Wednesday, October 2, 2013

Series on Meeting Jesus, Part 3

3) Jesus Shows Compassion (and shows us God's compassion)

The Spirit of God moved him to an ethic of compassion rather than an ethic of purity, which characterized the most dedicated of the religious folks of his day, the Pharisees. 

Compassion in the following New Testament passages speaks of a deeply visceral response. Often the King James Version translates the Greek as bowels, which were thought to be the seat of love and pity. This KJV quotation does just that: But whoso hath this world’s good and seeth his brother have need, and shutteth up his bowels from him, how dwelleth the love of God in him? (1 John 3:17) Or in modern parlance:  Whoever has the good things of life and sees another human being in need and shuts off compassion from that human being, how can the love of God be alive in him or her?

Jesus’s response to human lostness, human sorrow, human pain is that he moves to meet the needs around him.

As you read the following scriptures, think about how you have experienced the compassion of Jesus and how you have passed that on to someone else.

When he saw the multitudes he was moved with compassion on them, because they fainted and were scattered abroad as sheep having no shepherd.

And Jesus went forth and saw a great multitude and was moved with compassion toward them, and he healed their sick.

Then Jesus called his disciples and said, I have compassion on the multitude because they have been here with me three days and have nothing to eat, and I will not send them away hungry and fasting.

So Jesus had compassion and touched their eyes; and immediately their eyes received sight and they followed him.

And Jesus, moved with compassion, put forth his hand and touched the leper and said to him, I will, be clean.

And when the Lord saw the mother of the dead boy, he had compassion on her and said unto her, weep not. And he raised the boy from death.

Then the Lord of the servant had compassion on him and freed him from his unpayable debt, forgiving him

A certain Samaritan came where he was and had compassion on him

His father saw him a long way off and had compassion, and ran and fell on his neck, and kissed him

But compassion does not characterize only Jesus.  It is frequently attributed to God in the Old Testament, too. “Racham” (to be soft, primary idea cherishing, soothing, gentleness, to behold with tenderest affection) occurs 47 times, many of them describing God (Blue Letter Bible, available online, word number H7355). (I owe this awareness to Borg's book Meeting Jesus Again for the First Time.) 

Here are a few:

God said to Moses, I will make all my goodness, my true character, pass before you, and I will be gracious, I will be gracious; I will show compassion, I will show compassion.

The Lord God will turn your captivity and have compassion on you and will return and gather you from the nations to which the Lord scattered you.

As a father has compassion for his children, the Lord has compassion for those who revere him.

Gracious is the Lord, and just; yes, our God is compassionate.

One striking passage is in Isaiah 49: they shall not hunger nor thirst, neither shall the heat nor the sun smite them; for the one who has compassion on them shall lead them, shall guide them even by springs of water…sing, o heavens, be joyful, o earth; and break forth into singing, o mountains; for the Lord has comforted the people and will have compassion upon the afflicted…can a woman forget her nursing child and not have compassion on the child of her womb? Yes, she may forget, yet will I God not forget you.

A second form of the word Racham occurs 44 times (Blue Letter Bible, available online, word numer H7356); again many of these refer to God. This word refers to “womb” in the singular, and is used of the woman whose baby Solomon threatened to cut in half. She yearned compassionately from deep inside herself toward her son (1 Kings 3:26). The word means “compassion” or “tender mercies” in the plural, where it refers to very tender affection, love, familial love.

David said, I am in trouble; let us fall into the hand of the Lord for his tender mercies are great; let me not fall into the hand of man.

The word occurs often in the Psalms:

Remember, O Lord, your tender mercies and your lovingkindnesses for they have been present from ancient times.

Withhold not your tender mercies from me, O Lord; let your lovingkindness and your truth continually preserve me.

Have mercy upon me, O God, according to your lovingkindness; according unto the multitude of your tender mercies, blot out my transgressions.

God redeems your life from destruction and crowns you with lovingkindness and tender mercies.

Let your tender mercies come to me, so that I may live, for your instruction is my delight; great are your tender mercies, O Lord; make me live according to your justice.

The Lord is good to all; and God’s tender mercies are over all God’s works.

It is because of the Lord’s mercies that we are not consumed, because God’s tender mercies never fail.

To the Lord our God belong tender mercies and forgivenesses, though we have rebelled against him

We do not present our supplications before you because of our righteousnesses but because of your great tender mercies.

Thus speaks the Lord of hosts, saying, Execute true justice and show mercy and tender mercies every one to each other.

Take a moment to think back over your life. How have you experienced the tender mercies of the Lord over the past 40 years?  How have you passed tender mercies on to others on behalf of the Lord? Perhaps you will find this useful to share with someone else.

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