20 Sep Quarter Two Lesson Eight
Growing in Compassion
We are studying how to grow in Christian faith, how to mature and become “young men” and women in the Lord (1 John 2:12-14). We are looking at the good news of what Jesus has done for us, and then seeing how to apply that to our lives, thereby growing up in Christ. We are looking at Jesus and learning how to be like Him (Hebrews 12:2-3). This is how we continue to grow and mature in the Lord.
In this lesson we want to look into the heart of Jesus. Many times we look at His actions, what He did, how He lived, and in this lesson, we will get a glimpse of His heart, how He feels, what motivates Him.
Here is a section of the Bible to introduce us to this topic:
Yet the LORD longs to be gracious to you; he rises to show you compassion. For the LORD is a God of justice. Blessed are all who wait for him! Isaiah 30:18 (NIV)
Question 1. In considering Isaiah 30:18, what can we see about the heart of God, His longings, His desires?
It is clear from Isaiah 30:18 that graciousness and compassion are in God’s heart. God is shown here to be “longing”, or yearning, to be gracious to us, so He rises up to show His compassion.
Compassion lives in the heart of God. It motivates His actions toward His people. “But you oh Lord are a God full of compassion, and gracious, slow to anger and abounding in steadfast love and faithfulness” (Psalm 86:15). “As a father shows compassion to his children, so the Lord shows compassion to those who fear Him” (Psalm 103:13). “The Lord is gracious and righteous; our God is full of compassion” (Psalm 116:5). “The Lord is good to all; He has compassion on all He has made” (Psalm 145:9).
But what is compassion? The concept is a weighty one. The Greek words (Greek is the original language in which the New Testament was written) are translated as “bowels of mercies” communicating that this is mercy flowing from the very core of God’s being. This is deep and sacrificial compassion that lives in God’s heart. This type of compassion sees another’s dilemma and takes action to help them.
These same words are used in Luke chapter 1 to describe the compassion and mercy that God had on us when He gave His Son Jesus to die in our place. In Luke chapter one a man by the name of Zechariah was moved by the Holy Spirit to speak at the birth of his son, John. This young child would later be called “John the Baptist” and would be the forerunner of the Messiah, Jesus. John would go before Jesus and prepare His way. Zechariah spoke to John at his birth and said these words:
And you, child, will be called the prophet of the Most High; for you will go before the Lord to prepare his ways, 77 to give knowledge of salvation to his people in the forgiveness of their sins, 78 because of the tender mercy of our God, whereby the sunrise shall visit us from on high 79 to give light to those who sit in darkness and in the shadow of death, to guide our feet into the way of peace.” Luke 1:76-79 (ESV)
Question 2. According to Luke 1:77, in what do we gain the knowledge of salvation?
Question 3. According to Luke 1:78, why did God give us salvation? What was in His heart to send Jesus (the “sunrise” Who visited us from on high)?
We gain the “knowledge of salvation” in “the forgiveness of our sins.” This simply means we come to understand that through Jesus’ death we are forgiven; our sins are not held against us, and therefore, Jesus saved us from our sins and from God’s wrath.
But we get a glimpse into God’s heart in this passage. It was because of the “tender mercy” of our God that He sent Jesus to us. These words “tender mercy” are the words translated as “bowels of compassion”. This tells us that God’s heart is to forgive His people and that His inner desires, His deep longings are to save us.
Because of His “bowels of compassion” He sent “the sunrise to visit us from on high”, to give us light and to guide us. This means Jesus came to us from Heaven and He died to remove all the darkness of our sins from us, and then rose again to shine the light of forgiveness on us. This gospel is how God “gives light to those who sit in darkness and in the shadow of death” and how He “guides our feet into the way of peace.”
So it is clear that God has a heart full of compassion for people. “He longs to be gracious” and He is “moved with compassion” for us. This longing and compassion come from deep within Him, from the very core of His being, and it moves Him to action.
Not long ago, I heard the news account of an older man who was working on his car, when all of a sudden the car slipped off the jack and landed on top of him. His teen grandson was with him at the time, and moved with compassion, he lifted that car right off his grandpa. Later, when recalling the story, the grandpa had high praise for the teen crediting him for saving his life. And the teen said, “This accident makes me even closer to my grandpa.” The news report of this story is available in a video here.
Likewise, God was moved with compassion so He sent His Son to die in your place, not to lift a mere car but rather to lift the entire burden of sin and guilt off of you. And I’m quite sure that when we get to heaven and see Jesus face to face we will hear Him say “that whole experience at the cross made me even closer to you.”
We have seen what was in God’s heart that moved Him to send His Son to this earth, let us look now at yet another Bible passage that shows what was in the heart of Jesus when He was on this earth:
And Jesus went throughout all the cities and villages, teaching in their synagogues and proclaiming the gospel of the kingdom and healing every disease and every affliction. 36 When he saw the crowds, he had compassion for them, because they were harassed and helpless, like sheep without a shepherd. Matthew 9:35-36 (ESV)
Question 4. According to Matthew 9:35-36, how did Jesus feel when he saw the crowds?
We can picture this scene: many people had heard that Jesus had power to heal, so all the sick came to Him to be healed. There were large crowds of people waiting to see Him many of which were afflicted with various diseases, defects and injuries. They were harassed and helpless, tired and troubled, and they had no one to lead them or love them.
As Jesus gazed out on this crowd, He saw so many hurting faces—young and old. Faces etched with pain and streaked with tears. He saw deep sorrow on the face of a young boy who was crippled. He saw a broken hearted woman who had been bleeding for years. He heard the crying voices of those ravished by all manner of disease, and harassed by the enemy of all mankind. He literally felt the pain of this mass of humanity who had been so deeply affected by the fall of Adam and Eve, and He had compassion on them.
And out of compassion, Jesus healed all who came to Him. He healed every disease and affliction, and He helped everyone who was helpless. His compassion moved Him to take action to heal and help every person He saw. This is what was in the heart of Jesus—deep and profound compassion.
But we should view this event as more than just a striking moment of compassion in the life of our Savior. This moment was a miniature picture of Jesus’ heart for the entire world. In eternity past, God the Son sat on His throne in Heaven, and in His mind’s eye He looked out over all the people who would ever live. He saw the effects of Adam and Eve’s sin, the sin that brought disease and death to the whole world. He saw masses of humanity wracked with pain. He saw millions of people with cancer, heart disease, AIDS and Malaria. He heard the cries of those who had Hepatitis, Diabetes, Leprosy, Gout, Epilepsy and so much more.
But even worse, He saw in His mind’s eye people who were harassed by Satan and who were helpless against his attacks. He saw those who had fallen to temptations of all kinds: those who had given in to stealing, lying, sexual sins, those disobedient to parents and rebellious against all authority, and those simply waiting to die to be judged and punished for their sin.
And Jesus was moved with compassion when He saw this multitude. His compassion moved Him to leave His throne in Heaven, to come to this earth, and to purposely suffer on a cross. His compassion moved Him to die in order to forgive sins, heal diseases and destroy Satan. Yes, His heart of compassion took Him all the way from heaven to earth, from earth to the cross, and from the cross to the grave, and from the grave to the skies.
Please notice all the times that Jesus’ compassion moved Him to do something for somebody in need:
“He saw a great crowd, and he had compassion on them and healed their sick.” Matthew 14:14 (ESV) “Then the lord of that servant was moved with compassion, and loosed him, and forgave him the debt.” Matthew 18:27 (KJV) “And Jesus, moved with compassion, put forth his hand, and touched him, and saith unto him, I will; be thou clean.” Mark 1:41 (KJV)
Question 5. What is the one common theme in all the above verses?
Yes, Jesus has a heart of compassion, and it moved Him repeatedly to help people. What a loving and compassionate Savior we have!
But this lesson would not be complete unless we take it to heart personally. When reading Scripture, you always need to apply the truth to your own life.
And so Jesus not only saw multitudes and crowds, He saw you and me. He saw us in unbelief and in ignorance. He saw us harassed by Satan and tormented by temptation day after day. He saw us born into Adam’s rebellion, taken captive by sin and helpless to change.
And consider this: moved with compassion, Jesus left all of heaven. He came to this earth and He went to a cross for you. From the depths of His being He loved you and from “bowels of compassion” He died for you. At the cross, God was done waiting to be gracious, so He rose up to show you His compassion right then and there (fulfilling Isaiah 30:18).
Oh friend, take a moment to bask in the compassion of our God. We were dead in our sins and trespasses (Ephesians 2:1), without hope and without God (Ephesians 2:12); but God who is rich in mercy and filled with compassion sent His perfect Son to die in our place, to bear the guilt of our sin away (Leviticus 16:20-22) and to give us life. He then rose from the dead, as God accepted His sacrifice, to justify us before the Father. “He was delivered over to death for our sins and was raised to life for our justification.” Romans 4:25 (NIV) He had compassion on us and took action to help us; because of His compassionate heart toward us.
Question 6. As you contemplate Jesus’ compassion for you personally, what thoughts do you have?
We are studying the Bible and learning how to grow in our faith, and one of the ways that we grow is by following Jesus and having compassion for other people. This comes about as we consider Jesus’ compassion for us, and dwell long upon it. We cannot change our hearts, but we can ask God to fill them with compassion for people.
Look now at Colossians 3: 12-13:
12 Put on then, as God’s chosen ones, holy and beloved, compassionate hearts, kindness, humility, meekness, and patience, 13 bearing with one another and, if one has a complaint against another, forgiving each other; as the Lord has forgiven you, so you also must forgive.
Question 7. According to Colossians 3, what are we to put on?
We can see that as God’s beloved and holy children, we are to put on, among other things, “compassionate hearts.” This means that we are to see people as Jesus sees them and to act accordingly. This is why throughout the ages Christians have built hospitals and foster homes, become missionaries in foreign lands, and have even risked their lives to give out Bibles to a world dying in sin. It is out of compassion that Gospel Growth Ministries was born, as we saw many who exist under the oppression of Satan with no help from the world.
As you study this lesson today, you might pray to God and ask Him if He might call you to a specific ministry—a ministry where you might demonstrate God’s compassionate heart to hurting people. You can start with the people in your home, your family, and then move out to those around you. Maybe God would call you to become a foster parent, start a ministry to the poor, or to preach the gospel. If you seek Him in prayer and His Word, God will reveal to you what He would have you to do to expose His compassionate heart to the world.
Question 8. In considering the truth of this passage, that we are to put on compassionate hearts, do you have a compassionate heart toward others? What thoughts or questions do you have?
Question 9. Do you need to confess your lack of compassion to God? If yes, then you can write out a prayer of confession to God here; we will unite in prayer with you.
If you confessed your need to cultivate a compassionate heart, then we empathize with you. The good news is that we can indeed learn to be compassionate by studying the gospel and meditating on it, and by praying and asking God to change our hearts. Even if you feel your heart is as cold as ice toward others, God is able to melt it with His love.
Question 10. When studying through this lesson, did you see God’s compassionate heart displayed in Christ? Does His compassion affect your heart? Please explain.
We hope your heart is full to overflowing today as you have considered God’s compassion toward you. We pray that His love inspires compassion in your own heart and that all whom you encounter will know that you have been with Jesus (Acts 4:13) by the compassion you show to them.