CHRIST'S COMPASSION TOWARDS THE OUTCAST
THE BARRIERS ARE DOWN
Many years ago the Prince of Wales visited the capital city of India. A formidable barrier had been set up to keep back the masses of people who wanted to catch a glimpse of royalty. When the prince arrived, he shook hands with some of the political dignitaries who were presented to him. Then, looking over their heads to the crowds beyond, he said, "Take down those barriers!" They were quickly removed, and all the people, regardless of social rank, had free access to the heir of the British empire. Some time later when the prince came to that district again, 10,000 outcasts waited under a banner inscribed with these words: "The Prince of the Outcasts."
Today we want to discuss another Prince of Outcasts, Jesus Christ. In His life and ministry on earth, He demonstrated the compassion of Jehovah God. We have been surveying the narratives where Jesus Christ has demonstrated the compassion of God for six messages. We have been studying the compassion of Jehovah God for 22 messages. Let's consider the narrative in the Bible where Jesus demonstrated God's compassion towards outcasts. This narrative is found in Matthew 20:29-34. Would you turn there with me please? Follow along in your Bible as I read this aloud for us.
(We have been using the narrative format that I devised to get the most out of explaining narratives. Let's consider this narrative with that format today.)
I. THE CIRCUMSTANCES (OR SETTING).
Jesus and His disciples were going out from Jericho with a great multitude following them as usual. Jesus often ministered to the multitude and many of the events of His life happened within the context of ministering to the multitude.
At this point I simply want to ask, "Does ministering to people constitute your life? What is the most repeated activity in your life? What do you do in your life more than anything else?"
(We know the circumstances, so let's consider:)
II. THE CHARACTERS.
In a narrative, there is usually a protagonist, or hero, and an antagonist, or villain.
(Today, let's deal with the antagonist first.)
1. The Antagonist..
Where as the multitude in the narratives concerning the life of Jesus were often the object of His compassion, the multitude in this story are the antagonists. They are seen as the antagonists by their words and actions towards the two blind men. The multitude sternly told them to be quiet! They were not concerned with the pain, misery, or situation of the blind men. They had no apparent understanding of, feeling for, nor conscious desire to relieve them of their unfortunate situation. They were only concerned with what they could get from Jesus.
Isn't this illustrative of life? If you are looking for the multitude or the crowd to be sympathetic to your suffering, you are barking up the wrong tree! The crowd, group, or herd has no feeling. The herd mentality is to trample on anyone who would get in the way. This is what has been happening at recent rock concerts and rap concerts. The crowd does not stop to consider who is being trampled or crushed. They are out for themselves.
Teenagers you can run with the crowd, but the crowd will never be there for you when you are in trouble!!!
This is also true of modern religious people. We seem to be more concerned with what Jesus can do for us, than what we can do to demonstrate His compassion to hurting people!
(Let's move on and consider:)
2. The Protagonist.
The protagonist is Jesus Christ. He is portrayed as the protagonist by the direct description of the storyteller. The storyteller states that He is moved with compassion. We shall explore this in a moment.
He is portrayed as the protagonist by the response of the blind men to Him. When they found out that Jesus was passing by, they cried, "Lord, have mercy on us, Son of David!" The word "cried" is
cried 2896g krazo - to scream, cry out (20)
These men were in such pain about their condition that they were screaming out. Their cry was a cry of importunity, i.e. it was a pressing, persistent, bothersome plea! When you want somethings from God, you have to get serious. You have to call to Him like you mean it. We don't bother God enough, probably because we don't realize the seriousness of our situation.
But when you know your situation, and you know that Jesus is passing by:
Sometimes, we need to cry out, "Lord, Thou son of David, have mercy on us!" Sometimes, you have to get ugly when you are trying to get the Lord's attention!
Sometimes, you have to forget about where you are when you need to get in touch with the Lord.
Sometimes, you have to press God and worry Him!
Oh, I've had to call on Him before, "Lord, Thou son of David, have mercy on me!" I've been blind before and had to call on Him.
I've been blind as a husband at times, and had to call on Him.
I've been blind as a father at times, and had to call on Him.
I've been blind to seeing any friends at times, and had to call on Him.
I've been blind as a pastor at times, and had to call on Him.
I've been blind in my loneliness at times, and had to call on Him.
I've been blind in my anxiety at times, and had to call on Him.
I've been blind in my depression at times, and had to call on Him.
I've been blinded by sin at times, and had to call on Him.
I've said, "Lord!" "Loord!" "Looord." Thou son of David, have mercy on me!
Others may say, "Shhhh, we are the religious multitude and we don't act like that here. Shhhh, we are the priests and we are the elders and we won't stand for this. Sometimes our church is like that. We are so concerned with that which is proper and efficient that we have difficulty dealing with people who express real pain and real needs. Shhhh we are The House of the Lord and we don't get too emotional." But when you are in trouble, you cry out all the more, "Thou Son of David have mercy on me!!!"
I'm not advocating total emotionalism; I'm saying every now and then you ought to get in touch with your predicament and cry out to Jesus.
PASS ME NOT, O GENTLE SAVIOR
There once was a blind lady that turned a tragedy at six weeks of age into a triumph of a life time. She overcame a terrible, personal adversity, and contributed a life of power and purpose to the world. Fanny Jane Crosby was a little baby girl of six weeks, in May, 1820, when she caught a common cold. A country doctor of Putnam County, New York, unknowingly prescribed a hot mustard ointment. She was blinded for life! At the age of five, sympathetic neighbors and friends pooled their money and sent her to a noted New York surgeon, Dr. Valentine Mott. After a careful examination, the specialist said sadly, that there was nothing he could do. Looking toward her, he said, "Poor little blind girl!" Fanny Crosby always remembered these words and turned the sympathetic remark of a kindly physician into the purposeful pattern of a truly remarkable personality.
If ever a hymn writer used a theme which was indicative of his or her life, it was the blind, indefatigable hymn writer, Fanny Jane Crosby who wrote, in 1868,
Pass me not, O Gentle Savior -- Hear my humble cry!
While on others Thou art calling, Do not pass me by.
Savior, Savior, Hear my humble cry!
While on others Thou art calling, Do not pass me by.
It is also important to point out that they were screaming to Jesus for mercy.
mercy 1653g eleeo - to have pity or mercy on, to show mercy (32)
They were not confused as to the true source of mercy. You can cry to your wife, your husband, your children, your mother, your father, your friend, your pastor, your lover, and even they are unmerciful at times, but Jesus represents the Father of mercies: Jehovah God!
Jesus is also portrayed as the protagonist by His words, "What do you want me to do for you?" His words were words of concern, not rebuke.
Finally, He is portrayed as the protagonist by His actions:
He called them;
He asked them a question;
He touched their eyes;
He gave them their sight.
Five actions, with five representing the number of grace.
(We already know what Jesus did, but it is the conflict or plot that makes it exciting again.)
III. THE CONFLICT (ACTION OR PLOT).
The plot revolves around a somewhat hidden character conflict. That conflict is between Jesus and the multitude. The foil that heightens what is most important in this story is the multitude. There is a definite difference in how the multitude treated these two blind men and how Jesus treated them. The multitude ignored them, but Jesus took notice of them; the multitude spoke sternly to them, but Jesus spoke to them with concern; the multitude walked past them, but Jesus stopped; the multitude tried to quiet them, but Jesus asked them what they wanted.
These two men knew what they wanted from Jesus. They spoke without hesitation,
"Lord, we want our eyes to be opened."
Only Jesus could restore sight to the blind!!! Only Jesus was concerned about the blind. It was His calling and ministry to give sight to the blind.
The test motif is also very prominent here. What kind of choice will Jesus make? Will He heed the multitude or will He take time to minister to two screaming blind men? Christ's choice to minister is heroic and instructive of who He really is.
What would you do? Would you look like a fool by stopping to deal with two people who were screaming like fools, or would you keep going and look good in the eyes of the multitude?
Many around us need sight. What will we do?
If you go back one verse, you will notice that Jesus had just finished teaching His disciples that He had not come to be served, but to serve and give His life a ransom for many. It seems that no sooner had He finished talking, they were faced with a life situation He could use to demonstrate His teaching.
There is also an implied lesson here concerning the priorities of ministry. The priority is individual souls over the multitude. One-on-one ministry over group ministry. Preaching, teaching, or leading groups may be our gift, but ministering to people in personal situations must be our passion!!!
That is the way I try to minister. I preach to the multitudes, but I minister to individuals. I take as much time as I can before service, after service, in the office, at home, on vacation, etc., ministering to individuals. The person that is standing or sitting before me has my undivided attention for that moment!
CARING FOR INDIVIDUALS
The Ram's Horn was a quaint newspaper whose epigrams made religious history in the 1890's. It once recounted that in her efforts to free slaves, Julia Ward Howe asked a United States senator to help liberate a Black man from a desperate situation. The legislator exclaimed, "Madam, I'm so busy with plans for the benefit of the whole race that I have no time to help individuals!" Angered by his lack of compassion, Mrs. Howe replied, "I'm glad our Lord never displayed such a calloused attitude!"
We cannot use public ministry as an excuse for not ministering to the individuals that God puts in our lives.
There is also a spiritual conflict here. The spiritual conflict is between ministry and people; ministry or agendas; ministry or busyness. This generation has substituted busyness for worship and ministry. God does not want us busy, He wants us worshipping and ministering effectively. Effectiveness is more important than efficiency in God's economy. Although being able to achieve both is better yet.
(Let's move on to:)
IV. THE CLIMAX OR CULMINATION.
Jesus was moved with compassion.
felt compassion 4697 splagchnizomai "to have the bowels yearn," "to be moved in the inward parts," "to feel compassion."
splagchnizomai is from
4698 splagchnon "an intestine."
splagchnon "b. the bowels were regarded by the Hebrews as the seat of the tenderer affections, especially kindness, benevolence, compassion; hence equivalent to our heart, [tender mercies, affections, etc.]."
compassion splagchna "The verb gives the oriental idea of the bowels as the seat of compassion."
Compassion is "a deep feeling for and an understanding of suffering with an accompanying desire to relieve that suffering" (Webster's Third New International Dictionary). Jesus was deeply moved with compassion towards these two blind men. He had a deep feeling for and an understanding of the misery of their blindness. You are saying, "How could He?" Because He had experienced blindness in the timeless event of His crucifixion! He was slain from the foundation of the world. He has always known what it is like to be blind. When He was on the cross darkness was drawn around Him. He had experienced the blindness of darkness so thick that it could be felt. He could relate to these two blind men!
But notice that the compassion of Jesus drove Him to also relieve their misery through healing. Although compassion is a feeling word, it is also an action word. Compassion is more than understanding of and feeling for the pain of another, it is the volitional, conscious desire to relieve that pain. Our calling is to relate to suffering and to relieve it through the spiritual resources that God has given to us. What resources are those? The Word of God, The Spirit of God, and the Community of God!
This is an encounter story. The two blind men were about to have a life-changing encounter with the giver of sight, who is also the giver of eternal life. Everyone, to enter heaven, must have an encounter with Jesus Christ. It doesn't have to be as unusual as the one before us, but it must be a significant emotional event of trust in one's life, based on a correct understanding of the Word of God, with the proper corresponding emotions. It must be as the song says:
I never shall forget that day.
Yes, my Lord.
When Jesus washed my sins away.
Yes, my Lord.
The story makes an assertion about priorities in life, as well as what really matters in life. The choice is between travel in ministry, the whims of the multitude, or compassion to individuals. Jesus, presumably, was traveling to another destination, but He stopped to minister to these two blind men. Will we do the same? The multitude were not concerned about the two blind men, but Jesus was. Are we concerned about individuals? Compassion to individuals is always what is most important in Spirit-controlled ministry.
This narrative highlights the fact, once again, that compassion is a very important value of ministry and of life. If we are going to cultivate any one quality of life, certainly compassion is an important one to consider.
In interpreting narratives, it is important to consider every detail and reflect on how the story is affected by the inclusion of a detail as compared with the effect if the detail were omitted. The detail that grabbed my attention is Jesus touching the eyes of these blind men.
touched 681 hapto - to fasten to, lay hold of (19)
I asked myself, "Could Jesus have healed their eyes without touching them?" The answer is definitely, "Yes!" Then why did He touch them? I can come up with no better answer than love, compassion, and the personal touch!!! Ministry is made real and compassionate by the personal touch. I believe the reason so many people want to deal with me is the personal touch I try to give them. I try to touch them spiritually, intellectually, emotionally, socially and physically. The personal touch requires going out my way to share myself with a person. Doesn't Jesus require this of all of us?
Not only did He touch them, He healed them.
There is healing in salvation and this kind of healing often results in salvation and discipleship. They followed Him.
When we are moved with compassion towards needy people who are outcasts or embarrassing, and seek to relate to them and relieve them of their suffering, God will often save them and make them His disciples. This imitates Jesus and gives glory to God. Therefore, we must seek to display Spirit-controlled compassion towards those who are unliked, embarrassing, or persecuted.
(Now is the day of Salvation. Come to Jesus, now!)
Call to Discipleship
 Joseph Henry Thayer, A Greek-English Lexicon Of The New Testament, Zondervan Publishing House, Grand Rapids, Michigan, Nineteenth Zondervan Printing 1978, pp. 584-585.