Matured

I. Introduction

Well. I’m glad that’s over. I want to put 2020 in the history books. Then I want to take the history book and buy it. Then I want to plant a tree on top of it, just so I can burn it down. Then I want to salt the ground so it never returns.

For much of 2020, Diane and I were mostly unscathed by this tumultuous year. I had changed jobs in October of the previous year to a far more secure position, and I held out hope that even if business turned severely down, it’s unlikely to lay somebody off in their first 3 months.

But then my Mom started to decline. We visited her in March and she was great but having some early dementia issues. By June the dementia had become severe. By October she was gone.

Then when we returned home, we found a plumbing leak in the walls. Insurance only covers a small portion of the repairs. We’ve torn out sheetrock, the bathroom vanity, the bathroom tub, and it’s partially repaired, but tomorrow they begin tearing out the wooden floors. I think on Tuesday somebody is supposed to come shut off our oxygen. We’re experiencing the ongoing joy of living in a continuous state of remodel since my mom passed, digging into savings to pay for it, and we still have several more weeks to go.

I’m ready for a new beginning. Come on, 2021. Let’s see what you’ve got.

As I’m prepping this first bible study lesson for me in about 3 months, I think about that scripture from Hebrews, verses 4:15-16 –

For we do not have a high priest who cannot sympathize with our weaknesses, but One who has been tempted in all things just as we are, yet without sin. Therefore let’s approach the throne of grace with confidence, so that we may receive mercy and find grace for help at the time of our need.

I am so thankful Jesus identifies with us, lived a life like us, and everything in life we experience – loss, hardship, hunger or thirst – Jesus also experienced and identifies with our sufferings. Today, we’re going to dive into the book of Luke and see the impact that suffering and persecution had on the early life of Jesus.

II. Book of Luke

The author of the book of Luke is named… um, Luke. He was a historian and a physician who travelled extensively with Paul, and was likely a gentile. Luke wrote this book and the book of Acts likely when Paul was in prison in Rome, and was possibly writing the book of Luke and Acts while Paul was writing his letters to the Colossians and to Philemon and to Timothy.

Many seem to believe that Luke was one of the original 12 apostles, but he was not. Luke says in Luke 1:
Since many have undertaken to compile an account of the things accomplished among us, just as they were handed down to us by those who from the beginning were eyewitnesses and servants of the word, it seemed fitting to me as well, having investigated everything carefully from the beginning, to write it out for you in an orderly sequence, most excellent Theophilus; so that you may know the exact truth about the things you have been taught.

Luke chronicled the life of Jesus from birth to death so thoroughly and accurately and guided by the Holy Spirit that his letters to Theophilus are cannon, scripture, included in God’s Holy Word. And Luke, like none of the other synoptic gospel writers, captures the seasons in the life of Jesus.

III. A Season – His Birth

We just finished with the Christmas season and I enjoy driving around and looking at the Christmas lights. I couldn’t help but notice driving around yesterday that it’s 356 days until Christmas and some people already have their Christmas lights up.

Christmas sermons and candlelight services teach and remind us that the arrival of Jesus brings us hope – hope in this life, hope for our future, hope in Him, hope in eternal life, hope in our relationships with one another and that we will see our loved ones again.

And we probably heard in one of these sermons the story from Luke 2 of the birth of Jesus in a Manger, sweet child of hope that Jesus is as He comes to us as the Son of Man and the Son of God. But I want to focus today on the trials and tribulations that were going on in the life of Jesus at the same time. Luke 2 describes the miracle in verses 1-7 –

Now in those days a decree went out from Caesar Augustus, that a census be taken of all the inhabited earth. This was the first census taken while Quirinius was governor of Syria. And all the people were on their way to register for the census, each to his own city. Now Joseph also went up from Galilee, from the city of Nazareth, to Judea, to the city of David which is called Bethlehem, because he was of the house and family of David, in order to register along with Mary, who was betrothed to him, and was pregnant. While they were there, the time came for her to give birth. And she gave birth to her firstborn son; and she wrapped Him in cloths, and laid Him in a manger, because there was no room for them in the inn.

We often remember the beautiful parts, but there were a lot of hardships. Joseph and the pregnant Mary had traveled at least 4 or 5 days to answer the census call. It may have been longer; it was common for Jews to detaour around Samaria. Obviously, I’ve never been pregnant, but it seems to me pregnancy has enough challenges without having to ride at 9 months pregnant over rocky hillsides on the back on a donkey.

And the scripture doesn’t mention the donkey. While traveling on a donkey was common, it was also a luxury. Most poor people walked. We know that Jesus and Mary were poor; after giving birth, as written in Luke 2:23-24, they sacrificed a pair of turtledoves in accordance with ceremonial laws of Leviticus 12:8, but Leviticus says that a lamb should be sacrificed, unless they could not afford it, then turtledoves were acceptable. The wise men with their expensive gifts hadn’t arrived. So it’s unlikely they could afford a donkey. It’s possible they borrowed a donkey, but they stayed in Bethlehem for up to two years, so it’s unlikely somebody would loan an expensive donkey for that long.

I can imagine how completely worn out Joseph and Mary were when they arrived, and they just needed to rest. But the scripture says all the inns were full. Nine months pregnant, travel-weary and dirty, and no place to sleep and give birth. The Greek word for inn here is καταλυμα “kataluma” and isn’t a hotel room like we may think of today. The inns would have had a large communal room and everybody just picked a spot on the floor to sleep, but even these large rooms had no space.

Instead, they made their way to where the animals slept. Usually manger scenes show a cozy little barn, but Jews back then used caves – cold a damp caves – to keep their livestock in at night. And then, Mary, exhausted form traveling, gives birth to our Lord and lays Him in a trough that animals eat from.

Joseph and Mary were having the B.C. equivalent of our year 2020. Cold, damp, poor, away from home, sleeping with the animals, and giving birth in a trough.

Yet even in these difficult circumstances, God is at work. God is in the business of creating and fulfilling promises, and He promised we would know His son by the fulfillment of prophecies. From the town of Galilee, into the town of David, and born of a virgin, God is fulfilling prophecy.

IV. A Season – Egypt

Now that Jesus is born, all is easy, right? That’s what many new Christians believe – that if they give their life to Christ, their life will be blessed and there will be no more hardships. No more job losses. No more living room plumbing leaks. No more moms passing away. Everything will be hunky-dory.

God never promises us that. God promises He will be with us, but He never promises us we will be free of trouble. Some people think the “abundant life” Jesus promises implies good fortune forever, but that’s not what Jesus means. Later in Jesus’s life, he is led to the desert without food or water and tempted by the devil for 40 days. And later again, Jesus is scourged, tortured, and crucified. God did not spare His own son from these troubles. He doesn’t spare us, either. He promises He will never leave us during our struggles.

No, Jesus’s like didn’t miraculously become easy after His birth. Let’s pick up two years later – our Christmas stories place the 3 wise men bearing gifts at the birth of Christ, but that’s not likely. We don’t know how many wise men there were – μαγοι (magoi), the original Greek word actually means “astrologers,” or “sorcerers.” There may have been 2 or 3 or 30. We probably get the number 3 from the gold, frankincense and myrrh they brought. The magi had successfully followed the star to Jerusalem, but they believed the newborn king of the Jews would be born to the current king reigning over the Jews, Herod. When Herod started asking questions about the star, the magi realized it wasn’t Herod’s child they were looking for. In fact, the magi realized the newborn king would topple Herod’s kingdom, a threat to Herod. The magi continued on their way to Mary and Joseph and presented their gifts, and then went home a different way.

Herod was likely furious, threatened. Someplace in the city of Bethlehem, born within the last 2 years, was the newborn king of the Jews, a threat to Herod’s lavish way of life. Matthew 2:16 –

When Herod realized that he had been outwitted by the Magi, he was furious, and he gave orders to kill all the boys in Bethlehem and its vicinity who were two years old and under, in accordance with the time he had learned from the Magi.

No, the life of Jesus wasn’t easy. Not even 2 years old, and men were out to kill Him. But God is still at work, fulfilling prophecy. We continue in Matthew 2:17-18 –

Then what was said through the prophet Jeremiah was fulfilled: “A voice is heard in Ramah, weeping and great mourning, Rachel weeping for her children and refusing to be comforted, because they are no more.”

Mary and Joseph had to flee Bethlehem. An angel tells them to flee to Egypt. How would the very poor Mary and Joseph who could only afford 2 turtledoves for their sacrifice afford to travel such a journey?

Where the Lord call, the Lord equips. Mary and Joseph had the gifts of the magi. And God is still fulfilling prophecy – in Hosea 11:1 God says,

When Israel was a youth I loved him, and out of Egypt I called My son.

I don’t know how long the family was in Egypt. Herod died only a few months after the family fled, but I’m not certain the family returned immediately. It could have been as long as 6 years before Joseph, Mary, and Jesus returned to Israel, Luke 2:39-40,

And when His parents had completed everything in accordance with the Law of the Lord, they returned to Galilee, to their own city of Nazareth. Now the Child continued to grow and to become strong, increasing in wisdom; and the favor of God was upon Him.

I take heart from this scripture – even though it describes the life of the Lord, I think it can apply to all of us when we experience the difficulties of life. We continue to grow and become strong, we increase in wisdom, and the favor of God is upon us.

V. A Season – Passover

We’re going to fast forward now to when Jesus is older, 12 years old. We know nothing else about the childhood of Jesus except what we learn about Jesus from other scripture – He was sinless and followed the Jewish law.

According to Jewish law, Jewish adults were to attend three major feasts annually in Jerusalem – Passover, Pentecost, and Tabernacles. And Luke 2:41 says that Jesus’ parents fulfilled Jewish law by attending the feast of Passover. Many left after 2 days, but verse 43 says Mary and Joseph attended the full number of days required. At the conclusion of the festival, it was time to head home.

Most pilgrims would join a caravan for safety and mutual support, as did Mary and Joseph. In these caravans, men usually traveled in one group, women in another. I find it interesting in verse 43 –

and as they were returning, after spending the full number of days required, the boy Jesus stayed behind in Jerusalem, but His parents were unaware of it.

Jesus is no longer described as a Child but not a Man, He is described as a boy, and I think that may have led to confusion on Joseph and Mary’s part. At the age of 12 or 13, Jewish boys go through a bar mitzvah to become a child of the covenant, and then they are considered men. If Jesus is a man, he would caravan with the men, but if he’s a child, He would caravan with the women. Verses 44-45,

Instead, they thought that He was somewhere in the caravan, and they went a day’s journey; and then they began looking for Him among their relatives and acquaintances. And when they did not find Him, they returned to Jerusalem, looking for Him.

A day’s journey out before they noticed He was missing. A day’s journey back to go look for Him. They must have been frantic – they lost not just a son, but the Son of God.

And yet, God still uses this misfortune for His glory. Verse 46-47,

Then, after three days they found Him in the temple, sitting in the midst of the teachers, both listening to them and asking them questions. And all who heard Him were amazed at His understanding and His answers.

I’ve once heard it said that if you feel like you’ve lost Jesus, you don’t feel Him in your life, then maybe you should turn around. Where was the last place you saw Him? I think this verse illustrates that perfectly.

Some significance in this verse, in the synagogues, usually a rabbi sat and the listeners stood. Jesus is sitting. And it’s unlikely Jesus needed additional information about the scriptures, He is probably asking questions to engage, to challenge the rabbis to go deeper in their understanding.

Then in verses 48-49,

When Joseph and Mary saw Him, they were bewildered; and His mother said to Him, “Son, why have You treated us this way? Behold, Your father and I have been anxiously looking for You!” And He said to them, “Why is it that you were looking for Me? Did you not know that I had to be in My Father’s house?”

Mary spoke to Jesus first, asking why He had treated them in this way. Jesus needed no discipline, since He had not done anything wrong. It was the adults’ responsibility to ensure their child was with them when they left the city.

Another interesting thing here is the transition from Joseph the father to God the Father. This is the last reference to Joseph anywhere in the bible, and Mary references Joseph when she anxiously says “your father and I have been anxiously looking for you!”

And Jesus’s response indicates He is aware of His deity. He may be a twelve-year-old boy, but Jesus understood that God was His Father and this temple was His Father’s house. When Mary referred to “your father and I,” Jesus posed His question in a way that corrected her gently. While Jesus no doubt appreciated Joseph and treated him with respect, Jesus understood His true nature.

Jesus did not apologize for doing something wrong, for He had not sinned. But then Jesus questions His mother. He wondered why they had found it difficult to locate Him. When they couldn’t find Him, they should have known exactly where He would be. When Jesus uses the phrase “had to be” in Greek doesn’t mean “necessary” or “required” or “essential.” A better word would be “inevitable” as in “Didn’t you know that I would naturally be found in my Father’s house?” Being in the temple, which represented the presence of God to Israel, was the obvious place for God’s Son to be. Jesus was patiently waiting for Mary and Joseph to return for Him. Instead of wandering around the city, He remained at the one place they should have come.

A short clip on the life of Jesus as a boy: https://arc.gt/o37kw

VI. Conclusion – Maturity

The life of Jesus was anything but easy. It had plenty of drama. Born of a young woman away from her home in a cave and placed in an animal’s food trough, then having having to flee the country at the age of two because the King Herod was trying to kill you. Then being left behind at Passover in another city. Jesus indeed experienced the equivalent of our 2020 and then some.

And how did Jesus grow after all this? Luke 2:52,

And Jesus kept increasing in wisdom and stature, and in favor with God and people.

God has used the events from this last year to teach us, guide us, grow us in wisdom and stature with Him and with each other. Let us give God praise and glory for the year we had and the year yet to come.

To God be the glory.

Be a Good Neighbor

I. Introduction

Sometimes it’s difficult to teach a familiar parable; we have pre-conceived notions, or perhaps previous bible studies left in our heads. The Prodigal Son, the Lost Sheep, the Faithful Servant, the Ten Virgins, and so on. Even non-Christians have heard the phrase “good Samaritan.” Let’s see if we can look at this parable with fresh eyes today, and see if perhaps we’ve become complacent, and really look to see if there is an application for us today.

Through a powerful parable, Jesus lets us know that the good Samaritan exemplifies an important facet of the Christian character: How to be a good neighbor. So what makes a good neighbor? Someone who sells State Farm insurance? You know, “And like a good neighbor….”

Who has a neighbor that they consider to be a good neighbor? What makes that neighbor special to you?

I have a neighbor, sometimes I think we’re competing with, and losing to. On the day we moved into our new house in Sugar Land, it took longer than we thought it would. The truck wasn’t quite big enough, so it was like after 9pm when we started the second run back to the old townhome. Our next door neighbor Fai stopped by to meet us, found out we hadn’t had any dinner, and immediately brought over dinner for the both of us. And she hasn’t stopped, she brings vegetables from her garden, she weeds our garden, she sweeps our sidewalks, and so on. And if we should every try to do something kind for her, she redoubles her effort to bring us groceries. Everybody should have a neighbor like Fai.

Who is a neighbor? Or for that matter, who is a Samaritan?

The Jews considered the Samaritans to be a corrupted religion that in many ways mirrored Judaism. Well, “corrupted” might a kind way of putting it. One text I read said the Jews considered the Samaritans as ignorant, superstitious mongrels. Way back in 2 Kings 17, the Assyrians conquered Northern Israel, killing most of the people living there. Anybody who survived we taken away to foreign lands, and eventually became known as “the lost tribes of Israel.” Only a few stragglers, mostly poor, sick or unskilled people, were left behind with Israeli identity or culture. To finish them off, the Assyrians sent five eastern pagan tribes to settle in Northern Israel and intermingle. They became a sort of hybrid people, part Israeli, part pagan. They developed their own customs; they still worshipped Yahweh, but their holy books were in Aramaic, not Hebrew, and didn’t contain many books the Jews had, especially the poetic and prophetic books of the Hebrew scriptures. They eventually became known as the Samaritans. They built their temple to the Lord on Mount Gerizim instead of Jerusalem, which irritated the Jews, so the Jews destroyed Mount Gerizim in 128 b.c. In both the books of Ezra 4:1-3 and Nehamiah 4:1-2, Jews and Samaritans were at odds with each other.

So you see, “good Samaritan” was an unlikely phrase. Jews expected animosity from Samaritans. To the Jews, there was no such thing as a good Samaritan. But funny thing about people, they’re all made in God’s image, and Jesus didn’t feel the same way about the Samaritans. Or the Gentiles, fortunately. Later, in Acts 1:8, Jesus will tell his disciples, “You will be my witnesses in Jerusalem and in all Judea and Samaria, and to the ends of the earth.” God still had a great deal of affection for the Samaritans.

So we begin our study, starting at Luke 9:51 –

As the time approached for him to be taken up to heaven, Jesus resolutely set out for Jerusalem.

I love that part – Jesus is on a mission, determined to go to Jerusalem, and teach all along the way.

And he sent messengers on ahead, who went into a Samaritan village to get things ready for him; but the people there did not welcome him, because he was heading for Jerusalem. When the disciples James and John saw this, they asked, “Lord, do you want us to call fire down from heaven to destroy them?” But Jesus turned and rebuked them. Then he and his disciples went to another village.

There’s a lot of new perspective here – the disciples wanted to rain down fire and destroy the Samaritans, the Samaritans not especially happy with Jesus going to Jerusalem to the temple there. And Jesus seems concerned about the Samaritans, even when His disciples don’t.

II. Follow the Scripture, Luke 10:25-28

So Jesus resolutely continues to Jerusalem, teaching along the way, until one day a lawyer stands up to question Jesus. It’s a trick question from a lawyer, but I repeat myself. It’s designed to trip Jesus. Turn to Luke 10:25-28 –

On one occasion an expert in the law stood up to test Jesus. “Teacher,” he asked, “what must I do to inherit eternal life?”

“What is written in the Law?” Jesus replied. “How do you read it?”

He answered, “‘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, ‘Love your neighbor as yourself.'”

“You have answered correctly,” Jesus replied. “Do this and you will live.”

The lawyer didn’t just ask a question, this isn’t idle curiousity. The lawyer “stood up to test him.” The lawyer has a serious question, knows the law, but he wants to see if Jesus is authentic. He’s challenging Jesus. What does Jesus know?

And it’s one of the great questions of all religions. What must I do to live an eternal life? What happens when I die? What must I do, what must I say, how should I act, what do I believe? It’s an expert question, coming from an expert lawyer. What must I do?

Jesus responded like a rabbi, and answered the question with a question of his own. Now Jesus is testing the tester. Jesus challenged the lawyer back, but to answer his own question from scripture.

The first part of the lawyer’s answer comes from Deuteronomy 6:4-9, what the Jews would understand as the Shema Yisrael, or just Shema. Shema Yisrael means, “Hear oh Israel,” and observant Jews would say this prayer as part of their morning and evening prayers. The Shema encouraged Jews to love God, and it was a twice daily affirmation of God’s place in their lives.

Notice that it doesn’t just say to Love the Lord God. It says to love the Lord *your* God. It’s personal, the relationship between you and your Creator. Love Him with everything you have, with your whole person. Heart, soul, strength, and mind. Love God with your emotions (heart), your consciousness (soul), your motivation (strength), and your mental capacity (mind).

Some have misinterpreted the scripture here. What must I *do* to inherit eternal life? Do this and live. Is this a philosophy of works? Is there a way we can earn our way into heaven by a life of good works and good deeds? No, there is not – our works, our deeds, even our very selves are like worthless rags compared to the almighty glory of our Lord Jesus Christ. But because we love Him with all our heart, soul, strength and mind, we *do* these things to show this love to others. Our feisty lawyer answered correctly, but he did not affirm a theology of works.

Jesus said, “Do this and live.” This is abundant life. Practice what you know out of love for Lord, expressed as love for others. The real test is a right heart with God, not knowledge or works, but putting into practice, love in action, a grateful response to God’s love.

III. Listen to Jesus, Luke 10:29-35

Was our feisty expert embarrassed by Jesus’ response? And if so, did he feel the need to repair his reputation? Or was he trying to find out whether there were any limits? In other word, how much is enough to get into Heaven? The lawyer asked a follow-up question, “who is my neighbor?”

But he wanted to justify himself, so he asked Jesus, “And who is my neighbor?”

In reply Jesus said: “A man was going down from Jerusalem to Jericho, when he was attacked by robbers. They stripped him of his clothes, beat him and went away, leaving him half dead. A priest happened to be going down the same road, and when he saw the man, he passed by on the other side. So too, a Levite, when he came to the place and saw him, passed by on the other side. But a Samaritan, as he traveled, came where the man was; and when he saw him, he took pity on him. He went to him and bandaged his wounds, pouring on oil and wine. Then he put the man on his own donkey, brought him to an inn and took care of him. The next day he took out two denarii and gave them to the innkeeper. ‘Look after him,’ he said, ‘and when I return, I will reimburse you for any extra expense you may have.’

The question from the lawyer implied some people could be excluded. Gentiles, Samaritans, tax collectors. In this case, especially those backward, disgusting Samaritans. I mean, certainly we can exclude those people, right?

Who do we exclude today, that we do not consider a neighbor? Are we putting a limit on God’s love?

Jesus didn’t answer directly, told a parable that illustrated what it meant to demonstrate the love of God. Who was the traveler? We don’t know, he’s never identified. Might be a Jew, maybe a Gentile, might even be a Samaritan? The only thing we know for sure is that the traveler is human and therefore made in God’s image.

This man was beaten by robbers on the road from Jerusalem. This would have been a well-know road for the Jews, from Jerusalem 2500’ ASL to Jericho which is actually below sea level, winding through mountains and rocky terrain with many hiding places for robbers. The man was not just robbed, but stripped of his clothing and beaten and left for dead. The attitude expressed by the robbers is, “What’s yours is mine, and I’ll take it.”

What were the motivations of the priest and Levite? Jesus doesn’t say. Priest may have refused because the man was dead, didn’t want to defile himself. Touching a corpse would have entailed a lengthy cleanliness process to become pure again. We don’t really know their motivation. Bottom line, though, is it doesn’t really matter. Whatever the motivation was, it was a convenient excuse to absolve them from being a good neighbor. Both the priest and the Levite considered themselves religious people, knew the love your neighbor statement. And both refused to help.

In fact, they went out of their way to avoid helping. They passed by on other side. The priest and the Levite expressed an attitude of, “What’s mine is mine, and I’ll keep it.” This attitude is hardly better than, and in many ways worse, than the robbers who beat the man up.

But the Samaritan helped. This startled the listeners. This *Samaritan*, they would have spit out, isn’t Jewish, isn’t to be trusted, doesn’t know the law… but he was helpful. The Jews expected animosity, but received compassion instead. In fact, this Samaritan gave up his own ride for the injured man, and in so doing expressed an attitude more pleasing to God, “What’s mine is yours, and I’ll give it.”

The second half of our lawyer’s question is much like the first. Love your neighbor as yourself. This comes from Leviticus 19:18. Not a selfish love, or a love of oneself, but how much you love others based on how much God loves you. A “neighbor” means someone of our own kind, not an outsider. Sometimes it’s hard to grasp that this outside we pass by on the other side of the road is not an outsider to God. God loves everyone, not just believers. God gave His life to us while we were still unbelievers, still sinners.

We can’t help everyone, of course. Our resources are limited, we have to pick and choose. But on what basis do we pick and choose? Do we withhold our help from outsiders just because they’re outsiders? They are not outsiders to God. Who we are neighborly to should not depend on this. Jesus admonishes us to do this and live, practice what we know, put love in action. Our salvation involves faith expressing love to God and neighbor. James 2:17 says that faith that does not show itself to our neighbor is dead.

IV. Show Compassion, Luke 10:36-37

Jesus turned the question around perfectly, of course. The lawyer had asked, “who is my neighbor?” Jesus answered by describing who *is* a neighbor. In other words, the lawyer asked about others, who qualifies to be his neighbor. Jesus answered by examining the heart of person asking the question.

“Which of these three do you think was a neighbor to the man who fell into the hands of robbers?”

The expert in the law replied, “The one who had mercy on him.”

Jesus told him, “Go and do likewise.”

So Jesus challenged the lawyer. Now who is your neighbor? While the lawyer tried to enact boundaries, Jesus used this parable to remove boundaries. A merciful God we should imitate by showing mercy. Go and do likewise. Any person in need gives you a chance to show you are a good neighbor and being the hands and feet of Jesus.

Emergencies aren’t always convenient. They don’t happen at planned times. I suppose if we could plan them, they wouldn’t be emergencies. I think about another example from Jesus about showing compassion even at inconvenient times. In Mathew 14 is the story of Herod and John the Baptist. John apparently had been hanging around outside Herod’s place, telling Herod that there was something wrong with Herod for taking his brother’s wife. I can’t help but think of how awkward that would be at family get-togethers, Herod and Philip and Philip’s wife Herodias. So one night after dinner and dancing by Herod’s daughter, Herod decides to behead John the Baptist. John’s disciples buried the body and then came to tell Jesus.

Look what it says in Matthew 14:13-14 –

When Jesus heard what had happened, he withdrew by boat privately to a solitary place. Hearing of this, the crowds followed him on foot from the towns. When Jesus landed and saw a large crowd, he had compassion on them and healed their sick.

John is the second cousin of Jesus, and John was the one that paved the way for him, a voice crying out in the wilderness. You know Jesus is grieving the loss of John. And yet, He found the time and energy for compassion at that moment, to heal the sick people that had come to see Him.

Our role model for compassion is God. We were sinners, opposed to God, but He showed compassion for us, even while we opposed him.

Compassion isn’t obligation; compassioning isn’t doing something out of duty. Compassioning isn’t even caring for somebody or taking care of them when they’re hurt.

I went looking for the root word of “compassion,” and found enough to rethink my idea of what compassion is. The root words in Latin are “cum”, which means “with” or “along side”. “Passion” originally didn’t mean anything like the ardent love we associate it with today, it comes from the Latin “pati” which means “to suffer.” It’s the same root word that gives us a hospital “patient,” somebody suffering. So how did we associate this with passionate love? Perhaps from the “Passion of the Christ,” the suffering Christ went through on our behalf. Christ’s love and suffering, His passion.

So “compassion” means to suffer together. It’s not just caring for somebody. It’s suffering with them, making their pain also your pain. How difficult is that to love a neighbor that much that we would suffer as though their pain is ours.

One of the clearest examples of compassion was Mother Teresa. Nobel prize winner, she eventually opened 517 missions in more than 100 countries. One of her early ministries confounded people in Calcutta, to help people nobody else would help. Poor people dying of Hansen’s disease, commonly known as leprosy. These people, even if they lived, would still be a burden on society. Mother Teresa converted an abandoned Hindu temple into a free hospice, the first Home for the Dying. People brought here received medical care and given an opportunity to die with dignity. Hindus received water from the Ganges, Catholics received Last Rites, Muslims were read to from the Quran. “A beautiful death,” she said, “is for people who lived like animals to die like angels — loved and wanted.”

In a book about her life, “Mother Teresa, In My Own Words,” are hundreds of inspiring stories and quotes from this amazing woman. She said, “Someone once told me that not even for a million dollars would they touch a leper. I responded: ‘Neither would I. If it were a case of money, I would not even do it for two million. On the other hand, I do it gladly for love of God.'” She was truly a person of compassion, demonstrating God’s love daily and seeing God in those suffering.

V. Conclusion

So who is your neighbor? How can you love God with all your heart, soul, strength and mind? Do they have a need, and can you go beyond the “bring them a casserole” and truly show compassion, to suffer along with them, to bear their pain? The story of the Good Samaritan tells us that we are challenged to be the good neighbor, regardless of their culture or how we feel about them. To show compassion for those around us, in glorious imitation of the compassion Jesus showed for us. As He loved us, let us love others.

Amen