Week commencing 8th October 2017   With a PDF found here

Notes for next Sunday’s sermon on Hebrews 10:32-29 “The danger of compassion.”

DAY 1: Read Luke 10:25-37

We’ve learned from this sermon series so far how God’s compassion defines his character. Even as a Holy God, he established his covenant relationship with the unholy and disobedient people of Israel; he blotted out David’s sins, displayed patience with Jonah and Ninevah alike, expressed his sorrow and laments even in judgment, and grieved over the lost people of Jerusalem. Because of his compassionate deeds, God invites his followers to display compassion to others, even if it is not easy, even if it includes danger.

The parable of the Good Samaritan is a great example of this. The Samaritan is the least likely hero in the story who goes out of his way to help the man who’d been left for dead. To better understand his sacrifice, as one pastor described it, “the road to Jericho is steep and dangerous. So dangerous, in fact, that people called it ‘the bloody way.’ Jerusalem rests at 3000 feet above sea level, while Jericho, only 17 miles away, sits on land 1000 feet below the Mediterranean. The road between the towns descends sharply through mountainous territory full of crags and caves, allowing thieves to hide, strike and escape with great ease.” So travelling the Jericho Road was itself dangerous. Let alone stopping to help someone who had been robbed and beaten.

As an ethnic ‘enemy’ of the Jewish man lying in his blood, the Samaritan faced perhaps a heightened danger from everyone else who walked that road. Nevertheless, in spite of all the cultural bitterness as well as the physical risks, the Samaritan had compassion on the man, compassion that lead him to meet a variety of the man’s needs: advocacy, emergency medical treatment, transportation, financial help and even a follow up visit. Using this parable to teach an expert of the law, Jesus “attacks the complacency of comfortably religious people who protect themselves from the needs of others. The Samaritan risked his safety, destroyed his schedule and became dirty and bloody through personal involvement with a needy person of another race and social class.” And our Lord commands us to “Go and do likewise!” In other words, this is the standard, not the exception, for God’s people as we receive and extend his compassion to others.

DAY 2: Read Hebrews 10:1-18

The only reason Jesus could make such a command (in the Parable of the Good Samaritan) to extend such costly sacrifice for others, was because he was willing to make it himself. Hebrews 10 takes us back to the judgment of God and his anger when his people turn his back on him. In order to win back his favour and to obey his perfect law, God’s people throughout scripture have been required to offer a sacrifice of animal blood. But in these sacrifices there is a reminder of sins every year. “For it is impossible for the blood of bulls and goats to take away sins” (v4).

Jesus Christ, though, made the ultimate sacrifice to bring us healing and life. It cost him everything and such an extension of God’s compassion condemned him to a path much worse than the Jericho Road: it led him to public execution on the cross. “But when Christ had offered for all time a single sacrifice for sins, he sat down at the right hand of God, waiting from that time until his enemies should be made a footstool for his feet” (v12 and 13). Thankfully, because of his willingness to offer the ultimate sacrifice for sins, there is forgiveness, and there is no longer any need for other blood sacrifices.

The implication is clear. When we realize that God in Jesus Christ put himself in danger by sacrificing his life for our good and restoration, we can’t help but want to extend such compassion to others, even if it costs us or puts us in danger. And since much of this chapter also reminds us of the eternal danger that comes to those who ignore his sacrifice, our hearts are moved to care more for others, regardless of the consequences. Pray that God’s great compassion in Christ’s sacrifice for you might give you the courage you need to care for others, no matter what might happen.

DAY 3: Read Hebrews 10:19-39

Knowing the Creator of the Universe provided a way out of the dangers of sin and the evils of the age through Jesus helps us face each day with courage and faith. “Therefore, since we have confidence to enter the holy places by the blood of Jesus, by the new and living way that he opened for us through the curtain, that is through his flesh, and since we have a great high priest over the house of God,” (vs19-21), we can draw near to God each time we face hardship or danger. No matter what might happen when we seek to obey his command to serve a broken world, we can hold fast to his hope, without wavering! Why? Because he who promised is faithful (v23)!

Of course, we also know that “a fearful expectation of judgment” is promised to those who set aside the law of Moses. The danger of God’s punishment is real and deserved, especially for those who “trample underfoot the Son of God”. Consequently, such heartache for those who don’t know Jesus moves us to pray and live out our faith in tangible, Gospel-centred ways that reflect his love. At the same time they remind us that it is indeed “a fearful thing to fall into the hands of the living God”(v31). The danger of living without God’s compassion moves us to respond more to the sin in our own hearts and the brokenness around us.

But this passage also reminds us that extending such compassion to those who have been beaten down by life or manipulated by the lies of the age can be costly. It will not be easy. Our earthly lives, that is, our comfortable lifestyles, our health, families or reputations, might be threatened every time we risk showing God’s radical compassion, as the Good Samaritan did, as Christ our Saviour did. So we need to be ready for that! Put another way, we need to count the cost of following Christ. As the writer of Hebrews says, “But recall the former days when after you were enlightened, you endured a hard struggle with sufferings, sometimes being publicly exposed to reproach and affliction and sometimes being partners with those so treated. For you had compassion on those in prison and you joyfully accepted the plundering of your property since you knew that you yourselves had a better possession and abiding one” (vs33-34). It is possible that our decision to follow Jesus might lead us into difficult pain and suffering, especially as we suffer with those who are trapped in the painful and empty ‘promises’ of our materialistic and violent age. Yet our confidence is not in this world! Our reward lies in the ‘already but not yet’ eternal home Christ has won for us on the cross and in the resurrection. As we abide in him, we do not shrink back. For he is the source of our endurance and confidence!

DAY 4: Read Hebrews 11-12:4

Sometimes referred to as the Great Hall of Faith, this amazing chapter (11) reminds us of the costly yet joyous journeys of our faithful sisters and brothers in Christ throughout biblical history. They believed God with all their lives, knowing he was with them no matter what came their way. Obedience to the Almighty was better than anything! Joy was their reward. Life lived in the love of their Maker was all that made sense, all that mattered. And though some were brutally killed for clinging to their faith in our compassionate God, they received an eternal reward that sustained them through every danger they faced.

We can too. This great cloud of witnesses surrounds us (v12:1) and encourages us to stay the course, to throw aside the sin and weights of this world that burden us so that we can “run with endurance the race that is set before us, looking to Jesus, the founder and perfecter of our faith, who for the joy that was set before him endured the cross, despising the shame and is seated at the right hand of the throne of God” (v12:2,3). Because he paid the price for us, he has redirected our lives, giving us meaning and grace, opportunity and privilege to serve and care for others in his name! If we receive his love and forgiveness, we now join in the great chorus of Christians throughout the ages and around the globe who have literally changed the world because they dared to love their crucified and resurrected Jesus and love their neighbours as themselves! As they did—and still do—no matter what danger they confronted, God’s mercies and compassions anchored them. We, too, endure and live with Christ because he took the anger and judgment that we deserved, caring for us, making us new creations and equipping us now to be his hands to care for others—even if it costs us.

So let us fix our eyes on Jesus. Let us pray with Paul (in Galatians 6:9) that our church ministers, our fellow members and all other believers around Australia, “would not grow weary of doing good, for in due season we will reap, if we do not give up.”

 

Notes: Ministries of Mercy: The Call of the Jericho Road by Timothy J. Keller;

English Standard Version of the Bible used in all verses.