Tag Archives: compassion

Today’s Scripture – August 30, 2017

Luke 7:11-17 (NIV) Soon afterward, Jesus went to a town called Nain, and his disciples and a large crowd went along with him. As he approached the town gate, a dead person was being carried out–the only son of his mother, and she was a widow. And a large crowd from the town was with her.
When the Lord saw her, his heart went out to her and he said, “Don’t cry.” Then he went up and touched the coffin, and those carrying it stood still. He said, “Young man, I say to you, get up!” The dead man sat up and began to talk, and Jesus gave him back to his mother.
They were all filled with awe and praised God. “A great prophet has appeared among us,” they said. “God has come to help his people.” This news about Jesus spread throughout Judea and the surrounding country.

 

People died every day in Judea, but Jesus only rarely performed resurrections. That’s because, due to the original sin of Adam and Eve, death is the lot of all people. Any reprieve that Jesus did give was only temporary – those resurrected people died again after a space of time.

What moved Jesus to act in this case was compassion. In addition to the grief over losing a beloved son, this man’s death had thrown the mother’s whole future into uncertainty. The woman was a widow, and the man being carried out was her only son, her only remaining means of support. If she was young enough, she might remarry and have a husband to provide for her needs, but that was iffy. If she was older, her prospects were significantly more gloomy.

As soon as He realized this, Jesus’ plan became obvious. He walked up to the woman and urged her to stop crying. Then He walked right up to the coffin and laid His hand on it, causing those carrying it to stop in their tracks. His words were simple: “Young man, I say to you, get up!” This was very similar to His later words to Jairus’ daughter: “Little girl, I say to you, get up!” (Mark 5:41)

No more needed to be done. The man in the coffin opened his eyes, sat up, and began to talk! The whole complexion of the scene was transformed. Sorrow was swallowed up in amazed joy; weeping and wailing faded into gasps of amazement and astonished laughter.

The people immediately decided that Jesus must be a great prophet. Both Elijah and Elisha had raised the dead (1 Kings 17:17-24, 2 Kings 4:18-37), so they figured that He must be someone like them. And, of course, they spread the word all throughout the land.

Father, Jesus made it all look so easy. But this amazing power was not limited to Him and His ministry. After Pentecost, even Peter and Paul were able to restore life at Your direction (Acts 9:36-42; 20:9-12). Lord, Your kingdom is no place for free spirits or mavericks who decide on their own what needs doing and then demand that You honor their decision. But when You clearly call us to do something, whether speaking words of healing, sharing the good news of the kingdom, or even raising the dead, we, as Your people, are required to obey, no matter how improbable the situation. Amen.

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Today’s Scripture – August 1, 2017

Luke 6:1-5 (NIV) One Sabbath Jesus was going through the grainfields, and his disciples began to pick some heads of grain, rub them in their hands and eat the kernels. Some of the Pharisees asked, “Why are you doing what is unlawful on the Sabbath?”
Jesus answered them, “Have you never read what David did when he and his companions were hungry? He entered the house of God, and taking the consecrated bread, he ate what is lawful only for priests to eat. And he also gave some to his companions.” Then Jesus said to them, “The Son of Man is Lord of the Sabbath.”

The Pharisees had ringed the Sabbath with a whole suite of rules to ensure that people didn’t inadvertently sin by doing some kind of work on that day. They had rules for how far a person could walk on the Sabbath before it crossed the line and became work, as well as long lists of forbidden activities.

The Pharisees were not worried that the disciple were stealing grain. A hungry person was actually allowed to pull off heads of grain in someone else’s field, as long as they didn’t use a sickle (Deuteronomy 23:25), or to pull grapes off a vine to eat, as long as they didn’t put any into a basket to take away (Deuteronomy 23:24). But, to the Pharisees, pulling the heads of grain off constituted harvesting; rubbing the chaff off the grain constituted winnowing; and chewing the raw grains constituted grinding flour; all of which were, according to them, classified as work, and therefore not allowed on the Sabbath.

Interestingly, Jesus didn’t argue with them about their interpretation of the law. He turned their attention instead to another instance where God allowed a clear need to be met in spite of the rules. In this instance (1 Samuel 21:1-6), David was fleeing from Saul and had no supplies for him and his men. He approached Ahimelech the priest at Nob, asking for any food that might be available. All the priest had was the bread of the presence which had just been replaced with fresh loaves that day. Normally only the priests could eat that bread, but Ahimelech allowed David and his men to eat it, actually sacrificing his own food because of their apparent need.

Jesus’ point was not that God’s clear commands don’t matter. His point was that if God was willing to relax a rule in order to meet a genuine human need out of compassion, the Pharisees should be willing to do the same with their own rules regarding what was permissible on the Sabbath.

Father, it’s clear that this wasn’t primarily about permission to break rules or commandments (You don’t, for instance, approve of stealing, even by a hungry person), but about compassion for genuine need, and about being willing to receive Your gracious provision, even on the Sabbath. You are a great and compassionate God, and I praise You today. Amen.

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Today’s Scripture – January 12, 2017

Matthew 14:12-14 (NIV) John’s disciples came and took his body and buried it.  Then they went and told Jesus.
When Jesus heard what had happened, he withdrew by boat privately to a solitary place.  Hearing of this, the crowds followed him on foot from the towns.  When Jesus landed and saw a large crowd, he had compassion on them and healed their sick.

The death of someone we admire and appreciate always has a strong impact on a person.  And Jesus admired and appreciated John (cf. Matthew 11:11).  Besides that, it is one thing to hear that a person like that has died, or even been killed.  But to hear that their head was cut off and given to a pagan princess added a whole new dimension to the grief that Jesus felt.

It wasn’t that Jesus was hopeless over John’s death.  He knew that John was a man who belonged fully to God, who fully obeyed His will, and whose place in heaven was ultimately secure.  But the brutality of John’s death brought strongly to Jesus’ mind the cruel death that lay not that far in His own future.  He needed a little time to process, to pray, and to lean on His Father for strength.

But Jesus’ celebrity never made it easy for Him to have much privacy.  The crowds heard that Jesus was leaving, and were able to see from the direction the boat was sailing where He was going.  So they hurried by foot to meet Him there, bringing along their sick for Jesus to heal.

Jesus would have been within His rights to tell the people that He needed a little space to grieve John’s death.  Or, seeing the crowds, He could have instructed His disciples to head back out onto the lake and set ashore somewhere else.  But Jesus was never ruled by His passions, nor controlled by His needs.  He had come not to be served, but to serve (Matthew 20:28).  He had been born as the fruit of God’s own love and compassion for humanity.  And He knew that the way to spiritual strength was not through retreat, but through being right in the center of His Father’s will, walking in the path of His plan.

So Jesus went ashore into the throng of waiting people.  He healed the sick, and taught the people about life in the kingdom of God.  And in that process, He regained His center; He received comfort for His loss and strength for the future; and He was reassured of His path forward.

Father, it really is human nature to want to withdraw and lick our wounds when we are hurt.  But here we see a better way.  Not service for service’s sake, but merely staying in the center of Your will, keeping ourselves in the midst of Your calling for our lives.  It is only there that we can walk in Your presence and power, and it is there that we can best find the comfort and healing that we crave.  Thank You for this insight.  Amen.

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Today’s Scripture – June 18, 2013

Psalm 103:8-12 (NIV):  The Lord is compassionate and gracious, slow to anger, abounding in love.  He will not always accuse, nor will he harbor his anger forever; he does not treat us as our sins deserve or repay us according to our iniquities.  For as high as the heavens are above the earth, so great is his love for those who fear him; as far as the east is from the west, so far has he removed our transgressions from us.

 

The Lord is a God who really is compassionate, gracious, slow to anger, and abounding in love, just as He showed Moses (Exodus 34:6-7).  It is that compassion, grace, and love that moved Him to plan a way to restore poor, miserable sinners to His presence, even though it cost Him the suffering and death of Jesus on the cross.

It is that compassion, and that grace, and that love for sinful humanity that stays His hand from visiting His judgment on us for the sins that we have committed, and for the rebellion that we hold in our hearts.  Instead, He gives us time and abundant opportunities to repent and turn back to Him.  He keeps working on us, sometimes applying pressure, sometimes merely allowing natural consequences to run their course, until we repent, or until we die, or until we corrupt our own souls so much that He can see that we will never turn.

And when someone truly does repent, truly turns away from their sin and rebellion and turns wholeheartedly back to Him, He really does remove our sins far from us, giving us a clean slate; a fresh start.  He can even transform a person’s heart and mind so that we can truly serve Him “without fear, in holiness and righteousness before Him all our days.”  (Luke 1:74b-75)

That being said, it is urgent that people stop rebelling and sinning, and turn to Him right away.  Human life is very fragile and desperately uncertain in this world that human sin has bent and broken.  No one knows how long he or she has until the moment our souls are required of us.  No one knows when Jesus will return.  When death or Jesus comes, whichever comes first for any individual, the period of God’s gracious tolerance ends as well.  Only His judgment awaits.  Everyone should take heed and turn while they can!

 

Father, thank You for the grace that You showed me while I was still in rebellion against You for all those years.  All that I am today I owe to You, and to Your grace, Your forgiveness, and Your love working through my life, recreating Me, and making me clean, pure, and holy, so that I can serve You, here and now, and forever.  Amen.

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A Different Approach

          After the two days he left for Galilee.  (Now Jesus himself had pointed out that a prophet has no honor in his own country.)  When he arrived in Galilee, the Galileans welcomed him. They had seen all that he had done in Jerusalem at the Passover Feast, for they also had been there.
Once more he visited Cana in Galilee, where he had turned the water into wine. And there was a certain royal official whose son lay sick at Capernaum.  When this man heard that Jesus had arrived in Galilee from Judea, he went to him and begged him to come and heal his son, who was close to death.
               
“Unless you people see miraculous signs and wonders,” Jesus told him, “you will never believe.”
               
The royal official said, “Sir, come down before my child dies.”
Jesus replied, “You may go. Your son will live.”
The man took Jesus at his word and departed.  While he was still on the way, his servants met him with the news that his boy was living.  When he inquired as to the time when his son got better, they said to him, “The fever left him yesterday at the seventh hour.”
               
Then the father realized that this was the exact time at which Jesus had said to him, “Your son will live.” So he and all his household believed.
               
This was the second miraculous sign that Jesus performed, having come from Judea to Galilee.
John 4:43-54 (NIV)

As with every gospel writer, John doesn’t put everything that Jesus ever did in His gospel (cf. John 20:30-31), nor everything that ever happened to Him.  But the one line, “(Now Jesus himself had pointed out that a prophet has no honor in his own country),” really makes me scratch my head.  There is no story here of Jesus being dishonored; just a statement that the Galileans welcomed Him, because they had seen the miracles that He had done in Jerusalem.  But if you read just a little bit between the lines, you really do get the idea that Jesus wasn’t really accepted in His home region of Galilee for who He was; He was just hounded by the people to do some miracles.

So when this royal official showed up to beg Jesus to come and heal his son who was close to death, Jesus came across as kind of exasperated.  “Unless you people (plural, addressed to all those standing around) see signs and wonders, you will never believe.”  I imagine that it would have been desperately frustrating for Jesus to have people just come to Him when they wanted something, but then, once they are healed, once they have seen the miracle, not wanting anything to do with what He said; not wanting to actually live the kingdom life that He was teaching them about.  And now, here was one more person who wanted Him to drop everything and go do a miracle for him.

In the end, it was Jesus’ compassion that carried the day.  After all, this man wasn’t just wanting to see a miracle so he could tell people about it.  He wasn’t looking for a thrill at Jesus’ expense.  He was simply desperate.  He probably didn’t even know about the kingdom of God yet.  He was simply reaching out in his absolute powerlessness, grasping at this one straw in his desperation to save his son’s life.  His heartfelt plea touched the feeling heart of the Son of God.  I can almost see Jesus’ face soften, a slight smile playing around the corners of His mouth, as the volume of His voice lowered to an intimate level that was only heard by the man and the few disciples who were standing closest:  “You may go.  Your son will live.”

The man had intended to bring Jesus back with him to Capernaum; back to where his son lay dying.  And I’m sure that he was willing to go to any lengths to make that happen.  But when Jesus looked him square in the eye and told him in that soft, intimate voice that his son would live, that was enough for him.  Immediately, his one thought was to get back home and see that his son really was going to live after all.

Some time the next morning he met his servants on the road.  They were coming to tell him that his son had suddenly gotten better; not just a slight improvement, but all the way well.  One instant he was fading, and the next he was out of bed and ready to go.  And the miraculous change had happened the previous day, precisely at the time that Jesus had told the ruler that his son would live.  At this point, the final sentence, “So he and all his household believed,’ is kind of anticlimactic.  Of course they did! 

There is a point here that is vital to understand.  Even in Jesus’ day there were two kinds of people who sought Him out for a miracle.  On the one hand were those people who asked Him for a miracle because they wanted to see a miracle.  Jesus never gave in to them.  But on the other hand were those who begged for a miracle because they were helpless in the situation in which they found themselves.  They had nowhere else to turn except to Jesus.  They weren’t ordering Him to do something for them; they were simply pleading with Him to help them when there was no one else to help.  And when someone came to Jesus that way, He always helped.  And He still does today.

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