Moved Through Compassion
Read For This Week's Study: Luke 5:12-16; 9:12-17; Matt. 8:1-17; 9:4-6, 36-38.
Memory Text: "Through the Lord's mercies we are not consumed, because His compassions fail not. They are new every morning; great is Your faithfulness" (Lam. 3:22, 23, NKJV).
Key Thought: Christ's great love constrained Him to heal. His heart went out to the sick, the brokenhearted, and the bereaved. His love compelled Him to reach out, often healing entire villages.
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Jesus Revealed God's Merciful Character in His compassion and healing. When people are hungry, cold, and without friends, they have a hard time understanding God's tender mercies. The poor struggle to survive in a world of selfish people and are often treated as if they are less worthy. They are looked down upon, pitied. But Christ says, "It was I who was hungry and thirsty. It was I who was a stranger. It was I who was sick." (See Matthew 25:35-40.) Although Jesus focused on eternity, He was concerned about the present and responded to the people who needed Him most--the poor, the ill, the grieving, and those entangled in webs of sin. He responded with infinite compassion.
Jesus revealed more than pity. Compassion implies pity accompanied by an urge to help or spare. Sympathy sees and says, "I'm sorry." Compassion feels and whispers, 'I'll help."
This week we consider how Jesus' compassion was manifested in healing ministry.
"Be Merciful, Even As Your Father Is Merciful" (Luke 6:36, RSV).
As we exercise compassion, our humanity grows into its fullness.
How can Christians know whether they are truly compassionate? Luke 10:29-37.
Why do some unbelievers appear to be more compassionate than some believers? Rev. 3:1, 2; James 2:14-17. If one does not spontaneously feel compassionate, how can Jesus' instruction recorded in Luke 6:31 be implemented?
The call to compassion goes against our natural tendency. It requires genuine conversion of heart and mind. The word compassion generally evokes positive feelings. We like to think of ourselves as compassionate people who are basically good, gentle, and understanding. We tend to assume that compassion is a natural response to human suffering. We feel offended when someone accuses us of lacking compassion. We identify being compassionate with being truly human.
Since this is true, why is humanity torn by conflict, hatred, and oppression? Why do differences in race, gender, and religion prevent us from relating to one another? Why is our world in such chaos?
We need to take a critical look at our understanding of compassion. The word compassion is derived from Latin words meaning, "to suffer with." Compassion asks us to go where it hurts, to enter places of pain, to share brokenness, fear, and anguish. Compassion challenges us to cry with those in misery, to mourn with those who are lonely, to weep with those in tears. Compassion requires us to identify with the weak, the vulnerable, and the powerless.
Compassion means complete immersion in the effort to relieve human need It means taking action. When we look at compassion this way, it is clear that something more than mere kindness is involved. It is not surprising that compassion is something that often evokes in us deep resistance, even protest. Compassion is not among our most spontaneous responses, but it is God's response that may become our response in our submission to Him.
Describe how God's compassion is expressed in Psalm 78:38. Compare Paul's compassion (1 Cor. 9:19-23).
He Lives Among Us (Isa. 7:14).
By what title, taken from the prophet Isaiah, does Matthew refer to Jesus? Isa. 7:14; Matt. 1:22, 23.
The title means literally ~God with us." It introduces us to Matthew's strong conviction regarding the identity and mission of Jesus. God saves us by literally becoming one of us in the person of Jesus. In Jesus we encounter God as the companion of our lives, the fulfillment of our human yearnings. He is God's presence become flesh. He is divine compassion in human form and feeling, the ultimate revelation of God as companion to humanity. Jesus reveals a God who loves generously, compassionately, and calls us to a new way of living so that we can find true fulfillment.
Study the apostle John's description of God with us. John 1:1-5, 9-18.
We will never really know God as a compassionate God if we do not understand with our hearts and minds that "He lived among us." He committed Himself to identify with us, to suffer all of life with us, to share in our joys and pains. In Jesus, God's compassion became visible. Jesus not only said. "Be merciful as your Father is merciful"; He was the living embodiment of this divine mercy in our world. Jesus' response to the ignorant, the hungry, the blind, the lepers, the widows, and all those who came to him with their suffering, flowed from His divine compassion.
We need to pay close attention to Jesus' words and actions if we are to gain true insight into this divine compassion. We would misunderstand the miracles in the gospels if we were to be impressed only by the fact that sick and tormented people were healed. If this were the fact of central importance, a cynic might rightly remark that many people in Jesus day were not cured. What is important is not merely the cure of the sick, but the divine compassion that moved Jesus to effect these cures.
"Do not judge, and you will not be judged. Do not condemn, and you will not be condemned. Forgive, and you will be forgiven. Give, and it will be given to you. A good measure, pressed down, shaken together and running over, will be poured into your lap. For with the measure you use, it will be measured to you" (Luke 6:36-38, NIV).
When you have extended compassion to someone, what did the experience do for you spiritually?
Jesus' Compassion--Healing Stories (Matt. 14:14)
"When he saw" the crowds, he had compassion on them, because they were harassed and helpless, like sheep without a shepherd" (Matt. 9:36, NIV).
Consider Jesus' intervention in the lives of three suffering women: Luke 7:11-17; Luke 13:10-17; Luke 8:1, 2; 10:38-42
When Jesus saw the crowds harassed and dejected, like sheep without a shepherd. His heart was deeply moved by their miserable condition. When He saw the blind, the paralyzed, and the deaf, He entered into their sufferings (Matt. 14:14). When He became aware that the people who had followed Him for days were tired and hungry, He said, "I have compassion for these people" (Mark 8:2, NIV). He mercifully healed the leper who fell to his knees before Him (Mark 1:41), and He ministered to the sorrowing widow of Nain, who was burying her only son (Luke 7:13). Jesus entered into people's heartaches and relieved their pain. He reached out and touched the lost, hungry, and the sick. lie was intensely sensitive to the suffering of others.
The great mystery is that Jesus, the sinless Son of God, chose to suffer our pains and thus enables us to see God in His true nature. In Christ, We see our great human need and God's infinite power to heal us. He who is divine took our broken humanity.
What do you see as the underlying purpose in Jesus' coming to earth in human form? 2 Cor. 5:21.
Jesus' healing ministry reveals what He wants to do for us. His divine compassion enables us to face our sinful selves; it transforms our broken human condition and lifts us from despair to hope. Through Jesus Christ we know that God experienced our brokenness when He became sin for us. He has embraced everything human with the infinite tenderness of divine compassion.
How can brokenness become a source of hope rather than a cause of despair?
Jesus' Compassion--The Good News For Today (Matt. 9:4-6).
Jesus' compassion has not diminished, and He asks us to carry on His work. In the Beatitudes found in the Sermon on the Mount (Matt. 5:1-12), Jesus identified the ideal attitudes that God expects of His children. Encouragingly, He does not expect us to develop these qualities in our own strength. any more than He expected the blind, the lepers, or the paralyzed to cure themselves. He wants to release His power and heal our spiritual needs today as He did in His day.
Why did Jesus not only forgive the paralytic's sin, but also heal Him physically? Matt. 9:4-6.
The account of this healing is among the most touching and compassionate encounters recorded in the Gospels. It exemplifies the comprehensive kind of healing with which Jesus approached those in need.
Which of these dimensions of healing seems most essential? Which do you think was the most important to Jesus? to the paralyzed man? Do you think it is possible to exhibit some of these dimensions without the others?
It was out of compassion that Jesus' healing emerged. He did not cure to impress; His cures were the natural expression of His divinity. The mystery of God's love is not only that He takes our pains away, but that He shares them. The great mystery is not merely the cures, but the infinite compassion that is their source.
Jesus' many cures recorded in the Gospels resulted from Jesus' being with us. The truly good news is that God is not a distant God, a God to he feared md avoided, hut a God moved by our pains, who participates in the fullness of the human struggle. His acts of healing and compassion are joy-filled reminders of this good news, which is to us true consolation and comfort.
What is the relationship between love and compassion?
Jesus' Compassion--Loving Choices (Matt. 4:23-25).
Describe how Jesus demonstrated compassion as He walked among the people. Matt. 4:23-25.
In the Gospel stories of Jesus' healings, we sense how close God wants to be to those who suffer. Here we see what compassion means. It is not merely bending toward the underprivileged from a privileged position; it is not reaching down from on high to those who are less fortunate below; it is not a gesture of sympathy or pity for those who fail to measure up. On the contrary, compassion means going directly to people and places where suffering is most acute and serving as a member of the community. God's compassion demonstrated by Jesus is total, unconditional.
In Jesus Christ we see the fullness of God's compassion. We cry from the depth of our brokenness for a hand that will touch us, an arm that can embrace us, lips that will kiss us, a word that speaks to us, and a heart that is not afraid of our fears and trembling. He feels our pain as no other human being feels it, and in response He assures us, "I am with you." Jesus Christ, who is "God with us," came and experienced our human condition.
Study further specific examples of jesus' healing ministry. Matt. 8:1-17; Luke 6:17-19.
Sometimes the compassionate care we receive when we are sick can heal as much as the medicine we take. For children, mother is usually the one who makes sure they get enough rest by having them stay in bed. By bringing them juice, water, and soup, she helps to keep them nourished. She lifts their spirits when she tells them cheerful stories. Mother's tender loving care is healing ministry. Without this ministry children are spiritually and emotionally starved.
Based on your own life and relationships, what are some special and caring things that you could do the next time a loved one is sick?
In a research project, hospital patients were asked to rate their nurses. The results were quite unexpected. Patient satisfaction results seemed to ignore technical and medical training, or perhaps assumed it, and rated good nurses as those who were kind, cheerful, considerate, and willing to listen. The highest rated nurses acted with compassion.
Friday October 10
Further Study: Consider the compassionate ministry God has committed to every believer: 2 Cor. 5:20; Luke 10:1-24; Matt. 19:10-14.
As Christians. we are called to be Christ's ambassadors through whom the reality of God's infinite compassion becomes tangible. In fellowship with Jesus, we are called to be compassionate as our Father is compassionate. In Him it becomes possible to be effective witnesses to God's loving mercy.
Our actions must be a manifestation of Jesus' loving presence in our world. Merciful actions are those through which the healing, comforting, and reconciling love of God can touch the heart of humanity.
"The tender sympathies of our Saviour were aroused for fallen and suffering humanity. If you would be His followers, you must cultivate compassion and sympathy. Indifference to human woes must give place to lively interest in the sufferings of others. The widow, the orphan, the sick and the dying, will always need help. Here is an opportunity to proclaim the gospel--to hold up Jesus, the hope and consolation of all men. When the suffering body has been relieved, and you have shown a lively interest in the afflicted, the heart is opened, and you can pour in the heavenly balm. If you are looking to Jesus, and drawing from Him knowledge and strength and grace, you can impart His consolation to others, because the Comforter is with you."--My Life Today, p. 230.
Summary: Healing ministry depends, to a great extent, on compassion for the suffering, compassion demonstrated by merciful words and acts, compassion that emulates the loving ministry of Jesus.
Baker Breaks Bread of Life
J. H. Zachary
Fredoy Wondal owns a bakery in Manado, East Indonesia. But he prefers to let his wife, Marie manage the bakery so that he can work full-time as a lay evangelist, seeking souls for God's kingdom. His local church recognized his talents for spiritual leadership and successful soul winning and offered Fredoy a stipend to support his work for God.
Fredoy's goal is to visit every home in his community as he asks God to lead him to people interested in studying the Bible. Soon after he began this work, he was giving Bible studies full time. When he learned that a large evangelistic series was being planned for Manado, he began holding group Bible studies. He invited people to open their homes for small-group meetings and encouraged the hosts to ask their neighbors and friends to attend. Fredoy conducted five such groups. As the group studied the Bible together they began sharing their needs and joys and supporting one another during times of personal difficulties. In a short time the members developed a close spiritual fellowship. And nearly every week the Lord has blessed Fredoy with decisions for Christ through his ministry.
Lay workers like Fredoy conducted 100 such small-group meetings in and around the city of Manado in preparation for evangelist meetings sponsored by the Quiet Hour. When the evangelistic meetings began, Fredoy arranged transportation so his Bible-study members could attend the meetings. The speaker's messages reinforced what the listeners had been taught in the Bible-study groups, and many of the Bible-study contacts have accepted Christ as their Saviour and are preparing for baptism.
What is Fredoy's secret of success? He goes door to door, offering everyone a chance to study the Bible, either in a small group or one-to-one with the immediate family. He shares his enthusiasm and love for God with everyone he meets. He fills every hour doing what he loves most--studying the Bible with searching souls and trusting God for the results.
Fredoy Wondal (left). J. H. Zachary is the international evangelism coordinator for The Quiet Hour. Manado is a large city on the northernmost tip of the island of Sulawesi (Celebes) in East Indonesia.
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