33 But the multitudes saw them departing, and many knew Him and ran there on foot from all the cities. They arrived before them and came together to Him. 34 And Jesus, when He came out, saw a great multitude and was moved with compassion for them, because they were like sheep not having a shepherd. So He began to teach them many things (Mark 6:33–34, NKJV).
As the crowds pressed around Jesus and His apostles, finding time to rest a while (or even eat) was difficult (Mark 6:31-32). Instead of being anxious and upset at the people for interrupting their search for a place to retreat, Jesus was moved with compassion when He saw the multitude (v. 34). He saw them as untended, scattered, and wandering sheep. Consequently, Jesus began teaching them many things. We correctly conclude Jesus knew the solution to this problem was hearing God’s word. Why? Because faith comes by hearing (and receiving) the word of God (Rom. 10:17; Luke 6:46). Teaching God’s word to feed lost, struggling souls is an act of compassion (Matt. 9:35-38). Most likely, lost souls do not know what they truly need. Jesus did not begin by addressing what people thought they needed (i.e., their “felt need”). Instead, he gave them what they actually needed, the word of God, that fed their souls the food “which endures to everlasting life” (John 6:27, 33-35, 44-48). More than physical food, we need the teachings of Christ to lead us to green pastures, still waters, and paths of righteousness that restore our soul (Psalm 23:1-3; Matt. 11:28-30). Let us show His compassion and teach others His word of salvation and eternal life.
25 But Jesus rebuked him, saying, “Be quiet, and come out of him!” 26 And when the unclean spirit had convulsed him and cried out with a loud voice, he came out of him. 27 Then they were all amazed, so that they questioned among themselves, saying, “What is this? What new doctrine is this? For with authority He commands even the unclean spirits, and they obey Him.” 28 And immediately His fame spread throughout all the region around Galilee (Mark 1:25–28, NKJV).
Why did Jesus work miracles? The answers are in their motive and effect. The motive of compassion is stated repeatedly for His miracles that removed powerfully removed people’s pain and suffering (Mark 1:41; 5:19; 8:2; Matt. 20:33). (It is noteworthy that His compassion also moved Jesus to teach the word of God, Mark 6:34.) The effect of His miracles was to provide evidence that God sent Him and that His teaching is the word of God (Mark 1:27; John 3:2; 5:36; 20:30-31; Acts 2:22). As in today’s passage, the power of His miracles grabbed people’s attention and supported the authority by which He spoke (Mark 1:21-22, 27-28). God does not work miracles through us today (1 Cor. 13:8-10). Instead, the inspired record of first-century miracles shows Jesus is the Christ, and His gospel is God’s word (John 20:30-31; Acts 14:3). Compassion continues to be His disciples’ motive for helping the weak and teaching the gospel to the lost (Luke 10:33-37; Col. 3:12; 1 Pet. 3:8-9; Matt. 9:35-38; Jude 22-23).
18 I will arise and go to my father, and will say to him, “Father, I have sinned against heaven and before you, 19 and I am no longer worthy to be called your son. Make me like one of your hired servants.” (Luke 15:18–19, NKJV)
The young man had wasted his inheritance on self-indulgent, sinful living (Luke 15:11-13). Without money, he took a most menial job that barely kept him alive (Luke 15:14-17). Finally recognizing his dilemma and errors, his change of heart (“he came to himself”) prompted him to return to his father, not with a demand like before (Luke 15:12), but with a plea to be taken back as a servant. The devastating effects of sin are evident in this parable of the prodigal (wasteful) son (Prov. 13:15). Additional lessons are set before us as we meditate on Christ’s words. The mercy of God is on full display under the figure of the father. Instead of responding to his son with angry bitterness and resentful retribution, the father compassionately embraced his son and arranged a celebratory feast, rejoicing at his son’s return (Luke 15:20-24). God will mercifully forgive and receive every sinner who turns to Him with a repentant heart and humble, obedient life. Whatever your sin, lay it aside and return to the Father, and heaven will rejoice (Luke 15:7, 10). The older son teaches poignant lessons against failing to be thankful (for his father’s blessings) and failing to forgive his brother’s sins (Luke 15:25-32). Contrasted with his repentant brother, the older son displayed an entitled, self-righteous attitude and refusal to forgive (Luke 15:1-2). God will not forgive this person (Matt. 6:14-15). Two brothers, both sinners. One sinner was forgiven, the other was not. Which sinner reflects you and me?
6 He also spoke this parable: “A certain man had a fig tree planted in his vineyard, and he came seeking fruit on it and found none. 7 Then he said to the keeper of his vineyard, ‘Look, for three years I have come seeking fruit on this fig tree and find none. Cut it down; why does it use up the ground?’ 8 But he answered and said to him, ‘Sir, let it alone this year also, until I dig around it and fertilize it. 9 And if it bears fruit, well. But if not, after that you can cut it down’” (Luke 13:6–9, NKJV).
Jesus had just commanded repentance instead of rationalizing degrees of sin to escape personal accountability (Luke 13:1-5). The parable of the barren fig tree adds divine longsuffering and compassion to the necessity of repentance. (1) God expects us to bear fruit (v. 6). Disciples of Christ will bear fruit (John 15:1-8). (2) God is longsuffering, wanting sinners to repent (v. 7). The owner did not immediately cut down the fruitless tree. He searched three years for fruit. God seeks sinners’ repentance, not their demise (2 Pet. 3:9). So must we. (3) The compassionate mercy of God teaches us not to give up on sinners (vv. 8-9). The vinedresser asked for another year to tend the tree to stimulate fruit. Like Jesus, let us not quickly dismiss and forget those overtaken by sin (Gal. 6:1-2; James 5:19-20). They need our help, even as Christ helps us when we sin (Rom. 8:34; Heb. 4:14-16). (4) God will punish unrepented sin (v. 9). The owner would cut down the fruitless tree if it did not become productive (John 15:6). We will not escape accountability and punishment for our sins if we refuse to repent (Luke 13:3, 5). Redeem your time. Repent and be faithful to the Lord. God is compassionate, patient, and merciful; A jealous God who punishes sin yet shows mercy to those who love Him and keep His commandments (cf. Exod. 20:5-6).
1 “Take heed that you do not do your charitable deeds before men, to be seen by them. Otherwise you have no reward from your Father in heaven. 2 Therefore, when you do a charitable deed, do not sound a trumpet before you as the hypocrites do in the synagogues and in the streets, that they may have glory from men. Assuredly, I say to you, they have their reward. 3 But when you do a charitable deed, do not let your left hand know what your right hand is doing, 4 that your charitable deed may be in secret; and your Father who sees in secret will Himself reward you openly” (Matthew 6:1–4, NKJV).
Acts of charity ought to be driven by compassion, not by seeking the accolades of men. Jesus addressed the motive of helping the needy by contrasting the public displays of the hypocrites with acts of kindness that escape the attention of others. If our motive for helping others is to be seen and honored, that is the only reward we will have. On the other hand, we will not seek attention when compassion moves us to help the needy. We will not go around telling people what we did; We just do it. People may not see our acts of compassion, and that’s okay. The Father in heaven does, and He will reward us. The good Samaritan, who unhesitatingly helped a stranger, sets the example for us (Luke 10:29-37). Moved with compassion, he was a neighbor to the man in need, caring for him immediately and arranging for his ongoing needs. Compassion for those in distress moves citizens of the kingdom to act, not for men’s praise, but to relieve suffering and honor God.
7 “But if you had known what this means, ‘I desire mercy and not sacrifice,’ you would not have condemned the guiltless. 8 For the Son of Man is Lord even of the Sabbath” (Matthew 12:7–8, NKJV).
The Lord of the Sabbath did not violate the Sabbath, nor did He sanction its violation when His disciples plucked the heads of grain to eat on the Sabbath (Matt. 12:1-2). The Pharisees accused His disciples of being Sabbath-breakers. But Jesus pronounced them “guiltless” because His disciples acted consistently with the law and its provision of mercy (Matt. 12:7; Hosea 6:6; Deut. 23:25). The Pharisees had developed a tradition that such conduct was work, and so to do it on the Sabbath was a sin. They added their tradition to God’s word and bound it on others. Thus, they “condemned the guiltless.” Jesus was not approving situation ethics and justifying violating God’s law. Jesus came to fulfill the law and the prophets, not destroy them (Matt. 5:17). Neither does this occasion endorse breaking God’s word for a so-called greater purpose (mercy, for example). The law of God allowed for mercy, which the apostles received as they plucked and ate the grain. The tradition of the Pharisees denied compassion and condemned the innocent. Both mercy and truth are present in God’s law (Ps. 85:10). Beware of human traditions. They nullify both (Col. 2:8, 20-23).
1 Then all the tax collectors and the sinners drew near to Him to hear Him. 2 And the Pharisees and scribes complained, saying, “This Man receives sinners and eats with them.” 3 So He spoke this parable to them, saying: (Luke 15:1–3, NKJV).
Simply put, a parable is an illustration of divine truth. The illustration is taken from ordinary life events, from which the spiritual lesson is drawn. Greek dictionaries define a “parable” (parabole) as “a similitude…fictitious narrative (of common life conveying a moral)” (Strong’s, G3850). Understanding the parables depends on the condition of one’s heart. Jesus explained this in the parable of the soils, which He said is key to understanding the parables (Mark 4:13, 14-20). An open, honest heart receives its meaning, holds it fast, and bears good fruit (Luke 8:9-10, 15). Hard, closed hearts do not receive God’s word and fail to understand and apply the parables of the Lord (Matt. 13:10-22). In today’s passage, the scribes and Pharisees complained against Jesus for receiving and eating with sinners. They distorted the truth of the matter. The sinners came to Jesus to hear Him teach. He did not endorse their sins; just the opposite. He taught them the way of God in truth to save them. Jesus answered His critics with three parables. God is compassionate toward sinners (Luke 15:4-7), God values each and every soul (Lk. 15:8-10), and God mercifully forgives sinners who repent and return to Him (Luke 15:11-24). Like the elder son, the complainers were ungrateful of their blessings and unmerciful toward sinners (Lk. 15:25-32). Powerful lessons for those who have “ears to hear” (Matt. 13:9).
17 Then they began to plead with Him to depart from their region. 18 And when He got into the boat, he who had been demon-possessed begged Him that he might be with Him. 19 However, Jesus did not permit him, but said to him, “Go home to your friends, and tell them what great things the Lord has done for you, and how He has had compassion on you.” 20 And he departed and began to proclaim in Decapolis all that Jesus had done for him; and all marveled.” (Mark 5:17–20, NKJV)
Jesus had just healed a man possessed by Legion (many demons, Mk. 5:1-13). Instead of rejoicing, in fear, the people pleaded with Jesus to leave (Mk. 5:14-16, 17). So, Jesus went away (v. 18, 20). Jesus will not stay where He is not welcomed and wanted. Like that day on the seashore, Jesus does not abide with us when we choose unbelief and sinful disregard of Him and His will (Jno. 14:21, 23-24). Conversely, the healed man begged Jesus to allow him to travel with Him (v. 18). But Jesus urged him to stay and tell his friends about the compassion he had received from the Lord. Without resistance, he announced to the region’s ten cities all Jesus had done for him, and everyone marveled. Like him, we have received God’s compassionate mercy and forgiveness in Jesus Christ (Eph. 2:4-10). May we, in turn, proclaim the good news of salvation to others, that they too may be saved (Acts 8:4).
21 Then Peter came to Him and said, “Lord, how often shall my brother sin against me, and I forgive him? Up to seven times?” 22 Jesus said to him, “I do not say to you, up to seven times, but up to seventy times seven.” (Matthew 18:21–22, NKJV)
Repeatedly forgiving one who has sinned against us is not easy. It requires faith to do as Jesus said (limitless forgiveness). He went on to describe God’s forgiveness is driven by compassion, not withheld due to wearisome repetition. Such unceasing forgiveness means our hearts must be filled with the love, mercy, and longsuffering of God (see Sword Tips #2116 on 1 Timothy 1:15-16). It requires a generous, sympathetic heart toward the sinner and the struggles against sin to repeatedly forgive when wronged. Oh, the magnitude of God’s repeated forgiveness of us and our sins against Him! As God forgives us, we are to forgive others (Matt. 6:12, 14-15; 18:32-35). The numbers Peter proposed were literal. He thought seven was a perfectly generous amount of times to forgive repeat offenders. Jesus used numbers figuratively (“seventy times seven” does not make the four hundred ninety-first sin beyond our need to forgive). In another place Jesus said, “And if he sins against you seven times in a day, and seven times in a day returns to you, saying, ‘I repent,’ you shall forgive him” (Lk. 17:4). Ready, willing, abundant forgiveness is our task of faith when sinned against. We want and need God’s unending compassion and forgiveness (Matt. 18:23-27). Let us not withhold the same from those who sin against us (Matt. 18:28-35).