Matthew 9 v 36 – 39
36When He saw the crowds, He had compassion for them, because they were harassed and helpless, like sheep without a shepherd.
37Then He said to his disciples, “The harvest is plentiful, but the laborers are few; 38therefore pray earnestly to the Lord of the harvest to send out laborers into his harvest.” (ESV)
What prompted me to preach on this topic this morning was an incident that took place in this week as well. I’m hesitant to talk about it, because it involves me. It happened at the Kentucky Fried Chicken down here. You see I’ve discovered – I’m not going to do advertising – but I’ve discovered these lovely little pancakes that they make with a little piece of chicken and it’s not big food, but it’s really nice. I was on the way and I sought something to eat and I thought I’d stop there and get some. As I came through the driveway there was a woman in the car in front of me and she was being harassed by a man who was clearly not very well off. All I could hear him saying out of my open window was: ‘2 piece and pap; 2 piece and pap’ over and over to her and her showing him to go away and I thought well, ‘I’m next’ and sure enough. He walked over to me and said ‘2 piece and pap; 2 piece and pap’. It irritated me and I thought what to do about this – I don’t know why I did it, but I got out of the car and I walked to the lady who was still in front by the order window and I said to her: ‘why don’t you and I split the cost?’ She said: ‘what?’ I said: He is hungry he wants to eat. Why don’t you and I split the cost?’ She said: ‘okay’ so he got his two piece and pap and I drove out of there thinking: ‘I wonder how many people need two peace and pap? How many people need school fees – how many people need other things – not just material things, which I’m going to be looking at. You see, I thought of the Scripture ‘when Jesus saw the crowds He had compassion for them because they were harassed and they were helpless.’ That man was harassing and he was helpless. We were the harassed and he was the helpless. So you see we’re just like him – we all suffer the same things. You can sit in the motor car and you can be the one who’s being harassed for food, or you can be the one outside of the car doing the harassing. That makes him helpless and it makes you harassed and that makes both of us the people on whom Jesus Christ had compassion. Does what I’m saying to you make sense to you? Compassion is a word that we use very often. Most people don’t have any idea what it means. Men especially brothers – us men especially are guilty of viewing compassion as something that weak and soft people do. We call them the bleeding hearts. It’s not – it’s what the Lord of Glory does! We live in a world that lacks compassion and needs it. What does compassion mean? The word as it’s used in the Bible means to be moved inwardly; to yearn with tender mercy and affection and pity and sympathy. It’s a word that refers to the deepest possible human feelings. The phrase ‘moved with compassion’ means to be moved in the inner organs. It has the same idea as our modern expression ‘from the bottom of my heart’. Someone defined compassion as sympathy coupled with a desire to help. Sympathy means the capacity to share feelings; to enter into the same feelings – sim pasos – the same passion – the same feeling – to feel the same thing. So compassion is sharing the feelings of others and possessing a desire to help them in their trouble. That’s what compassion means and when we read the gospels, they tell us of Jesus and His great compassion for mankind as we just read now. We see that our Saviour was moved with compassion for us in His inner being by the needs of those around him and I want to look at some of that today as we consider the compassion of the Lord Jesus Christ.
- Where does it come from?
If you want compassion you need to know where to get it. Where did Jesus get His compassion from?
a. From His own very Essence
It came from who He was, what He was and what He was and is like. How could He care about so many different people with so many different problems? What motivated Him? Well, think about who Jesus is: He’s not just a man. He is God, and His compassion comes from within that fact, He’s God in the flesh. He doesn’t have our fallen natures. He’s not selfish. He’s not afraid. He’s not self-centered. He’s not a narcissist or a hedonist or a materialist. He steps over the faults and flaws that mark us, in order to love us. Somebody gave me this little quote one day: ‘A man fell into a pit and he couldn’t get himself out of it. And a Christian Scientist came along and said “you only think you’re in a pit.” A Pharisee came by and said “only bad people fall into pits.” A compassionless Evangelical Fundamentalist came by and said “you deserve your pit.” A Charismatic came by and said “just confess that you’re not in the pit.” A Methodist came by and said “we brought you some food and clothing while you’re in the pit”. Then came the Presbyterian – sorry my Presby friends (Roland and others) – “this was no accident, you know.” Then came an optimist and he said “things could get worse.” And then came a pessimist and said “things will get worse”.
You see that’s how people can react when they see people who have fallen into pits. Jesus, seeing the man, took him by the hand and lifted him out of the pit – stops by the side, sticks in His hand and says “grab a hold of this” – pulls him out of it! That’s compassion – all the rest is philosophy and religion. That’s not what people need! And because God can reach down into our weakness in Jesus, He does that.
b. From His Experiences
Jesus was able to express sympathy with others for their experiences were His own experiences because He was not only truly God – He was truly Man too. He didn’t come into this world and live a sheltered – an idyllic life. What He lived was difficult at best. He grew up, lived and died in abject poverty. When He died, His worldly effects consisted of just the garments on His back – beaten up by a whip. He knew about loneliness, was despised and hated and He was rejected by men. He even endured a time of severe Temptation in the wilderness. So He knows what it’s like to be human. So His compassion comes from His Essence as well as His Experiences. That’s where it comes from.
- Where does it go?
He doesn’t keep it to Himself. I’m going to tell you about a few groups of people that He gives this compassion to.
a. To the scattered ones
Matthew 9:36: ‘When He saw the crowds, He had compassion for them, because they were harassed and helpless, like sheep without a shepherd.’ Sheep without a shepherd get scattered.
Matthew 15:32: ‘Then Jesus called His disciples to Him and said, “I have compassion on the crowd because they have been with me now three days and have nothing to eat. And I am unwilling to send them away hungry, lest they faint on the way.”
b. To the sinning ones
That should make most of us in this building very, very glad this morning – it makes me very glad! In Mark 5:1-20 – remember that Gadarene with Legion inside of him? He had compassion on him. Peter, who denied Him three times – the sinning one – He had compassion on him.
c. To the sick ones
Are you sick this morning? You may feel abandoned and you may feel as I prayed this morning you’ve been afflicted long. Don’t doubt for one second that the Lord Jesus has compassion for you. He feels compassion for you. He sees what You’re suffering and He cares very deeply. There’s a reason why He delays your healing, because He knows what’s best for your life – you do not – nor does even the doctor. The doctor knows what’s best for your body alone. Jesus knows what’s best for your body, your soul, your heart, your life and all the ones you love. But He has compassion on the sick ones. Matthew 14:14: ‘When He went ashore He saw a great crowd, and He had compassion on them and healed their sick.’ Matthew 20:29-34: ‘And as they went out of Jericho, a great crowd followed Him. And behold, there were two blind men sitting by the roadside, and when they heard that Jesus was passing by, they cried out “Lord, have mercy on us, Son of David!” The crowd rebuked them, telling them to be silent, but they cried out all the more, “Lord, have mercy on us, Son of David!” And stopping, Jesus called them and said, “What do you want Me to do for you?” They said to Him, “Lord, that we might see.” And Jesus in pity touched their eyes, and immediately they recovered their sight and followed Him.’
Mark 1:40-42: ‘And a leper that came to Him, imploring Him, and kneeling said to Him, “If You will, You can make me clean.” Moved with pity, He stretched out His hand and touched him and said to him, “I will; be clean.” And immediately the leprosy left him, and he was made clean.’
So He had compassion on the sick. Our God still heals – the Lord Jesus still heals. How many of you believe that? I’m glad to see that’s all of you! And why does he heal? He heals because He loves. He heals because He has compassion – that’s why.
d. To the suffering ones
Luke 7:11-13: ‘…He went to a town called Nain, and His disciples and a great crowd went with Him. As He drew near to the gate of the town, behold, a man who had died was being carried out, the only son of his mother, and she was a widow, and a considerable crowd from the town was with her. And when the Lord saw her, He had compassion on her and said to her, “Do not weep.” and we know what He did next.
e. To the seeking ones
He also had compassion on the seeking ones – those who are confused in this world are not just wondering what is right? What is wrong? What is true? What is false? What is good? What is bad? What is beautiful? What is ugly? What is high? What is low? What is now? What is then? Mark 10:17-21: ‘And as He was setting out on His journey, a man ran up and knelt before Him and asked Him, “Good Teacher, what must I do to inherit eternal life?” And Jesus said to him, “Why do you call Me good? No one is good except God alone. You know the commandments: ‘Do not murder, Do not commit adultery, Do not steal, Do not bear false witness, Do not defraud, Honor your father and mother.'” And he said to Him, “Teacher, all these I have kept from my youth.” And Jesus, looking at him, loved him, and said to him, “You lack one thing: go, sell all that you have and give to the poor, and you will have treasure in heaven; and then come, and follow Me.” I wonder if he regretted seeking from Jesus – having to give up all that stuff – I would have! I would have said what have I done – I just lost all my stuff! But Jesus has compassion on the seeking ones.
Why could Jesus do this for so many people in so many different situations? Because Jesus, even though He knew all their faults, He didn’t let that get in the way of His compassion and of His love. You see a person who really loves, never lets anything get in the way of that love, that’s why. How do you and I see people? We can often see people messing up, but we never stop to try and find out why without finding an excuse for them, but just understanding – not validating or condoning. But try to understand – how did that just happen – what went wrong? And then to have compassion – that’s our lord Jesus.
Now, we see where Jesus’ compassion comes from – from His Essence and His experiences. We see where it goes – to the scattered, sinning, sick, suffering and seeking ones.
- What does He want to achieve?
a. Objective of Instruction
He wants to instruct – He wants to teach – that’s why He does it. You look at the Gospels and it reveals that the disciples knew nothing of compassion. James and John wanted to call fire down from heaven to punish a Samaritan village that refused to receive the Lord. Another time the disciples wanted to send a hungry crowd away with nothing. The people closest ever in the history of human life to the Lord Jesus wanted to do that!! And He wanted to teach them ‘that’s not who I am and that’s not what You ought to be!’
So there’s the object of instruction. The disciples had no compassion for the people. They didn’t really see them at all. They were too caught up in the lives they were living – they were not concerned for the people. They had no sorts of reaching outside their own circle and helping the people around them. It’s sad, but it’s also easy to see ourselves in these men, isn’t it? Aren’t we also self-centered and selfish and blind to all those ones that Jesus gives compassion to? I think the answer is that compassion actually grinds against our very nature. Doesn’t it? It doesn’t come naturally. It’s not an intuitive thing – unless it is somebody close to you. Jesus used two illustrations to teach the need for compassion: The parable of the Good Samaritan and the parable of the Prodigal Son, and we know them well. You know, there was a story I once heard where a guy got into this bank and he wanted a loan and the banker said to him ‘I can’t give you a loan, but I’ll tell you what – I have one glass eye and one good eye. If you can tell me which is which, I’ll give you the loan’. He looked at the banker and said ‘your left eye is the good eye.’ And the banker said ‘How did you know that?’ He said ‘I saw a glint of compassion in it.’ See what I mean?
b. Objective of Involvement
He didn’t just want to teach, He wanted to really help – didn’t want to just teach them about compassion, He wanted them to become people of compassion. And that is compassionate involvement – it’s the essence – it’s the Golden Rule. I think you get what I’m saying. Often it becomes necessary and very ordinary situations everyday like ‘two peace and pap.’
It can become necessary in more challenging circumstances. I heard the story once of a man who – in the days they still used trains – got on a train with these four little children. They were noisy, crying and moaning and the man went, just sat down in the train and the children sat with him. They were noisy and crying and so on, and he just sat forward with his face in his hands. Another passenger across the aisle got very irritated that the man wasn’t quieting down his children and disciplining them a bit – spoiling his train ride. He got up, went to them and he said to him: ‘Why are you sitting there with your face in your hands? Why don’t you discipline the children?’ He said I’m so sorry – we just came from the hospital – their mom just died.
That’s how we can lose it! But you know, you don’t lose it in such a big way immediately. You know where you lose it? You begin losing it in small things – little things – it begins with little things – not letting the other person go first at the four direction stop. It begins with not having a heart – you lose your heart not in one big way, you begin to lose your heart by losing small little bits of it at a time – too small for you to even notice. And when you see again, the whole thing’s gone. Sad, isn’t it?
May the Lord help us that our compassion comes from the same place as the Lord Jesus’ comes – from the One in whom we stand before the throne of grace. May it go where it goes from Him – to the scattered ones, to the suffering ones, to the seeking ones, to the sick ones, to the sinful ones. May it go there to instruct, to be involved and to be Jesus – truly Jesus – to those who most need it.