On Sunday mornings, we’ve been studying through the Gospel of Matthew. We’re working toward the end of chapter 7, which means we’ve almost finished the Sermon on the Mount. Last week, as I continued reading through Matthew, I noticed how Jesus demonstrated his love for people. I decided to study Jesus’ love in the Gospel of Matthew.
Of course, you can’t start a study of Jesus’ love in the Gospel of Matthew without mentioning the Great Commandment:
And one of them [the Pharisees], a lawyer, asked him [Jesus] a question to test him. “Teacher, which is the great commandment in the Law?” And he [Jesus] said to him, “You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind. This is the great and first commandment. And a second is like it: You shall love your neighbor as yourself. On these two commandments depend all the Law and the Prophets.” (Matthew 22:35-40 ESV)
Apparently, love is very important to Jesus. He said that the Law and the Prophets (probably a reference to the Hebrew Scriptures) depend upon both loving God and loving others. How did Jesus demonstrate that love? How did he model love for us?
Certainly, in the Sermon on the Mount, Jesus taught us both to love our brothers and sisters (Matt 5:21-26), and also to love our enemies (Matt 5:43-47). But, Jesus did much more than teach us to love with his words. He showed us what it meant to love.
Jesus cared for those who were hurting – either with physical, mental, emotional, or spiritual pains (for example, Matt 4:23-25, 8:2-3, 8:5-13, 8:14-15, 8:16 – not that these are only a few examples that surround the Sermon on the Mount). Jesus demonstrated his love by spending time with people – both with those who followed him closely, and with those who did not follow him closely. While we may notice that Jesus often had the harshest words for those who considered themselves the most religious, we should also recognize that Jesus continued to allow them to ask him questions. He did not give up on them.
Jesus spent time with people in their homes. He spent time in Peter’s home. He also spent time in Matthew’s home along with Matthew’s friends who the religious people labelled as “tax collectors and sinners” – those who were not worthy of being loved.
Perhaps one of the clearest images of Jesus’ love in Matthew (apart from the Passion narratives) occurs in chapter 18. In that chapter, Jesus teaches about kingdom in terms of love, mercy, and forgiveness. Specifically, he compares himself to a shepherd who will go out into the wilderness in order to find one lost sheep.
We know that Jesus desired for his followers to imitate his love – by the power of the Spirit, of course. When Jesus told his followers to pray for harvest workers in Chapter 9, he then immediately sent them out in Chapter 10. What did he tell them to do?
And proclaim as you go, saying, ‘The kingdom of heaven is at hand.’ Heal the sick, raise the dead, cleanse lepers, cast out demons. You received without paying; give without pay. (Matthew 10:7-8 ESV)
As the apostles proclaimed the kingdom of God in word, they were also supposed to demonstrate the love of God in actions.
Then, of course, we cannot forget the Passion. Paul tells us that through his death, Jesus revealed the love of God and demonstrated to us how to love one another:
God shows his love for us in that while we were still sinners, Christ died for us. (Romans 5:8 ESV)
In light of Christ’s death, we should also remember that we have been called to take up our cross as well (Matt 10:38, 16:24). While taking up our cross and following Jesus is not limited to demonstrating God’s love to others, it certainly includes demonstrating God’s love.
This was a very interesting study for me. I enjoyed learning about how Jesus demonstrated his love for people in the Gospel of Matthew.
To be honest though, this was a difficult study – not because of the material, but because of the interruption. People kept emailing, calling, and stopping by the house to tell me about their problems. Some people were sick; some had friends or family in the hospital. One guy was having trouble dealing with his children. Another woman was struggling in her relationship with her husband. It seems like every time I really focused on the love of Jesus, someone would interrupt my studies. I can understand now why so many pastors and scholars like to have office hours where they won’t be disturbed as often. I mean, how am I supposed to learn about Jesus’ love when all of these people keep interrupting me?