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Compassion – a blog post

February 9, 2018

Several years ago I was teaching a series on the Parables of Christ. Working through those stories and looking at the depth of meaning and relevance in them made them come alive in a way that they had never done before for me. That’s the beauty of studying Scripture over and over. As you go deeper, you discover there is much more than what you first realized.

The Parable of the Good Samaritan was one that made a special impression on me. I’m not sure what it was about it exactly, but I do know that I enjoy going back and looking that story and looking for little truths I may have missed previously. I do know this – a story that I originally thought was simply about helping your neighbor had much more to it.

Jesus was asked by a scribe or a lawyer about what was needed to inherit eternal life. This wasn’t an innocent question, but one that was given as an opportunity for Jesus to fall into a trap (which of course He never did). Jesus turned the question back around by asking the lawyer what was stated in the law. The lawyer answered, “You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your strength and with all your mind, and your neighbor as yourself.” Jesus assured the lawyer that his answer was correct, and that if he would do just that, he would find eternal life. The lawyer responded with another question, “Who is my neighbor?” Jesus answered his question with a story, which would turn it back on the man rather than trap Jesus.

The road from Jerusalem to Jericho was about 17 miles, was crooked, and had a 3,300 foot drop in elevation from one point to the other. Crooks would hide in the nooks and crannies, laying in wait for people traveling alone that they could rob. Priests and Levites would make this journey regularly as they would fulfill their temple service. Often these men would travel together as to guard against potential danger, but certainly there were times when that just wasn’t practical. This story was about one of those times.

A man who is only described as a Jewish man was making this journey and was attacked, beaten and left for dead by robbers. A sad story indeed, but that was just the beginning. The robbers fled and left the man, perhaps hoping he was dead or thinking he would die soon, so as not to identify them. He was seriously injured but needed help to get to some medical attention or to get home.

At some point a priest came walking down the road. Good news, right? Surely this priest could provide some sort of assistance, or at least stay and pray with the man until more help could arrive. No, this priest would have none of it. He saw the man ahead, then crossed to the other side of the road.

Next comes a Levite, an associate pastor if you will. Another man of God! Surely this Levite could help, right? His response was the same as the priest – he crossed over and passed on the other side of the road.

Why would these men of God pass by? Perhaps they feared for their own lives, perhaps they had urgent business ahead, or maybe they were just flat tired and had “nothing left to give”. The man’s hopes seem to be fading fast…

The third man to approach the fallen Jew was a Samaritan, a non-Jew. Not only was he the most unlikely of the three to help the man, Samaritans were pretty much despised by the Jews. No one would have thought anything about it if the Samaritan would have crossed on the other side, but he didn’t

The Samaritan not only stopped, but he rendered aid to the fallen man. It was common for men to carry some oil and wine in their bags to deal with injuries that could happen along a journey. He treated the man’s abrasions, bandaged his wounds, put him on his animal and transported him to the nearest inn. While that would have been significant enough, the Samaritan took him in, paid for his lodging and likely some food. Before he left, he assured the innkeeper that he would be back, and that whatever overage the innkeeper incurred, that he would take care of it when he returned. WOW!

So what made the difference? Jesus stated it clearly this way, “when he saw him, he had compassion”. The operative word was compassion. It was compassion that broke down the barriers, compassion that revealed the need, compassion that led the Samaritan to reach out to a man who perhaps would not have given him the time of day in normal circumstances. The man went over and above simply because he was helpless and needy, not because of his nationality, his race, his religiosity, or any other factor.

It was compassion that led Jesus to surrender His life into the hands of men who sought to destroy Him. It was because of compassion that Jesus drew us into a relationship with Himself, compassion that allowed Him to see us in a helpless sin-sick state, unable to affect our own salvation.

In a society that draws lines upon political persuasions, who hides behind social media platforms to spew negativity, compassion is lacking…and so is our passion for souls. Is that a coincidence? I don’t think so.

Where is our compassion for the hurting, the sin-sick, the addicted, the ones who look fine on the outside but are struggling to keep it together on the inside, the ones that look different than us, the ones that are in a different economic situation than us, or who have found themselves in situations they did not anticipate?

I can tell you, without a doubt, I need a fresh dose of compassion. We resist it sometimes because we know it requires an investment of ourselves. We resist it sometimes because we could get hurt. We resist it sometimes because we just are selfish. We resist it sometimes because we have lost our sense of what it means to be lost.

Compassion re-establishes our mission. Will you join me in seeking to have the compassion of Christ?


Tony Watson
Senior Pastor
First Baptist Church of Palestine, TX

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