Summary: What does it mean to be compassionate like Christ? Find out in this message from Luke 7.
“Compassionate Like Christ”
Aren’t you glad God has compassion, and heals, restores and forgives? God’s compassion is overwhelming, isn’t it?
In fact, would you say that word with me – compassion! Now look to the person to your right and say it…now to your left…nice! By now everyone should be feeling a little more sensitive, right? I hope so!
I’d like too focus your attention on that word today, for it is a clear theme of Luke 7. No doubt our passage today focuses on that word – compassion. So would you take out your Bible and locate Luke 7. I’m going to center in on the story that begins in 7:11. As we read, notice the following:
7:12 “the only son” – could it be he related to the mother’s sorrow since he was God’s only son? Interesting to say the least!
7:14 “touched the open coffin.” A ceremonially defiling act, normally. Jesus graphically illustrated how impervious He was to such defilements. When he touched the coffin, its defilement did not taint Him; rather, His power immediately dispelled the presence of all death and defilement (see notes on v. 39; 8:44). This was the first of 3 times Jesus raised people from the dead (cf. 8:49–56; John 11). Verse 22 implies that Christ also raised others who are not specifically mentioned.
7:15 “began to talk” – this was proof positive the boy was alive!
7:15 “gave him back to his mother” – the boy was a gift – twice!
But the best phrase in this passage is in 7:13. In fact, here’s what I want you to do: Circle the phrase in 7:13, “his heart went out to her.” This is actually one word in the Greek language – in the verb form it is σπλαγχνίζομαι [splagchnizomai ], and in the noun form σπλάγχνον [splagchnon].
It is used 23 times in the NT – There are 12 occurrences of the verb form (“have compassion” seven times, and “be moved with compassion” five times), and 11 occurrences of the noun form (AV translates as “bowels” nine times, “inward affection” once, and “tender mercy” once).
At the root of this word is splen (probably an early Greek root for the “spleen.”) Why? In that culture, the bowels were regarded as the seat of emotions. For Greeks, the center of violent passions, but for the Hebrews, the center of the more tender affections, especially kindness, benevolence, compassion. In fact, Paul used this same image when he talked about his “bowels of compassion.”
The point of this word is that true compassion – genuine, heartfelt empathy – is something that starts down deep. And this story in Luke 7 shows us that biblical compassion begins in the gut, wells up in the throat, flows out of the face, and works its way through our hands!
This is exactly what Jesus did – look at the progression in the passage: Jesus saw. Felt. Spoke. Acted. That’s compassion!
This type of pity – compassion – from our Lord shouldn’t surprise us, for compassion is one of the great character qualities of the Godhead! (And we should be glad!) It should bring us to a place of awe and worship!
God the Father – Lamentations 3:22
God the Son – Matthew 9:36
God the Holy Spirit – John 14:16
Even in this chapter, compassion is a trend in all of his encounters! Let me show you what I mean. Luke 7: 1-17 is about Christ showing physical compassion (in response to faith), Luke 7:18-35 is about Christ showing mental compassion (in response to questions), and Luke 7:36-50 is about Christ showing spiritual compassion (in response to repentance). My friend, God cares about you! As Peter wrote, “Cast all your care upon him, for he cares about you” (1 Peter 5:7).
But I have discovered that it’s not God’s care or compassion that most people struggle with – it is the Christian community’s inability to copy God and be compassionate like him that frustrates us. The church too many times seems out of alignment with the Godhead! That’s where most people see a disconnect.
So this morning, allow me to use this story to help us learn how to be more compassionate, would you? I want you to give you some action points – steps to living compassionately – from the example of Jesus that are incredibly practical. In fact, you’ll probably think they are too basic…but as we talk about them, you’ll probably discover, like me, that we only say that to avoid the real truth: we’re not modeling Jesus like we should! For most of us, biblical compassion is a struggle. But perhaps these tips will help us be compassionate like Christ.
1. Take a long, hard look. In other words, don’t be afraid to see!