Building Compassion

This lesson deals with Jesus building into the lives of the disciples a character trait that is necessary for reaching people with the gospel. The disciples needed to learn about compassion. A lack of compassion will cause disciples to not see the needs of people around them, and will prevent them from engaging people in hopes of sharing the gospel with them. Jesus’ mission was to seek, serve, and save the lost (Matthew 20:28, Mark 1:28, 10:45, Luke 4:43, 19:10).

Read Matthew 9:9-13

Once these two pairs of brothers committed to follow Jesus in order to be trained in evangelism (Luke 5:1-11), Jesus led them into one of the cities near the Sea of Galilee. A man full of leprosy saw Jesus and bowed down before him. While not being demanding, this outcast acknowledged the sovereignty of Jesus and his power to heal him, saying, “Lord, if you are willing, you can make me clean” (Matthew 8:2). Mark says that Jesus was moved with compassion, and proceeded to heal him (Mark 1:41). Immediately the man was cleansed and he was told to go to the priests so they could verify the cleansing and announce to the nations that the Messiah had arrived (Matthew 8:1-4, Mark 1:44, Luke 5:14, Leviticus 14-15).

The theme of compassion is a thread which runs through this level of disciplemaking. Jesus appealed to Hosea on two different occasions to stress the importance of showing compassion (Matthew 9:13, 12:7). Cleaning this man with leprosy was followed by a lot of publicity (Matthew 8:4, Mark 1:44-45, Luke 14-15).

Jesus ended this first tour through Galilee by forgiving and healing a paralytic (Matthew 9:1-8, Mark 2:1-12, Luke 5:17-26). Jesus showed concern for more than man’s physical well-being (Matthew 9:2-6, Mark 2:5-10, Luke 5:20-24) because he came to save those who were lost.

The command for the day (the third in this level) is to GO (Matthew 9:13) and LEARN (Matthew 9:30).

1. What was Matthew’s occupation (Matthew 9:9, Luke 5:21)? He was a tax-collector or publican, who served the Roman empire against his own people. While he owned his own franchise, his first loyalty was to Rome. He collected taxes for Rome and kept anything above that for himself. He basically had a license for extortion, backed by the power of the Roman army. As you can imagine, he was a despised man, considered a traitor by his own people. They accepted bribes from the wealthy which made the common people hate him even more. A man like Matthew was barred from the synagogue and forbidden to have social contact with the Jews. He was on the level of unclean animals.

2. What did people think about that profession in Jesus’ day (Matthew 9:9, Luke 3:12-13)? Matthew himself gives five little words to describe his formed character, “Sitting at the tax office.” This phrase marked him as the most despised, vile, corrupt man in Capernaum. The fishermen likely thought that because of his profession, Matthew was an unlikely candidate for disciple training.

3. What was Jesus inviting Matthew to do (Matthew 9:9, 4:19, Mark 1:17)? Jesus invited Matthew to join these fishermen that he was training to fish evangelistically for men.

4. Did Jesus know Matthew before giving his this call to be trained in evangelism (Luke 19:1-10)? It seems obvious that Matthew had investigated the claims of Christ and placed his faith in him before signing up for this evangelism training. Jesus’ first encounter with another tax-collector was to bring him to the place of repentance for salvation (Luke 19:1-10, Luke 3:12-13). Jesus focused on getting lost people saved before training them to win others to faith in Christ.

5. Did Matthew accept Jesus’ invitation (Matthew 9:9, Luke 5:28)? That simple call was enough for Matthew to turn his back on everything he was and possessed. Notice that Matthew was too humble to even mention his name in the story. He knew that once he left his post, he would never be able to return to his tax-collecting position. Of all the disciples, Matthew appears to have made the greatest sacrifice of material possessions, yet he makes no mention of it in his gospel. Following Jesus is costly and not just another add-on to an already busy life.

6. What was the first thing that Matthew did after enrolling in Jesus’ evangelism school (Matthew 9:10, Luke 5:29)? Luke is the one who mentions Matthew throwing this party at his own expense. But catch what is happening, Matthew has all these lost friends, who are also outcasts, and now he has the opportunity to influence this crowd with the message of the gospel. He was building evangelistic bridges, which shows a lot about Matthew’s heart; he wanted his buddies to hear the gospel, too.

7. Who was invited to this party hosted by Matthew (Matthew 9:10)? Matthew’s old co-workers. Jesus intentionally wants his disciples to spend time with people who are not near to God. This was not a one-time happening, but Jesus regularly spent time with the riffraff of society (Matthew 11:19). Jesus was called a friend of tax-collectors and sinners. Jesus wants us motivated to reaching our circles of influence.

8. Who objected to the guest list (Matthew 9:11, Luke 5:30)? The religious leaders. This may happen ever today!

9. How did Jesus answer their accusatory question (Matthew 9:11-13, Luke 5:30-32)? He answered with a logical argument (Luke 5:31b), Scripture (Matthew 9:13), and mission (Luke 5:32).

10 The argument from LOGIC: It is so simple, a doctor doesn’t surround himself with healthy people, but goes to where they are sick! The Pharisees where experts in diagnosing the sinful condition of others yet had no desire in providing a cure. We are not suppose to disassociate ourselves from lost people (1 Corinthians 5:9-11, John 20:21). Every believer has a spiritual Hippocratic Oath!

11. Is the fear of being contaminated by unbelievers a valid concern? Fulfilling the Great Commission demands that we be in proximity with lost people. There is no impact without contact. As a doctor takes precautions to not get infected with the disease, we too must take precautions. There is a danger in identifying with the culture when the Christian is minimally involved with other believers. We can be absorbed back into the darkness. We are to be IN the world yet not OF the world (John 17:16, 18). We are good for nothing if we are no longer salt and light (Matthew 5:13).

12. What did Jesus command these Pharisees to do (Matthew 9:13, Hosea 6:6)? To GO and LEARN about compassion. LEARN is aorist imperative which denotes urgency. The phrase was familiar to these rabbis because they used it to rebuke those who did not know that which they should have known.

13. The argument from SCRIPTURE (Hosea 6:6): Hosea was a prophet to the Northern Kingdom between 755-717 BC during the last days of King Jeroboam II (as they were enjoying political peace and material prosperity, they also had moral corruption and spiritual bankruptcy). After Jeroboam died (753 BC) anarchy prevailed (4 of 6 kings were assassinated in 20 years) and Israel declined rapidly. The prophet of the day warned against moral decline and their breach of covenant with God. Judgment was coming, soon. (See 2 Kings 14-20, 2 Chronicles 26-32 for historical perspective).

God used Hosea’s personal experience of an adulterous wife to illustrate Israel’s spiritual adultery. They were going through religious motions but their hearts were not in it, they didn’t love God or other people. The form and ritual became more important than substance. God wanted a spirit of compassion and forgiveness in contrast to their judgmental and condemning attitudes.

The Pharisees were the apostates of Israel whose focus was on preserving the temple ceremonies while forsaking the substance of it. Truly redeemed people have a heart that become increasingly tender toward God and lost people. It is easy for us to fall into this same trap! Don’t get all wrapped up in the performance trap of doing things for God without a heart of compassion for others. Don’t let your heart grow cold. Are you growing in tenderness toward lost people? Do you ache for lost family and friends? Are you getting bolder and more creative in your personal witness?

God is never pleased with religious routine and activity that does not come from a heart of compassion for other people.

14. What does the word “compassion” mean (Hosea 6:6)? It means “to be compassionate” in the Old Testament, but Matthew uses the Greek word meaning, “an outward manifestation of pity, it assumes need on the part of the one who receives it, and resources adequate to meet the need on the part of the one who shows it” (Vines, page 403). God is rich in mercy (Ephesians 2:4, Titus 3:5).

The word also is used in the NT meaning, “taking another person’s condition or situation into the bowels” (Matthew 9:36, 14:14, 15:32, 18:27, 20:34, Mark 1:41, 6:34, 8:2, 9:22, Luke 7:13, 10:33, 15:20). Compassion make your sick to the stomach. Compassion is fully identifying with another person (terror, grief, sorrow, pain, agony, despair, humiliation, shame, hopelessness, fear, lostness). The Pharisees made no emotional connection.

Biblical compassion moves you to action. Pity is often used to feel bad for another but does nothing; compassion calls the heart to action.

15. The argument from MISSION (Matthew 9:13, Luke 5:32): The Pharisees were likely jealous that Jesus claimed to be the Messiah and did not spend time with the self-righteous, religious establishment who were unaware of their falleness. He articulated his mission and target audience: sinners who are in need of repentance.

We need to stay on God’s mission, too. God could have saved us and taken us home, but we are here on this planet because we have work to do. The church doesn’t exist for itself, but for those who are outside of the church. It is not a country club for saints but a hospital for sinners. Avoid “koinitis” which is a perversion of koinonia (fellowship, sharing a common life).

[Based on my classes with Richard D. Leineweber, Jr. c. 2000]

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