Even Jesus had to prioritize relationships. It’s hard to imagine how Jesus, God’s presence in the flesh, could spend more time with some people than others. Was he playing favorites? Did he love some people more than others? Was he more comfortable with some people and less comfortable with others?
Imagine your relationships as concentric circles that have a common center. The furthest circle out can be described as humanity, with each circle closer the center representing increasingly intimate relationships. When you were young, the closest circle to your relational center was your mom and dad. Your mom and dad stay close to your relational center as you age, but as one moves away from home and starts a family of their own, a new circle is birthed that is even closer to the center. It includes your spouse and children. For the single person, the closest circle might include an adopted family of extremely close friends, mentors, or spiritual parents.
Even Jesus’s relationships fit this kind of a model. Humanity is represented by the circle furthest from the center. Matthew 4:25 says that “great crowds” followed Jesus at the start of his ministry. Disciples were individuals who accepted the call to join Jesus in his ministry. The size of the group varied, but often there were as many as 70 (Luke 10:1). Jesus chose a more intimate group of 12 disciples (Mark 3:14). This group was close to the relational center of the circle. They were even closer to Jesus than his earthly family. An often-forgotten group is the is the women who helped in the ministry (Luke 8:2-3; Mark 15:40-41; Matt. 27:55). They were also very close to the relational center of the circle. There were some disciples that were even closer to Jesus. Peter, James, and John are with Jesus repeatedly in the Gospels.
Did Jesus love the people who were closer to the center more than others?
Loving from Afar and Love up Close
Well, yes and no. God’s love for humanity is apparent in scripture. “God so loved the world…” is at the very heart of the good news (John 3:16). God’s intense love for humanity motivated his salvation plan. Love is not something God chooses to give. It is at his very essence a part of his being. He loves you not because he chooses to, but because it’s in his nature to love. God’s general and prolific love showers all of humanity.
God’s specific love is shown to individuals in particular ways. Jesus’s presence in people’s lives were opportunities for God’s specific love to show through. The woman at the well, the woman caught in adultery, the woman with the bleeding ulcer, the paralytic, the blind man, and the many other healing examples in the gospels are examples of God’s specific love showing up in the lives of everyday people.
Jesus had personal and intimate relationships with small groups and individuals and he showed specific care and love to them frequently. Those individuals were a small nucleus of relationships who experienced Jesus up close and personal. And it was all a part of God’s plan. Jesus focused his love, care, and teaching on a small group. That small group them carried his love to more and more people. And today, you are reading about his love because the nature of his love is to spread. The nature of his love is also shown through individuals who have experienced it and then share it with others.
The amazing thing about Jesus’s love is that it was unconditionally given but not always unconditionally received. John 1:5 speaking of Jesus says that “the light shines in the darkness” but the darkness does not understand it. Even when Judas was plotting to betray Jesus, Jesus called Judas his friend (Matt. 26:50). A rich man inquired about following Jesus and then turned away because he was more committed to his material possessions.
Mark 10:21–22 says,
21 Jesus looked at him and loved him. “One thing you lack,” he said. “Go, sell everything you have and give to the poor, and you will have treasure in heaven. Then come, follow me.”
22 At this the man’s face fell. He went away sad, because he had great wealth.
How We know God’s Love
God’s love is most shown by his willingness to step out of heaven in the person of Jesus. It is a love that moves toward us. God’s love is a love that sacrifices for the beloved. It is a love that bleeds on a cross. God’s love is a love that dies for the beloved. It is a love that overcomes sin and conquers death for the beloved, so the beloved can have hope that there is more than pain and death. The end of the story is truly a happily ever after because the Savior entered into the unhappiness and fought against it.
This love also moves us, You, from the outside of the circle to the inner circle and then closer and closer to the center where we find the Father God bringing his adopted children close to him.
God pulled back the veil of history and allowed the Apostle John to see a day when God’s children will be brought close.
Revelation 21:1–4 says,
Then I saw “a new heaven and a new earth,” for the first heaven and the first earth had passed away, and there was no longer any sea. 2 I saw the Holy City, the new Jerusalem, coming down out of heaven from God, prepared as a bride beautifully dressed for her husband. 3 And I heard a loud voice from the throne saying, “Look! God’s dwelling place is now among the people, and he will dwell with them. They will be his people, and God himself will be with them and be their God. 4 ‘He will wipe every tear from their eyes. There will be no more death’ or mourning or crying or pain, for the old order of things has passed away.”
Verse 7 of Revelation 21 is even more specific about who these people are. God says to John, “…I will be their God and they will be my children.”
- God used people to share his love. Who are the people closest to your relational center?
- How might he use you to show and share his love with the people closest to you?
- How can you love people close in and far out from your relational center?
Dear Father, thank you for loving me…!