Stories throughout the Bible force us to ask, “Who deserves God’s compassion?” Consider Jonah, the wayward prophet, who only liked mercy applied to himself, and the older brother of the prodigal son hated seeing the total restoration of his once-foolish baby brother. Think of the workers in Matthew 20 who wanted a fair wage but grew furious at the owner’s generosity to those who only worked a short while. Observing all these characters, we do right to ask ourselves, “Am I like them? Do I only like God’s generosity, mercy, and grace when it comes to me, or do delight in seeing the character of God on display for everyone?” Our passage today stretches our understanding of how and to whom God extends his compassionate love.
Who Deserves Grace?
And when he rose from prayer, he came to the disciples and found them sleeping for sorrow.
Luke painted a bleak picture during this episode of Jesus’s life. With the physical darkness surrounding Jesus and his disciples, the emotional exhaustion that had come over Jesus’s crew, the absurd size of the crowd coming to arrest Jesus, and the sting of betrayal that one of the Twelve would use a kiss to turn on his friend and teacher, we can almost hear ominous music as we read these verses out loud. As the fear mounted for Jesus’s disciples, they asked the honest question if they should strike these men who meant harm for their beloved leader. Before Jesus could answer, one of the disciples struck the ear of the high priest’s slave. Rather than allowing fighting to ensue, Jesus—very much sovereign and in control of this moment—commanded that everyone stop. He knew his time to die was approaching in that evil hour, and he knew he would willingly go as a sheep to be slaughtered, not as a failed insurrectionist.
to heal or not to heal
At this point, Jesus had to decide whether to heal the man who lost his ear. Obviously, Jesus could heal. And his disciples, including Judas, knew well of his powers. The question might have crossed their minds though: should he heal? The stricken man came with the crowd bent on Jesus’s destruction. He would literally lead Jesus to his trial and death. Should Jesus show this man compassion? Or, should he allow him to suffer the consequences of following the wrong crowd? Jesus remained true to his character and teaching found earlier (Luke 6:27–28), and healed his enemy.
compassion for all
Skim the pages of Scripture, and you will find example after example of God showing compassion to those who least deserve it. He gave the Ninevites second chances, he allowed foreign leaders to repent, he let the Twelve remain with him through blunders, and he lets us receive new mercies every single day. Jesus shows us in the story of this miracle that provision from God comes especially to believers, but not exclusively. He loves His friends and His enemies. Do we?
Watch Session Two
Jesus Calms Our Storms
When is it hardest for you to show compassion? How does Jesus's example encourage or instruct you?
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