Your mission, should you choose to accept it…” That was the opening line in the television series Mission: Impossible. The show was based around a group of secret government agents who would be given, via a tape recording, secret tasks of grave danger. After delineating what the mission entailed, the recording would go on to say that if they were caught or killed, the Secretary would disavow any knowledge of their actions.
The memory text for this week is but a small part of a larger story. As usual large crowds flocked to Jesus. As he looked out on the vast throng of needy people the Bible describes His feelings.A core of willing and capable individuals, working as a team to do a seemingly impossible job, was the premise of the show. Those qualities come to mind in this week’s lesson on Jesus Showed Sympathy.
“And Jesus went forth, and saw a great multitude, and was moved with compassion toward them, and he healed their sick.” Matthew 14:14
I’m trying to imagine what it must have been like with thousands of people pressing towards Jesus, each with a need that only He could satisfy. Diseases that plagued their bodies were completely healed. What started out as a typical day for many turned into the greatest day of their lives.
And beyond healing, He taught the people. The Bible doesn’t record what He said, but I’m confident it spoke to every heart in attendance. Surely He made plain many things that until then had been murky at best. His compassion insured that every word spoken would be to their benefit.
The hours must have felt like minutes, and the disciples, being proactive, suggested to Jesus that He send the people home so that they could eat and rest. It is here in the story where we usually gloss over the disciples’ concerns. I would like to give them credit for taking stock of the situation and proposing to Jesus what seemed quite reasonable. That’s probably what I would have done if I was there.
“But Jesus said unto them, They need not depart; give ye them to eat.”Matthew 14:16
This had now turned into “Mission: Impossible.” And this is where we glean our lessons for this week. The disciples’ concern for the people was commendable, and their proposed solution practical. Their sympathy and compassion was limited to what they knew they were capable of doing. They had no clue that they could do anything more.
That sounds like the church of today. We often look about our communities and have reasonable ideas of what can be done to improve the situations of those we are concerned for. But sadly we often come to a point where we say as the disciples said “send the multitude away, that they may go into the villages, and buy themselves victuals.” Matthew 14:15. We can do no more.
It’s not that we are heartless. The truth is that we limit what God can do by what we can do. But Jesus asks us to do the impossible.
Jesus has a habit of asking His disciples to do the impossible. In a world plagued by unending strife and hostility Jesus has given His church the mission of being the signal light on a hill. With darkness all around, the church should be the light pointing weary travelers to a place of peace and salvation (instead of magnifying the opposite). When others are throwing up their hands in despair and finding no hope, we, the church should be the voice of hope.
To show true compassion takes a heart that has been touched by God. The religion that governs our lives must propel us towards being more compassionate and loving. Yes, it’s true that we often don’t know where to begin or how to make an impact. I’m confident that if we ask God for answers to these questions He will provide the direction.
For someone it might mean contacting an estranged family member or friend and saying, “I’m sorry” or, at the very least, “Let’s put the past behind us.” For some it might mean forgoing that reasonable purchase and channeling those hard-earned funds into the household of someone less fortunate. For some it might mean directing the car away from the favorite restaurant and towards the hospital parking lot where someone needs words of sympathy and concern.
Should you choose to accept the mission God has given, rest assured that He will never disavow you or cease to stand beside you. Although He is asking us to do what we often believe to be impossible we know that nothing is too hard for God.
Here are a few Hit the Mark questions for this week’s lesson discussion:
- What does the word compassion mean to you?
- Are people born compassionate or is that a learned character trait? Explain your answer.
- Are all Christians expected to be compassionate? Why yes or no.
- What, if anything, can a person do to become more compassionate?
- What are some practices that hinder one from being more compassionate?
- Should you show compassion to people who are obviously making bad life choices? Explain your answer.
- What is the evidence that a church congregation is a compassionate congregation?
- What is the evidence that a church congregation is not a compassionate congregation?
- What was the process of success outlined using the disciples in the feeding of the five thousand?
- Is the following statement True, Mostly True, Somewhat True or Not True: It is more important to tell people about their sins than it is to show compassion. Explain your answer.
We close this week some words from David. This is the mindset that springs forth compassion.
Bless the Lord, O my soul; And all that is within me, bless His holy name!
Bless the Lord, O my soul, And forget not all His benefits:
Who forgives all your iniquities, Who heals all your diseases,
Who redeems your life from destruction,
Who crowns you with lovingkindness and tender mercies,
Who satisfies your mouth with good things,
So that your youth is renewed like the eagle’s. Psalm 103:1-5
Until next week, let’s all continue to Hit the Mark in Sabbath School!
I suspect there is nothing in this lesson that we don’t already know. That’s not a bad thing. It is good to be reminded of truths we hold dear. It’s good to reexamine the stories of the Bible that illustrate the love and compassion of Christ. What is troubling is that we often have difficulty putting what we know into practical use.
As a church family, we may need to have more honest conversations about what we are trying to accomplish, and if we are reaching those goals. If not, it is healthy to have a discussion on how we can do things better.
The church of 2016 is vastly different than the church a decade ago. The urban sprawl that has changed the landscape of our communities has also affected how we operate as a church. In many of our churches, especially in our larger cities, the demographics of the attendees is often strikingly different from those who live in the community.
Members like myself commute weekly into the church. Our missionary outreach efforts are mostly confined to the organized church initiatives that are placed on our church calendars. That fact alone makes it very challenging to build a consistent influence in our communities. How this adversely affects what we do as a church in our communities cannot be overstated. If we are serious as a church in fulfilling our gospel commission this issue must be addressed. Continue reading
He saw something no one else saw. In those despised by society, He saw royalty – Sons and daughters of God. Though far away from Him, they were loved, cherished and not forgotten. He heard something that no one else heard. He heard the heart cries of publicans and sinners when no one cared enough to listen. He heard their cries for a better life. He heard their cries for deliverance from the chains that bound them to lives not in harmony with their purpose.
“This man receiveth sinners” Luke 15:2
His approach to ministry was strikingly different than those who were the pillars of society. There was no pretentiousness in His dealings with those He met. The Bible simply says, “and the common people heard him gladly.” Mark 12:37 His love and compassion broke down barriers of suspicion and mistrust. His kindness disarmed the skeptical. His words of truth penetrated minds who were the objects of scorn and derision by the religious rulers. He came to give life, and life more abundantly, even to the least of these.
It’s that same love and compassion that has brought us into the family of God. His methods, when adopted by His servants, still have power to change lives for eternity. This week we have an opportunity to reexamine the methods of Jesus. Not only how He did what He did, but why. Continue reading
As an American, I find the timing of this week’s lesson on Justice and Mercy in the Old Testament: Part 1 providential. Our nation, not unlike nations around the world, is grappling with social unrest that includes the question of Justice and Mercy. How justice is meted out and how mercy is applied leaves a lot to be desired.
As the church of today wrestles with the controversial and many times explosive issues of our generation, we know one thing – we should be different. The church should be the salt that seasons with love, kindness, forbearance and tolerance all who come within the sphere of its influence. Unfortunately, in too many cases what we should be is not what we actually are.The church, made up of individuals of our communities, finds itself hard-pressed to offer any meaningful solutions to the questions of the day. Do we the church serve as the light out of the darkness around us or have we become silent observers?
I’m convinced that the answers for the church and society at large are found in the written Word of God. We all have our opinions and although well meaning, we often take up ways of thinking that are contrary to God’s will for our lives. We need divine guidance for our journey through this life.
We live in a world obsessed with a quest for dominion. Brutal crimes are perpetrated, schemes of deception are levied against the helpless and the strong take from the weak. Innocent lives are wiped out en masse with little recourse to justice in large part due to a quest for dominion.
Man was given dominion over all earthly life when he stood innocent in the Garden of Eden. His rule of care and direction was a characteristic of his God-given power. It was an element of his perfection.Church politics, once an aberration, is now considered the norm. Jockeying for influence, power and control in the church has resulted in the development of institutions of religion that are far from righteous.
“And God saw every thing that he had made, and, behold, it was very good.”Genesis 1:31
For the Son of man is come to seek and to save that which was lost.” Luke 19:10
The Pharisees and religious rulers were standing in the way of salvation.
Matthew 23 is a scathing condemnation of the most revered men in Jewish society. The reverence, respect and fear of these men touched all areas of life. In essence the people were enslaved to the very ones appointed by God to show to the world the path of salvation. Jesus, in order to break the corrupt priesthood’s hold on the people, spoke plainly about the dangerous errors of their ways.The Pharisees and religious rulers were standing in the way of salvation.
Even before we examine the particulars of this discourse we are again reminded of the power of tradition and blind faith that often impedes our advancement in the things of God. We look back at the exchanges between Jesus and His avowed enemies and we wonder how could anyone be as callous and malicious as those leaders were? How could anyone deny the power of Jesus and discount the miracles He performed right before their eyes?
The answer is quite simple — a thirst for power. The quest to be in control, coupled with a desire to be extolled and praised is a dangerous combination. It has destroyed relationships, caused divisions within churches and led to wars of aggression. Continue reading