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Posts Tagged ‘compassion’

The literary structure of Mark 1:35-45

We’re back in Mark, and as we’ve already seen Jesus has established a home base in Capernaum, has started his church by choosing leaders and beginning his first house church and has displayed his authority in his teaching, healing and exorcism ministries. In our passage today, 1:35-45, he struggles with the crush of the crowds. Word is getting out about his power to heal and the press of people is overwhelming. We see in our verses how he hopes to counter this, but in the end fails.

Let’s begin with the first few verses that talk about –

Jesus’ purpose in coming: Mark 1:35-39

35And rising very early in the morning, while it was still dark, he departed and went out to a desolate place, and there he prayed.

Remember, Jesus has just spent a very long day preaching in the Synagogue, casting out a demon there, and then healing Peter’s mother in law. And then that evening, which in the Jewish reckoning is the next day, many of those in need in Capernaum came to Jesus to be healed and helped; a crowd gathered at the door of Peter and Andrew’s house.

So Jesus likely hasn’t gotten much sleep. And yet he’s up very early in the morning. He does this so that he can find time to pray.

He gets away from the weight of the needs around him to get alone with God. “A desolate place” here doesn’t mean a desert. It means somewhere where people are not. (See also Mark 6:46; 14:32-39 for Jesus at prayer.)

This leads us to the first of three lessons I want to highlight for you today: #1. The importance of prayer. Jesus depended on it as his source of strength and guidance. He needed his power replenished by the Spirit and wisdom as he is about to make a big decision. And if he depended on it, how much more do we need it!  And he models for us that when things get hectic and stressful, this is not the time to cut prayer out of our lives to make things more simple for us. This is precisely when we need prayer the most.

36And Simon and those who were with him searched for him, 37and they found him and said to him, “Everyone is looking for you.”

You can just imagine that early in the morning the crowds came back to Peter’s house looking for Jesus with the sick and needy. And so Peter and Andrew and then the other disciples wake up and are like, ‘Hey where’s Jesus?’ And they begin frantically searching for him.

38And he said to them, “Let us go on to the next towns, that I may preach there also, for that is why I came out.” 39And he went throughout all Galilee, preaching in their synagogues and casting out demons.

Instead of staying in Capernaum and healing everyone who had a need there, after prayer, he decides to expand his ministry throughout Galilee.

And notice the focus, Jesus didn’t come to heal every person. Jesus came to preach the word of the kingdom. As chapter 1:15 says, he proclaimed “The time is fulfilled and the kingdom of God is at hand; repent and believe in the good news.” Healing and miracles are intended to draw attention to the message; to verify that it is true. But they aren’t the end all and be all. They aren’t the point in themselves.

But now in Capernaum the crowds are focused on these signs and not necessarily on responding to the message of the kingdom with belief and repentance.

This brings us to the second lesson from our passage: #2. The Word is more important than healing and miracles. In terms of Jesus’ ministry, he didn’t come to fix people’s earthly needs, even though compassion for needs is important. He came to call people to faith and repentance. And remember all the people he healed, eventually still died. But those that came to faith and repentance experience new life into eternity.

It’s the same with us. We can pray to God for healing, but it’s not God’s purpose to heal everyone now. It’s his purpose to call all to faith and repentance. On the final day we will all be healed. Yes, God heals now and we should pray for it. And God answers, I believe, especially as a sign that the message is true. But he doesn’t always heal now.

And as a church we need to remember this lesson on priorities. Some churches practically abandon preaching the word and seeking a response to show compassion to those in need. Yes, we must show compassion. But our purpose in everything is to call people to faith and repentance.

So along these lines, Jesus goes to other towns and synagogues to minister there, hoping people will respond to his message – not yet being focused on his healing power. But then something happens that messes up his plan.

Jesus heals a leper: Mark 1:40-45

40And a leper came to him, imploring him, and kneeling said to him, “If you will, you can make me clean.”

Leprosy here refers to several skin diseases, not just what we call leprosy, which is Hansen’s disease. It could even include things like psoriasis and eczema. To have leprosy was to have a serious skin disease, but it was also to be a social outcast, since you would be classified as perpetually ritually unclean (and probably contagious as well).

Leviticus 13:45-46 says this about a leper: he “shall wear torn clothes and let the hair of his head hang loose, and he shall cover his upper lip and cry out, ‘Unclean, unclean.’ . . . His dwelling shall be outside the camp.”

According to Numbers 12:12 the leper was seen as similar to a corpse. They were the walking dead. And it was held that only a miracle from God could cure a leper. It was like raising someone from the dead (2 Kings 5:7).

Although lepers were to stay away from others, in this case the man ‘understandably’ breaks the rule, because this is not a normal situation. Here is someone who can make him clean. And so he comes right up to Jesus and kneels before him. He has faith that Jesus can heal him, the only question is if Jesus wants to heal him and make him clean.

41Moved with compassion, he stretched out his hand and touched him and said to him, “I will; be clean.” 42And immediately the leprosy left him, and he was made clean.

 [More people are now accepting the textual variant “Jesus was indignant” (NIV 2011). If this is the correct reading it would mean either that Jesus was angry at the ravages of the disease on this man (Edwards, Judges 10:16) or that he is angry because he knows his plan to focus on preaching and to get away from the crush of the crowds will now be upended by healing him.]

Jesus has compassion on the man. Clearly this was a terrible life he was living. He didn’t turn him away out of revulsion for his condition. He consented and healed the man. He made him clean from his leprosy. Again, Jesus’ amazing healing power is evident. He can heal what others think is impossible to heal and he can do so “immediately.”

Jesus’ compassion is displayed in that while most would run away horrified, he touches him. Now, normally if you touch a leper you become ritually unclean. Becoming ritually unclean wasn’t wrong, it was just a part of life. And as long as you follow the Law to be cleansed you’re fine. But here it’s probably better to say that Jesus transmits his cleanness to the man, rather than saying that the leper transmitted his uncleanness to Jesus. (See also Mark 5:41 ff.).

Our final lesson is: #3. Jesus’ great compassion. Even though the man is an outcast, loathed by all and even though healing the man will make his life harder because he will be mobbed by even more crowds, he does so because he’s moved by concern for the man’s problem.

And we need to remember that Jesus is ever the same. He has the same compassion on us in our times of need and suffering; when we are revolting and filthy. And we can come to him knowing what his heart is towards us.

And in turn we are to have the same compassion on others in need. Even if it makes our lives more difficult. Even if they are people that are considered unclean or outcasts, we are to allow Jesus to touch them through us.

43And Jesus sternly charged him and sent him away at once, 44and said to him, “See that you say nothing to anyone, but go, show yourself to the priest and offer for your cleansing what Moses commanded, for a proof to them.”

Leviticus 14 outlines the process of being declared clean from leprosy by a priest. Remember it was not just about being healed, he had to be certified as clean by a priest in order to reenter society. Jesus wants this to be a witness to the priests and all involved in this process that Jesus and his message are true.

Notice Jesus’ concern for the details of the Law of Moses. Some portray Jesus, especially in Mark, as indifferent to the Law, but this is wrong as we will see.

v. 43 says that Jesus “sternly charged” the man to tell no one. He’s really serious about this. Perhaps he thought that by the time the leper completed the process of being declared clean, a minimum of 8 days, plus travel to Jerusalem and back for sacrifice, he could finish his preaching tour without being mobbed by crowds looking for healing.

45But he went out and began to proclaim it freely, and to spread the word, so that Jesus could no longer openly enter a town, but was out in desolate places, and people were coming to him from every quarter.

Before, the man understandably disobeys the Mosaic rules to get to Jesus. And now he ‘understandably’ disobeys Jesus’ instruction. How can he keep quiet about his healing? He’s not only healed, he has a life again. For sure, it’s not right to disobey Jesus here, but we can understand it.

And what he does is not bad in itself – he becomes a proclaimer of Jesus; he spreads the word. It’s just that it derails Jesus’ plan to be able to preach throughout Galilee without the crush of crowds seeking healing.

Finally, notice how Jesus and the leper trade places. The leper was not able to enter any town. But now that he is healed he can. At least once he’s certified as clean. But since he told everyone about this, now Jesus is not able to enter any town. At least not openly. The problem Jesus had at the beginning of story remains. He has to go out to desolate places to escape being mobbed by crowds.

Let’s remember together our 3 lessons:

1. The importance of prayer, especially when life is crazy.

2.  Preaching the Word is more important than healing and miracles or more generally helping meet people’s earthly needs.

3. Jesus’ compassion. Even though the man is an outcast, even though it will make his life more difficult, he helps the man.

Let me end with a question: Who might God bring across your path this week that he wants you to have compassion on,  even if the person is repulsive to you and even if helping the person will make your life harder. Keep your eyes open!

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Today we are looking at the story of the healing of Bartimaeus. Let’s begin by working our way through this, as Mark tells it.

The story

v. 46 – “And they came to Jericho. And as he was leaving Jericho with his disciples and a great crowd . . .”

This gives us the setting. Jesus was leaving Jericho on his way to Jerusalem for the Passover festival. This was a time when many pilgrims would travel to Jerusalem – and this explains the crowd that is going along with Jesus and his disciples.

But this was not an ordinary Passover for Jesus. He was bringing his mission to its completion. As he said to his disciples in Mark 10:33-34, “See, we are going up to Jerusalem, and the Son of Man will be delivered over to the chief priests and the scribes, and they will condemn him to death and deliver him over to the Gentiles. And they will mock him and spit on him, and flog him and kill him. And after three days he will rise.”

Jericho was about 20 miles northeast of Jerusalem. Pilgrims from Galilee would come south, around Samaria. And at Jericho they would cross into Judea and them move on to Jerusalem.

So then, as Jesus was leaving Jericho, traveling this route – v. 46 says, “Bartimaeus, a blind beggar, the son of Timaeus, was sitting by the roadside.” Bartimaeus, being blind and without help, was reduced to being a beggar. Waiting for others to come by to give alms so that he could have what he needed to live.

Despite all that was happening with Passover coming and the festivities and people coming and going – Bartimaeus wasn’t going anywhere. He was sitting by the roadside, hoping that the pilgrims were especially generous.

v. 47 – “And when he heard that it was Jesus of Nazareth, he began to cry out and say, ‘Jesus, Son of David, have mercy on me!’” Once he learned that Jesus was nearby, he acted. Apparently he had heard of Jesus. He calls him by name and uses a title – ‘Son of David’ – that points to an understanding of Jesus as the Messiah.

And he didn’t just call out once. It says, “he began to cry out.” He must have continued to repeat – “Jesus, Son of David, have mercy on me!”

It must have been loud and persistent because v. 48 tells us, “And many rebuked him, telling him to be silent.” He was causing quite a fuss and making people upset. So they tried to silence him; to make the annoyance go away.

What was his response? v. 48 says, “But he cried out all the more, ‘Son of David, have mercy on me!’” He didn’t let the crowd discourage him at all, but continued calling out to Jesus, if anything, more loudly.

v. 49 – “And Jesus stopped and said, ‘Call him.’ And they called the blind man, saying to him, ‘Take heart. Get up; he is calling you.’” Even though Jesus was on his way to Jerusalem to bring to fulfillment his whole life work and the crowd was with him and they were moving forward toward the goal – because of Bartimaeus’ cry of desperation, Jesus stopped. Two amazing words. Jesus made time for him. Jesus stopped to listen to him.

vs. 50-51 – “And throwing off his cloak, he sprang up and came to Jesus. And Jesus said to him, ‘What do you want me to do for you?’” Bartimaeus’ eagerness and excitement come out in how quickly he comes to Jesus.

Jesus asks him, “What do you want me to do for you?” “Have mercy on me” is the typical call of a beggar. Jesus is discerning what Bartimaeus wants – alms or something more.

Also, it’s important to note that when Jesus said, “What do you want me to do for you?” – he isn’t offering him a blank check, you know, ‘I’ll give you whatever you want.’ This is actually the same question that Jesus asked James and John in v. 36 in the story just before ours, when they wanted to sit at the right and left hand of Jesus in the kingdom. But Jesus told them no.

vs. 51-52 – “And the blind man said to him, ‘Rabbi, let me recover my sight.’ And Jesus said to him, ‘Go your way; your faith has made you well.’ And immediately he recovered his sight and followed him on the way.” Bartimaeus’ request was granted.

Jesus tells him, “your faith has made you well.” Now this doesn’t mean that Bartimaeus healed himself, or that all that Jesus did was help Bartimaeus heal himself. Jesus healed him by the power and authority that God gave him. When Jesus says, “your faith has made you well” he is saying, your faith in me as the Messiah has made you well. Jesus is the key.

Bartimaeus recognized Jesus as the Messiah, as the one who could help him, and he acted on this. This was his faith. And because of it he was transformed. He was miraculously healed, but not only this. He went from sitting by the roadside, going nowhere – to following Jesus along the path to Jerusalem, a participant in what God was doing.

Alright, lets look at some –

Lessons

– we can take from this. 1. Jesus is the one who can help us with all of our problems. He is the Messiah; the one with the power of God to deliver, to heal and to make whole. Bartimaeus was right to look to him for help. And Jesus can transform us as well, making us whole and giving us new direction.

But not only does he have the power to help us, he is full of mercy and wants to help us and bless us. Jesus demonstrates his kindness and mercy by stopping to help Bartimaeus. And Jesus will be merciful to us as well, if we look to him.

2. Faith involves bold, persistent asking. Bartimaeus teaches us this. In v. 47 he cried out to Jesus for mercy. And in v. 48, when the crowd tried to silence him, he cried out all the more.

This is a picture of boldness. He did not care what others thought. And it is also a picture of persistence. He cried out until he got Jesus’ attention. He was a beggar and he knew a thing or two about how to ask for things! And so we learn from him.

In v. 52 this boldness and persistence is what Jesus called his “faith,” which made him well.

This same point about faith as bold persistence is made in other places in the gospels. Remember the Canaanite woman, who argued with Jesus until he agreed to help her? Jesus said that her bold persistence was great faith. Remember the story Jesus told about prayer in Luke 11:5-8? The man asked his neighbor for bread in the night and had his request answered only because of his bold persistence.

So this all teaches us how to pray; how to ask God for something. We are to be bold and persistent in our prayers.

Like with James and John in the story before this one, our faith doesn’t guarantee that our prayers will be answered. But if it is something that is according to God’s will, our boldness and persistence can be the difference.

Think of it. There were no doubt other blind beggars that allowed Jesus to walk on by. And they received nothing. We must be bold and persistent in our prayers.

3. Jesus has time for us. As we learn in the story, though Jesus was on his way to fulfilling his destiny, he had time to stop and help Bartimaeus with his need.

And so it is still. Jesus reigns from the right hand of God. And although such things are beyond our comprehension, I’m sure Jesus is quite busy overseeing and drawing all of history to its fulfillment. But Jesus still has time to stop; to listen to us, and to help us.

——————–

I encourage each of you this morning, whatever your need might be, take the time to look to Jesus. Call out to him boldly and persistently. Like with Bartimaeus, he has time to hear you and to help you.

William Higgins

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We are planning a special outreach event on March 22nd – Bring a Friend Sunday. That is, a friend who is not yet a Christian, or a Christian who doesn’t already have a home church.

The idea is to bring in some visitors and make some connections. We want to reach out.

So I want to share some teaching this morning to help us get focused on outreach and our need to be thinking, praying and acting to “Seek out the Lost.” This comes from Jesus’ example and his teaching.

1. Jesus’ purpose in coming was to seek out the lost

 This is what Jesus says about himself in Luke 19:10, “For the Son of Man came to seek and to save the lost.”

Jesus is teaching us that God sent him for this very reason. This was Jesus’ mission; the focus of his existence; why he came to earth.

The purpose of Jesus was “to seek out and save the lost.”

2. Jesus was not satisfied that some were lost

Remember the parable of lost sheep? Jesus said in Luke 15:4-5 – “What man of you, having a hundred sheep, if he has lost one of them, does not leave the ninety-nine in the open country, and go after the one that is lost, until he finds it?”

And then remember the parable of the lost coin? Jesus said in Luke 15:8 – “Or what woman, having ten silver coins, if she loses one coin, does not light a lamp and sweep the house and seek diligently until she finds it?”

These parables teach us, among other things, that

  • Jesus was not satisfied with the 99 sheep who were fine
  • Jesus was not content with the 9 coins already accounted for 

-all of us who come here regularly and seek to follow Jesus.

He was not satisfied because one was still missing.

3. Jesus worked hard to seek the lost

To use the language of the parable of the lost sheep, he had to “go after” the lost one – Luke 15:5.

He didn’t stand next to the 99 and yell out to the lost one, “come on over here!” He didn’t say, “that sheep knows where we are, let him come and join us if he wants to.”

As the parable pictures, he had to do something. He had to work. He left the 99. He went after the one, walking and looking, seeking it out.

To use the language of the parable of the lost coin, he had to “seek diligently” to find that which was lost –  Luke 15:8.

He didn’t figure that one day the coin would simply show up. That someone would stumble across it.

As the parable pictures, he did something. He had to work. He lit a lamp, he swept the house and he searched carefully.

Searching for what is lost requires work. It can be tiresome, inconvenient and frustrating, but Jesus did it nevertheless.

Jesus sought the lost even though it was hard work.

4. Jesus sought the lost even though many were undesirable or unlike him 

  • The sheep were no doubt dirty, muddy, bleeding or sick.
  • The coin was no doubt dusty, dirty and covered with cobwebs.

Jesus sought out tax collectors, sinners and prostitutes.

  • These were people that did things that were wrong and offensive.
  • These were people that were different from him; from a different background and a different social setting.

Yet he sought them and welcomed them – Luke 15:2.

Even though the lost were often undesirable and unlike him, Jesus sought them out anyway.

5. Jesus sought the lost even though others didn’t approve

Luke 15:2 says, “And the Pharisees and the scribes were grumbling and saying, ‘This fellow welcomes sinners and eats with them.’” And not only that, since Jesus was with sinners, they began to call him a glutton and a drunkard – Luke 7:34. It ruined his reputation.

But Jesus was not deterred, for though

  • He made some people mad
  • He made the angels in heaven rejoice

As Jesus said in Luke 15:10, “there is joy before the angels of God over one sinner who repents.”

Jesus sought the lost even though others did not approve.

6. Jesus sought the lost even though many rejected him

Mark 6:1-6 tells the story of how his hometown rejected him and they asked him, “Who do you think you are?”

Matthew 8:28-34 tells the story of how Jesus healed a demon possessed man, and how afterwards the people of the town asked Jesus to leave. “Can you leave us alone!”

The truth is most people ended up rejecting Jesus, but he sought out the lost anyway.

7. Jesus sought the lost because he loved them

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

And so in Matthew 10:6 (right after this) he sends his disciples to “go . . . to the lost sheep of the house of Israel.” His love moved him to send out his disciples to help him find the lost.

Jesus sought the lost because he loved them.

Sisters and brothers, as we see in this last verse . . .

We are to be like our Lord and seek out the lost as well

1. Like Jesus our purpose is to seek out the lost. Jesus sends us out to finish what he came to do. This is our mission statement; the very focus of our existence – to seek out the lost.

2. Like Jesus we cannot be satisfied that some are lost. We can’t be satisfied with the 99 sheep that are found, or with the 9 coins already in the purse. With those who already have found Jesus.

  • We cannot be satisfied because one is missing
  • We cannot be satisfied until what is lost is found

3. Like Jesus we are to work hard to seek out the lost. We have to go out. They will not come to us. They are, after all, lost. Which by definition means they don’t know their way back! They can’t find their way to us.

Searching can be tiresome, inconvenient and frustrating. But nevertheless, we are to do the work that is necessary to seek out the lost.

4. Like Jesus we are to seek the lost, even though many are undesirable or unlike us. They are dirty, as it were, from their very lostness (which, by the way, we were as well in our lostness). They come from different walks of life than we are familiar with.

Yet we are still to seek them out and welcome them.

5. Like Jesus we are to seek the lost even if some do not approve or grumble that we do so, or slander our reputation.

We do this because we know that the very angels of God rejoice when the lost are found.

6. Like Jesus we are to seek the lost, even if it brings us rejection. So that people say to us, “Who do you think you are?” Or, they tell us, “Go away!”

Most people will not respond to us, but we seek out the lost anyway.

7. Finally, like Jesus we are to seek the lost because we love them. They are harassed and helpless and need a Shepherd. And so we must act. And in acting we reveal our love for them.

We show them the path to Jesus and to new life and new hope.
______________

Now I know that many of us are intimidated by this, and so we are reluctant to reach out on our own.

And that’s why we are providing you with, what is a fairly simple way to do this – to invite a friend to church for a special service and a meal.

We want you to begin this week by thinking and praying about who you might ask. And then when you have the person or persons in mind, to begin to pray for them.

This is where you can start, and then next week, I’ll have some more information for you.

William Higgins

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We are looking at Jeremiah 22:13-19. This is an oracle, or prophecy against Jehoiakim, one of the last kings of Judah – before Jerusalem was destroyed and they were taken into exile in Babylon.

This oracle is a part of a larger set of prophecies against the kings of Judah which lay out what these kings were supposed to have been doing, but didn’t – and so were judged. Let’s look for a moment at . . .

What God Wanted

This comes from chapter 22:3. The kings were to “do justice and righteousness.” This verse goes on to expound what this means:

  • To do justice and righteousness means don’t take advantage of the weak, outcasts, the marginal, the needy in society, which is oppression. The verse itself says, “Do no wrong or violence to the resident alien (immigrant), the fatherless, and the widow, nor shed innocent blood in this place.” In other words, don’t be an oppressor.
  • And also, to do justice and righteousness means that you stand up for them; that you make sure the weak are not taken advantage of by others, that they are not oppressed. Again, v. 3 says, “deliver from the hand of the oppressor him who has been robbed.” In other words, don’t let the rich and powerful take away what the poor and weak have.

This is what God wanted, and this brings us to our text in vs. 13-19 and . . .

Jehoiakim’s failure

Despite this charge from God, Jehoiakim decided to focus on living in great luxury; to focus on himself.

v. 14 speaks of him as saying – “I will build myself a great house with spacious upper rooms.” It goes on to describe him as one “who cuts out windows for it, paneling it with cedar and painting it with vermilion.” These last two were luxury items in that day: cedar paneling and red paint; and, of course, it was a luxury to have spacious upper rooms and a “great” house.

In v. 15 the Lord rebukes him. “Do you think you are a king because you compete in cedar?” Do you think you are great because you have more cedar paneling than the kings around you? The Lord is saying, you aren’t defined by your luxury; by your level of self-indulgence.

We also learn from our Scripture that Jehoiakim pursued this self-indulgent luxury by oppression. v. 13 speaks of him as one “who builds his house by unrighteousness, and his upper rooms by injustice, who makes his neighbor serve him for nothing and does not give him his wages.” We see here the exact opposite of God’s charge to do justice and righteousness.

v. 17 gives God’s assessment of him: “you have eyes and heart only for your dishonest gain, for shedding innocent blood, and for practicing oppression and violence.”

  • He was not concerned about the weak, but only himself, his luxury
  • And not only did he not take care of them, he used the weak to make himself richer

Jeremiah points out that Jehoiakim didn’t learn from his father – Josiah. Josiah was a model king. Even though he died on the battlefield, he was held up as one of the most righteous of all the kings and descendents of David.

v. 15-16 says, “Did not your father (Josiah) eat and drink and do justice and righteousness? Then it was well with him. He judged the cause of the poor and needy; then it was well.” He’s saying: Your father did just fine. He had all his material needs met, but he also did justice and righteousness; he took care of the weak; he took up the cause of the needy and poor. He kept the charge of God.

Finally, we hear of Jehoiakim’s judgment which speaks to the seriousness of God’s charge to do justice and righteousness.

In v. 13 the word “woe”, which begins our passage, comes from a funeral context. It is a pronouncement of death against Jehoiakim.

The prophet goes on to say, “With the burial of a donkey he shall be buried, dragged and dumped beyond the gates of Jerusalem.” – v. 19. And he will not be mourned – v. 18. A grim judgment for sure.

But this passage also helps us to see . . .

The root problem in Jehoiakim’s life

vs. 15-16 talk about doing justice and righteousness, and taking care of the poor and needy, and then God asks a question: “’Is not this to know me?’ declares the Lord.” Isn’t doing justice and caring for the weak what it means to know me, God asks. The answer, of course, is yes!

The root problem was that Jehoiakim didn’t know the Lord. He was in charge of representing God as king of Israel, but he didn’t know who God is; God’s character; God’s heart.

If he had known the Lord, then he would have known what Moses taught in Deuteronomy 10:18, that “the Lord executes justice for the fatherless and the widow, and loves the sojourner, giving him food and clothing.”

He would have known the sentiment expressed in Psalm 35:10, “O Lord, who is like you, delivering the poor from him who is too strong for him, the poor and needy from him who robs him?”

He would have known the truth of Psalm 146:7-9 which speaks of God as one “who executes justice for the oppressed, who gives food to the hungry. . ..” It says, “The Lord lifts up those who are bowed down . . .. The Lord watches over the sojourners; he upholds the widow and the fatherless . . ..”

His actions showed that he obviously did not know the Lord.

This brings us to the question of the morning –

Do you know the Lord?

We each have to examine our lives and ask this question of ourselves, given that God calls all of us to “do justice and righteousness” not just the kings of old. As Amos 5:24 says to all God’s people – “Let justice roll down like waters, and righteousness like an ever- flowing stream.”

  • And so in as much as we have power and resources we are not to take advantage of the weak. As Isaiah 10:1-2 says to all God’s people, “Woe to those who . . . turn aside the needy from justice and . . . rob the poor of my people of their right, that widows may be their spoil, and that they may make the fatherless their prey!”
  • And, in as much as we have the ability and resources we also are to help those who are weak and in need.  As Isaiah 1:17 says to all God’s people, “Learn to do good; seek justice, correct oppression; bring justice to the fatherless, plead the widow’s cause.”

We are not to be like Jehoiakim who sought greater luxury and self-indulgence, without concern for the weak and needy around him. He built up his luxurious house and lived well – while the weak suffered all around him.

Rather, we are to do what is right and care for the needy. Those who are vulnerable and cannot care for themselves.

The message today is show that you know the Lord – that you know God’s heart, his compassion, his mercy, who God truly is; that God’s heart is your heart. Show that you know the Lord by acting to care for the weak; standing up for them and helping them.

There are so many situations of injustice in the world; where people are oppressed; where the innocent are victimized, taken advantage of; enslaved and killed.

Crushing poverty in Haiti and Bangladesh; a genocidal war in Darfur, the latest of several such over the past few decades; a humanitarian crisis in Zimbabwe – one current example – and we will hear of many more before this new year is over.

The poor, the weak and the needy are all around us. And we learned last night about how the global food crisis affects those in the Gambia where Gary and Denise serve. The poor, the weak and the needy are also here in our own country, and in our own neighborhood.

And so we have many opportunities to act; to show that we know the Lord.

As you know, today many of our youth will begin fasting for 30 hours to raise money to feed hungry children. Perhaps you have seen the statistics that have been in your bulletin inserts:

  • Every day 26,000 children under the age of 5 will die because of hunger, disease and poverty
  • 14,000 will die from malnutrition alone
  • One child every 7 seconds

Many of you have already given – but if you haven’t it isn’t too late. I encourage you to do this. You will not only help children who are hungry, you will help our young people to gain more experience in doing what is right and caring for the weak. And we will all be doing what God wants; what is God’s very heart – standing up for and helping the needy.

Lets end with Jeremiah 9:24. This is the Lord speaking: “Let those who boast, boast in this, that they understand and know me, that I am the Lord who practices steadfast love, justice, and righteousness in the earth. For in these things I delight, declares the Lord.” Let us go forth and delight in these as well.

William Higgins

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How is Your Splangchnon?

I know this sounds a bit odd. But it’s an important word in the New Testament and so I want us to study it and see what we can learn from it to apply to our lives. The word . . .

Splangchnon?!

. . . means literally “intestines,” “bowels” or more generally innards or guts. So for instance in Acts 1:18, it says, “Now Judas (after he betrayed Jesus) bought a field with the reward of his wickedness, and falling headlong he burst open in the middle and all his bowels gushed out.”

But I am not asking you this morning how your intestines are. Splangchnon also has a figurative use.

  • The “intestines” were thought to be the seat of tender affections.
  • What we today associate more with the “heart.”

[It certainly makes for some interesting translation, if you don’t understand the figurative meaning of the word. For instance in Philemon 1:12 Paul says, “I am sending Onesimus back to you – sending my very intestines.” He is sending Onesimus back to Philemon, whom he cares deeply about. Onesimus is Paul’s very heart.]

The figurative meaning of Splangchnon has to do with “compassion” or “a feeling of great affection.” It’s a word that is similar to mercy, but it carries with it, not just the outward actions of mercy, but also the inward feeling that goes along with it. It is to be “touched” or “moved” by a situation, which leads you to act in a merciful and kind way.

To flesh this out a bit more, lets look at Splangchnon or . . .

Compassion in Jesus’ teaching and example

1. Compassion is a response to human need. For instance, the needs of the sick. Many crowds would follow Jesus everywhere, desperate for help, especially for healing. And even though Jesus was looking for some private time, Matthew 14:14 says, “When Jesus went ashore he saw a great crowd, and he had compassion on them and healed their sick.” He was moved to meet their need.

Another example has to do with the needs of a hungry crowd. This comes to us from Matthew 15, just before the feeding of the 4,000. The people were weary and hungry from following Jesus around. In v. 32 Jesus 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.” Then Jesus proceeded to feed them miraculously, meeting their needs and more.

Jesus also had compassion on the needs the disabled. In Matthew 20 there were two blind men who were calling out to Jesus to have mercy on them. And the crowds told them to shut up.  But they cried out all the more. And so Jesus stopped to talk to them. And v. 34 says, “And Jesus in pity (Splangchnon) touched their eyes, and immediately they recovered their sight and followed him.” Jesus met their very real need.

2. Compassion is a response to human suffering. For instance the suffering of physical and mental illness. In Mark 9 there is the story of a boy possessed by a demon since childhood, which often  tried to kill him. And he suffered from a seizure when Jesus came near. And so the father asked Jesus in v. 22 – “If you can do anything, have compassion on us and help us.’” And Jesus was moved to compassion. He cast out the demon and healed the boy (Mark 9:25-27).

Another example is the suffering of a grieving mother. In Luke 7 she had just lost her only son, and she was a widow. So she was not just grieving, but in that culture and day, also on the verge of being economically marginalized not having a male to care for her. Verse 13 says, “And when the Lord saw her, he had compassion on her and said to her, ‘Do not weep.’” And then he acted; he raised the young man from the dead.

Compassion also has to do with the suffering of a wounded enemy. In Luke 10 Jesus tells the story of the good Samaritan. A man was robbed, beaten, stripped and left half-dead on the side of the road. He was a Jew. And a Samaritan, who was an enemy of Jews, came and found him. And v. 33 says,    “. . . when the Samaritan saw him, he had compassion.” And he acted. He gave him medical attention, carried him to an inn and paid for his expenses.

And the Samaritan is the example in this story of what it means to love our neighbor. It means to have compassion in similar ways, even upon our enemies.

3. Compassion is a response to human failure. In Matthew 18 Jesus tells the parable of the unforgiving servant. A king called for all debts to be paid up. And one servant who owed the king much couldn’t pay. And so the king ordered that he and his family be sold off to pay the debt. But the servant begged for mercy.

Verse 27 says, “And out of pity (Splangchnon) for him, the master of that servant released him and forgave him the debt.” And the king’s compassion and mercy are a major part of the lesson that Jesus is teaching in this episode.

Then in Luke 15, we have the story of the prodigal son. He had disrespected his father and gone off and squandered his money in a sinful lifestyle. And then when he decided to go back to his father, while on the way, v. 20 says, “his father saw him and felt compassion, and ran and embraced him and kissed him.”

The father’s compassionate response is a picture for us of God, and how God responds to us when we come back to him from our rebellion and sin.

Now let look at two things to take away from this . . .

Jesus has compassion on us

This the character of God, and it is the character of Jesus as we have seen in the Gospels. And so

  • in our times of need
  • when we are suffering
  • when we have failed

we can know that it touches Jesus’ heart. Things are not different today than they were back then.

And so when we come to Jesus with our needs and concerns, our pain and suffering, our failure and shame, he will have compassion on us. Jesus will be moved to act in mercy and kindness toward us. And this is a great comfort for us.

The second thing we should take away from this is that . . .

Jesus wants us to have compassion on others

This comes out in Matthew 9:36, “When Jesus saw the crowds, he had compassion for them, because they were harassed and helpless, like sheep without a shepherd.” He saw their needs. And what did he do? How did he express his compassion? A verse later, it says, he sent out the disciples to minister to their needs (Matthew 10:1).

And Jesus still sends out his disciples to do this. Jesus sends us out to have compassion on people’s needs, suffering and failures.

More specifically, we are to minister to them the compassion of Jesus. We are to be the instruments of Jesus’ compassion to the world around us.

So let us not become cold-hearted; let us not be hard-hearted to the needs, suffering and failures of those around us.

Yes, we need wisdom to know how to respond in a way that truly helps, but let us not become cynical, so that we do nothing. Just as Jesus has had compassion on us, so we are to give his compassion to others.

Let me end by noting that . . .

God is stirring compassion among us 

There are many examples, but here are a few:

  • A small group among us who is going out of its way to help with needs in The Gambia
  • My daughter Marie, whom God has put it into her heart to care about Darfur, Africa, a place where truly unthinkable suffering and injustice has become a routine part of each day. 
  • Marlen, whom God has placed it in her heart to pray for children who are kidnapped or missing.
  • Some of us who are talking about volunteering time at the cold weather shelter to help the homeless in our neighborhood.
  • Our Deacons, who just this week talked about putting together a food bank supported by our congregation for those who come to us in need.
  • Ethel organizing, and all who help with food and cards for those who are sick and in need in our congregation.
  • Those of you who are investing yourselves helping families, and kids in our neighborhood and being blessed because of it.
  • Those of you who volunteer time working at the Cumberland Valley Relief Center and the world-wide relief work of Mennonite Central Committee.
  • Those of you who give time and resources for the work that Mennonite Disaster Service does to help people to recover from natural disasters.
  • Our youth, who will be fasting and raising money to help the hungry of the world.

God is stirring compassion, and may God do so more and more! 

William Higgins

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