PULPIT TODAY SERMONS
Robert D. Pace
What is Compassion?
Let’s get to the heart of the message now. What is the principal evidence that compassion has been extended? What does compassion leave in its wake? The most significant consequence of compassion in action is, it alleviates suffering. It lifts people’s burdens and makes life more tolerable. And that’s what Jesus was all about. Christ has often been called, “The Man of Compassion.” And that’s because He entered the arena of human suffering and lifted burdens. That’s what mercy is. Mercy is more than an emotional experience of feeling someone’s pain it’s doing what’s possible to alleviate it. Compassion is action!
Jesus couldn’t look at people without being stirred to intervene. And He was specifically moved when people experienced pain, sickness, and sorrow. He was moved when people were hungry or lonely or confused. Look at our text in Matthew 9. Verse 36 says: “When he saw the crowds, he had compassion on them, [Why did He have compassion on them and why are we to have compassion on others?] because they were harassed and helpless, like sheep without a shepherd.” Christ intervened for people because they couldn’t fend for themselves! This is an incredibly intense phrase in verse thirty-six that says: “he had compassion on them.” Or, as the KJV renders it: “He was moved with compassion.”
This word here for compassion is the strongest expression for pity the Greek language offers. It describes being moved to the depths of one’s being. As the most merciful man of human history that’s what made Jesus so immensely popular! People converged on Him everywhere He went:
The hopeless thronged Him because He restored their faith.
Sinners swarmed Him because He forgave them and removed their guilt.
Outcasts approached Him because they knew He wouldn’t reject them.
The diseased crowded Him because His healing came without charges.
This is what Christ was all about—helping people. And that’s why He said in John 6:37, “whoever comes to me I will never drive away.”
How do you think Jesus earned that nickname, “Friend of sinners”? He earned it by accepting people—even those that were ostracized from the mainstream of society.
The Kingdom of God is about reaching people. It’s about touching people. It’s about transforming people. And the way we reach, touch, and transform others is through compassion.
(Transition) There’s an amazing correlation Jesus linked between the Church’s ability to reap a harvest and a Christian’s compassion. Look again at our text (Read Matthew 9:35-38).
Compassion and the Harvest
Jesus purposely linked these statements of reaping the harvest with a laborer’s compassion here. That’s why Psalm 126 says: “Those who sow in tears will reap with songs of joy. (6) He who goes out weeping, carrying seed to sow, will return with songs of joy, carrying sheaves with him” (NIV). We need compassion to reach the harvest!
There’s another example. It happened when Jesus visited the region of Gadara and encountered a demoniac. His name was Legion, which meant 2000. He was possessed with 2000 demons that Jesus dismissed with a mere word (Mark 5:18-20). That’s when the man begged to follow Jesus and His apostles. But Jesus said to him: “No, I have another mission for you. Take this compassion I’ve given you and share it.” And that’s what he did. He departed and proclaimed what great things Christ had done for him. And the Bible says: “all the people were amazed” at his testimony!
(Transition) The message God gave this man applies to us. Recipients of Christ’s compassion should share that compassion. The Gospel received is the Gospel to convey! You say, “To whom does God expect me to share compassion? Let’s talk about that.
The Good Samaritan
Luke 10 records the Parable of the Good Samaritan. Jesus tells of a traveler that was accosted and left for dead. When a priest and a Levite walked by they saw the man but wouldn’t get involved. They didn’t just turn their head Luke says they crossed the road and “passed by on the other side.” They completely shunned the guy. But when a Samaritan, a detested half-breed, walked near, he “had compassion on him.” He didn’t just feel for the man he intervened. His compassion brought action! He bandaged the wounds, gave him a ride to the nearest village, provided him with medicine and a recovery room, and paid the cost. What an example to us! If we are really concerned for others it will manifest in the form of action!
There are two major points in this parable. One underlines the great need for compassion. The other identifies those to whom we should extend compassion. That’s what Jesus meant when He said: “Which of these three do you think was a neighbor to the man who fell into the hands of the robbers?”
(Definition) Notice that word neighbor. The Greek to English translation here doesn’t carry its full impact when this word is interpreted because neighbor doesn’t just mean those living in your subdivision. The word means, “those close by; whoever is near you wherever you are.”
Jesus was saying our compassion should be directed toward anyone within close proximity. That means if you’re in New York, California, Montana, or another continent; it means if you’re at a ballgame, a symphony, or an amusement park your neighbor is whoever you’re near. And if someone is in need, and you have the power to assist, consider that divine providence has placed you there to intervene!
(Illustration) Awhile back I traveled to a funeral. As I left town I stopped at a restaurant. The waitress came to the table and it took only a moment to tell things could be better. I looked at her and quoted Jeremiah 11:29: “I know the plans I have for you,” declares the LORD, “plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future.” The last thing she said was this: “I just told the other waitresses, “I finally got a good table.” I’ve had a terrible week.”
Compassion can be shown in the simplest of ways! God wants us living with a sensitivity that discerns burdened and confused people and then help them. That’s what compassion does. Compassion is action! It gets involved and takes a risk! And this is what Jesus did throughout His ministry!
Jesus said about the centurion’s servant: “I will come and heal him” (MAT 8:7).
He said to the paralytic: “Take heart . . . your sins are forgiven” (MAT 9:2).
He said about the tax collectors: “It is not the healthy who need a doctor, but the sick” (MAR 2:17).
He said to the woman with the issue of blood: “Go in peace and be freed from your suffering” (MAR 5:34).
He said to the synagogue ruler whose daughter was at death’s door: “I will come and heal her” (MAR 5:26).
And at His dying hour Jesus turned to the thief on the cross and said: “Today you will be with me in paradise.”
You see, compassion is action! It doesn’t talk about it, it gets involved! That’s the essence of Christ’s mission. He left the perfect surroundings of heaven and entered this world of imperfection to make it a better place. Thank God for His mercy!
Some of you may be thinking that compassion is something you need right now. If that’s you here’s how you to invite Christ’s compassion to directly impact you. Confess your need for Christ. Tell Him you’re empty, discontent, and lack the peace that satisfies your soul. Admit you’re a sinner who’s only hope is Christ and invite Him to bring His life-changing presence into your life. From there make every effort to follow His commands as revealed in the Bible.