SUNDAY MORNING SERMON NOTES
The Compassion of Jesus
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Sunday, August 12, 2012 - 10:00 a.m.  Sermon #: 1582
Pastor Don

Matthew 9:35-10:15 - “And Jesus went throughout all the cities and villages, teaching in their synagogues and proclaiming the gospel of the kingdom and healing every disease and every affliction. [36] When he saw the crowds, he had compassion for them, because they were harassed and helpless, like sheep without a shepherd. [37] Then he said to his disciples, "The harvest is plentiful, but the laborers are few; [38] therefore pray earnestly to the Lord of the harvest to send out laborers into his harvest....[10:1] And he called to him his twelve disciples and gave them authority over unclean spirits, to cast them out, and to heal every disease and every affliction. [2] The names of the twelve apostles are these: first, Simon, who is called Peter, and Andrew his brother; James the son of Zebedee, and John his brother; [3] Philip and Bartholomew; Thomas and Matthew the tax collector; James the son of Alphaeus, and Thaddaeus; [4] Simon the Cananaean, and Judas Iscariot, who betrayed him. [5] These twelve Jesus sent out, instructing them, "Go nowhere among the Gentiles and enter no town of the Samaritans, [6] but go rather to the lost sheep of the house of Israel. [7] And proclaim as you go, saying, 'The kingdom of heaven is at hand.' [8] Heal the sick, raise the dead, cleanse lepers, cast out demons. You received without paying; give without pay. [9] Acquire no gold nor silver nor copper for your belts, [10] no bag for your journey, nor two tunics nor sandals nor a staff, for the laborer deserves his food. [11] And whatever town or village you enter, find out who is worthy in it and stay there until you depart. [12] As you enter the house, greet it. [13] And if the house is worthy, let your peace come upon it, but if it is not worthy, let your peace return to you. [14] And if anyone will not receive you or listen to your words, shake off the dust from your feet when you leave that house or town. [15] Truly, I say to you, it will be more bearable on the day of judgment for the land of Sodom and Gomorrah than for that town.”

We’ve studied the authority of Jesus, the call of Jesus, now today, we’re looking at the compassion of Jesus. Of course, even though we’re studying these elements separately, in reality, they all fit together and must be incorporated into the church as a complete provision and pattern for life and ministry.

This is such a relevant passage to the church today. It has to do with how we are to get the job of reaching this world for Christ done when the odds seemed too stacked against our success. Matthew describes Jesus moving among all the towns and villages (verse 35). He's accomplishing a great deal, but He will never change the whole world by Himself, and he knows it.

This is an amazing point. Jesus, being God, can do whatever He wants to do. He doesn’t need anything in the sense that we have needs in this life. So what is Jesus' prescription for reaching and changing the world? How did He think this would be done? There are three issues that boil up to the surface of this passage:

First, how do you view the sinful people you encounter in the world around you? Second, what is our first line of action when confronted by the vastness of the job facing the church? And third, how did Jesus plan to raise a group of disciples capable of touching lives with His power?

Lets's look at each of these:

1) JESUS VIEWED LOST, SINFUL PEOPLE WITH COMPASSION

Matthew 9:36 - “When he saw the crowds, he had compassion for them, because they were harassed and helpless, like sheep without a shepherd.”

Compassion is the first step in reaching sinful people. It is the first step in making a lasting spiritual difference in others. I can still remember a conversation I had years ago with Marg Reckahn, a selfless woman who worked regularly with the developmentally handicapped Bible study in our church. I can remember how their group used to interrupt our Bible study on Tuesday nights. I remember how they would take all of the coffee and cookies, make too much noise, distract our group as we prayed, etc.

I can remember the Tuesday night I had all of these complaints boiling around in my head. That night Marg came up to me as the evening was winding down. Without knowing any of the frustration I was feeling with her group she said, "You can't imagine what a mission field there is with these people! Pastor Don, I want you to know how honoured I am that you asked me to work with this wonderful group!”

Now, there's a sense in which we were looking at the same group of people, and there’s a sense in which we saw two different groups all together. And here’s the difference. She ministered to those people with a genuine compassion. And that made all the little frustrations I was feeling insignificant and weightless to her.

The lesson? Compassion is what keeps ministry going. More than talent, and more than gifting (both of which are very important) compassion keeps people serving Jesus while others quit and go home licking their wounds.

Compassion fuelled the ministry of Jesus. Over and over the text is clear. He looked at the multitudes and was moved with compassion. Something gripped his heart.

Notice verse 36 carefully - “When he saw the crowds, he had compassion for them, because they were harassed and helpless, like sheep without a shepherd.”

The adjectives will vary depending on the translation. But the point is still the same. True, He knew they were sinners. Jesus never downplayed people’s sins. But He didn’t just see them as sinners. The text says He saw them as "harassed" and "helpless."

Notice the way that word “harassed” calls attention to the activity of another. Someone else - the devil - was involved in these people’s lives. They were sinners, true enough. But they were also victims of another enemy. Notice also the way that word “helpless”comes into play. In their own strength - without help from the outside - they will never be able to save themselves. That’s what sheep are like without a shepherd. They wander around, trying to find their way without the help they need.

Doesn't that describe our world? They'll latch on to anything that comes by. They’ll try almost anything going, yet they’re always restless, always unsatisfied. And as Jesus saw them His heart broke with the sight of so many people who didn't know what they were getting themselves into. The desires they pander to are called deceitful desires in the Scriptures because they promise fulfillment and deliver emptiness and frustration. But you never see that future emptiness when you cave in to self-fulfillment.

And here’s what this means for the church. I know we must always proclaim the absolute truth of God’s Word in an uncompromising manner. But the church will never have the impact it should have on today's world until it approaches it with Jesus' compassion. We can't just run our little church on the corner and impact our world for Jesus.

Our Lord wants to change our hearts. Certainly, He wants to make them purer and holier. But that’s not the only change He wants to make. He wants to do more than that in your heart and mine. He wants to fill us up with a consuming, dominating compassion for the people we don’t naturally like. He wants to drive apathy out of His church as surely as He wants to drive out adultery.

Jesus’ compassion didn’t just extend to physical healing. Matthew 15:32 says the main reason Jesus fed the four thousand was He had compassion on them - “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."

The idea that people might pass out on the long, hot journey home troubled Jesus. He was thinking about that while the crowd was still in front of Him. That’s what compassion does. It thinks about the things others miss. It’s packed with a patient consideration of what could happen. It’s energetic, imaginative, and lovingly creative.

In Luke 19:41-42 Jesus’ compassion extends beyond the physical needs to the eternal dimension of people’s lives - Luke 19:41-42 - “And when he drew near and saw the city, he wept over it, [42] saying, "Would that you, even you, had known on this day the things that make for peace! But now they are hidden from your eyes.”

Luke reports how Jesus, on His final approach to the city of Jerusalem, couldn't even hold Himself together. Luke says "He saw the city and wept over it". Get a picture of Jesus breaking down, shaking, losing it with grief over the lost.

Never let people convince you it’s only the people building orphanages and hospitals who are compassionate. Certainly those things must be done in Jesus’ name. But messengers who proclaim the gospel and proclaim God’s truth to the lost are demonstrating the supreme love of Jesus. Jesus weeps over the lost because He seems the eternal needs that everyone else overlooks.

So over and over the gospel writers noticed and recorded Jesus’ overwhelming compassion. Jesus cared. In other words, this compassion didn’t just blow hot and cold with Jesus. It was the steadfast emphasis of His heart. It was an ongoing compassion. It wasn’t just a temporary emotional state. It was the seated direction of His mind and will.

It even affected the manner in which He performed miracles in people’s lives:

Dr. Paul Brand comments about this in his book, Fearfully and Wonderfully Made - "Jesus reached out His hand and touched the eyes of the blind, the skin of the leper and the legs of the cripple. I have often wondered why Jesus so frequently touched the people He healed, many of whom must have been unattractive, obviously diseased, unsanitary, smelly. With His power He could easily have just spoken a word. But usually He chose not to. Jesus' mission was not chiefly a crusade against disease, but rather a ministry to individual people, some of whom happened to have a disease. He wanted those people, one by one, to feel His love and warmth and His full identification with them. Jesus knew He could not readily demonstrate love to a crowd, for love usually involves touching."

We will never pray for the lost for an hour until we weep for the lost for an hour. We will never reach our neighbours until we weep over our neighbours. We will never reach Newmarket until we weep over Newmarket. This has to get very personal and close to home. Are sinners just a source of irritation to you? Do you see them as the enemy or as victims of the enemy?

2) OUR FIRST LINE OF RESPONSE TO OUR WORLD'S NEED IS PRAYER

Matthew 9:37-38 - “Then he said to his disciples, ‘The harvest is plentiful, but the laborers are few; [38] therefore pray earnestly to the Lord of the harvest to send out laborers into his harvest.’”

The truly compassionate Church will, first of all, be a praying church. Jesus clearly saw prayer as the greatest force available for the needs of the crowd.

Read verses 37 and 38 together to get the connection: Matthew 9:37-38 - “Then he said to his disciples, "The harvest is plentiful, but the laborers are few; [38] therefore pray earnestly to the Lord of the harvest to send out laborers into his harvest."

Notice what Jesus did not say. He didn’t say, "Take up an offering". He said the situation was so desperate only prayer would solve the problem! “Pray lots about this! Mobilize the church to prayer. The job will never get done without this.”

That doesn't mean all the church must do is pray. But it does mean, firstly, nothing eternal will be accomplished without prayer and, secondly, prayer is the first thing we must do before we move on to anything else.

I can remember the first time I really witnessed this kind of burdened, prayerful compassion. It was Wednesday night at the Church on the Way. All together over 3000 people met for prayer in two buildings to pray for the situation in Berlin at that time. This was just before the wall was torn down.

I still remember Pastor Hayford's challenge to the pastors there: "When does your church mobilize itself all together just to pray for the needs of your city, your government, your community’s spiritual needs, the lost and dying?"

Those are good questions. Maybe we need to get our New Testaments out again: Matthew 16:18 - “....I will build my church, and the gates of hell shall not prevail against it.” The church is an assembly of people. But the church doesn't exist just to assemble! Those gates of hell aren’t just waiting to be confronted some day in the future, perhaps at the second coming of Jesus. The church is to be tearing those things down in situations and in the lives of people now!

But there’s a price to be paid by any church faithful to the call of Jesus: Ephesians 6:18 - “....praying at all times in the Spirit, with all prayer and supplication. To that end keep alert with all perseverance, making supplication for all the saints....”

It's interesting that this is the one thing on Paul's list that he says we must be doing "at all times". This undergirds everything else. It’s the glue holding the church together against the downward drag of this world. It’s the foundation supporting and empowering every other program and ministry.

3) JESUS BUILDS HIS MINISTRY TEAM AND IMMEDIATELY PUTS THEM TO WORK

Matthew chapter 10:1-8 - “And he called to him his twelve disciples and gave them authority over unclean spirits, to cast them out, and to heal every disease and every affliction. [2] The names of the twelve apostles are these: first, Simon, who is called Peter, and Andrew his brother; James the son of Zebedee, and John his brother; [3] Philip and Bartholomew; Thomas and Matthew the tax collector; James the son of Alphaeus, and Thaddaeus; [4] Simon the Cananaean, and Judas Iscariot, who betrayed him. [5] These twelve Jesus sent out, instructing them, "Go nowhere among the Gentiles and enter no town of the Samaritans, [6] but go rather to the lost sheep of the house of Israel. [7] And proclaim as you go, saying, 'The kingdom of heaven is at hand.' [8] Heal the sick, raise the dead, cleanse lepers, cast out demons. You received without paying; give without pay.”

The subject is too big to go into detail here, but the point I want to make is simple. The only way people grow into functioning, life-bearing ambassadors of Jesus is by being forced into situations where they were made to put into practise all the things Jesus has taught them.

Jesus knew the job would never get done just by having them sit at His feet. He deliberately sent them out. Please notice this. He gave them authority (10:1). But that authority didn't accomplish anything until they left the comfort of their spiritual walkers and started out in ministry.

This is more than an isolated incident in this one passage. This is the pattern of ministry in the whole New Testament:

Mark 16:17-20 - “And these signs will accompany [follow] those who believe: in my name they will cast out demons; they will speak in new tongues; [18] they will pick up serpents with their hands; and if they drink any deadly poison, it will not hurt them; they will lay their hands on the sick, and they will recover."[19] So then the Lord Jesus, after he had spoken to them, was taken up into heaven and sat down at the right hand of God. [20] And they went out and preached everywhere, while the Lord worked with them and confirmed the message by accompanying signs.”

Being good Pentecostals, we love those great power verses. We pray for signs of power. We long for signs of power. We’ll cross the province to see the signs of power. But that’s not how power comes. And even if that power does come, that’s not what it’s for. The signs aren’t for thrill seekers. This is a huge problem in much of the charismatic wing of the church. The signs are for getting work done. The signs are for ministry.

Notice, the signs follow as the people go - “These signs shall follow them that believe...” They’re tools, not tricks. They are for people on the move in challenging, stretching, self-costing ministry.

Verse 8 is a central concept in the tenth chapter of Matthew: Matthew 10:8 - “Heal the sick, raise the dead, cleanse lepers, cast out demons. You received without paying; give without pay.”

Of course this means you are to minister in the same freedom that you have received. That means we are not looking for any reward or special treatment for our ministry. But there's something else here. The assignment seems so big. I don't really measure up to that job. "Lord, you need somebody a lot more spiritual than I for this job".

And Jesus in His tender love would come to you and say, "Listen, you didn't earn anything so far in your relationship with me. What makes you think that you are now going to have to start worrying about where you're going to get the resources for the rest of the job?"

We can go just because He told us to. We don't have to be looking over our shoulders to check our spiritual reservoirs - "Is there enough in me to do the job?" You have received freely. You can also give freely. You can be a trusting giver. You will receive more as you give out more.

But you can't just sit at the feet of Jesus - and you can't just sit in the pew. Have you allowed Jesus to fill your heart with compassion and send you anywhere risky in His name lately?