Love and Compassion
Do whatever Jesus tells you. That is the theme of our messages in these weeks before
the season of Lent.
So far, we have considered a number of things Jesus has told us. Specifically, to repent
of our sins, believe in Him as Savior, and follow Him as Lord. To follow Him on good
days and difficult days alike. To follow Him even if what He wants us to do makes no
sense to us.
Today, a consideration of what Jesus tells us about how to show love and compassion to
others. As will be discussed, some of what Jesus said about today’s topic may be
difficult to understand, but these are the words of Jesus. Words recorded in three
passages, two in Matthew, one in Luke.
First, Matthew 20.
The key verses from Matthew 20 for this message are 25 through 28, but as usual, we
will consider some verses before those to kind of set the stage, including what Jesus
said, beginning in verse 18.
According to verse 17, Jesus and His disciples were on their way to Jerusalem. Jesus
had been ministering elsewhere, but now it was nearing the end of His earthly ministry.
An end that would start with some great suffering that would lead up to His crucifixion.
Suffering that would happen in Jerusalem.
Jesus and His disciples were on their way to Jerusalem. As they walked, Jesus again
reminded them of the suffering He was soon to endure. He had shared that news with
them twice before, once in Matthew 16 and again in chapter 17. Here He did the same
thing a third time.
Jesus said, “Behold, we are going up to Jerusalem, and the Son of man will be delivered
to the chief priests and scribes. They will condemn Him to death and deliver Him to the
Gentiles to be mocked, scourged, and crucified.”
There are lots of important teachings in those words.
For instance, Jesus was going to be delivered to the chief priests and scribes, who were
Jewish religious leaders. Context means He was going to be betrayed. How sad it was
going to be that one of Jesus’ followers would turn on Him to that extent.
Jesus was then going to be delivered - handed over, in this context - to the Gentiles. The
goal of the Jewish leaders was to kill Jesus, but they did not have the authority to do
that. The Gentiles, though, as in the Roman government and its soldiers, did have the
authority. That was going to be reason the Jews were going to deliver Jesus to the
By them He was going to be mocked, which was to include insults and humiliation.
I feel led to mention this to put this into perspective. Toward the end and right after the
recent Super Bowl, at least on one of the online reports about the game, there was the
headline “Denver Humiliated by Seattle.” I guess I get the point, what with Seattle
winning so big. But humiliation? I don’t think so. Jesus was humiliated. He was
humiliated as He was stripped and beaten. As He was insulted. As He was mocked.
And He was going to be scourged. He was going to be whipped. I cannot imagine and I
do not want to experience such horrible pain. But that is what Jesus was going to face as
the whip, accented with stones and pieces of bones, would tear His back. As the whip
extended around Him, His chest would be torn as well.
That pain would be intensified when He would be crucified. He was going to be
condemned to be nailed to a cross, then lifted up to die. All the time on the cross, more
mockery was going to go on.
You know what is so very impressive? Jesus knew all of what was going to happen to
Him when He and His disciples got to Jerusalem. He knew that all of what He had just
said was coming. And He went anyway. What a miracle that was. A miracle that led to
Him becoming the perfect sacrifice for sins.
Joyfully, Jesus knew that after the suffering, something wonderful was going to happen.
He added that on the third day after His death on a cross - on the third day after His
burial in a tomb - He was going to be raised from the dead. That was truly great news.
Great news of hope.
but then, right after those words, most of which told of suffering - words that had to
have been punctuated by at least some signs of stress on Jesus’ face - Jesus was
approached with a request.
The request was spoken by the mother of two of Jesus’ disciples - James and John. She
went to Jesus. Her sons were with her. Kneeling before Jesus, she said, “Command that
these two sons of mine may sit, one at Your right hand and one at Your left, in Your
It is believed that James and John’s mother might have been a sister of Jesus’ mother
Mary, which would have made Jesus, James, and John cousins. Maybe that relationship
led to the mother’s hope, and probably the hope of James and John. The thought may
have been that if any of the disciples deserved favor, it would be them.
And I suppose that while the request might seem to us to be a bit arrogant, at least
James and John and their mother believed the part about Jesus’ resurrection. They
obviously believed that Jesus, despite the coming suffering, was still destined to have a
kingdom in Heaven.
But the request was made that James and John be given special honors by Jesus.
Jesus’ response? How loving He was as He did not answer with anger or disgust or
irritation. He did not correct her. Neither did He claim He was too distraught to deal
with such a request.
Interestingly, He once again hinted He knew the negative things that were coming. That
came in His words, “You do not know what you are asking.” He added, “Are you able to
drink the cup that I am to drink?” In other words, were they able to suffer as He was
going to suffer?
They answered they were able. He answered they would indeed drink from His cup.
They would indeed suffer. But as for honored places in Heaven, that would up to God.
That pretty much ended the discussion. Again, it is interesting Jesus did not become
angry with James and John’s mother, or with James and John.
However, such calm was not the reaction of the other disciples when they began to catch
wind of what was being talked about. Their reaction? They were indignant at James
Was it jealousy caused by those two maybe being favored over them? Was it anger that
they had not thought of making the request themselves? Were they put off by what they
might have considered arrogance on the part of James, John, and their mother?
The reasoning is not given, but the other disciples were indignant, which caused Jesus to
speak the words in verses 25 through 28, which is the first of today’s three main
Jesus called His disciples to Him and said, “You know that the rulers of the Gentiles lord
it over those under them and that their great men exercise authority over others.” You
know the type. Those who say jump, and others ask how high. Those who with a simple
wave of a hand can cause others to bring them what they need or want. How Roman
commanders ordered their troops, and the troops had no choice but to obey, whether
they wanted to or not.
“That is how it is in the world,” Jesus said. “However,” He added, “it shall not be so
among you. Whoever would be great among you must be your servant. Whoever would
be first among you must be your slave.”
In the world, power and authority are exercised and exerted. Important people do that.
But for Jesus’ followers, it is to be different. For Jesus’ followers, the badge of greatness
is service. What is important is not being able to command others to do things for you,
but you doing things for others. The greater the service, the greater the honor.
Putting it in modern day terms, think of examples of that we can see around us
Doctors come to mind. Of course, they get paid quite well, so theirs is not a total
sacrifice. And yes, some do command from time to time as they so often teach the
importance of diet and exercise. But their purpose is to help people.
I can think of teachers. Good, dedicated teachers go out of their way to help their
students learn and grow.
I am thinking of police officers.
I hope we can think of husbands and wives as examples. I hope my marriage is one
where I am willing to serve. As that fits today’s theme, that is an expression of love and
But you know who else is an example of serving others? The best example of all? Jesus.
Who described Himself this way. He came, “not to be served, but to serve,” to the extent
of giving His “life as a ransom.”
To be great, be a servant. To be first, be a slave. And no, that might not make sense. It
seems so much more natural to use - to exert - authority over others, and if it is done for
the good of others, that is sometimes needed. But Jesus tells us to serve others. To
make that our badge of greatness. If we are to do whatever He tells us, that is what we
must do. That is how we are to display love and compassion.
And as we get to today’s second passage, which is in Luke 14, the teaching goes on to
include others with whom we associate.
Luke 14, beginning with verse 7. Jesus was at the house of a Jewish leader. He did not
do much of that. He was not invited very often. But that day, He had been invited to
and He was in the house of an important person. He was there for a meal.
Jesus was not the only one who had been invited. Other people were there as well. As
they all gathered, Jesus noticed how so many of the people looked around to find the
best seats at the table and did their best to get them.
That caused Jesus to tell a parable. He said, “When you are invited by anyone to a feast
[a marriage feast is what He named specifically], do not sit down in a place of honor, lest
a man more important than you, who was also invited, show up. If that happens, you
will likely be asked to give your place to that more important person, which will leave
you in shame when the only place left is the lowest place. How much better it is, when
you are invited, to go and sit in the lowest place, so that when your host comes, he may
say to you, ‘Friend, go up higher.’ Then you will be honored in the presence of all who
sit at table with you.”
What Jesus taught is that it is better to be humble than presumptuous. And I do not
mean to pat myself on the back, but I remember a few years ago I attended a Sunday
afternoon celebration service at the Worship Center Church of God in Omaha.
I spoke at a chapel in Lincoln earlier that afternoon, so I was late for the Omaha service,
and I had no part in the program of the Omaha service. So I slipped into the Omaha
sanctuary, found a place on the back pew, and sat down.
A couple minutes later, here came an usher. He motioned me to follow him toward the
front - I said, “No, I’m fine.” But that had no effect. As I recall, the usher took me by the
arm as he escorted me to the front pew, where I was invited to sit.
I stayed there a couple minutes before another usher came, took me by the arm, and
escorted me to the platform, where one chair was empty. That is where I stayed for the
rest of the service.
I would have been just fine staying in the back, or even on the front pew. But what I
experienced was a whole lot better than if I had made my own way to the platform and
then been told, “Oops, we’re out of chairs and we need you to move so someone else can
take your place.”
Which reminds me of an invitation I got once to attend a special event for some charity
that was starting. I knew that one night an opening event was open to the public and
that the next night, only specially-invited guests were allowed. I got an invitation to the
second-night event, and I will admit I felt kind of good about that.
I felt good until the day after I received the invitation, when I got a call from the charity.
“Did you receive an invitation for the second night?” “Yes,” I answered, “and thank you.
I plan to be there. I am looking forward to the event.”
“Well,” the very apologetic receptionist said, “there has been a mistake. The invitation
[this is what she said] the invitation was supposed to go to an important person, not
That certainly put me in my place. Which I laughed about then and now. I mean, it was
fine. And guess what. The incident provides a good illustration of what Jesus taught in
Luke 14. as He continued, “For everyone who exalts himself will be humbled, and he
who humbles himself will be exalted.”
And love and compassion, which is today’s theme? Jesus had something to say about
that. “When you give a dinner or a banquet, do not invite your friends or your brothers
or your kinsmen or your rich neighbors, lest they also invite you in return, and you be
repaid. Instead, when you give a feast, invite the poor, the maimed, the lame, the blind.
Do that and you will be blessed because they cannot repay you. Do that and you will be
repaid at the resurrection of the just.”
Of course, even that must be done for the correct reason, which is not self-interest or to
feel superior. And of course, I think it is OK to have meals with friends and family. And
if a rich person happens to be included, I am sure that is OK. But whenever we get
together, it is to be done for the correct purpose, which is to show love and compassion
to all, doing so with the intent of sharing our plenty with others, doing so in the name of
That is what Jesus tells us to do. And then Matthew 10, which expands those with
whom we are to associate. It centers on something said by Jesus as He sent His
disciples out on a training mission.
This happened about halfway through Jesus’ earthly ministry. He sent His disciples out
to rid people of unclean spirits and to heal diseases and infirmities and to preach.
Concerning the first parts of that assignment, His words were - verse 8 - “Heal the sick,
raise the dead, cleanse lepers, cast out demons.”
Would it not have been easier - is it not easier now - to deal with only healthy people?
Normal people? Concerning the issue of demons, sane people? Probably. But we are to
show love and compassion - we are to reflect His love and compassion - also on those
who are suffering.
And get this. Jesus went on to explain to the disciples He was sending out that things
were not going to be easy.
Though they were to be like sheep, as in gentle, they were going to be in the midst of
wolves, as in not everyone was going to see the good in what they were going to do.
Some of those wolves were going to deliver the disciples to councils, where they would
be flogged in the synagogues.
At times they would be dragged before governors and kings.
Of course, that last part would actually have a good result. The disciples would thereby
have an opportunity to testify for Jesus. And they were not to be concerned about what
they should say. The words they would need would be given to them at those times.
But times would be difficult as family members would turn against them and as they
would be hated by others.
I think the point is that we, too, might face troubles as we show love and compassion to
those who are suffering. But listen to the reward. “He who endures to the end will be
As already mentioned, with all three of today’s passages, we may have trouble making
sense of what Jesus said.
Serving seems less likely to result in greatness than being important and exercising
whatever authority we have. Wanting to push ahead seems logical. But serving is to be
our badge of greatness.
Inviting important people to what we do might seem the thing to do. And again, Jesus is
certainly not forbidding association with friends, family, and the rich. But we are also to
associate with those who cannot repay us. Repayment is not to be our aim.
And taking care of the suffering, knowing that will bring troubles. That sounds at least
uncomfortable. But that is what Jesus tells us to do.
Do whatever Jesus tells you. Including to show love and compassion to all. To show
love and compassion in our service, in with whom we associate, in how we help those in
need. Do whatever Jesus tells you.
Today’s closing, which will also serve as our benediction, is a unison reading that is
based on the hymn As Channels of Thy Healing Grace.
As channels of Your healing grace we want to be used, o God,
To heal the broken and guide the lame on paths You, our Master, trod.
May we be channels of Your love where strife and hate abound.
We will proclaim Your way to all so peace and love may be found.
When broken spirits reach for light and grope for vision clear,
Reveal Your truth and wisdom, Lord. Remove the stunting fear.
Where broken lives need healing love, where selfish pride holds sway,
May we be used to reconcile and show the Christ-like way.
Please use us - our hearts, our minds, our hands -
to bring Your love and compassion to ourselves and to others.