of choices on the menu.” One man with religious pride spoke to the person seated next to him and said, “I only eat what my denomination feeds me.” Those who manifested a critical spirit were used to a very small and basic menu, unfortunately, it was apparent they were not interested in any further blessings.
The bishop explained that the sacred heart of Jesus is a gift that God chooses to give to a person. I marveled at the beauty of such a gift. I marveled further that so few seemed to care. Suddenly I was transported from the restaurant into a wedding chapel. There was the Lord Jesus standing in the center. He pulled back the upper part of his white robe and I could see his red heart beating. He then offered me the opportunity to be joined to his sacred heart. I immediately accepted with unspeakable joy. It was then that the most beautiful images began to be displayed on the walls of the chapel. The images seemed to be alive, similar in the way a movie can be projected onto a screen. I saw Mary holding Jesus when he was a baby. I saw other real-life events of the Lord’s life replayed before me. The chapel room became full of roses in exquisite vases. There were roses everywhere. Then I heard a beautiful angelic and human choir singing a song called, Married to Jesus. A ring was placed over the regular wedding ring that I wear daily. The heavenly ring was very plain, thin, inexpensive in appearance, and if earthly would be of little value. But I knew it had unspeakable significance and eternal value in the eyes of God. I looked at the ring and I knew I had been espoused to Christ.
The next thing I knew I was back in my room in my home, in the middle of the night. The first thought that came to me after coming out of the vision was, “All I want to do is be joined forever to Jesus.” The vision helped me to love God more, love my wife more, and love you - the church more, and also the lost.
The roots of the devotion to the Lord and his sacred heart are very old, going back to the early church fathers such as Origen, Saint Ambrose, Saint Jerome, Saint Augustine of Hippo, Saint Hippolytus of Rome, Saint Irenaeus, Saint Justin Martyr, and Saint Cyprian. In the 11th century there came another wave of devotion throughout the Benedictine and Cistercian monasteries. In the 12th century, Saint Bernard of Clairvaux wrote his famous poem, O Sacred Heart Surrounded. In the 13th century, the Franciscan theologian Saint Bonaventure wrote Holiness of Life, a work addressed primarily to women who wanted to serve God, and it is believed to have been written after repeated requests by Blessed Isabella, the sister of Saint Louis, King of France. In his book he spoke of the sacred heart of Jesus, saying;
“Draw near, O handmaid, with loving steps to Jesus wounded for you, to Jesus crowned with thorns, to Jesus nailed to the cross. Gaze with the blessed Apostle Saint Thomas, not merely on the print of the nails in Christ’s hands; be not satisfied with putting your finger into the holes made by the nails in his hands; neither let it be sufficient to put your hand into the wound in his side, but enter bodily by the door in his side and go straight up to the very heart of Jesus. There, burning with love for Christ crucified, be transformed into Christ. Fastened to the cross by the nails of the fear of God, transfixed by the spear of the love of your inmost heart, pierced through and through by the sword of the tenderest compassion, seek for nothing else, wish for nothing else, look for consolation in nothing else except in dying with Christ on the cross. Then, at last, will you cry out with Paul the Apostle, ‘I have been crucified with Christ. It is no longer I who live, but Christ who lives in me. And the life I now live in the flesh I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave himself for me.’
At the end of the 13th century, Saint Gertrude, a Benedictine nun from Germany, had a vision in which the Lord Jesus appeared to her along with John the beloved apostle. She was allowed to lay her head on the Lord’s chest, in which all the treasures of heaven and earth are enclosed. As she listened to the beating of the Lord’s heart she exclaimed with astonishment to John; “Well, beloved of the Lord, did these harmonious beatings, which rejoice, my soul, also rejoice yours when you reposed during the Last Supper on the bosom of our Savior? How is it then that in your gospel you have spoken so little of the loving secrets of the Heart of Jesus Christ?” John replied to her that God had reserved a special grace for the last days in which the message of the sacred heart of Jesus would awaken the hearts of men that had become cold and lethargic due to living in such a sinful era at the end of time. When people hear of God’s love for them, the willingness of Christ to die for sinners so that they have a means of rescue, the deep love he has for his church, then men would again be enflamed with the warmth of divine love.
On December 27, 1673, the Lord appeared in a vision to an obscure young French nun named Margaret Mary Alacoque. In this visitation, Jesus said to her, “My divine Heart is so inflamed with love for mankind … that it can no longer contain within itself the flames of its burning love and must spread them abroad by your means and manifest itself to them (mankind) in order to enrich them with the precious graces of sanctification and salvation necessary to withdraw them from the abyss of perdition.” Margaret Mary described that the Lord’s heart was on fire and surrounded by a crown of thorns. The Lord told her that the flames represented his love for humanity, and the thorns represented man’s sinfulness and ingratitude. Jesus informed her that her mission was to establish devotion to his sacred heart. Her revelations harmonized with Scripture and served to highlight what had already become a tradition to many in the church for centuries. Seeing that God’s favor was upon it, a set of suggested devotional practices were recommended by leaders in the Catholic church and now the sacred heart of Jesus is celebrated annually by many believers not only amongst Catholics but throughout the various streams of Christian faith. I would encourage you to meditate on the heart of Jesus and how deeply he loves you, your family, the church, and even those who don’t know him. Love has always been associated with the heart and the most beautiful heart is that of Jesus our Savior. May you also hear the beating of his heart as you lean into him.