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!