Updated: Apr 25, 2020
Just over a week after being admitting to the hospital I was transferred to the rehab center at Big Wake. At this point, I could not walk, or talk, or see. They were supposed to help. On my first morning there, a Saturday, my Physical Therapist arrived to collect me and take me down to get started. Understand, I am not in good shape. He helped me up. I was very unstable. I immediately got nauseous. He grabbed a bucket just in time…and my glasses fell in. I apologized and was done for the day.
Compassion is rarely on our radar until we could use some. My PT was patient and kind and showed compassion. Compassion is sympathy and sorrow for another stricken by misfortune, accompanied by a strong desire to alleviate the suffering. Compassion literally means “to suffer with.” In difficulty, we all have those seasons, maybe you do not want to be noticed, you would rather blend in or disappear, but you need help, you need a hint of hope.
We started a series last week—NOTICED, and we said: In a world of flash and novelty and popularity, it is easy to get lost in the crowd. Nobody seems to notice the ordinary or those in trouble because they are so focused on themselves and their own mess. It is in the quiet hidden mess that we need help and hope. It is in the quiet mess that we wonder, am I noticed? Does anybody care?
In this short series, we will see that while we may not be noticed by the world, we are noticed by God. In our ordinary, messy, sometimes mundane, lives, He shows up with help and hope! If you have your Bible or electronic device, meet me in Luke 7.
Today, we look at another encounter with Jesus, this one showing us the power and impact of compassion. Let me give you three characteristics of a compassionate person.
A Compassionate Person Is Situationally Aware—NOT oblivious! (11-12)
Luke 7:11—Soon afterward he went to a town called Nain, and his disciples and a great crowd went with him.
Nain was a small village 25 miles south of Capernaum and 6 miles southeast of Jesus’ hometown of Nazareth.[i] The great crowd around Jesus shows how popular he was during this period of His ministry. As He moved from town to town people would attach themselves to Him. Amazing things happened around Him and they wanted to catch a glimpse and experience these unique happenings.
Luke 7:12—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.
The gate of the town was typically a busy place. It was the regular meeting place.[ii] Here people would socialize and the elders would rule over necessary matters. It also was the entrance to the city.[iii] It was here, as Jesus was entering the city, he met a funeral procession leaving the city. The funeral is over and the body is being moved by stretcher to the burial site outside of the city.[iv]
Next we are given language that heightens the grief of the situation. The only son of his mother, and she was a widow—She has lost her only son and has no husband with which to grieve. This lady is now alone in the world. She has no protector or provider. There were few opportunities for a woman to earn a living in the first century. It would also appear that her family line has ended as well. Her plight seems widely appreciated and well attended.[v] …a considerable crowd from the town was with her—this group would have included friends, family, and others. In that day it was considered virtuous to attend a funeral procession.[vi]
Perhaps as Yogi Berra once said: “You better go to funerals of others or they may not come to yours.” The point is this: The size of the crowd should not be taken to imply that the woman had a large support network to fall back on in the days ahead.[vii] There is a difference in being present and seeing and being present and observing.
On my desk in my study, I have a small statute of Sherlock Holmes. Why you ask? That’s weird. Let me tell you. When asked about his ability to recognize and connect clues he said: “You see but you do not observe.” Observation goes deeper than just seeing something. In our self-centered, self-absorbed lives we rarely notice anything beyond our own situation. If we do, it is but a fleeting thought. Compassion is not indifferent. It does not just see and move on. It observes and considers how best to engage.
Paul urges the Philippians…
Philippians 2:4—Let each of you look not only to his own interests, but also to the interests of others.
To look to the interests of others, you must be aware of the interests of others. To do that, you must be around others. You must do life with others. Also, this means loving others where they are, NOT where you wish they would be. You must walk through the crown slowly like Jesus did. Aware of the situations others are experiencing (going through)—NOT oblivious.
The Compassionate Person Is Self-Forgetful—NOT Self-Absorbed! (13)
Luke 7:13—And when the Lord saw her, he had compassion on her and said to her, “Do not weep.”
Jesus sees and accesses the situation and approaches the woman. He is compassionate not only because of her loss, but because of the tremendous difficulty of her situation. The word used here for “compassion” comes from the noun that would be like our use of “heart” or “gut.” It describes the inner parts of our body.[viii] The idea is, we experience physical affects flowing from deep internal emotions. Here we see that Jesus was not focused on Himself, but His heart went out to the woman and her situation. His compassion was grounded in His sinlessness and selflessness.
Our struggle with sin and self-focus, inhibit our ability to care and help affectively. Jesus, however, due to His sinlessness, is able to be self-forgetful and thus bring compassion that helps.[ix] He initiates without being asked to do anything. The compassionate person is interested in others. This flows out of humility. Tim Keller points out that this does not mean thinking more of myself or less of myself, it is thinking of myself less.[x] The compassionate person is a self-forgetful person, not a self-absorbed person. To be self-forgetful is to be humble, aware, and available. Jesus tells her: “Do not weep.” A hint that He is up to something. With God, through Jesus, we have a source we can turn to and count on. A source that understands and is safe!
Lamentations 3:22 (NASB)—The LORD'S lovingkindnesses indeed never cease, For His compassions never fail.
Are you available? Will you sacrifice to serve others? Will you engage a person or situation that is messy and inconvenient? If you believe it is all about you…your answer will typically be a firm no.
The Compassionate Person Is Helpful—NOT indifferent! (14-17)
Luke 7:14—Then he came up and touched the bier, and the bearers stood still. And he said, “Young man, I say to you, arise.”
Helping is not always easy and sometimes it is even risky. In Jewish culture, to touch something “unclean” was to become “unclean” yourself. Anything dead was “unclean.” To be clear, the man is not sleeping. Jesus hasn’t noticed a spark of life that others have missed. He is dead.[xi] Jesus brings the procession to a halt. This alone could have resulted in outrage. Then he speaks: “Young man, I say to you, arise.” This is not just a call to get off the stretcher, but to come back from the dead! Jesus revokes death’s claim on him.[xii] The scene is a glimpse of Jesus’ mission—to arrest death!
1 Corinthians 15:54-55—When the perishable puts on the imperishable, and the mortal puts on immortality, then shall come to pass the saying that is written: “Death is swallowed up in victory.” “O death, where is your victory? O death, where is your sting?”
Luke 7:15—And the dead man sat up and began to speak, and Jesus gave him to his mother.
At Jesus’ command, at His word the corpse becomes a living being again! Instantly and completely the man is healed and restored and Jesus gave him to his mother—that is helpful! I get it. You cannot bring something dead back to life. There are other ways to be helpful. Let me show you what is NOT helpful. Stale clichés are not helpful. “Well he is in a better place.” While it maybe true, it does not help the one struggling or grieving.
While in the hospital a guy stopped by for a visit. I think he thought he was being helpful. He told me that God did not want me in this situation, that it was not His will. He told me that if I had the faith, I could get up and walk right out of the hospital. He said there are verses in the Bible, you probably know them so I want tell you any. I thought Steph was going to explode. His comments were not helpful nor compassionate.
Sometimes just being present is enough. You don’t have to say anything. It is ok for there to be dead air. Don’t make matters worse by opening your mouth. If you do have to open your mouth: 1) agree that the situation stinks. 2) share a verse that you found helpful in your experience, but maybe not, if you are using it as a Bible dart! Hurting people don’t need new wounds caused by your attempts at help.
Jesus’ interruption and subsequent miracle created quite a stir.
Luke 7:16—Fear seized them all, and they glorified God, saying, “A great prophet has arisen among us!” and “God has visited his people!”
By-standers were traumatized and overwhelmed by the display of God’s presence and power.[xiii] The people realized something special has happened, but they do not fully understand. They do not recognize Jesus as the Son of God, only as a great prophet. He is more than a prophet and His mission, the reason He came down…is so that we can go up! By our actions, we deserve death. But God, by His grace, gives us life. Note the language in the NIV—
Luke 7:16 (NIV) They were all filled with awe and praised God. "A great prophet has appeared among us," they said. "God has come to help his people."
How has He helped us?
Romans 5:10—For if while we were enemies we were reconciled to God by the death of his Son, much more, now that we are reconciled, shall we be saved by his life.
John 3:16—“For God so loved the world, that he gave his only Son, that whoever believes in him should not perish but have eternal life.
Life is available to us through Jesus. The gift is yours if you will receive it.
Luke 7:17—And this report about him spread through the whole of Judea and all the surrounding country.
And of course, word spread…an amazing miracle has taken place. What was dead has been brought to life. You know what else is amazing? Courageous displays of compassion. Why are they amazing? Because they are so rare. COMPASSION IS A DIFFERENCE MAKER!
It is situationally aware, NOT oblivious!
It is self-forgetful, NOT self-absorbed!
It is helpful, NOT indifferent!
More than 65 years ago, Everett Swanson was asked to go to South Korea and minister to American troops fighting in the Korean War. While eating in a restaurant, a kid stole his coat and made a run for it. Being from Chicago, Swanson was use to crime, so he chased after the kid. Rounding a corner out of breath, he didn’t see the kid, but did see his coat. He picked it up and discovered a small frightened boy whose teeth were chattering because of the cold. He noticed several other piles of rags beginning to move. Several more kids—cold, hungry, and scared. His heart was moved. He went back to the restaurant and got soup for the kids. He did what he could.
The next morning, he noticed city workers picking up what looked like piles of rags and toss them into the back of a truck. He moved in for a closer look. He was horrified to discover that the piles were not rags but frozen bodies of orphans who had died overnight in the streets. Swanson soon had to return home, but the hum of the airplane engine moved into the hum of a question in his mind: “What are you going to do?” “What are you going to do?” He began to share his experience in his revival meetings and people began to respond by denoting funds. Within ten years, over 100 orphanages and homes in South Korea were receiving support. This was the beginning of Compassion International.[xiv]
The question that haunted Swanson: “What are you going to do?” is a question you should consider. Imagine making a difference in your world by being compassionate. Consider this evaluation process by asking 3 questions.
What do I see?
How can I serve?
When should I start?
The sermon was originally preached on 10/20/19 at Connect Church.
[i]David Garland, Luke in ZECNT (Grand Rapids: Zondervan, 2011), 301. [ii]Leon Morris, Luke in TNTC (Downers Grove: IVP Academic, 1988), 159. [iii]John MacArthur, Luke 6-10 in the MacArthur New Testament Commentary (Chicago: Moody Press, 2011), 135. [iv]Ibid., 135. [v]Morris, 159. [vi]Garland, 302. [vii]Ibid., 302. [viii]MacArthur, 136. [ix]R. Kent Hughes, Luke, vol. 1 in the Preaching the Word series (Wheaton: Crossway Books, 1998), 263. [x]Timothy Keller, The Freedom of Self-Forgetfulness (Leyland, England: 10 Publishing, 2012), 32. [xi]Garland, 302. [xii]Ibid., 302. [xiii]MacArthur, 138. [xiv]https://www.compassion.com/about/what-is-compassion.htm Accessed 10/19/19.