The Compassion of Jesus…
is seen throughout the Gospels on different occasions toward the multitude following Him. Especially for those who are suffering and seek healing. In this account of Jesus, He is traveling from Capernaum and goes Southwest about 20 miles to a town in the Jezreel Valley called Nain. Jesus is continually being followed by large crowds.
Luke 7:11-13 (NKJV)**
Jesus Raises the Son of the Widow of Nain
11 Now it happened, the day after, that He went into a city called Nain; and many of His disciples went with Him, and a large crowd. 12 And when He came near the gate of the city, behold, a dead man was being carried out, the only son of his mother; and she was a widow. And a large crowd from the city was with her. 13 When the Lord saw her, He had compassion on her and said to her, “Do not weep.”
This scene plays out pretty straightforward. Jesus is approaching the gate of the town Nain. The gate is the only way in or out of the town. Towns in the time of Jesus were usually surrounded by thick walls for protection. Another thing to note about ancient culture was the dead was buried outside the city walls. This was because there were no space within the tight confines of the city for a cemetery.
So, as Jesus is near the gate of the town, He runs head long into this funeral procession leaving the town carrying a body that has been prepared for burial. Jesus encounters this woman and large funeral party proceeding out of the gate. Having been prepared for burial would entail that the body was wrapped in cloths and covered in drying powders like Myrrh. Which suggest the body has been dead a day or two by now. To the mother and the accompanying funeral party there would be no doubt that the body was definitely dead.
Luke tells us this is a body of a man, the only son of the mother. A widow in that culture was a very vulnerable person. If she is without a son to care for her, she could most likely live out her days begging or struggling to find a way to feed herself. And knowing this detail helps explain the compassion of Jesus for this woman. Furthermore, we need to understand that it was significant that Jesus even stopped to notice this woman and take pity. It was known in society of that day that a widow was the most vulnerable member of society. For a moment, consider this society had so little regard for its most vulnerable members, widows, that unless you had a son to care for you, you might starve to death.
The story of Ruth in the Old Testament reflects this exact kind of cultural thinking. Compassion in the Jewish culture was a rare commodity. They were a people not accustomed to showing mercy and compassion. Their misuse and interpretation of the law had left them with an unforgiving, uncompassionate, judgmental view of life.They were the “eye for an eye, tooth for a tooth,” culture. Therefore, their thinking was that widows who were left without sons were simply being “judged by God” or were paying the price for their parents sin, etc. But consider the fact that there were many mourners in the procession and yet this widow was destitute and facing terrible economic circumstances says a lot about how hard-hearted these “religious” people had become. No one stepping up to offer a helping hand.
But then comes Jesus. Not only did He take notice of her, but the compassion of Jesus was upon her and more importantly, to the point where it rose to the level where He took action to help her. Without question, I am sure many mourners there had compassion of sorts for this woman, but it was doubtful if any were willing to take her in and help her.
Because this problem was carrying over from the Jewish culture into the early Christian church, created the basis for James to write his letter. And he knew, despite their profession of faith in Christ, they continued to be hard-hearted toward one another. James was so concerned about this hard hardheartedness, that he felt compelled to put it as a question of whether they were really saved.
Faith Without Works Is Dead
14 What does it profit, my brethren, if someone says he has faith but does not have works? Can faith save him? 15 If a brother or sister is naked and destitute of daily food, 16 and one of you says to them, “Depart in peace, be warmed and filled,” but you do not give them the things which are needed for the body, what does it profit? 17 Thus also faith by itself, if it does not have works, is dead.
Just as when Jesus walked the Earth, He still desires to show compassion to the least fortunate today. But He desires to do it through His church, us the believers. And when His church merely shows compassion through words, it is not really compassion. And James says if a professing Christian lives their life that way, without any visible compassion for the needs of others. Then we have reason to question the legitimacy or the usefulness of their faith. What made the compassion of Jesus known was His willingness to act upon it. Unlike the others around the widow who wouldn’t do more than what was simply required by tradition.
It’s easy to speak in compassionate words, to tell people that we will pray for them, go through the motions of obligatory protocol much like the mourners. But Jesus demonstrates what true compassion looks like and we are to be like Him. Therefore, we should take note of those that God places in our path, those who may be the overlooked or vulnerable in our culture. And do so without judgement or excuse.
Compassion means a true concern for their needs. Help means giving of your time and talents and help also means taking a real interest in them and their needs. But it is also always done with the purpose of teaching men and women about the Lord so they will know Him. As we are faithful to imitating Christ in this way, God can be showing His compassion through Christ again and this time it is seen as Christ through us.
When men concentrate all their attention on trying to make themselves righteous by works only. It results in a self-centered life absent any compassion or mercy. It is a self-centered pursuit. In an economy of works, the participates will always have a selfish outlook on the world. Everything they do is connected to making themselves look and feel righteous. There is no room for compassion and mercy. There is no true concern for the world, only for his or her self. Meanwhile, those who don’t measure up to their rules are seen as deserving whatever bad comes their way. And they certainly don’t think they owe them any compassion.
You probably know or heard of someone like this. The person who is constantly comparing people and condemning them for not adhering to the standard of measure they expect a person needs to be following. Or always making everyone aware of their own accomplishments and how good they are for helping someone looking for praise and commendation for their works. They are very self-absorbed in their own pursuits, especially pursuits that they believe are closely connected to their own righteousness of what’s right according to their system of beliefs. This is the natural effect of allowing our standard of righteousness being based on our actions on living out a system of misappropriate rules.
A viewpoint such as this is simply the opposite of grace in all respects. Consider that grace begins with compassion, because it is unearned favor. By definition, grace is an expression of mercy, because it seeks to give something that is undeserved. Grace precludes all judgement and condemnation, even though judgement and condemnation are deserved. Grace can never be self-focused, because it is inherently motivated by a consideration for the needs of others. And it requires placing the needs of another above any desire to demand retribution. Jesus taught that our obligation to show others grace in this way comes from the fact that God was the one who first showed us grace, a grace we can never equal.
So Jesus touched the body to show His compassion and to demonstrate the importance of love. And as the body rose up, the text says fear gripped the crowd..no doubt. Can you imagine? This would be fear in the truest form. Fear over the mystery of Jesus and His power and who He might be.
Today we have the New Testament. Who Jesus might be and knowing His power is no longer a mystery. We have the fulfillment of His word to rest on. The apostles recorded the ministry of Jesus and the beginnings of the church. It has been given to us so we know the will of God, have salvation and live in obedience to God’s commands In Jesus’s day the people did not have access to what we know today in the New Testament. To them there were mysteries and fear of things they first did not understand. Even though they were with the Messiah Himself and saw first hand His miracles and heard His words. Many did not believe
29 Jesus said to him, “Thomas, because you have seen Me, you have believed. Blessed are those who have not seen and yet have believed.”
** All scripture is from the New King James Version unless otherwise noted.
“The author’s biblical interpretations and conclusions presented in this document rely on original teaching used by permission of Verse By Verse Ministry International (VBVMI). The author’s views may not represent the views of VBVMI, it’s Directors or staff. Original VBVMI teaching may be found at http://www.vbvmi.org.”
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