Mercy, Compassion and Forgiveness
Luke 14:1-6 (Jesus speaking in verse 3)
1And it came to pass, as He went into the house of one of the chief Pharisees to eat bread on the sabbath day, that they watched him. 2And, behold, there was a certain man before Him which had the dropsy. 3And Jesus answering spake unto the lawyers and Pharisees, saying, Is it lawful to heal on the sabbath day? 4And they held their peace. And He took him, and healed him, and let him go; 5And answered them, saying, Which of you shall have an ass or an ox fallen into a pit, and will not straightway pull him out on the sabbath day? 6And they could not answer Him again to these things.
Luke 15:3-10 (Jesus speaking in verse 4)
3And He spake this parable unto them, saying, 4What man of you, having an hundred sheep, if he lose one of them, doth not leave the ninety and nine in the wilderness, and go after that which is lost, until he find it? 5And when he hath found it, he layeth it on his shoulders, rejoicing. 6And when he cometh home, he calleth together his friends and neighbors, saying unto them, Rejoice with me; for I have found my sheep which was lost. 7I say unto you, that likewise joy shall be in heaven over one sinner that repenteth, more than over ninety and nine just persons, which need no repentance. 8Either what woman having ten pieces of silver, if she lose one piece, doth not light a candle, and sweep the house, and seek diligently till she find it? 9And when she hath found it, she calleth her friends and her neighbors together, saying, Rejoice with me; for I have found the piece which I had lost. 10Likewise, I say unto you, there is joy in the presence of the angels of God over one sinner that repenteth.
Jesus taught many things to His disciples as He traveled to Jerusalem for the last time. He included parables, teaching from the Law and real-life situations to instruct His followers.
Today’s study explains three lessons which Jesus taught the twelve: mercy, compassion and forgiveness—qualities in short supply among Priests, Pharisees and Sadducees. They needed to see the difference between Jesus’ gospel and the lifeless ritual of the religious leaders, so that the character He taught them would be evident in their lives.
It was common practice to invite a guest teacher home for a meal after the synagogue service, but hospitality was the motive in this case. As usual, the Pharisees and other religious leaders were trying to trap Jesus into saying or doing something that would discredit Him with the people, so He was carefully watched. Anything He said could and would be used against Him in the court of the Sanhedrin.
The Law spelled out requirements for observing the Sabbath, but a multitude of additional regulations had been added by the rabbis through the years. Many were absurd, and they created a heavy yoke on the people.
Now therefore why tempt ye God, to put a yoke upon the neck of the disciples, which neither our fathers nor we were able to bear?
On the other hand, Jesus taught that the Sabbath was made for man’s well-being rather than man created to serve Sabbath rules.
Mark 2:27 (Jesus speaking)
And He said unto them, The sabbath was made for man, and not man for the sabbath:
He performed a number of miracles on the Sabbath, much to the dismay of His enemies. Technically, the rules they had piled on top of the Law defined healing as work, something forbidden on the Sabbath. In their zeal to promote these man-made regulations, the religious leaders had lost all sight of the needs of people.
We are not told if this man was invited by the Pharisees to eat bread, or whether they planted him there to test Jesus. They watched Jesus as to what he would do. If Jesus healed the man, he would be violating their Sabbath rules again. If He tried to avoid controversy by ignoring the man, it would appear He did not have the compassion people thought He had.
Jesus healed the man without hesitation. He then “turned the tables on His enemies” by asking a question they would have great difficulty answering. In fact, they did not answer; they were speechless.
Luke 14:3 (Jesus speaking)
Is it lawful to heal on the sabbath day?
With no answer, Jesus asked them another question.
Luke 14:5 (Jesus speaking)
Which of you shall have an ass or an ox fallen into a pit, and will not straightway pull him out on the sabbath day?
Jesus did not have to explain what He was driving at. He could have waited until after the Sabbath to heal the man, but this would have been showing him less compassion than His enemies accorded either oxen and donkeys.
Did the Law permit mercy to beast, but ignore the needs of human beings? They could not answer.
The religious leaders understood the care of shepherds for their flocks. Sheep were counted each night before being put back into the fold. One hundred was a normal size flock.
As happy as the Shepherd was over 99 being safe, he could not rest while one was lost. The shepherd did not wait for the sheep to find its own way back. It may never have returned, for there were too many predators waiting to destroy it. The rescue of the sheep depended on the shepherd. The shepherd’s laying the sheep on his shoulders indicates it had either been injured or was exhausted.
This is a picture of sin’s effects on lost, unredeemed humans. The sight of the shepherd carrying the sheep that are too weak to walk is a beautiful parable of God’s grace.
Footprints In The Sand
One night I dreamed I was walking along the beach with the Lord. Scenes from my life flashed across the sky. In each I noticed footprints in the sand. Sometimes there were two sets of footprints; other times there was only one set of footprints. During the low periods of my life I could see only one set of footprints, so I said, “You promised me, Lord, that you would walk with me always. Why, when I have needed you the most, have you not been there for me?” The Lord replied, “The times when you have seen only one set of footprints, My child, is when I carried you.”
What shepherd would say: Why bother with one when I have ninety-nine? Any good shepherd will give his full attention to searching for the lost no matter how tedious the search, how great the obstacles or how dangerous the mountainside. He would persist in his search until the lost sheep was found.
The Pharisees regarded even the touch of a sinner as defiling. A stranger might find it repulsive if he were asked to pick up a dirty, torn, weary sheep. The good shepherd does it with rejoicing.
Like the silver coin to the woman, the sinner is precious to God. There is no limit to what He will do to find the lost one. By the light of the glorious Gospel, He seeks the sinner. He wants to sweep every hindrance out of the way. He will overturn everything to find him.
We see also that the lost sheep was outside the fold. The lost silver (coin) was still in the house. The lost sheep was one out of a hundred. The lost coin was one out of one hundred… but does it matter?
Whether nominally inside or outside the church a sinner (the unredeemed) is still a sinner and God is as much concerned over lost (unredeemed) church members as He is over those who never attend church. As His representatives, we please Him if we search until we find!
Jesus wants us to see that if we feel no joy over a sinner coming to the Lord, we would not feel at home in Heaven, nor are we really prepared to go there.
The critical attitude and lack of love for sinners these Pharisees expressed was a sin which came between them and God. It kept them from being the kind of faithful servants who could enter into the joy of the Lord. Because they had no concern over what meant so much to God, they were surely unprofitable servants.
Matthew 25:21, 30 (Jesus speaking)
21His lord said unto him, Well done, thou good and faithful servant: thou hast been faithful over a few things, I will make thee ruler over many things: enter thou into the joy of thy lord.
30And cast ye the unprofitable servant into outer darkness: there shall be weeping and gnashing of teeth.
The prime motivation of our Lord is a pattern for us. If we are to be soul winners, we must possess a love for the lost. Without the love of God in our hearts, Romans 5:5, below, we cannot love the lost, and anything less than compassionate love will be an insufficient motivation. When we seek the lost, the unredeemed, we should feel like Paul in 2 Corinthians 5:14 as he said, “…the love of Christ constraineth us.”
Romans 5:1, 2, 5
1Therefore being justified by faith, we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ: 2By whom also we have access by faith into this grace wherein we stand, and rejoice in hope of the glory of God.
5And hope maketh not ashamed; because the love of God is shed abroad in our hearts by the Holy Ghost which is given unto us.
They had lost sight of the fact every person is created in God’s image. This means that every person’s life is precious, so they needed to learn that each person should be treated as valuable.
In our contact with others, we must show by our attitudes that we live by Jesus’ teachings, not by the world’s philosophy. We must not put a limit on the righteousness which we have in Christ. This includes not offending others and freely forgiving when others offend us.
Ephesians 1:4, 7
4According as He hath chosen us in Him before the foundation of the world, that we should be holy and without blame before Him in love:
7In whom we have redemption through His blood, the forgiveness of sins, according to the riches of His grace;
Colossians 1:14 (repeated in Colossians)
In whom we have redemption through His blood, even the forgiveness of sins:
As long as human nature is what it is and the world is what it is, it is useless to expect there will be no offenses. As long as the world is unredeemed, offenses will come to believers; however, this does not excuse those who cause offenses. Human sinfulness in no excuse for the evil in the world even though it helps to explain it.
3We give thanks to God and the Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, praying always for you, 4Since we heard of your faith in Christ Jesus, and of the love which ye have to all the saints, 5For the hope which is laid up for you in heaven, whereof ye heard before in the word of the truth of the gospel; 6Which is come unto you, as it is in all the world; and bringeth forth fruit, as it doth also in you, since the day ye heard of it, and knew the grace of God in truth:
Jesus taught that one must not put a limit on forgiveness. The ultimate goal must be reconciliation even if it means enduring repeated offenses.
Jesus’ followers live by standards totally opposite to the world’s. Generally speaking, society has lost its feeling for the value of the individual. The attitude of the religious leaders toward Jesus’ healing on the Sabbath showed their values.
They would rescue one of their animals from injury or death because it had monetary value. The world still lives by this principle. The goals of many are focused only on what will benefit them materially. To these selfish individuals, the spiritual needs of people’s souls mean nothing.
They do not comprehend the value of each individual life because they have lost sight of the fact every person is created in God’s image. This means that every person’s life is precious. In our contact with others, we must show by our attitude we live by Jesus’ teachings, not the world’s philosophy. We must not put a limit on the righteousness which we have in Christ. This includes not offending others and freely forgiving when others offend us.
Forgiveness does not wait for justice. It is possible to refuse revenge and yet cherish such a lingering resentment against the wrongdoer, that if he hurt himself or if he lost money or if his children turn out bad, well, we just would not be too sorry. In fact, we might even find a secret satisfaction. As long as such feelings remain, we have not forgiven. Forgiveness is not a matter of arithmetic or bookkeeping, but of love and love has no limit.
Matthew 5:44, 45 (Jesus speaking)
44But I say unto you, Love your enemies, bless them that curse you, do good to them that hate you, and pray for them which despitefully use you, and persecute you; 45That ye may be the children of your Father which is in heaven: for He maketh His sun to rise on the evil and on the good, and sendeth rain on the just and on the unjust.
We are traveling over a road that we have not traveled before, one over which we will never pass again. Every day brings us to situations with which we are unfamiliar, to decisions far-reaching in their influence and results.
The only safe way to travel on life’s journey is to adopt Christ as Guide for the journey of life. He alone is the Supreme Authority in all matters that pertain to life and happiness for the individuals.
He stands ready as man’s Savior!