Love – what’s that?

Faith that is real is described in James 2:15-20: If you see someone naked and hungry and say, Be warmed and filled, but you don’t clothe or feed them – is that faith? No. Clothe them. Feed them. Demonstrate real faith.

Love that is real can be described, too. Jesus did it very well. He described God’s love by demonstrating compassion.

Jesus had compassion on the crowd, so he appointed the disciples to go out and do the same things he had been doing. (Matthew 9:36-10:1) What had he been doing?

He had compassion on the multitude, so he healed their sick. (Matthew 14:14)

He had compassion on two blind men, so he restored their sight. (Matthew 20:34)

He had compassion on the leper, so he cleansed him. (Mark 1:41)

He had compassion on the demon-possessed man in the tombs, so he cast out the demons. (Mark 5:19)

He had compassion on the demon-possessed boy, so he cast out the demon. (Mark 9:22)

He had compassion on the mother of the dead boy, so he raised him from the dead. (Luke 7:13)

Compassion is defined as “Mercy; pity; to suffer or feel what others are feeling.” When Jesus had compassion, he did something about it.

He preached the gospel – that the kingdom of God was at hand (see Matthew 12:28) – then he healed the sick, cast out demons, cleansed the lepers, and raised the dead. He trained the disciples to do the same things and they did.

Love is defined as “To be full of good will and exhibit the same; to have a preference for, wish well to, regard the welfare of. Of the benevolence which God, in providing salvation for men, has exhibited by sending his Son to them and giving him up to death.” (Greek agapao, Strong’s Concordance)

This kind of love originates in God himself. We only have it if we have Him living in us. Once we do, then we can obey Him. Jesus said If you love me, keep my commandments (instructions, precepts); keep my words (logos). (John 14:21-23) What commandments? What words?

Luke 24:49, Acts 1:4-5 and Matthew 28:19-20 are good places to start: get the power to do it, then go make disciples and teach them to do what I do, what I have showed you, trained you and told you to do.

Note: First, get the power to do it. Then, go do it. Receive the baptism of the Holy Spirit. Then preach the gospel. Heal the sick. Cast out demons. Cleanse the lepers. Raise the dead.

The first disciples obeyed Jesus. They received the promise of God, the baptism of the Holy Spirit. They preached and demonstrated God’s love the way Jesus did it. Thousands were born again and the work of making new disciples began, teaching them to do those same things. (Mark 16:20, Acts 5:12-16)

Disciples demonstrate God’s love by obeying him and demonstrating his compassion to the world. Receive God’s power. Preach the gospel. Heal the sick. Cast out demons. Cleanse the lepers. Raise the dead.

Why are so few who call themselves disciples actually doing it?


How do you raise a crowd?

Go to a synagogue. See a demon-possessed man. Cast the demon out. (Mark 1)

Soon a crowd shows up. Not even at Jesus’ house, he had gone to Peter’s house.

News had spread like wildfire and pretty soon everyone knew where Jesus was. And the entire city came to the doorstep.

Who was in the crowd? Some thoughts:

The newly-free man. Other men from the synagogue. Their wives. Their neighbors. Their relatives. Travelers who were just passing through. Curiosity seekers. And religious leaders.

Sick people. Demon-possessed people. If he did it for one poor man, maybe he’ll do it for me. My child. My friend. And he did. The crowd grew.

Questions: Why was the demon-possessed man in the synagogue? Why hadn’t the religious leaders recognized the demon? Why hadn’t they cast it out of him?

More thoughts about crowds:

Crowds change. Evolve.

Some in the crowd showed up when it was convenient. When Jesus was nearby, or speaking when they were off work. Had nothing better to do. Curiosity-seekers.

If he came back to the area, maybe they’d come hear him again. But they wouldn’t go out of their way.

After all, such teachers had come and gone over the years. Some attracted disciples and eventually tried to do something – like overthrow Roman rule – and failed. Maybe this one would succeed, who knows.

Other people went from crowd to fan. They kept up with his schedule. The grapevine kept them informed. Every time he was nearby, they would go.

Fascinated with his words and his actions, they began to hope he was the real thing. Began to believe he was the real thing.

But they couldn’t (or wouldn’t) take off from work. Couldn’t (or wouldn’t) follow Jesus from Galilee to Judea. They were fans — but not die-hard fans.

Some were, though. Some did become die-hard fans. Some of the crowd went from curiosity-seekers, to fans, to followers.

They didn’t just change their schedules, they changed their whole lives. They gave up their jobs. Used their life savings if necessary. Did odd jobs if necessary.

From Galilee to Judea, Lebanon to Syria and back, wherever he went, they went. Whenever he was preaching, they were listening. They saw him heal the sick, cast out demons, cleanse the lepers, raise the dead.

They heard him teach that the kingdom of heaven was near. Yes! We’ve waited so long for that!

They heard him describe the kingdom of heaven. Hmm. Not what we have been taught — but he can raise the dead. I’ll go with Jesus.

And they went from followers to disciples. From listener to learner.

They were still a crowd. A large crowd, they followed Jesus everywhere he went. He called twelve out of the crowd, hand-picked not just to be disciples but apostles.

Twelve men who had on-the-job training, who he could send out to do the same things he was doing. Heal the sick, cast out demons, cleanse the lepers, raise the dead.

Men he could use to help multiply food for the crowd of men, women and children. Imagine. Whole families were in that crowd, on that hillside.

After a while he appointed seventy other disciples to do what he was doing. They were so excited. So happy. So joyful. And the crowd continued to follow and to learn. Until…

The day he told the crowd, If you want eternal life, you have to eat my body and drink my blood. (John 6:53)

Many disciples in the crowd had enough. That was too hard. Too hard to understand. Too hard to “swallow.” They went home. The crowd shrunk for the first time. (Sort of reminds me of Gideon’s army, actually.)

Jesus asked the twelve You want to leave too? They decided to stick with him.

But the Pharisees and teachers of the law had enough of Jesus, too. They quit playing around the edges and openly opposed him. They tried to kill him, but he wouldn’t let them. Yet. It wasn’t time…

And even as many abandoned the journey, others joined in. The crowds grew again for a time, though at the cross that crowd had shrunk again, to almost nothing.

(They were still enough to turn the world upside down… but that’s a story for another time.)

You can probably guess my next question: What kind of crowd are you in?


Ancient Israel Modern Israel

When Jesus grew up, his home town was Nazareth in Galilee. Where is that, exactly? As you can see on these maps (one of Ancient Israel and the other of Modern Israel), it’s in the northern section of the country, west of the lower part of the Sea of Galilee.

Nazareth was one of those towns occupied by a mixture of people from many different places, not well thought of by the more elite. Being close to a trade route, travelers coming and going would stop here and some settled here. Some probably even intermarried into local families. Quite a lot is known about this little sort of disreputable town, home town of Joseph, Mary, and Jesus.

If you’re interested in learning more about the town in Jesus’ day, click on the link,

What interested me is how close Nazareth is to everywhere else in Israel. Now, as then, only a few miles stretch between Nazareth and the Sea of Galilee, just a few more between Nazareth and the main cities. Most people walked everywhere in New Testament days, but there were well traveled roads and many small communities, villages and towns along the way, no matter where you were going.

Joseph was a carpenter by trade, and thus Jesus learned carpentry. A great deal of the carpenter’s work was done outside or “on site,” whether someone needed a wagon wheel, a yoke for an ox, a fishing boat, or help constructing a building. Carpenters met many people, everywhere, thus as Jesus worked beside Joseph, he began meeting many people too.

Relatives of Joseph and Mary lived in the same area. The young cousins certainly knew each other, played together, learned together. Then as Jesus grew up he began to accompany the men to the synagogue. The entire family traveled to Jerusalem every year for the Feast of the Passover, along with many relatives and friends.

By the time Jesus began his ministry, he was already well known in Galilee, and probably in other parts of the country as well. What was he known for? His family relationships. His reputation. The quality of his carpentry work. The value of his opinions. His honesty, integrity, respect for his elders.

And when Jesus called his first disciple, he chose someone who already knew him; someone he already knew. We have the idea that Jesus just went around picking out this stranger and that one, and that somehow those picked were overcome with awe by this stranger calling to them and dropped everything.

No, I believe they were already well acquainted. Jesus’ reputation preceded him, and those men had no doubt been expecting him to start selecting students – disciples – and I wouldn’t be surprised if they had been praying within their own spirits, “Father, let him choose me, let him choose me!”

Also check out Peter, fishing-industry businessman