We want to consider today something more about the meaning of 'love', a word which is much misunderstood. But we can understand it clearly when we look at the life of Jesus, and see how we can have the same love in our life for other people.
One mark of love is gentleness. Jesus was gentle with all people, particularly with people who were battered by life. Jesus loved especially those who had fallen deeply into sin. He came to help such people because they are rejected by everybody else. The woman caught in adultery, the thief on the cross, rejected criminals; Jesus went to pick them up and encourage them. He saw the good points in those weak, sinful people, and He hoped for the best in everyone. You know, Jesus was a type of a person whom other people longed to be with, because He was so understanding, so kind and so gentle. Who are the people who avoided Jesus? Those who were proud, those who were hypocrites, and those who had secret sin which they were afraid He would expose.
We read in Matthew 12:20, "Jesus would not break a bruised or a battered reed and would not put off a dimly burning wick." A reed is a very small little thing. If it is bruised or battered, most people would throw it away and pick another reed, because reeds are cheap. But Jesus wouldn't do it. And a wick that is burning very dimly, Jesus would fan it to flame. That is what it says there. He would not quench a dimly burning wick. If you are like a battered reed - weak, most of your life broken, Jesus cares for you. He can bring you back into His perfect plan for your life, even if you are like a battered reed, or a dimly burning wick, or a wick that is about to die out.
Jesus saw the good points in people. He always hoped for the best. His love was not sentimental. He always sought the highest good. That is why He rebuked Peter with strong words of admonition. You can't rebuke people strongly unless you love them. When James and John were seeking for places of honour, He rebuked them. When they wanted to call down fire on the Samaritans, He rebuked them. He rebuked His disciples seven times for unbelief. Why? - Because He loved them. If He didn't care for them, then He would not have corrected them at all. He wouldn't have bothered if they went to hell or anywhere.
So we see that Jesus was not afraid of speaking the truth, even if it hurt others, because He loved them. He was concerned for their eternal good. He was not seeking a reputation for being known as a kind person. He was not concerned that His reputation for kindness would be lost if He spoke strong words. No, He loved other people more than He loved Himself. So, He was willing to sacrifice His reputation in order to help other people. He spoke the truth firmly because He did not want men to be ruined eternally. Essentially, in one sentence, we could say, the eternal welfare of men mattered more to Jesus Christ than their opinions about Him.
A true Christian is like that when He encounters other people; their eternal welfare means more to him than all their opinions of him. Once, when Peter was in the house of Cornelius, he was talking about the ministry of Jesus to them. He summed up the whole ministry of Jesus in one sentence: "Jesus went about doing good and delivering people who were oppressed by the devil" (Acts 10:38). You see what the ministry of Jesus was? Doing good, and not just preaching. Not just saying nice words, but actually doing good to people and delivering them from the oppression of Satan. He didn't just want to win souls. He loved the total man - both the spiritual and physical.
He was concerned about man's physical need. There was a time when there were more than 4000 people who had been with Him for three days. We read about that in Matthew 15. Three days and they didn't eat anything. Jesus was concerned. He said, 'Let us provide them with some meal - something to eat.' He was concerned about man's physical need and that is why He taught us to pray, "Give us today our daily bread." Wherever He went, He did good not only to the souls of men, but to their bodies. He cared for people who were sick and suffering. He cared for the worst of sinners so much that His enemies would taunt Him saying, 'Oh He is a friend of tax collectors and sinners.' Yes, that is what He was. He was a friend of the most despised people in society, and a true man of God will be like that also.
You know you can be like that. What is hindering you from loving people who are despised by others; from loving people who are low in society? It is your own sense of dignity. You don't want to be like Jesus. You want to have a respectable type of Christianity with respectable type of people. No, it is not natural for men to go around becoming friends with the outcast of society like the lepers and people like that. But Jesus did that. You know, we seek to make friends with those whom we can get benefit from for ourselves. Our love is selfish. Jesus' love was selfless; it was pure. It is not by all these cultural refinement and nice words that we manifest the nature of Christ, it is by love - A love that seeks the good of others. A love that enables us to be their servants like Jesus was. Jesus washed their feet, not to impress them with His humility, but because He loved them.
You know, whenever Jesus did good to others, He never had the slightest thought that He would get something in return. Jesus used an example of the sun. The sun shines on the evil and the good, He said in Matthew 5:45. What is the sun expecting in return from all these people? - Nothing. What about the rain? He used the illustration of the rain also. He said the rain falls on the righteous and the unrighteous. What is the rain expecting in return? Not even a word of thanks. Nobody looks up at the sun and says, 'thank you for rising this morning, and shining upon us, or giving us light.' But the sun is not bothered. Even though nobody thanks it, it still rises in the morning. Jesus said, 'Be like that. Be like your heavenly Father who gives sunlight to good and evil people, whether they thank Him or not.' Nobody turns to God and says, 'Thank you Lord for giving me sunlight this morning.' But He still sends it. Jesus was not interested in getting something in return.
See, God's nature is one which He wants to give, and give, and give, and give. That is as natural for God as it is for the sun to shine, and shine, and shine, and shine. Jesus came to earth and manifested that nature of God, seeking to do good, to serve, to help, and to bless wherever He went. Whether people appreciated it, whether they thanked Him, or didn't thank Him, it didn't make a difference to Him. It is not easy to manifest this type of love. Human love is so selfish. If that fellow loves me in return, then I continue to love him. That is the way we can distinguish between human love and divine love. There is a lot of difference between the two. In divine love it doesn't matter to us whether the other person responds or not. We just continue.
Consider the way Jesus used His money. From John 13:29 we see that Jesus used his money primarily for two things: to buy what was needed and to give to the poor. Now Jesus was not a great rich millionaire, but He still found some money to give to those who were poor. He taught people that it is more blessed to give than to receive. His love taught Him that whatever possessions God gave Him were to be used to bless others. How many of us understand that? How many Christian are there in the world that understand this that God gives us material things so that we can bless others, use them to the benefit of others? This is love, when we learn to love people and use things to bless people.
Let me say something else about His preaching. We read of a time in Luke 19:41 that He wept over Jerusalem. Why did He weep over Jerusalem? He used such strong words when He preached and little later we read, in the same chapter (Lk. 49:45), that He used a whip. But before He used the whip, He wept. This was the balance.
Let me mention another aspect of Jesus' love, and that is, you didn't have to see a secretary in order to meet with Jesus. Now, in the world, if you want to meet a big man, you have to meet a secretary first. What secretary did Jesus have? Anybody could meet Him. Nicodemus could even go in the middle of the night, wake Him up, and speak to Him and Jesus was ready to talk to him. Once Jesus was so busy helping people that (we read in Mark 3:20-21) He did not even have enough time to eat. He did not have anybody to regulate the access of people to Him saying, 'You can't come to Him.' You know, when you become so busy that you cannot meet with ordinary people, you have become busier than Jesus Christ. When you need a secretary to prevent people from meeting you, you are not a servant of God anymore. You are just a businessman. You are running an industry, not a Christian church.
The relatives of Jesus thought He was insane to allow people to take so much of His time, but that is because He loved them. Jesus was freely approachable. Once they brought sick people to Him at sunset. We read in Luke 4:40 that He spent the whole evening till late into the night, praying for them, laying His hands on them, healing them. He did not feel His time was His own. His time was for other people. He came to live, to do God's will, to bless them, and He was willing to be inconvenienced. This is why the mighty gifts of the Spirit were manifested through Jesus.
You know, miracles are a dangerous thing if they are not operated in love. This is the love of God that we need to flood our hearts with. His love was such that it was concerned, even in His last moments, to bring a thief into God's kingdom. When the world around us sees such love, they will be drawn to Jesus. Let us ask God to give us this love.