Imagine this scene, if you will. You're in the region of Galilee around the turning of time itself. The people are whispering, then talking openly about this prophet, about this strange man who is traveling the region doing the unthinkable - healing the sick and the blind, casting out demons, teaching with authority, and eating with sinners. It's the last of these that is most controversial, it seems. The most unbelievable.
After awhile, the whispers get to you and you have to go see for yourself. You start sneaking into the back of the crowds, start inching your way closer to the center of the action. There, you discover the Man everyone's talking about, and He's real. He's really real. Excitedly, you scurry out of the crowds and back to your friends and family, who are waiting to hear your report.
You've got to come see this guy, you tell them, and they're on the edge of their seats.
He loves you so much.
It's not the story of Jesus that we see anywhere in the Scriptures, and yet, it's the story we keep trying to pull off. It's no wonder that people are feeling a little sold short on this Jesus of ours. It's no wonder that He seems to be missing something essential when we talk about Him this way.
I'm not saying that Jesus doesn't love you. He does. He loves you so much. But this is not what drew the crowds. This is not what convinced people to come out and see Him. Go back even to the imaginary story at the beginning of this post - it's not what prompted you to go out and see Him. You didn't hear whispers that Jesus loves you, even though He does; you heard whispers of His power, His authority, His unconventional wisdom, His unconventional life. It's these things that drew you to Him. Only later would you discover, perhaps, that He loves you.
We use God's love for His people as a selling point, but to be honest, it's not a great one. There are a thousand other people even in most of our communities that we could get to love a person. With the right marketing, with the right outreach, with the right hype, I could fill a room to capacity with people who will say that they love you, or who might even really love you. People who love you, in this world that's just looking for someone to love, are a dime a dozen. You don't get up off the couch to go see another one of them. The truth is that you probably don't even know much of anything about most of the people who say they love you.
And let's say that your life really hits the rocks. Let's say you're hungry, tired, broken, beat down, crippled, sick, or possessed by something that's bigger and darker than you. It's nice have to people who love you, but nice really isn't enough. Let's say you're faced with your own limitations, your own weakness, your own insecurities, your own mortality. Are you really, at this moment, hoping there's someone out there who loves you?
Of course not. You're hoping there's someone who can heal you.
That's where Jesus comes in. See, the selling point of Jesus, what we need to be telling people about Him, is not that He loves us, although He does and that's great. What people need to hear about Jesus are the same whispers that traveled through Galilee. There's this guy...
There's this guy who teaches with such authority that you can't help but buy into His message. There's this guy that speaks with such authority that the winds and the waves and the demons obey Him. There's this guy who gives sight to the blind, opens the ears of the deaf, strengthens the limbs of the lame. This this guy who breaks bread with sinners. And He's got a piece in His hands for you.
There's this guy who surrounds Himself with nobodies and calls them somebodies anyway. There's this guy who dares speak back to the experts, who confounds them with their own questions. There's this guy who hears the crowds calling His name but He still knows yours. There's this guy who hears you calling from the side of the road, and He's calling right back to you. By name. There's this guy....
That's what gets people to Jesus. That's what brings them out of their comfort zones and into the commotion. That's what gets them onto the streets, begging, aching, crying out to God. It's not that He loves them; that's not enough.
It's that He's real.
It's that all the whispers they've heard about Him are true. It's that He really is that guy. He really is the One who is casting out demons, curing the sick, healing the lame, and eating with sinners. He really is the One who knows your name, who calls you out as a nobody and makes you somebody. He really is the One who, when your life really hits the rocks, lets you sail again.
He really is the One who can heal you.
That's what people are looking for. That's what people need. Yes, Jesus loves you, but so do a thousand other people who may or may not actually be real. This guy...this guy is the real deal. He's real. He is who He says He is. That's what we need to be telling people. That's where we need to be calling them.
Not into the arms of a loving God, but onto the streets of Galilee. Where they can discover that there's this guy...