Christ’s Compassion is Our Compassion

Seventh Sunday in Pentecost, July 31st, 2011
Pastor Brian Henderson-Trinity Lutheran Church, San Diego, CA 
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“When He went ashore He saw a great crowd, and He had compassion on them and healed their sick.” [Matthew 14:14] 

INTRODUCTION: This morning, we see the heart of God going out in compassion to the great crowd that followed and gathered around Jesus.  In spite of all of their unbelief and disobedience, Jesus has a great feeling of love, compassion, and mercy for them.  Why?  Well St. Mark’s account of the same incident tells us that Jesus sees them as sheep without a shepherd. [Mark 6:34]  They were separated from God because of their sins, and they needed to learn that they had a God of mercy, compassion, and love! 

I read recently that flight attendants are having an ever growing problem getting passengers to listen to the emergency instructions.  So, some of the attendants have resorted to humor in an attempt to get the passengers to pay attention.  Listen to one of these attempts: Ladies and gentlemen, in the event of a sudden loss of cabin pressure, masks will descend from the ceiling.  Stop screaming, grab the mask, pull it over your face.  If you have a small child traveling with you, first secure your mask and then help them with theirs.  If you are traveling with more than one small child… well pick your favorite!” 

This morning we will be talking about God’s compassion for each of us!  The good news is that God does not have a favorite; He has chosen all of us!  “For God so loved the world, that he gave his only Son, that whoever believes in him should not perish but have eternal life.” [John 3:16]  “As I live, declares the Lord God, I have no pleasure in the death of the wicked, but that the wicked turn from his way and live”. [Ezekiel 33:11] The bad news is that some will reject God’s offer to turn to His ultimate demonstration of compassion, which comes to us only through Jesus Christ, and unfortunately they will die!  Here are three truths that we will explore: Knowledge of God’s compassion comes to us only through His Word; God wants each of us, the whole world to experience His compassion; and God wants us to share His compassion. 

I. Knowledge of God’s compassion comes to us only through His Word.  Those of us who have children know that they can tend to be insecure about life around them, even about our love and God’s love for them.  That’s why repetition is so important for children.  We must speak words of love and affirmation to them all of the time.  Here are some phrases that I’ve found to be helpful with small children: “You know, I couldn’t love you anymore!”  “You will always be Daddy’s little princess!”  “I don’t like what you are doing, but I sure do love you!  Let me teach you how to do better!”  These are words of affirmation, love, and compassion.  I’m sure that you have your own catch phrases that communicate the same thing.   

Let’s listen to some of God’s: “Because of the tender mercy of our God, (His) sunrise shall visit us from on high 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 1:78-79]  ““In overflowing anger for a moment I hid my face from you, but with everlasting love I will have compassion on you,” says the LORD, your Redeemer.” [Isaiah 54:8]  

Because God has compassion on us, He sends His powerful Word to us in such a way that we will have no doubts about his forgiving love.  There is no limit to His kindness and gentleness towards us; it is boundless and limitless.  On the other hand, if He were to take away His Word from us then there is no way to measure His anger.  But when He promises to be our Father and that we will always have His Word, He is revealing Himself in a way that those who don’t call Him Father can never understand!  In our Father, there is no bitterness, no terror, and everything in our lives is safe and peaceful.  And to prove to you that this is a fact, God sent His Son to make the message clear.  “but God shows his love for us in that while we were still sinners, Christ died for us.” [Romans 5:8]  “God, being rich in mercy, because of the great love with which he loved us, even when we were dead in our trespasses, made us alive together with Christ—by grace you have been saved”. [Ephesians 2:4-5]  “In this is love, not that we have loved God but that he loved us and sent his Son to be the propitiation for our sins.” [1 John 4:10] 

Dear friends, God’s love and compassion, His goodwill and favor is free and it’s universal.  In other words it is for every sinner that lives on the face of this earth, without exception.  God came to us in our own flesh for the benefit of everyone; He came to us as the incarnate Jesus Christ; He died as the payment for our sins, everyone’s sins.  Through His death upon the cross, all sinful men have been pronounced righteous and through His resurrection all have been promised victory over man’s most ancient enemies; sin, death, and the devil!  This is God’s invitation for all sinners to turn to Him through the cross of Jesus Christ and find peace with God through the forgiveness of their many sins.  In this invitation, no one is excluded from God’s compassion and grace.  God wants you to read, hear, and receive His Word so that you’ll know for sure that this promise is for you!  There’s nothing you need to do, only rest in God’s promise.  But now here is the bad news, this grace… this compassion of God is resistible!  You can reject His love and the death of Jesus!  This is why God wants you to see your great need for His compassion and His gift of grace.  You see… 

II. God wants us to see a need for His grace and experience His compassion.  But why is that necessary? Well, just as you probably won’t go see your doctor unless you’re feeling sick, in the same way you probably won’t seek out God’s grace, His forgiving love and compassion that’s  offered in Christ, unless you’ve been shown your sinful and lost condition! Through His Law, God forces us to see our sickness and our unstoppable death, and then He urges us to seek His compassion and forgiveness through His grace in Christ. 

So you see, God wants all to be saved, He wants each of us to have the life-giving gospel proclaimed to us, but only if we will admit through the work of His Law that we are sick and in need of a cure.  He wants us to be rich in His grace, but only if we will admit that without it we are poor!  He wants His Word of freedom to be proclaimed, but only to those of us who want to be set free; He wants to set us free, but only if we will admit that we are held captive by sin; He wants to comfort all, but only if we are grieving.  So God really does want to give His grace to the world, but you can only receive it if confess a need for His mercy, compassion, and forgiving love! 

In the parable of the prodigal son, Jesus pictured the grace of God in a wonderful way; He pictures God as the Father of a young son who left home in a cloud of sin and pride.  And in that story, Jesus showed us a God who is always ready to pardon the repentant sinner. He showed us a Father who is always watching our road of life, waiting for His sons and daughters lost in their sins to turn towards the cross of Jesus with the desire to go home to the compassion of our Heavenly Father.  And what happens when we return?  Our Heavenly Father’s sees this and His heart is filled with compassion!  And what does the Father do; what does our Heavenly Father do?  He runs, to us, falls upon our neck in a divine embrace and He covers our face with heavenly kisses!  What does all of this show us?  It shows us that God’s sinful children, you and me are already forgiven before we can say speak a single word.  Our all-knowing and always present God pardons each of us no good sinners, the moment we rest in God’s cure for our disease of sin and death!  

So before we go on with our message this morning, let’s make sure that we understand that repentance isn’t something we do once and then get on with our lives, it is something we do every day of our lives as we are surrounded and comforted by God’s compassion and forgiving love!  Every day, every moment of our lives, we need to turn and look at Christ’s cross and see how much the Father loves each of us, and then look to the baptismal font and remember that there in our baptism, all of His love and compassion was given to us!  And as we live this kind of life, we will also remember that… 

III. God wants us to share His compassion.  In God’s Word, we are taught that His goodness should be reflected in His children. “Be merciful, even as your Father is merciful.” [Luke 6:36]. In His Word we are taught to love one another (1 Thessalonians 4:9). We are shown that we must love, bless, help, and intercede even for our enemies, because they too are children of our heavenly Father. [Matthew 5:44–45] We are to be kind to one another, forgiving, tender-hearted, even as God for Christ’s sake has forgiven us. [Ephesians 4:32; Colossians 3:13]  Throughout God’s Word, His message to His children who relate to Him by faith is this: “Present your bodies as a living sacrifice, holy and acceptable to God.” [Romans 12:1; 2 Corinthians 8:9] 

So in God’s Word, not only is His message consistent that we must turn to His compassion through Jesus Christ and live, but we must also reflect that same compassion of God to others so that they too will receive His Word, His message of grace and be saved and changed!  

CONCLUSION: Dear friends, let me make sure that you leave this place with God’s compassion; let me make sure you leave here with the Gospel!  Your Heavenly Father, like any good parent, wants to be sure that you are dressed properly. In your baptism, you have been baptized into Christ; in other words, you have been “dressed” in Christ. In those holy waters, your Heavenly Father removed your filthy rags of sin and in exchange He placed on you Christ’s robe of righteousness. He no longer looks at you and sees your sin or what you are or aren’t in this world.  In Christ, each of us have been baptized into Him and we are one in Him! [Galatians 3:26–29] 

 So you could say that God sees us through Christ-colored glasses. In our lives that are connected to God in Heaven, His Word has killed us as sinners; He’s stripped us of our torn and tattered garments of sin—and buried us in Christ’s tomb. And in that same Word He’s has brought us into a new existence with him and redressed us in Jesus’ own innocence and righteousness. Now because of God’s work alone, we stand in the Father’s presence, holy and righteous! We are his perfect children, but only because he has said so. His promise to us in our Baptisms gives us peace and a clean conscience.  But we are still living here in this sinful world, so we are still experiencing the attacks of the devil and sin, even our own sin.  We still experience temptation, and we can still fall to that temptation.  So our Baptism then initiates a lifelong process of repentance, confession, and forgiveness; its a life long process of dying to the habits of hell and rising to the habits of heaven in a daily struggle against the sin that destroys our humanity. 

As we daily recall God’s baptismal promise to be our God and to keep us safe as his children, may we always see His Compassion, the compassion of Jesus Christ, and may we always remember that Christ’s compassion is now our compassion.  We need that compassion in our struggle to put to death the sin that is always within us, and the people in our community need that compassion if they are to also one day receive God’s gift of eternal life and love. 

So, dressed up in our new nature, having shed our old nature through this baptismal death and resurrection, we will continue to experience God’s renewing compassion in our lives and we will share that compassion with everyone that God puts in our path.  May God the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit enable us to do this very thing… in Jesus name… AMEN!

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