If someone were to ask you who Jesus was, what would you say? Would you talk about Him as the Son of God? Would you mention that He was God incarnate? Would you unpack that He came to die on a cross for our sins? That He was a gifted Teacher? I want to walk through the next few weeks exploring the idea that Jesus is our best friend and the ways we can experience Him as such. Today, I want to focus on the compassion of Jesus.
Luke 7:11-17 11 Soon afterward, Jesus went to a town called Nain, and his disciples and a large crowd went along with him. 12 As he approached the town gate, a dead person was being carried out—the only son of his mother, and she was a widow. And a large crowd from the town was with her. 13 When the Lord saw her, his heart went out to her and he said, “Don’t cry.” 14 Then he went up and touched the bier they were carrying him on, and the bearers stood still. He said, “Young man, I say to you, get up!” 15 The dead man sat up and began to talk, and Jesus gave him back to his mother.16 They were all filled with awe and praised God. “A great prophet has appeared among us,” they said. “God has come to help his people.” 17 This news about Jesus spread throughout Judea and the surrounding country.
This woman was dealing with double grief. Her husband had passed on. Perhaps it had been a recent passing. The text doesn’t say how long it had been since her husband had passed, but now her son, someone Jesus called “young” passed on as well. When people experience the loss of a child it really violates our sense of fairness, doesn’t it? That’s not the way things are supposed to happen, right? Dealing with the death of a child can be something difficult to recover from. Processing multiple deaths at one time or in a short amount of time can be crushing.
And in that culture, when women relied heavily on a husband or a son to help provide and care for them, she was likely also grieving a sense of loss over her future, at least the future she had pictured. When her husband passed, though difficult, she still had her son to lean on and do life with. There would have been a daughter-in-law at some point. There would have been grandchildren to fill her life with joy. Her son’s presence, his family’s presence would have offered her a sense of security. She wouldn’t be alone. There would be support for her in her senior years. Now, when she looked forward, she felt she had nothing to look forward to. Her son was gone. She was truly alone.
And that’s when she met Jesus. She met Him when she was broken and alone. She met Jesus in the throes of her grief. She met Him when she had more questions than answers. She met Him probably at the lowest moment of her life to date. Can anyone else relate? And when she met Jesus she met the greatest compassion and love she would ever encounter.
And verse 13 says, “The Lord saw her.” Those are four game-changing words right there! What a time to meet someone for the first time, when you are down and out, when you are hurting and alone…She wasn’t one of those people who met Jesus on her terms. She didn’t encounter Him because she had heard about this special Rabbi. She hadn’t been curious about Him and sought a way to find out where He was preaching next so she could see what all of the excitement was about. She wasn’t even looking for Jesus when she encountered Him. I don’t know if she even saw Him, but guess what? HE SAW HER! Aren’t you thankful that even in moments when we aren’t looking for Jesus, when we may not see Him because of the pain we are bearing that He still sees us? Maybe some of you met the Lord that way. Maybe some of you met Him when you weren’t even looking for Him. He just came and found you when you needed Him most.
Listen, when someone sees you at your lowest moment, when they see you in despair and are still drawn to engage you, to comfort you, you have received someone special into your life. Jesus is a friend to the brokenhearted because He is moved with compassion when we are in pain. Proverbs 18:24 calls him the “Friend who sticks closer than a brother.”
His heart went out to the grieving woman. He identified with her suffering. He felt her pain. At first read, His words, “Don’t cry,” may sound insensitive, like He was minimizing what she was going through or that He wanted her just to “get over” her grief, but that wasn’t the case. He told her not to cry because He knew what He was going to do. He was preparing her for the miracle He would perform. He was signaling that something was about to change. Her grief would end, so her tears could also end.
Jesus is called the Man of Sorrows and One who is acquainted with grief. (Isaiah 53:5) He knows what that heaviness, that emptiness, that ache feels like. Oh, there’s not a friend like the lowly Jesus. He knows all about our struggles. In fact, there is Scriptural evidence that Jesus comes even closer to those who are brokenhearted, to those who are crushed in their spirits. (Psalm 34:18)
In verse 14 we read that Jesus went up and touched the coffin. It was more of like a stretcher on a cart, and the people who were moving the boy’s body along stopped. Let me help you remember that the Jewish people considered a person unclean if they touched a dead body, but here we see what was and is important to Jesus. It isn’t the ceremonial law, but it is the pain of the person who is brokenhearted, and so Jesus reached out. And Jesus said to the boy, “Young man, get up.” The boy sat up and started talking. And then, this stunning phrase appears: “Jesus gave him back to his mother.”
A relationship was restored. Joy was restored. A future was restored. For me, it was a picture of the kind of reunion that awaits us in Heaven. Tears of sadness were replaced with tears of joy. Now obviously, the boy would pass from this life to the next at some point, but for the moment, this brokenhearted woman got to encounter the compassion of Jesus. Perhaps that was more important than getting her son back because the next time she dealt with a broken heart she would remember the One who entered into her suffering and changed her story. Because of the compassion of Jesus, our joy can be restored. We can have a hope and a future, even in this life.
John 11 details the story of the death of Jesus’ close friend, Lazarus. This story would also have a happy ending as Jesus would come to the tomb of Lazarus and raise him from the dead. But before the happy ending, just as we saw the tender compassion of Jesus in the previous story, we see it in the story of Lazarus’s story.
When Jesus got to Lazarus’s tomb, he had already been there for four days. Lazarus had passed on four days earlier. Four days. Reality sets in pretty quickly when you lose a loved one. Although sometimes it is hard to believe that person isn’t coming back, that they are really gone from this life, it doesn’t take four days to lose hope of that happening. It’s pretty immediate. It may be hard to accept, but it isn’t hard to see that hope of life as you know it is now gone.
That’s true for most every situation except for those rare moments when Jesus wants to demonstrate Who He is or wants to prepare people for what would come next in His own life as He would be raised from the dead. Jesus would raise Lazarus in preparation of what would happen to Him. He wanted His followers to know, to be fully assured, that if He told them He would be crucified and raised on the third day that upon the witness of Lazarus’s Resurrection that they would witness with their own eyes, they could believe that Jesus would return to life. In other words, Jesus was demonstrating that He and not death, has the final say.
And so, as Jesus was on the way to the tomb and spoke with Lazarus’s sisters, Martha and Mary, and the text says as He saw Mary crying, He wept. It is the shortest verse in the Bible and perhaps the most profound. “Jesus wept.” John 11:35 Now why would Jesus weep? Lazarus was His friend, yes, but He knew He was going to raise Lazarus from the dead. He knew well before Lazarus died that He would raise Him from the dead. He even told His disciples earlier in the chapter that Lazarus would live after he would die. If this was the plan all along, why was Jesus crying? I’ve got a big, deep theological answer for you. Brace yourselves. Are you ready? Jesus was crying because Mary was crying. Our tears move the heart of Jesus. He cries when we cry. O what a Savior we have!
Yes, God is just. Yes, He is righteous. Yes, He is the Judge of all the earth. Yes, He is Sovereign and will have His way. It is true that He doesn’t give sin a pass, but He is also infinitely and perfectly loving, grace-giving, merciful and compassionate. You need Him on your team! You need Him in your boat. You need Him as your pilot. You need Him when your heart is broken.
God’s compassion is able to flow into our lives because He sees our struggle. Jesus became like us, experienced life as we do and has identified with us not only in the aspect of bearing our sins, but He suffered as well. I’m not just talking about the Cross. That was the culmination of His suffering, but Jesus never had it easy. People were trying to assassinate Him from birth. He died in abject poverty, and when He died, all He had were the clothes on His back. Even those were taken from Him.
He went through major temptation from Satan in the wilderness for forty days straight. He dealt with loneliness at times. He had family drama to deal with. He was despised by people. He was wearied by the demands of life. He lived under constant scrutiny and pressure. He was falsely accused. He was betrayed by people. He was abandoned by His friends. Listen, our God is not someone who is out of touch with our pain.
Jesus had compassion on the hungry, the sick, the lost, the outcast and the suffering. He never let what someone had done, the mistakes they had made, their bad reputation, the way they had lived, or the sin in their life keep them from demonstrating His compassion. Jesus didn’t base His level of compassion on anything but a person’s need. If someone was hurting, compassion flowed from Him. No one needed to qualify for the compassion of Jesus. Isn’t it great that you don’t have to do anything or be anyone special in order to receive the Lord’s compassion?
Jesus saw the grief of the woman whose son had died, and it moved Him. Jesus saw the tears of Mary at Lazarus’s tomb, and it moved Him. He entered in. He demonstrated miraculous power as He demonstrated His compassion. He performed miracles that renewed their hope. My friends, there is power component to the compassion of Jesus that will make your life better.
“Jesus saw.” What do we see when we look at this world? Do we see an America that has moved away from its Judeo-Christian heritage and values? Do we see corruption in politics that has us feeling hopeless? Do we see media outlets that cannot be trusted? Do we see people who have made their own beds because they have compromised their convictions and danced with the devil? Do we see people strung out on drugs, people who have looked for shortcuts, people who have sold their bodies and their souls to make a quick buck? Do we see poverty and homelessness and lawlessness? What do we see? What should we see?
I’ll tell you what Jesus sees. O He sees all the stuff I described and more, but more than any of that, He sees sheep without a shepherd. He sees people who have fallen prey to the devil’s schemes. He sees people who have looked for hope in the wrong places. He sees broken cisterns and broken systems and broken people. He sees people who have been hoodwinked to believe false promises. He sees people who are hurting, people who have no idea who He created them to be and who don’t know how to discover their royal identity. He sees people who are trying but can’t find the path home to the Father’s house. He sees families that have fallen apart. He sees how the hurt and pain of unforgiveness has ravaged relationships and divided close friends. He sees how shame and regret have robbed people of their God-given destiny. He sees the burdens that are heavy, and the way things are mounting up. Why does He see all of those things? Because He is filled with compassion.
Our God isn’t a surface-level God. He goes deep. He looks deep. He takes a deep dive into the pits of life where depression, discouragement and despair hang out. But He doesn’t stop there. He climbs into the pit with us to pull us out. Psalm 103:4 says, “He redeems your life from the pit and crowns you with love and compassion.”
Jesus, in love and compassion can redeem your life from the pit today. He can give you new life. He can renew your hope. He can heal your heart. He can take you to a place you could never go on your own because of His compassionate love, if you will let Him come close. God sees you in this moment, and He wants to make a pitstop at your pit!
What is your pit this morning? Has a loved one gone on and you find yourself in need of the comfort and compassion of Jesus? Do you need Him to infuse hope into your now and your future? God can do it! What is your pit? What are you grieving? Are you grieving the loss of a friendship? The loss of a job? The loss of your senior year or sports career due to the pandemic? What is your pit? Is it the loss of your health? Is it the ending of a special relationship? Over what are you lamenting today? Is it the state of our country? God can give you peace.
What is your pit? Is it a pit of your own making? Have you dug yourself into your own pit? Are you trapped in an addictive cycle? Has lust consumed your life? Has sexual promiscuity led to heavy consequences? Have prescription drugs taken over? Is alcohol always calling your name, making you a slave? Have you broken trust with people? Is your reputation in need of repair? What is your pit? Has depression overtaken your drive and productivity? Have things in your marriage grown cold? Is the communication broken in your family? Have you given up on your dreams? What is your pit? Is it unforgiven sin that is keeping you from connecting with God in peace and growing in your faith? Has your love for God grown cold because life has pulled you in other directions?
God wants to redeem your life and crown it with love and compassion. God’s compassion reaches into the depths of your pit. He redeems our lives from the pit. “Redeem” means to buy something back, to gain something back. How has Christ done that? With His very blood. We have been redeemed with the precious blood of Christ. We don’t have to live in the pit! Jesus, descended to our pit, experienced life in the pit, and gave His life so that we can be redeemed from that kind of low living.
Some of you here today may be looking ahead and you don’t see hope for change. You don’t see a future. Whatever you were counting on or hoping in is gone, has evaporated or been taken from you. It’s created a pit that you are sitting in. You need to be touched by the compassion of Jesus in order to re-engage and to have that forward look. Just look up. He’s coming toward you now. He is weeping with you now, but as He does, He is preparing a miracle at the same time to restore a hope and a future to you. Jesus is a compassionate friend.