Week commencing 1st October 2017   With a PDF found here

Notes for next Sunday’s sermon on Matthew 9 “Compassion for the lost.”

Next Sunday’s sermon will concentrate on Matthew 9:35-38. However, in our readings this week, we’ll also explore some other key gospel passages where we see Jesus’ compassion. The Greek word in these passages (when transliterated), is splagchnizomai. It means “to be moved as to one’s bowels, hence to be moved with compassion, have compassion (for the bowels were thought to be the seat of love and pity)” [1]

DAY 1: Read Matthew 9:35-38

There are two important things to note here. First, is Jesus’ compassion for those who were ‘harassed and helpless, like sheep without a shepherd”. The sheep and shepherd image would have been very powerful. In Jesus’ time, sheep without a shepherd were quite useless. They were confused. Vulnerable. They had no idea where they were going and would not survive longer than about 24 hours without someone showing them to food and drink and protecting them. That is how Jesus saw this crowd. The ‘shepherds’ of Israel were not doing their job, so the people were lost and helpless. The word used here for ‘compassion’ refers to that anxious knotted feeling one has over something which distresses you but over which you have no control. It was a gut-wrenching compassion Jesus had for these lost souls.

I wonder whether you feel anything like this when you are with the lost people from across the Noosa region? When you’re down at the shops at Tewantin or over at Noosa Civic or up at the Junction. Take a look around you. There are thousands of people ‘harassed and helpless’. Most of the time we don’t even consider where these people are at with God, nor take into consideration their eternal destiny.

Second, note Jesus’ answer to his gut wrenching compassion. He tells his disciples to ‘ask the Lord of the harvest, therefore, to send out workers into his harvest field.’ Pray for more workers.

Friends that is what our Vision 2020 requires – more workers.

Specifically, appointing now a part-time children’s worker, supported from our regular offering; and taking on board the funding of our coordinator of women-in-ministry. Funding these two roles will be crucial! But we don’t want it to be a special appeal. Rather we want to raise our regular weekly offering to support these roles and we should be able to do it easily. Please pray that the Lord will send out workers into his harvest field.  Pray that he will graciously supply the funds we need and then raise up the right person for the children’s role.  And perhaps see how you might be the answer to the prayer about sending out workers! There may be ways in which you can help become the answer to that great prayer!

DAY 2: Read Mark 6:30-44

Once again Jesus and the disciples are unable to eat because of the people coming and going! They attempt to withdraw to a solitary place (near Bethsaida) but people run ahead to meet them! And here we have the first of two feeding miracles in Mark (the other one is in Mark 8). Interestingly, apart from the resurrection, this is the only miracle that occurs in all four canonical gospels (cf. Matthew 14:13-21; Luke 9:10-17; John 6:5-15). The disciples who are no doubt tired and hungry want to send the people away, but Jesus has an alternate plan. The disciples don’t understand how they are to “give them something to eat” – there’s only five loaves and two fish. But in a simple act, 5000 men are fed. Note that it was just men (often only the numbers of men were recorded), meaning that the actual number of people probably would have been far higher including women and children. What we see here is a sign of new creation unfolding in (and through) Jesus. It’s an image of abundance, provision, and satisfaction. We also see how Jesus invites the disciples to participate. From this we should take confidence in the identity of Jesus (and the type of kingdom he is inaugurating) but also take seriously how our role in the world ushers in the Kingdom of God.

Finally and significantly for our series; did you notice how Mark reports Jesus’ response to seeing the crowd as like sheep without a shepherd? He had that same compassion for them we’ve seen before. Jesus’ compassion in this instance, wasn’t because they were hungry for food (though they were), but because they were hungry for the Word of God!! So, in v34 he began teaching them many things. People who are like sheep without a shepherd, need good Biblical teaching. As then, so now!! Please pray for our Diocese (the Anglican church of Southern Queensland), because tragically, there are many wolves in sheep’s clothing, and not many shepherds who faithfully teach God’s word! We should have Jesus’ same compassion for them!

DAY 3: Read Matthew 15:29-39

This is Matthew’s description of the feeding of the four thousand. It’s a second feeding miracle. On this occasion, we see that Jesus has that same compassion for the crowd but this time, it is because they have already been with me three days and have nothing to eat. I do not want to send them away hungry, or they may collapse on the way. Jesus’ compassion extended not only to people’s spiritual needs, but their physical needs. See also Matthew 20:29-34 when Jesus was presented with two blind men. 20:34 reads Jesus had compassion on them and touched their eyes. Immediately they received their sight and followed him. And here in today’s passage, once again, Jesus multiplied seven loaves and a few small fish, so that 4,000 men, besides women and children could all eat and be satisfied.

We can be sure that Jesus’ compassion extends to our physical needs today. Now, that may sound confusing when we remember all the hungry people in the world and those who are suffering various diseases etc. We don’t know all the answers when surely Jesus, who does not change, must feel this same compassion. So we have to keep trusting him. We must also share his compassion and play our part in relieving suffering where we can – either locally by getting stuck into helping others (as in the Johns Landing and Samaritan Care ministries) or globally by our generous gifts and prayers. Jesus’ compassion, ought to inspire our compassion – and our action!

DAY 4: Read Luke 15:1-2 and then 11-32

Jesus eating with and drinking with and befriending sinners, was a very significant controversy in his ministry. It reaches a climax in this chapter. In vv1-2, we see that the Pharisees and teachers of the law were so angry that they muttered, they grumbled, they were angry with Jesus for mixing with the sinners and tax collectors. However, with both sinners and the religious elite in his audience, Jesus has to figure out a way of commending his message in a way that it will impact on both groups. So he tells three stories about a lost sheep, a lost coin and two lost sons. We’ll concentrate on the third story which has three characters and three main points Jesus wants to make.

First, he wants to clarify what a sinner really is. The young son in the parable Jesus tells obviously represents the sinners in the audience that are gathered around. We tend to think the sinner as the wild living person, but the most offensive thing about how Jesus describes the son is not the wild living. It’s the fact that the son wants all that the father has to offer (give me my share of the estate). He is saying – give me the money that will be mine when you’re dead. That’s incredibly offensive. The sinner is the one who wants everything God the Father has, but doesn’t want anything do with the Father himself. When the son comes to his senses and returns to his Father, both the sinners and the religious in the audience would have been expecting that the young man would have received stern discipline and be required to do all sorts of good things until the Father would accept him back into the family. But no! The father was filled with compassion and welcomed him home with a party! The father is so keen to forgive, he runs to the boy and won’t even allow him to finish his apology.

What does this teach us about God? That he is so keen to forgive you, he will embrace and forgive you, at the first inkling of your return. This is Jesus’ description of God’s compassion. At the first sign of your return, he’ll forgive you, because God is an embracing, running, forgiving, celebrating parent to all who turn back to him. He’s in the business of forgiving and forgetting!

Of course the older son represented the Pharisees, who thought they were slaving away, trying to please God by their very hard work. The father responded with compassion to him too: Note the father’s response: “My son, the father said, you are always with me and everything I have is yours.”  In other words, you could have had the goat, you could have had the fattened calf, if you really wanted them – you could have had the sandals too; all of it is yours but you couldn’t see it because you were so locked up in your rules!

May the father’s compassion in this story, move you ever closer to our Heavenly Father, who is filled with compassion for you today – whether you are more like the first son, or the second!!

 

[1] From Strong’s concordance