In our last
lesson we learned that Christians alone can show true mercy, because mercy is a
gift from the Holy Spirit to those who respond to the Word and receive Jesus
Christ. Mercy is to be shown by Christians to unbelievers and even more so to
believers, especially to those who are of the household of faith. Even showing
mercy to fellow believers is to be a testimony to the unbeliever. Paul tells us
this is to demonstrate the grace of God. Mercy is to be shown especially to
those who need it. The more they need it, the more we show it. Lastly, mercy
should be shown in proportion to a personís awareness that he needs it. Thus,
this gives him the ability to receive it.
important of all in the last lesson, we closed with the truth that manís real
problem is spiritual. He has a heart problem. As a primary essential for
Christians, in the meeting of physical and emotional needs, we need to have as
a root purpose the leading of men and women to the realization of their
spiritual need. This can be met only in Jesus Christ. In other words, you and I
are Godís R.N.ís, Registered Neighbors. Our responsibility is to be an
assistant to a heart specialist.
mercy is an activity whose objective is spiritual. We see needs and in
obedience we meet those needs. In doing so, we are extending mercy. Now I
suppose we could stop here in our study of mercy and go on to the next
Beatitude; but I think if we did that, we would circumvent the real crux of the
matter. We would be obedient perhaps, even merciful Christians, but I wonder if
we would not be without compassion. I believe mercy can be subdivided into five
You see with
the mind. You sense, you search and you suffer with the heart. Then you serve
with the will. We have mind, emotion and will. For the last two lessons we have
basically dealt with the mind and the will. You see a personís need, and you
become aware of it. By an act of the will, you choose to meet that need through
mercy by showing them the love of God when you tangibly meet their needs. What
I want to share with you is that in doing that, there is something lacking. It
is cold. It is factual and to a degree, it may be effectual; but I believe both
we and the objects of that mercy miss the point. It is the act of the emotion,
entering in, that we will define as compassion, that turns an act of mercy into
fruitfulness and gives the glory of God.
We see a
person in need. Then we sense his heartís desire, his real heartís need. We
then search our own hearts for the capacity to identify with that need. We
suffer emotionally, if necessary, with him in his need. Then, having become
compassionate, we have the ability to serve with mind, emotion and will. In
other words, to really exhibit mercy, we must experience compassion.
defines compassion as: ďliterally suffering with another.Ē Bullock describes
it: ďto feel the bowels yearn, to have pity in the inward parts, the seat of
oneís feelings and affectionsĒ. In other words, compassion is to be turned
inside out by experiencing anotherís torment. That is compassion. It is, in
essence, experientially entering into the perspective of one who is in need,
until you share his hurt or his loneliness or his fears with him.
I was trying
to get a handle on it as I prepared this lesson, and I just couldnít do it.
Some friends were down at our business having their car worked on. While they
were there, lunch time came around. The husband suggested going down to an
elegant diner a few doors away to try the Blue Plate Special. We walked down
the street to the restaurant and gorged ourselves. As we walked back, I felt my
foot come down on something that didnít feel like sidewalk. When I lifted my
foot, there was a tiny sparrow on the concrete. I hadnít squashed him, because
I had lifted my foot up in time. He was looking a bit bewildered and obviously
couldnít fly. I said something to my friends, and the wife and I walked on. We
looked back and the husband was not with us. He had picked up this little
sparrow and had nursed it and taken it to some high shrubs next to a telephone
pole so that if there was any way it could make its way to fly, it would be
safe. The wife turned to me and said, "That is his mercy."
kept coming back through my mind all week. I was totally concerned for the sake
of my conscience whether I had killed the bird or not, but I wasnít really
concerned about the bird. I canít speak for the wife, but the husband had a
compassion for that bird. A great concept kept rolling through my mind, that
the Scripture tells us that not a sparrow falls, but that the God of eternity
stops what He is doing, stoops down and makes note of it. The husband gave me a
real picture of that. That is compassion. It is reaching out to the sparrows of
this world, who maybe arenít so important, who are wounded, falling, and unable
to fly on their own, and helping to put them somehow into the shelter of the
one who can protect and perhaps heal them. In all cases, we must love them.
That is compassion.
compassion of Jesus may have been the most remarkable characteristic to the
people of His day. Barclay tells us in his commentary that "Godís
compassion to the world must have been a staggering thing. The noblest faith in
antiquity was that of stoicism. The Stoics believed that the primary characteristic
of God was apathy. By apathy, they meant the incapability of feeling. If
someone can make another one sad or glad or joyful, it means, at least for that
moment, that they can influence another person. The Stoic felt that if he could
influence anyone for that second or even for that moment, he is greater than or
superior to the one he influences. Therefore, their reasoning went on, no one
can influence God, so God must be incapable of feeling. Into this philosophy
men were presented with the amazing concept of one who was the Son of God and
yet was moved with compassion, moved to the depth of His being, again and again
and again. For many that is the most precious thing about God.Ē
What kind of
concept of God do you have? Have you ever stopped to think about it? Do you see
Him as cold, factual, uncaring, even vindictive? If you see God in that light,
you do not know the God of Scripture. Look at Psalm 145:8-9 sometime and
diagram it. You will get a picture of the God of compassion. Draw a triangle to
represent God. From that triangle, draw out at least five circles. In those
circles, put the demonstrated characteristics of God. Through the week,
concentrate and focus on these characteristics and identify them by using a
concordance or Bible dictionary. You will be amazed. Psalm 145:8-9 says that,
God the Lord
is gracious, full of compassion, slow to anger, of great mercy and His mercies
are over all of His works.
unfold sometime and you will see who God is and what God is like and how He
feels about you and about me.
lesson we are going to follow Jesus. We will superimpose our circumstances upon
His responses and see if in some†
supernatural way God might communicate to us the essence of compassion,
that inner emotion that motivates the Christian to act in mercy. First of all,
we will walk with Jesus as He had compassion on those who crossed His path in
His regular, day to day life. As Jesus walked, He preached. Consider your life
as a housewife, a salesman, a clerk, a manager, a laborer or whatever walk of
life you have. Visualize Jesusí response in specific situations. We will try to
grasp what the word compassion really means.
begin in Matthew 20:30-34, I want to give you a little backdrop by looking at
the context of the passage. In verses 17-19, Jesus had called His disciples
aside and cautioned them that He was about to be betrayed, tried and crucified.
Have you ever stopped to realize how heavy the heart of Jesus must have been
about this time? Think of His unfinished business from manís perspective: the
establishing of the church, the discipling of His followers, the preaching of
the principles. There was so much to be done, and so little time remained. By
now, we would have imagined that His followers would have such a burden for
souls that they couldnít stand it.
20-24, we read of the absence of sensitivity of those who were closest to Him.
James and Johnís mother approaches Jesus to ask if her sons could have reserved
seats in heaven, the best in the house. I donít know how Jesus felt about that,
but have you ever had your children or those you were discipling, finally get a
handle on humility and spiritual things, then they come up with the question,
"Whatís in it for me?" You just sigh in disbelief and think,
"Oh, I thought they had the picture." But you see, we all suffer from
the same self-centeredness.
In verse 22,
Jesus rebukes and corrects the disciples, and they argue with Him. He says,
"Do you think you can drink from the same cup I can?" They respond,
"You bet, Lord, weíre the ones who can. Donít tell us what we canít
do." The Lord said, "No you canít, you donít even understand the
question, how can you give Me an answer." He goes on to explain the
reverse order of the Kingdom one more time. He says that the lower you get, the
greater you are. The more you serve, the higher you go. The more you reach and
claw for the top, the lower you go. It is a reverse order of spirituality. He
that wants to be at the top must begin at the bottom. He that would be greatest
among others must be a servant. That is Christianity.
Jesus and His disciples started walking that treacherous walk from Jericho to
Jerusalem. It was one of the most dangerous journeys in the Middle East because
of the looters, bandits and wild animals. As they journeyed, as always, a crowd
had formed that was pushing and shoving. Try to imagine what it would be like.
Celebrities have experienced this as they try to go about their daily lives
with people pushing and shoving to get their autographs, or touch them or get
their picture. They experience photographers with their professional flash
bulbs glaring in their faces. They never have a moment of peace or quiet.
Visualize the shoving and clamoring to be heard. People were wanting to just
touch Him or to be heard.
from this and other passages that all of this annoyed His disciples. They
resented the crowd as an intrusion on their privacy. Some of these people were
just curious, like they were going to a circus, waiting to see who Jesus would
heal next. Some were evil men seeking a way to trap Him in a contradiction.
They were as cunning as the religious Mafia. Some of them were dirty, lame,
blind and helpless. They were unlovely and unlovable outcasts. They slowed
Jesus down. They called out to Him while others were trying to hear. The
disciples were nauseated at their gall.
Two such men
were sitting by the roadside on this occasion. The Scripture tells us, ďBehold,
two blind men who were sitting by the wayside.Ē Here the men were. They
heard that Jesus was passing by. We read in Luke and in Mark that probably one
of these men was Bartamaeus. Maybe he was someone of more noble birth. Maybe he
was someone more important than the second one, because we donít read about him
anywhere else. Regardless, two blind men were sitting there. The Scripture
tells us that they cried out, ďHave mercy on us oh Son of David!Ē They
knew who He was. They called Him the Messiah. They were desperate to be helped.
at the compassion of this crowd. We read in the next verse, ďThe multitude
rebuked them.Ē The people said, ďKeep still! We canít hear the message.Ē In
verse 31 we read, ďThey just cried louder, ‘Have mercy on us, oh Lord, Thou
Son of David!íĒ By now, the crowd must have been ruthless. The disciples
were still, no doubt, irritated over their recent power struggle. They were not
too perceptive of needs of others anyway. They were no doubt saying, ďHush
those blind men. We want to hear the Master.Ē
Now here is
the key to the whole experience. The next sentence says in verse 32, ďAnd
Jesus stood still.Ē The God of the universe stopped dead in His tracks.
What was He going to do? Would He have them flogged for disrespect? Would He
speak a word and strike them dead? What insensitivity they had to cry out to
the God of heaven. Jesus stopped. Now this wasnít the governor of Jerusalem or
the head of the Sanhedrin that Jesus stopped for; this was two blind beggars,
sparrows, if you will, and Jesus stopped cold.
I want to
ask you a question before we go on. Would you have stopped? You have a ministry
to perform to all of the people around you who are just feeding on every word
you say. A couple of social outcasts sitting over in the corner are screaming
at the top of their lungs, ďHave mercy! Have mercy!Ē What would you have done?
You and I would probably walk faster. What about you? You may have encountered
people who have been blinded in a spiritual sense and are all but crying out
for help. Or there may have been people who are suffering or lonely or sick.
Did you stop, or were you late to the grocery store? Late to Bible study?
still. God always stands still when people cry out for mercy. The next verse
tells us that He called them. Having stopped, He looked at them, focused His
penetrating eyes on them and addressed His voice of authority to them and said,
"What can I do for you?" That is the literal translation of that
passage. "What can I do for you?" By now the crowd must have stilled
to a whisper. "What need do you have that I can meet?" said Jesus.
You can almost hear them cry out in unison, "We want to see!" In
verse 34 we read, ďSo Jesus had compassion on them.Ē The literal
translation of that is, His heart broke and there welled up within Him what it
might feel like to be blind, begging for all you can get, being made fun of,
being neither useful nor productive. This broke His heart. Jesus, just for a
moment, experienced the agony of blindness. Have you ever done that? Jesus did
what He could do. He touched their eyes. They received their sight and followed
Now let me
ask you, have you tried spending a day with both eyes taped shut just so you
could learn how a blind person really feels so you could minister to them
better? Have you ever spent a day in a wheelchair just to experience the
immobility, the frustration or the dependence of those who are lame? Have you
ever gone even 3 days without food just so you can find out what a starving
beggar really feels like? Have you ever gone into isolation and cut yourself
off from everyone just for the purpose of understanding the heart of those who
are emotionally lame, crippled in mind, depressed or unable to cope. Let me
tell you that is how you develop compassion. That is why those who have a
disease have so much mercy toward those who get it after them. They have been
there. It means emotionally taking on their affliction. Jesus had compassion,
and He exercised mercy. The end result is the same as it always is- the blind
men who had received their sight followed Him.
Letís look at
a second setting as we turn to Mark 1. We see the compassion of Jesus on one
who is unlovely, unclean and unwanted. Again we get a backdrop of what had been
taking place by reading in verse 28. Jesus had just removed a demon from a man
in the synagogue, and then healed Peterís mother-in-law. We will begin reading
in verse 32.
And at even, when the sun did set, they brought unto Him all that were
diseased, and them that were possessed with devils.
the sanitariums and the hospitals and dumped the whole load on Jesusís
doorstep. We continue,
And all the city was gathered together at the door.
We see here
that the rest were spectators. They had come to see the action. Every sick
person and every person with a demon was on Jesusí doorstep waiting to be
healed, and the rest of the city was standing behind them just like they had
bought tickets to a circus. Verse 33 tells us that everyone in the city was
gathered together at the door. Here is one of the most beautiful concepts of
how to build a church. You meet peopleís needs. It doesnít say that it was
visitation night. It doesnít say it was a ďBring-A-NeighborĒ campaign. It
simply says that Jesus was meeting the needs of people where they were. There
were so many people at the door that He couldnít get out. That is how the
Kingdom grows. That is how churches are built. They meet peopleís needs. Letís
continue in verse 34:
And He healed many that were sick of divers diseases, and cast out many devils;
and suffered not the devils to speak, because they knew Him.
translation is that He told the demons to ďShut up!Ē, and they knew who He was
and obeyed. Satanís troops are always paralyzed at the name of Jesus. It tells
us in this passage that it is because they know who He is, and they tremble. We
continue in verse 35. This is a beautiful passage as Jesus dealt with the
priority of being alone with God.
And in the morning, rising up a great while before day, He went out, and
departed into a solitary place, and there prayed.
We need to
realize that the night before, He had been healing and dealing with sick
people. He gets up early. If anyone deserved a good nightís sleep, it was
Jesus; but He set His alarm clock at 4:00 A.M., and then tiptoed out to a quiet
place to spend time alone with His Father. He wasnít trying to be religious. He
wasnít trying to be a martyr and punish His body. Jesus just had a list of
priorities, and the list says that you never get tired enough or busy enough to
skip priority number one, time alone with God. So He slipped out, hopefully to
have time with His Father.
at the sensitive saints who were following Him.
And Simon and they that were with Him followed after Him.
37 And when
they had found Him, they said unto Him, "All men seek for Thee."
sensitivity, what consideration? They told Him that He had a problem, because
everyone was looking for Him. He knew that. He was just trying to take time
alone to be with the Father. We see in the next verse what His response was,
"Donít interrupt My quiet time! Canít you see Iím working on My Scripture
memory? And Iíve got to preach tomorrow." No, He didnít say that. We see
His sensitive response:
And He said unto them, "Let us go into the next towns, that I may preach
there also: for therefore came I forth."
We see in
Jesusí response that perfect balance between peace and urgency. He knew God was
in control, so there was no panic. He also knew that the people had a need, and
there was no time to waste. It was a perfect balance. We see in verse 39:
39 And He
preached in their synagogues throughout all Galilee, and cast out devils.
continued to express itself through spiritually alleviating the afflictions of
the people around Him. In verse 40, we read a startling one-liner,
And there came a leper to Him.
Now here was
Jesus in the midst of a busy evangelistic campaign, and a leper came up to Him.
We canít pass over this verse lightly, because we must visualize what it must
be like to be a leper, then we can visualize what went on in the mind of Christ
and those around Him. In Matthew 10:8, Jesus sent the twelve out and said,
"Heal the sick and cleanse the lepers." In the New Testament there is
no disease regarded with more terror and pity than leprosy.
three kinds of leprosy. The first is nodular or tubercular leprosy. It begins
with an unaccountable lethargy then unaccountable pains in the joints. The
victim has a hard time moving. Then there appears symmetrical, discolored
patches on the skin. On these patches little nodes form, especially in the
facial area. The whole appearance of the face changes until it becomes
grotesque. The victim loses his appearance as a human being. The eyes begin to
stare, the voice changes its sound as it wheezes to the point of being
indistinguishable. The hands and the feet ulcerate with growths everywhere,
making it painfully impossible to walk or to work. At this time of history,
leprosy took about nine years to run its course, before the victim died.
kind is anesthetic leprosy. This initially begins with the loss of feeling in
your nerve endings. The victim might get scalded with boiling water and not
realize it because of the lack of feeling. Patches and blisters begin to appear
on the skin. The fingers and toes begin to fall off. The victim can lose whole
hands and feet. This is a slower kind of torture that often took twenty to
thirty years to gnaw out its victim. This left him in total humiliation,
wracked with pain, socially banned from society, emotionally scared, unclean,
deformed and tormented. This is hard to talk about.
type is a combination of the two. This kind was the most prevalent in Jesusí
day. Can you imagine it? In each case, the victim had to walk about with torn
clothes, a bared head and a covering on his upper lip. Everywhere he went, he
had to announce his presence with his own feeble cry, "Unclean, unclean,
unclean." Even in the Middle Ages, it was the same. The church had a
burial service and read over the victim as if he were dead though he was still
alive. He had to wear black, live in a leper colony and couldnít come to the
church service but had to peek through a leperís squint, a little hole cut in
the wall. This was the lot of the leper. He was like a dead man, tortured,
rejected, humiliated and unclean. We have seen few actual lepers in our day,
but there are hoards of people whose lot in life seems just as hopeless.
It is with
this in mind that we can visualize the circumstances in this passage. It says,
came to Him a leper, begging him, kneeling down to Him saying, "If You
will, You can make me wellĒ.
As we look
at this man, we need to know that he was risking his life to speak to Jesus.
Legally, he was not supposed to. Secondly, he was revealing his faith to speak
to Jesus. There was no known cure for leprosy, yet somehow in his faith, he
claimed total healing from the Master. He said, "You can do it. The
question is, will You?"
And Jesus, moved with compassion.
Here is that
phrase again. Locked in its context, I believe is the following unavoidable
interpretation. Jesus entered into the lepers body, so to speak, in His mindís
eye, in an instant felt the pain, the reproach, the hopelessness and the
helplessness of a leper. Jesus, at that moment, had His body disfigured, His
face indistinguishable, His coarse voice wheezing, "Unclean, unclean, unclean."
Literally, Jesus emotionally became a leper. That is what those three words
mean, moved with compassion.
entered emotionally in His bowels, in His deepest afflictions, into the lepers
life and lot, He extended mercy. He touched him as we see in verse 41. Jesusí
pure, undefiled life, touched the untouchable, the outcast. He risked becoming
unclean to heal another. He spoke to him gently and compassionately. Jesus
said, "I will. I choose to heal you." At whatever the cost, having entered
into his suffering, Jesus said, "I want to be a part of his
healing."† We then read, immediately,
this is a good word to study in Scripture. It ought to take the skeptics and
leave them by the wayside. ďImmediately, he was cleansed.Ē Obeying the
law, Jesus ordered him to go to the priest and declare himself clean as is
taught in Leviticus 13 and 14.
Now the key
to this passage seems obvious. First of all, Jesus was aware that He always
needed time alone with the Father. Secondly, Jesus was never too busy or too
tired or too spiritually drained for people. His life was not an organization
filled with planning meetings and the like. His life was people. Look at your
calendar sometime, at what you have written in the little boxes. Do you have
activities, meetings and functions, or do you have the names of people that you
are meeting with, having fellowship with and ministering to? Use your time to
be with people- people who need you. Men, you can use your breakfast or lunch
hours or coffee breaks to be with other men who have spiritual needs and whose
lives you can minister to. Women, donít waste the precious opportunities you
have whether in person, or on the telephone, to pour your life into people.
to this passage is that the social outcasts of society were Jesusí favorite
people to reach out and touch. They were aware of their need, and they were
usually crying for help. Jesus would always stop. He would always look. He
would always listen. He would always reach out and touch them no matter what
society thought and no matter what it cost Him. The source of His mercy was His
compassion. When He saw a blind man, emotionally He became blind. When the
leper cried out, emotionally, He became a leper, grotesque and hopeless. Then
having totally identified with the person who had the need, He was moved with
compassion and extended mercy.
In the next
lesson, we will continue to follow Jesus. We will watch His compassion with
those who had chronic needs, with those who were stricken with grief, with
those who had no food and see how He viewed them. We will, also, see how He
viewed the mob and lifeís unplanned interruptions.
As you go
about your daily tasks, ask God to give you a spirit of compassion for the
widows, the orphans, the prisoners, those who are terminally ill, those who are
jobless, for that blind beggar on a downtown street corner, for the dirty
addict, unshaven and friendless who is prowling the city streets like an
animal. Ask God for the grace to somehow enter in experientially to that
personsí life, imagine their hurt and humiliation. Ask for the grace to
emotionally enter your husband, your wife or your children. We need to try to
live in their world in order to know how to extend mercy and compassion. We
donít appreciate one another. We donít think about one another, because we
donít walk in their shoes, we donít breathe their breath, we donít think about
what they go through. Mercy means that you live the hurts of another in your
own emotions. That is compassion. Compassion leads to mercy.
cross your path, if possible, stop and look at them. Having stopped, speak
gently to them. Having spoken, listen compassionately to what their real needs
are. If possible, let your life touch their life with Jesus. We have a promise,
oh what bliss will be ours.