“Emmanuel’s Compassion” – Matthew 15:29-39

December 13th, 2015

Matthew 15:29-39 (Mk 7:31-8:10)

“Emmanuel’s Compassion” (“more food for more dogs”)

 

Service Orientation: Jesus tells us to love our enemies.  How does one do that?

 

Bible Memory Verse for the Week:  But love your enemies, do good to them, and lend to them without expecting to get anything back. Then your reward will be great, and you will be sons of the Most High, because he is kind to the ungrateful and wicked.   — Luke 6:35

 

Background Information:

  • Here the narrative closely echoes 14:19-21. The word for “sitting” is different, but its usage has the same connotation of reclining for a festive or grand occasion (see on 14:19).  (R.T. France, The New International Commentary on the NT: Matthew, 602)
  • If Jesus’ aphorism about the children and the dogs merely reveals priority in feeding, then it is hard to resist the conclusion that in the feeding of the four thousand Jesus is showing that blessing for the Gentiles is beginning to dawn. (Frank E. Gæbelein, The Expositor’s Bible Commentary: Vol. 8, 357)
  • (v. 29) The name Decapolis (Mk 7:31) means “ten cities” (there were actually fourteen in the district). These cities are said to have been colonized by veterans of the army of Alexander the Great and formed into a confederacy by the Roman general Pompey, so the population of the area was largely Gentile.  There were Jews living in the district, but their religious ardor had been cooled by their daily contact with the heathen inhabitants.  (John Phillips, Exploring the Gospels: Matthew, 313-4)
  • (v. 30) This list of healings would have reminded Matthew’s readers of Isaiah 35:5-6. . . . Matthew was showing his Jewish readers that the Gentiles would share with the Jews in the blessings of their Messiah. (Bruce Barton, Life Application Bible Commentary: Matthew, 312)
  • (v. 31) The phrase “and they praised the God of Israel” indicates that this was a Gentile crowd. While Jesus came to the lost sheep of Israel (15:24), he did not restrict his ministry to the Jews alone.  (Bruce Barton, Life Application Bible Commentary: Matthew, 312)
  • (v. 31) Knowing that their pagan gods could not perform such marvels, and would not have been inclined to perform them if they could, the people from Decapolis glorified the God of Israel. (John MacArthur, The MacArthur NT Commentary: Matthew 8-15, 478)
  • (v. 33) Although the disciples had seen Jesus feed five thousand people, they had no idea what he would do in this situation. Perhaps they didn’t expect Jesus to perform the same miracle when the crowd was Gentile and not Jewish (thus revealing their spiritual blindness).  (Bruce Barton, Life Application Bible Commentary: Matthew, 313)
  • (v. 33) You can almost picture the disciples asking, “Would Jesus perform the same miracle among a Gentile crowd that He performed among the Jewish people?” This mind-set was evident after Jesus’ resurrection in Peter’s vision in Acts 10:9-15.  (David Platt, Christ-Centered Exposition: Exalting Jesus in Matthew, 208)
  • (v. 36) The verbs for Jesus giving the bread and the disciples’ distribution could read, “Jesus kept on giving bread to the disciples, and they kept on distributing it” to the crowd.  (Bruce Barton, Life Application Bible Commentary: Matthew, 314)
  • (v. 37) The Greek word for “basketfuls” provides an interesting twist on this story. In the feeding of the five thousand, there were twelve baskets of leftovers, and the “baskets” were kophinon, large baskets.  After the feeding of the four thousand, there were seven baskets of leftovers, and the “baskets” were different; these were spuris–baskets that were large enough to hold a person.  (Paul was let down over the Damascus wall in a spuris–Acts 9:25).  (Bruce Barton, Life Application Bible Commentary: Matthew, 315)
  • (v. 37) The baskets in one case were Jewish food-baskets, in the other case Gentile hampers. (J. Oswald Sanders, Bible Studies in Matthew’s Gospel, 89)
  • (v. 37) This careful discrimination between the Hebrew lunch basket and the Gentile merchant’s hamper is significant because it supports the view that the feeding of the four thousand was a miracle performed for Gentiles rather than Jews. The sandglass of opportunity for the Jews was fast running out.  (John Phillips, Exploring the Gospels: Matthew, 315-6)
  • (v. 39) Jesus and the disciples once again got into the boat and sailed to the vicinity of Magadan (called Dalmanutha in Mark), a town located on the western shore of the Sea of Galilee. This meant a return back to Jewish territory.  There Jesus would face further conflict with the Pharisees and Sadducees (16:1-4).  Magadan was Mary Magdalene’s hometown (Lk 8:2-3).  (Bruce Barton, Life Application Bible Commentary: Matthew, 315)
  • When does God abolish the dietary laws for Jewish Christians? The moment God removes the barrier between the Jews and the Gentile, the validity of the food law ceases.  Abolition of these laws mean that Jewish and Gentile Christians enter into a new relationship and accept one another as equals in the church.  God himself removes the barrier, for he is the lawmaker. (Simon Kistemarker; NT Commentary: Acts, 380)
  • All the old Mosaic regulations were to make Israel a separate people and to prevent their intermingling with the pagans who surrounded them. They all served to preserve Israel and its treasured promises lest these latter be dissipated and lost.  This was done, of course, in the interest of Israel but equally in the interest of the Gentile world, for the preservation was made for the sake of the human race.  After the fulfillment had been wrought through Christ, its blessings were to go out to all nations.  Israel’s separation had served it’s purpose.  The veil of the temple was rent.  “The middle wall of partition” had been broken down, Eph 2:14; now there was “neither Jew nor Greek,” Gal 3:28; the old had decayed and vanished, the new had come in Christ, Heb. 8:13 (R. C. H. Lenski, The Interpretation of the Acts of the Apostles, 404)

 

God’s wrath is the antisepsis by which moral putrefaction is checked and the health of the creation maintained.  When God warns of His impending wrath and exhorts men to repent and avoid it He puts it in a language they can understand:  He tells them to “flee from the wrath to come.”  He says in effect, “Your life is evil, and because it is evil you are an enemy to the moral health of My creation.  I must extirpate whatever would destroy the world I love.  Turn from evil before I rise up in wrath against you.  I love you, but I hate the sin you love.  Separate yourself from your evil ways before I send judgment upon you.”

“O Lord,…in wrath remember mercy” (Hb 3:2).  (A.W. Tozer, Man: The Dwelling Place of God, 111)

 

The questions to be answered are . . . How can this text assist us to understand better the heart and Spirit of Jesus who was able to love His enemies?

 

Answer:  Jesus, as God, cares deeply for His creation.   He understands how screwed up man, the pinnacle of His creation is; and because God is so loving and good, there is nothing of ego, pride, vindictiveness or selfishness in His actions.  Jesus is pure, unadulterated love.   And we, created in God’s likeness and image, should be loving as well.

 

The whole point of Christianity is to make the right sort of enemies.  —Stanley Hauweraus  (Ken Meyers, Mars  Mars Hill Audio, Vol. 105, Track 4)

 

And though we must be extremely patient, eventually, aid must be withdrawn if it is abused.

We see then that mercy ministry operates on the same basis as evangelism.  Initially, we offer the gospel to anyone and everyone, as we have opportunity and resources to reach them.  “Whosoever will”!  We do not wait for them to come to us.  But, if eventually a person or a group evidences a rebellious and disrespectful attitude toward the gospel, we withdraw.  Continued pressure only hardens them and dishonors the message.  (Timothy J. Keller, Ministries of Mercy, 97)

 

(Heidelberg Catechism) 107 Q.  Is it enough then that we do not kill our neighbor in any such way?

  1. No. By condemning envy, hatred, and anger God tells us to love our neighbor as ourselves (Mt 7:12; 22:39; Rom 12:10), to be patient, peace-loving, gentle, merciful, and friendly to them (Mt 5:3-12; Lk 6:36; Rom 12:10, 18; Gal 6:1-2; Eph 4:2; Col 3:12; 1 Pt 3:8), to protect them from harm as much as we can, and to do good even to our enemies (Ex 23:4-5; Mt 5:44-45; Rom 12:20-21; Prv 25:21-22).

 

The Word for the Day is . . . Love

 

Neither the “liberal” approach (no conditions on aid to the needy) nor the “conservative” approach (only help the deserving poor) understand grace.  Instead, our mercy ministry must help people freely, yet aim to bring their whole lives under the healing lordship of Christ.  Mercy is kingdom endeavor.  (Timothy J. Keller, Ministries of Mercy, 227)

 

Three questions we need to ask to better understand the heart and Spirit of Jesus:

I-  Why does Matthew go to the trouble to repeat the miracles that Jesus has already performed?  (Mt 15:30-38; see also: Mk 7:33-8:9)

 

He never complained of crowds or throngs of seekers, or looked with contempt upon the vulgar, the herd, as they are called; for the souls of peasants are as precious with him as the souls of princes.  (Matthew Henry’s Commentary on the Whole Bible: Vol. V, 222)

 

Gentiles increasingly become the focus of Jesus’ ministry now that the religious leadership is working to turn the people away from him.  As Israel rejects the kingdom, Gentiles frequently come into view as recipients of his message and healing.  (Michael J. Wilkins, The NIV Application Commentary: Matthew, 541)

 

Gentile “dogs”!  Yes.  But in spite of their being Gentiles: (1) these people were healed just as the Jews had been (vv. 29-31), (2) they were fed just as the Jews had been (vv. 32-37), and (3) the disciples were used to serve them just as they had been used to serve the Jewish gathering (vv. 36-37).  What better way to teach that Gentiles are as important to God as Jews and that Christianity is a worldwide religion.  (James Montgomery Boice, The Gospel of Matthew, Vol. 1, 292-3)

 

The crowds would be with Jesus in the morning hours and also in the afternoon.  When it became time to go home they, instead, would stay on.  Evidently they did not wish to miss out on any of Christ’s marvelous deeds.  They were still there the next day, and even the next.  Finally their food supply had dwindled down to nothing.  If under these circumstances they should be dismissed they might well collapse on the way, so the Lord informs his disciples.  This must not happen.  (William Hendriksen, NT Commentary: Matthew, 629)

 

II-  What is the significance in the twice repeated use of “seven” and that there were four thousand?  (Mt 15:34, 36-37; see also: Mk 8:9)

 

I think Matthew was saying:  when the 5,000 Jews were fed and there were twelve baskets left, it was emblematic of God’s full provision for the twelve tribes of Israel.  And when the 4,000 Gentiles were fed and there were seven large baskets of leftovers, it symbolized the completion and fullness of Christ’s mission, the overabundance of God’s love and mercy in the gospel of our Lord Jesus Christ that extends still today throughout the world to every tongue and tribe and nation.  (Douglas Sean O’Donnell, Preaching the Word: Matthew, 431)

 

In the Bible, the number seven often signifies perfection or completeness, as in the seven days of creation (Genesis 1) and forgiving seven times (Mt 18:21).  Yet the numbers seven and seventy were also associated with Gentiles.  In Jewish tradition, Gentile nations numbered seventy (from Gn 10:1-32), and Gentiles were sometimes said to be bound, not by the Israelite covenant, but by God’s covenant with Noah that was said to have seven commandments (Gn 9:1-17).  In Acts 6:1-7, seven leaders were chosen to minister to the Greek-speaking Christians.  Thus, in this passage some have seen the number seven to have symbolic significance.  It may hint at the worldwide scope of Jesus’ message.  (Bruce Barton, Life Application Bible Commentary: Matthew, 314)

 

Four represents . . . “God’s created works, especially works associated with the earth” (The Significance of Numbers in Scripture) (Four directions NSEW, four corners of the earth, four seasons, four rivers out of Eden, etc.)

 

In Scripture the number “seven” often signifies perfection or completeness, as in the seven days of creation (Genesis 1, 2).  Further the numbers “seven” and “seventy” are also representative of the Gentile population (according to the list of nations provided in Genesis 10 there are or were “seventy” nations in the world).  (Douglas Sean O’Donnell, Preaching the Word: Matthew, 431)

 

III-  What clues do we get from Jesus on how we show compassion and love to those who are supposed to be our enemies?  (Mt 15:30; see also: Mt 5:43-44; 15:22-28; 28:19; Mk 8:2; Lk 6:27-35; Jn 3:16; Acts 1:8; ch 10; Rom 5:8-10; 12:17-21; Rv 22:2)

 

The only true and enduring motivation for the ministry of mercy is an experience and a grasp of the grace of God in the gospel.  If we know we are sinners saved by grace alone, we will be both open and generous to the outcasts and the unlovely.  (Timothy J. Keller, Ministries of Mercy, 58)

 

Grace is God’s free and unmerited favor shown to guilty sinners who deserve only judgment.  It is the love of God shown to the unlovely.  It is God reaching downward to people who are in rebellion against him.  (Jerry Bridges; Transforming Grace; Living Confidently in God’s Unfailing Love, 21-2)

 

“You asked for a loving God:  You have one.  The great spirit you so lightly invoked, the “Lord of terrible aspect,” is present:  not a senile benevolence that drowsily wishes you to be happy in your own way, not the cold philanthropy of a conscientious magistrate, not the care of a host who feels responsible for the comfort of his guests, but the consuming fire Himself, the Love that made the worlds, persistent as the artist’s love for his work and despotic as a man’s love for a dog, provident and venerable as a father’s love for a child, jealous, inexorable, exacting as love between the sexes . . .  It is certainly a burden of glory not only beyond our deserts but also, except in rare moments of grace, beyond our desiring.”  (C. S. Lewis; The Problem of Pain, 46-7)

 

A-  Jesus sees everyone as God created them:  In His image/likeness.  If we show love for even the least of these, we do it for God.  (Mt 25:31-46)

 

“I really only love God as much as I love the person I love the least.”  —Dorothy Day  (Philip Yancey, What’s so Amazing About Grace?, 158)

 

I destroy my enemy by making him my friend.  — Abraham Lincoln

 

B-  Jesus sees everyone as depraved sinners in bondage to their corrupt, perverted and distorted minds in need of being liberated and restored.  (Mt 5:13; 7:7; 11:27-28; 15:14; 19:8; 21:33-41; 23:2-39; Mk 7:21-23; 10:18; Lk 11:13; 19:42; Jn 2:24-25; 3:18-19; 5:40-47; 7:7, 19; 8:21-23, 38, 44, 47; 10:26; 15:23-25; 1 Tm 1:13)

 

Remember, unsaved people are not the enemy.  They are victims of the enemy.

 

Let us, however, not forget that our souls are far more diseased than our bodies, and let us learn a lesson from the conduct of these people.  Our souls are afflicted with an illness far more deep-seated, far more complicated, far more hard to cure than any ailment that attacks the body.  They are in fact plague-stricken by sin. . . . For bodily health they crowd the waiting-rooms of doctors; for bodily health they take long journeys to find purer air; but for their souls’ health they take no thought at all.  Happy indeed is that man or woman who has found out his soul’s disease!  Such a person will never rest till he has found Jesus.  Troubles will seem nothing to him.  Life, life, eternal life is at stake!  He will “consider everything a loss” that he may gain Christ and be healed (Phil 3:8).  (J.C. Ryle, The Crossway Classic Commentaries: Matthew, 133)

 

Can you look beyond his or her behavior and get a glimpse of why he or she matters to God?  As Ralf Luther said, “To love one’s enemy does not mean to love the mire in which the pearl lies, but to love the pearl that lies in the mire.” (Lee Strobel; God’s Outrageous Claims, 22)

 

“How many of us have conflicts with someone else—and how many of us pray for that person?  We have individuals with whom we are competitive, or whom we dislike or have a quarrel with; but very few of us have true enemies in the martial sense.  And yet if Lincoln could pray fervently—and contemporary reports indicate he did—for the people who were opposing him, how much more can we do for someone we just find a little irritating?”  (John Wooden; A Game Plan for Life:  The Power of Mentoring)

 

If we could read the secret history of our enemies, we should find in each man’s life sorrow and suffering enough to disarm all hostility. — Henry Wadsworth Longfellow

 

Our Lord Jesus Christ, with all the concern, compassion and love which he showed to mankind, made some very vivid portrayals of man’s condition.  He did not mince words about the gravity of human sin.  He talked of man as salt that has lost its savor (Mt 5:13).  He talked of man as a corrupt tree which is bound to produce corrupt fruit (Mt 7:7).  He talked of man as being evil:  “You, being evil, know how to give good things to your children” (Lk 11:13).  On one occasion he lifted up his eyes toward heaven and talked about an “evil and adulterous generation” (v. 45).  In a great passage dealing with what constitutes true impurity and true purity he made the startling statement that out of the heart proceed murders, adulteries, evil thoughts and things of that kind (Mk 7:21-23).  He spoke about Moses having to give special permissive commandments to men because of the hardness of their hearts (Mt 19:8).  When the rich young ruler approached him, saying, “Good Master,” Jesus said, “there is none good but God” (Mk 10:18)…

Jesus compared men, even the leaders of his country, to wicked servants in a vineyard (Mt 21:33-41).  He exploded in condemnation of the scribes and Pharisees, who were considered to be among the best men, men who were in the upper ranges of virtue and in the upper classes of society (Mt 23:2-39).

The Lord Jesus made a fundamental statement about man’s depravity in Jn 3:6: “That which is born of the flesh is flesh.”  He saw in man an unwillingness to respond to grace–“You will not come to God” (Jn 5:40), “You have not the love of God” (v. 42), “You receive me not” (v. 43), “You believe not” (v. 47).  Such sayings occur repeatedly in the Gospel of John.  “The world’s works are evil” (Jn 7:7); “None of you keeps the law” (v. 19).  “You shall die in your sins,” he says (Jn 8:21).  “You are from beneath” (v. 23); “Your father is the devil, who is a murderer and a liar” (vv. 38, 44); “You are not of God” (v. 47); “You are not of my sheep” (Jn 10:26); “He that hates me hates my Father” (Jn 15:23-25).  This is the way in which our Lord spoke to the leaders of the Jews.  He brought to the fore their utter inability to please God.

Following another line of approach he showed also the blindness of man, that is, his utter inability to know God and understand him.  Here again we have a whole series of passages showing that no man knows the Father but him to whom the Son has revealed him (Mt 11:27).  He compared men to the blind leading the blind (Mt 15:14).  He mentioned that Jerusalem itself did not know or understand the purpose of God and, as a result, disregarded the things that concern salvation (Lk 19:42).  The Gospel of John records him as saying that he that believed not was condemned already because he had not believed on the Son of God (Jn 3:18).  “This is the condemnation, that…men loved the darkness rather than light, because their deeds were evil” (v. 19).  He said that only the one who has been reached by grace can walk not in darkness but have the light of life (Jn 8:12).  The Lord Jesus emphasized that it is essential for man to be saved by a mighty act of God if he is to be rescued from his condition of misery (Jn 3:3, 5, 7-16).  Even in the Lord’s Prayer the Lord teaches us to say, “Forgive us our debts” (Mt 6:12).  And this is a prayer that we need to repeat again and again.  He said, “The sick are the people who need a physician” (Mt 9:12).  We are those sick people who need a physician to help us and redeem us.  He said that we are people who are burdened and heavy-laden (Mt 11:28)…

The people who were most readily received by the Lord were those who had this sense of need and who therefore did not come to him with a sense of the sufficiency of their performance.  The people he received were those who came broken-hearted and bruised with the sense of their inadequacy.  (Roger R. Nicole, “The Doctrines of Grace in Jesus’ Teaching”)

 

C-  Jesus is willing to work with anyone who is humble and willing to repent.  (Ps 86:15; 103:8; 145:8-9; 146:9; Isa 27:11; 30:18; 63:10; Jer 15:6; Lam 3:22; Joel 2:13; Jon 3:9-10; 4:2)

 

“Truly it is an evil to be full of faults,” said Pascal, “but it is a still greater evil to be full of them, and to be unwilling to recognize them.”  (Philip Yancey; What’s so Amazing About Grace?,  181)

 

The gospel is not at all what we would come up with on our own.  I, for one, would expect to honor the virtuous over the profligate.  I would expect to have to clean up my act before even applying for an audience with a Holy God.  But Jesus told of God ignoring a fancy religious teacher and turning instead to an ordinary sinner who pleads, “God, have mercy.”  Throughout the Bible, in fact, God shows a marked preference for “real” people over “good” people.  In Jesus’ own words, “There will be more rejoicing in heaven over one sinner who repents than over ninety-nine righteous persons who do not need to repent.”  (Philip Yancey, What’s so Amazing About Grace?,  54)

 

The wonder of these Gentiles was greater than the wonder of the Jews, whose awe was often tempered by spiritual pride and skepticism.  When the crowd at Decapolis saw the perfection of the healings, they knew the power behind them was divine–in great contrast to the Pharisees who charged Jesus with casting out demons by Satan’s power (Mt 12:24).  (John MacArthur, The MacArthur NT Commentary: Matthew 8-15, 478)

 

D-  Jesus suffered so he could/would have an existential motivation to relieve suffering.  (2 Cor 1:3-11; Phil 2:1-11; Heb 4:15; 5:2, 8)

 

Bitterness is the most visible symptom of the stronghold of cold love.  To deal with cold love, we must repent and forgive the one who hurt us.  Painful experiences are allowed by God to teach us how to love our enemies.  If we still have unforgiveness toward someone, we have failed this test.  Fortunately, it was just a test, not a final exam.  We actually need to thank God for the opportunity to grow in divine love.  Thank Him that your whole life is not being swallowed up in bitterness and resentment.  Millions of souls are swept off into eternal judgment every day without any hope of escaping from embitterment, but you have been given God’s answer for your pain.  God gives you a way out: love!   (Francis Frangipane, The Three Battlegrounds, 68-9)

 

“Anyone who has gone through great suffering is bound to have a greater sympathy and understanding of the problems of mankind.”  — Eleanor Roosevelt

 

“Trials make room for consolation. There is nothing that makes man have a big heart like a great trial. I have found that those people who have no sympathy for their fellows, who never weep for the sorrows of others very seldom have any of their own. Great hearts could be made only by great troubles.” — Charles Spurgeon

 

“Sympathy is a shallow stream in the souls of those who have not suffered.”— William E. Sangster

 

“There is no learning sympathy except by suffering.  It cannot be studied in a book, it must be written on the heart.  You must go through the fire if you would have sympathy with others who tread the glowing coals.  You must yourself bear the cross if you would feel for those whose life is a burden to them.”  — Charles Spurgeon

 

Anyone God uses significantly is always deeply wounded.  (Brennan Manning, Ruthless Trust, 48)

 

Have you ever noticed the way suffering helps us become less self-absorbed?  A little suffering can produce a lot of compassion.  And that is what happened to Joseph.  God turned a dungeon into a classroom where Joseph learned some lessons in empathy and sympathy.  He got an education in emotional intelligence.  (Mark Batterson, Primal, A Quest for the Lost Soul of Christianity, 24)

 

Sympathy is derived from two Greek words, syn which means together with, and paschein which means to experience or to suffer.  Sympathy means experiencing things together with the other person, literally going through what he is going through.  (William Barclay, The Daily Study Bible Series: Gospel of Matthew, 103)

 

“It is Christlike work to soothe and sympathize, and only those who have drunk the cup of sorrow are fully equipped to do it.”  — William E. Sangster

 

E-  Jesus was loving and humble and had no ego that prevented him from offering help or assistance.  (Phil 2:1-11)

 

Paul insists that welcoming one’s theological “enemies” is theologically mandated by the work of God in Christ, which reconciled all of humanity while we were enemies of God (5:10).  In imitation of God (14:3) and Christ (15:7), therefore, the Roman Christians are to welcome their neighbors with whom they disagree.  (A. Katherine Grieb, The Story of Romans, 15)

 

Power destroys relationships.  Lifelong friends can turn into mortal enemies the moment the vice-presidency of the company is at stake.  Climb, push, shove is the language of power.  Nothing cuts us off from each other like power…Power’s ability to destroy human relationship is written across the face of humanity.  (Richard Foster; Money, Sex, and Power)

 

God’s purposes can never be accomplished if we react to our own pain by inflicting pain on others.  Nor can we continue growing as the people of God if we seek vengeance on others.  That spoils our reconciliation, not only with them, but also with God and with ourselves.  To curse our persecutors is surely always more destructive to us than to them.  (Marva J. Dawn, Truly the Community:  Romans 12, 229)

 

Rom 12:20 – Prv 25:21-22   This may refer to an Egyptian tradition of carrying a pan of burning charcoal on one’s head as a public act of repentance.  By referring to this proverb, Paul was saying that we should treat our enemies with kindness so that they will become ashamed and turn from their sins.  The best way to get rid of enemies is to turn them into friends. (Life Application Study Bible, Tyndale Publishers, 2051)

 

F-  Jesus came to seek and save that which is lost.  And one of the great things lost in the Fall was the Spirit of God in us that needs to be present in order for God’s will to be done on earth as it is in heaven.    (Lk ch 15; 19:10)

 

Now we are in a position to see why Jesus (and Isaiah, James, John, and Paul) can use the ministry of mercy as a way to judge between true and false Christianity.  A merely religious person, who believes God will favor him because of his morality and respectability, will ordinarily have contempt for the outcast.  “I worked hard to get where I am, and so can anyone else!”  That is the language of the moralist’s heart.  “I am only where I am by the sheer and unmerited mercy of God.  I am completely equal with all other people.”  That is the language of the Christian’s heart.  (Timothy J. Keller, Ministries of Mercy, 61)

 

At first thought it would seem that hidden service is only for the sake of the person served.  Such is not the case.  Hidden, anonymous ministries affect even people who know nothing of them.  They sense a deeper love and compassion among people though they cannot account for the feeling.  If a secret service is done on their behalf, they are inspired to deeper devotion, for they know that the well of service is far deeper than they can see.  It is a ministry that can be engaged in frequently by all people.  It sends ripples of joy and celebration through any community of people.  (Richard J. Foster, Celebration of Discipline, 134)

 

Psalm 41:1 pronounces “blessed” the man who “considers” the poor.  The latter word means careful thinking toward a practical program of action.  God is not interested in mere relief, but restoration.  Education, job training, capital for beginning a business–all of these are necessary to develop the poor.  (Timothy J. Keller, Ministries of Mercy, 180)

 

The only true and enduring motivation for the ministry of mercy is an experience and a grasp of the grace of God in the gospel.  If we know we are sinners saved by grace alone, we will be both open and generous to the outcasts and the unlovely.  (Timothy J. Keller, Ministries of Mercy, 58)

 

As Edmund Clowney has put it, “God requires the love that cannot be required.”  Mercy is commanded, but it must not be the response to a command, it is an overflowing generosity as a response to the mercy of God which we received.  (Timothy J. Keller, Ministries of Mercy, 62)

 

When the person in need is acting irresponsibly, and your continued aid would only shield him from the consequences of his own behavior, then it is not longer loving or merciful to continue support.  (Timothy J. Keller, Ministries of Mercy, 228)

 

G-  Jesus never worried about short-sheeting himself by doing good.  He trusted God to supply all His needs.  He only needed to do what God desired.  (Mal 3:8-12; Mt 6:19-34; Jn 4:32-34; 2 Cor 9:6, 8-9; Phil 4:19).

 

The difference between the Christian and the non-Christian is a trust in God for material provision.  “Whoever sows sparingly will also reap sparingly, and whoever sows generously will also reap generously…And God is able to make all grace abound to you, so that in all things at all times, having all that you need, you will abound in every good work.  As it is written:  “He has scattered abroad his gifts to the poor; his righteousness endures forever.”  (2 Cor 9:6, 8-9).  (Timothy J. Keller, Ministries of Mercy, 71-2)

 

H-  Jesus knows that heaven is His home and He is only an alien and stranger here on planet earth.    (Heb 10:34; 11:8-10, 39-40; Jam 5:11; )

 

I-  Jesus knows that it is hardship, and not peace and prosperity that develops godly character.  (Gn 50:20; Rom 5:1-5; 8:28-30; Jam 1:2-4)

 

Love in response to goodness is not love at all but really reward.  You can really never know if you have been loved until you are unlovable.  Love is a choice of loving in spite of behavior or circumstances.

Mercy earned is not mercy.  Love earned is not love.  Compassion for a wage is not compassion, it is a prostitution of the Father’s Character.  — Steve Brown

 

If there were no suffering, would there be compassion?  If there were no discipline and hardship, would we ever learn patience and endurance?  Construct a universe with no trouble in it and immediately you banish some of the finest qualities in the world.”  — James Stewart

 

How does God produce the fruit of the Spirit in our lives?  By putting us in the exact opposite circumstances so we have a choice to make!  God teaches us how to really love by putting us around unlovable people.  (It doesn’t require any character to love people who have it all together.)  He teaches us joy in times of sorrow.  (Joy is internal.  Happiness depends on what’s happening, but joy is independent of circumstances.)  He develops peace within us by placing us in the midst of chaos so we can learn to trust him. (It doesn’t require character to be at peace when everything is going your way.)  (Rick Warren; The Purpose Driven Church, 361)

 

Worship Point:  Worship the loving, forgiving, compassionate, merciful God who saves you from yourself, the Devil,  and this world even though you are sinful, wicked, repulsive, obnoxious and an enemy of His.

 

The better that Christians come to know the weaknesses of the disciples, the more they can see that God has freely chosen them, also.  God’s grace can overcome any human trait that can mar believers’ effectiveness–even the sin that so horribly corrupts them.  Believers who are aware of their unworthiness to merit God’s mercy and love are in the best position to experience what he can do for them and through them.  (Bruce B. Barton, D.Min., Life Application Bible Commentary: Luke, 144)

 

Their worship was Jesus’ supreme goal.  He had unqualified compassion to heal their broken bodies and to fill their empty stomachs.  But He was infinitely more concerned that, through their trust in Him as Lord and Savior, He could also save their souls from eternal damnation and make them citizens of His heavenly kingdom.  (John MacArthur, The MacArthur NT Commentary: Matthew 8-15, 481)

 

Gospel Application:  The Gospel is for everyone no matter how sinful, wicked or lost.   You simply need to see your need for Jesus, repent and ask Him to save you from yourself and your screwed up world-view and help you to love.

 

Benevolence is the gauge of a righteous heart.  — Steve Brown

 

When there is no enemy within, the enemies outside cannot hurt you.  —African Proverb

 

Do not say, “That person will never come to faith” or “That one is too far gone to believe.”  You do not know that, and it is often the most unlikely persons who come.  Who would have expected Saul, that first great persecutor of the Christians, to be converted?  Yet he became the great missionary to the Gentiles.  John Newton, the converted slave trader, said on one occasion, “I have never despaired of any man since God saved me.”  (James Montgomery Boice, The Gospel of Matthew, Vol. 1, 293)

 

Here the old “rightness” was very simple.  It was really just another application of the lex talionis.  They seek our destruction, so we seek theirs in the same way.  They hate us, so we hate them.  It is only right to do so (Mt 5:43).

Jesus, on the other hand, tells us to love our enemies and to carry that love through with the highest act of love, prayer.  “Love your enemies and pray for those persecuting you.  In this way you take on the nature of your Father, the one in the heavens, who routinely gives good things, such as sunshine and rain, to both the evil and the good, to those who are godly and those who spit in his face” (Mt 5:44-45).

Loving those who love us and lavishing care and honor on those of our own group is something that traitorous oppressors, the Mafia, and terrorists do.  How, then, could that serve to distinguish the goodness of someone born into God’s family or the presence of a different kind of reality and life?  (Dallas Willard, The Divine Conspiracy, 181-2)

 

Mercy to the full range of human needs is such an essential mark of being a Christian that it can be used as a test of true faith.  Mercy is not optional or an addition to being a Christian.  Rather, a life poured out in deeds of mercy is the inevitable sign of true faith.  (Timothy J. Keller, Ministries of Mercy, 35)

 

As the Jewish philosopher Hannah Arendt said, the only remedy for the inevitability of history is forgiveness; otherwise, we remain trapped in the “predicament of irreversibility.”

Not to forgive imprisons me in the past and locks out all potential for change.  I thus yield control to another, my enemy, and doom myself to suffer the consequences of the wrong.  I once heard an immigrant rabbi make an astonishing statement.  “Before coming to America, I had to forgive Adolf Hitler,” he said.   “I did not want to bring Hitler inside me to my new country.”     (Philip Yancey; What’s so Amazing About Grace?,  99)

 

“The Kingdom is to be in the midst of your enemies.  And he who will not suffer this does not want to be of the Kingdom of Christ; he wants to be among friends, to sit among roses and lilies, not with the bad people but the devout people.  O you blasphemers and betrayers of Christ!  If Christ had done what you are doing who would ever have been spared?”  —Martin Luther  (Dietrich Bonhoeffer, Life Together, 17-8)

 

Let’s check the “fruit of the Spirit” in our lives:

 

• When you find that you are feeling more love for unlovely people, people you don’t particularly like, it is the work of the Holy Spirit.

• When you find that there is a sense of joy about your life, without necessarily a change in your circumstances, know that the Holy Spirit has been at work.

• When you find moments of peace that circumstances can’t destroy, you’re not going crazy, it is our Lord, the Holy Spirit.

• When you find yourself being patient in areas where before you would have been quick-tempered and angry, you will know that the Holy Spirit has been doing His work.

• When you find yourself kinder than you have been before, maybe even in the face of people who aren’t kind to you, that is the Holy Spirit doing what He does.

• When you notice that you are better than you were before, doing right things just because they are the right things to do–balancing your actions, not against the bottom line, but against God’s commandments in your life, and working for what you know to be right–you know the Holy Spirit has been at work.

• When others, who were supposed to be holding the rope for a brother or sister, got distracted by the pretty flowers…and you held on and were faithful, it is Him.

• When you are surprised with the gentleness with which you turned away an angry friend or family member, when before you would have been quick-tempered, you know the Holy Spirit has been working.

• When you are strongly tempted but are able to say no, though you wanted to say yes, you have seen the work of the Holy Spirit in your life. (Steve Brown; Follow the Wind–Our Lord, The Holy Spirit, pgs. 109-110)

 

Spiritual Challenge:  Stop making compliance to your values a prerequisite for love.   Love like Jesus.

 

When we love without limits, we are like God. (R. Kent Hughes; The Sermon on the Mount:  The Message of the Kingdom)

 

The church is . . . made up of natural enemies.  What binds us together is no common education, common race, common income levels, common politics, common nationality, common accents, common jobs, or anything else of that sort.  Christians come together . . . because they have all been saved by Jesus Christ and owe Him a common allegiance. . . .  They are a band of natural enemies who love one another for Jesus’s sake (D. A. Carson; Love in Hard Places, 61)

 

Everybody who belongs to Jesus belongs to everybody who belongs to Jesus.  — Steve Brown

 

If you love it enough you will find a way.  If not you’ll find an excuse.

 

Jesus declared that we should have one distinguishing mark:  not political correctness or moral superiority, but love.  Paul added that without love nothing we do—no miracle of faith, no theological brilliance, no flaming personal sacrifice—will avail (1 Corinthians 13)  (Philip Yancey; What’s so Amazing About Grace?,  242)

 

 

“The Son of Man has come unto the world to take upon Himself the sins of the world.   If you want to follow Him you must be willing to do the same.”  (Jesus of Nazareth movie)

 

Note how often Jesus, the apostles, etc., emphasized the oft neglected truth that men should strive to be imitators of God, of Christ, of God in Christ.  In addition to Lk 6:35 and the somewhat similar Mt 5:48 (see also Mt 11:29; 16:24; Jn 13:15, 34; 15:12; Ro 15:2, 3, 5, 7, 1 Cor 11:1; 2 Cor 8:7-9; 10:1; Eph 4:32-5:2; 5:25; Phil 2:3-8; Col 3:13; He 3:1 f.; 12:2; 1 Pt 2:21-24; 1 Jn 3:16; 4:10, 11.  Of course, it takes special grace to obey this command.  But the responsibility rests on all men.  (William Hendriksen, New Testament Commentary: Luke, 355)

 

QUOTES to NOTE:

If you read the life of Jesus Christ under this suggestion that compassion is the key-word of it all, you will find everything Jesus Christ did taking on a new color and bearing a new attitude and general relation to all history and to all providence.  When Jesus preached, he preached as one who had compassion, and preaching without compassion is not preaching the gospel in a gospel tone.  He who would preach Christ must preach him yearningly, tearfully–there must throughout his sermons be great gushes of tenderest desire for the souls of men.  (Joseph Parker, Servant of All, Studies in Matthew 8-16, 279)

 

I live in great privilege, both materially and physically.  I also have been blessed to grow up in a culture where the gospel has been freely proclaimed.  But privilege can also be a hindrance to spiritual realities.  The kingdom’s blessing turns upside-down many of our typical concepts of privilege.  I have been remarkably touched by a different kind of advantage I have seen in men and women of great faith around the world.  The sheer delight of poor church people in the slums outside Manila in the Philippines results from an understanding of their privilege to experience their newfound eternal life in Christ.  (Michael J. Wilkins, The NIV Application Commentary:  Matthew, 551)

 

CHRIST:

CHAIRMAN of the HUMANE SOCIETY

 

 

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