The Power of Compassion
I want to tell you as a church this morning. This is your day to celebrate. This is the anthem of what we’re about. If you don’t appreciate this day, no one will, right? And when you think about … Today is all about the power of the resurrection. This was the greatest battle in history that took place for your soul, the day death was defeated. Jesus rises from the grave, demonstrating himself as king of a kingdom and inviting you to belong. The early church had a tradition that when they would celebrate, today they would gather together, and they would yell out loud in proclamation of this victory that Jesus had.
Someone would say, “He has risen,” and everyone’s saying together, “He has risen indeed.” Are you ready for that? He has risen.
“He has risen indeed.”
Awesome. I’m going to invite you … Turn to 1 Corinthians 15. In John, chapter 19, we’re going to look at this together. When you think about the power of Jesus’s influence, he never wrote a book, never commanded an army, never held a political office other than when he was a baby and went to Egypt to escape persecution, he never traveled more than 100 miles outside of his village, and here we are this morning talking about him because of the victory that he has achieved for us.
When we think about the significance of the resurrection and what it means for us, the demonstration of the trustworthiness of what the resurrection is has documented historically for us. In fact, this morning, when you’re coming in, we were offering a book on the table you can grab when you leave if you’re interested just about the validity of the resurrection and why it’s something that we can put our faith in. When I think in terms of the validity of the resurrection, our faith trusting in that, the Apostle Paul did a wonderful job in 1 Corinthians 15 as he proclaimed what the Gospel was.
When we think in terms of the word Gospel, the Gospel for us, you’re going to see in this passage of Scripture is a proclamation. It is literally one would go forth into a village, and they would herald the news. In terms of a king and a kingdom, when a king would go into battle, the people would wait to hear if the king was victorious, or if they had been conquered by another. When Jesus sends his followers out to herald the Gospel, it is a proclamation of victory because the king has come, and the king has won.
What Paul is saying here is he’s demonstrating the Gospel, and he solidifies for us what the Gospel is, and he tells us it is the death burial and resurrection because that is what encompasses the Gospel. It’s not what we do. It’s everything that Jesus has done for you, your faith resting in that. So Paul says, 1 Corinthians 15:1, “Now I make known to you, brother, in the Gospel, which I preached to you, which you also received, and which you also stand, by which you were also saved if you hold fast the word, ‘I preached you,’ unless you believe in vain, for I’ve delivered to you of first importance what I also received that Christ died for our sins according to the Scriptures that he was buried, that he was raised on the third day according to the Scriptures.”
He encompasses the Gospel message here. Death burial and resurrection of Jesus. One of the things I really love about this section of Scripture is this Scripture also recognizes a credal statement, meaning when you open up the New Testament, the New Testament is written just within the first couple of decades after Jesus’s crucifixion. A lot of the letters coming around the 500-600 ADs. But this section of Scripture, in 1st Corinthians 15, this is a credal statement that scholars date as early as 32 to 38 AD, meaning just right after Jesus’s crucifixion.
The church came together in a concise way to proclaim what the Gospel was, and Paul, he’s saying in this passage, look. “This was given to me. I’ve received it, and I’ve also delivered it to you.” So Paul’s recognized, and this isn’t a statement that he’s concocted and written. This is what the church has pronounced surely after the crucifixion of Jesus to demonstrate what their faith rested in. In fact, there’s a few places in Scripture like that. Colossians 1:15-20 tells us that Jesus is the fullness of God in bodily form.
Philippians 2:6-10 and 1 Corinthians 15. And Paul goes a little bit further in the recognition of this statement and proclaiming how important this is the truth of what is told here, and he says it like this in verse five, “And that he appeared to Cephas.” He’s talking about Jesus in his resurrected form. Cephas is Peter. “Then he appeared to the 12 disciples, and then he appeared to more than 500 brethren at one time, most of whom remained until now, but some have fallen asleep. Then he appeared to James, then to all the apostles, and last of all as to one untimely born, he appeared to me also.”
“If Christ,” he goes on to say, “has not been risen, then our preaching is in vain, and your faith also is in vain.” So he’s proclaiming to us the significance of this moment, and it being the centerpiece of our faith. The resurrection of Jesus and the faith that we have in this resurrection. But when Paul does this, he’s saying, “Look, don’t just take my word for it. When Jesus was resurrected, he appeared to hundreds if not thousands of people. He even appeared to 500 people at one time,” and the reason Paul is saying this is because he says in this verse, “Some have fallen asleep, but many are still walking around.”
Look, don’t just take my word for it. You can talk to these people. There are eyewitnesses still on this earth. In fact, when you read some of the Gospel accounts and into the epistles written to us in the New Testament, especially the Gospel of Luke and the Gospel of Acts, the author of both the Book of Luke and Acts was very particular in writing the names of individuals as he goes through accounts of stories, because those individuals he spoke with was able to write their accounts, and he wanted people to validate what he was proclaiming.
They were eyewitnesses to this event. Paul wants us to embrace this statement of the resurrection of Jesus, because it is truthful, and because it is urgent in recognition of what Jesus has done for us, not what we do, but what he has done. You could go on the believability of the resurrection. We have a book even available to you this morning on that. Other proves you think about the resurrection. One of the things that I love in addition to the early credal statement here or the idea of eyewitnesses that Paul includes, and the statement is the fact that at Jesus’s tomb, it wasn’t men that discovered the empty tomb, but women.
Now, today, we may not think that very significant, but in Jesus’s day, the testimony of a woman wouldn’t hold up in the court of law, and to have women be the eyewitness account of the first recognition of the resurrection of Jesus Saint. That’s saying to us that, really, God doesn’t care about what we think, but the truth of what is. One of my favorite thoughts about the resurrection is the experience of the disciples and how they lived their lives.
If you read the Gospel accounts, you see followers of Jesus. When Jesus was crucified, they scattered. They dispersed. But all of a sudden, they come back with a fury of a faith in Christ that leads them to martyrdom. How did that happen? You think in beliefs today that many people will lay their selves down for this ideology, but when it came to Jesus as followers, they didn’t lay themselves down for ideology. They lay themselves down for a truth claim they could not deny.
They saw Jesus dead, and then they saw Jesus walking around, and they would not recant. To the end of their lives, they died for that truth claim. There’s proofs to the resurrection, demonstration to the validity of what it is, but we could go on there. There is no end in fact. I mean, Google makes it available today. If someone was hungry, you don’t lack the information. I think the place where we find the disconnect in our lives is it’s not just a belief that is truthful, but it’s also a belief that’s intended to be trusted.
It’s logical at least in the results of the evidence of which are laid out before us in the resurrection, but it’s not just an intellectual assent in our lives of which we acknowledge the resurrection. It’s a statement of belief within our own heart of which we have surrendered our lives to this resurrection. It’s not just a statement of truthfulness, but a statement of trustedness. I think when Paul demonstrates the urgency of the resurrection, chapter 15 and verse 14 here, “If Christ has not been raised, your faith is in vain.”
He’s recognizing in our lives the need for it to become personal for you, to see that this battle on the cross was Jesus’s life given over for you that you may trust in him to this King you were called to belong, and that’s the question. Is this resurrection personal? Is this Jesus, your Jesus? How do you make it personal? How do you know you’re living out the demonstration of the cross in your own life? Well, I think about at the end of Jesus’s life as he’s dying on the cross for his mother Mary. I think the cross was not hard to make it personal.
In fact, in John 19:25, it says this. Near the cross of Jesus stood his mother. Let those words sink in the soul for just a minute. The cross was his mother losing a child. I don’t even want to go there and then imagining the depth of where her soul is at, but Mary sees this. In fact, when you read early in the Gospels, Luke chapter two, “At a time when a young mother is to be celebrated for the birth of her child, she takes her baby to the temple, and she meets a prophet there, Simeon.”
Then Simeon says to Mary … He blessed them and said to Mary, his mother, “This child is destined to cause the falling and rising of many in Israel and to be a sign that would be spoken against, so that the thoughts of many hearts will be revealed,” and look at this,” and a sword will pierce your own soul too.” Could you imagine Mary in those moments what she would have thought about? Maybe and even reflected on those words? Maybe even spent days of her life just praying that pain would not come. But here she stands at the cross.
The torture of the cross being so significant that our English language even came up with a word for it. When we use the word excruciating, it literally means “out of the cross.” For what? For you. The story is intended to be intensely personal in the anthem of our lives of which we surrender ourselves to this king that loved us so dearly that he laid everything on the line for you that you could celebrate a day like this in victory.
Jesus was hanging on the cross. It goes on further. In the story, it says this. When Jesus saw his mother there, and the disciple who he loved standing nearby, he said to her woman, “Here is your son,” and to the disciple, “Here is your mother,” and from that time on, this disciple took her into his home. He’s talking about this disciple as the disciple, John, the Apostle John. In fact, her sister records that John took care of Mary even into the town of Ephesus. History records that John is there caring for Mary.
In these moments when I even think about what’s happening in Jesus’ life, talking about the idea of the cross being so excruciating. If ever there was a moment to just stop thinking about all other people in this world, for just a moment, Jesus, how about we just consider you? How about you quit thinking about us for a minute and you just think about you? In the final breaths of his life, what does Jesus hold towards us? He’s still looking out for souls, and he’s still thinking, “Where is there one more need that I can demonstrate the love that I desire to lavish on these people?”
He looks out and he sees his mom. He said that, “I just want her taken care of.” His whole life. His whole life about others even down to his dying breath. Hebrews 12:2 says, “For the joy set before him, he endured the cross.” I think of verses throughout Scripture when it describes of Jesus’s ministry continuously. It says, “He is full of compassion.” In Luke 19:41, it says this. When he approached Jerusalem towards the end of his ministry, he saw the city, and he wept over it saying, “If you had known in this day the things which make for peace, but now they have been hidden from your eyes.” Jesus’s compassion.
In fact, in Matthew trying to reflect the idea of his kingdom and calling people to this. Jesus says this in Matthew 9:35, “Jesus was going through all the cities and villages teaching in their synagogues and proclaiming the Gospel of the kingdom and healing every kind of disease and every kind of sickness, seeing the people. He felt compassion for them because they were distressed and dispirited like sheep without a shepherd.” Then he said to his disciples, “The harvest is plentiful, but the workers are few.”
Then he gives maybe a verse you’re familiar with. “Pray the Lord of the harvest would send forth laborers.” Jesus’s compassion imitating so much so here. He’s even saying to the people around, “Look, if you care about this kingdom, if you care about what it represents, don’t let this story die with you. Let it live through you.” In fact, pray that God would move in the hearts of other people to do the same. God cares about your heart. God cares about this valley. God cares about people and even to the point of the cross, the last moments of his life.
When he could reflect on his own pain, he looks out and he sees further need even in his own mother. The compassion of Christ is what makes this cross personal because on his mind, for the joy set before him, he endured the cross. That’s why this moment is so important. I think in terms of a mother or a parent with a baby, a baby left unto itself, it dies. It’s got not the strength to live. But a parent has to enter into that child’s position to leverage its strength, to give of itself that that child can find life. So it is with Jesus.
Paul says in Galatians, “If there were another way,” end of Galatians, chapter two, “God would have provided it.” If we live like there were another way, then Christ died needlessly. But in our weakness, in our death, the Bible says of our own soul, Jesus comes. In fact, listen to this. Romans 5:6. Just listen to these words for a moment. “At just the right time, when we were still powerless, Christ died for the ungodly.” Do you hear that? A baby that has no life within itself, ability to give itself life. Help us.
Jesus enters your suffering when you were powerless. In fact, he goes on to say, “He died for the ungodly.” It’s to say not only were you in a position of just static, but actually you were in the opposite position of his kingdom, ungodly. Powerless and ungodly, what can you do? But at just the right time, Jesus shows up. It goes on in verse seven. Very rarely will anyone die for a righteous person. Though for a good person, someone might possibly dare to die, but God demonstrated his own love for us in this. While we were still sinners, Christ died for us.
This resurrection is intended to be personal, and the love of God and the compassion of Christ is where we see this for our lives because this verse is speaking into our own hearts just as Jesus looks out and sees the need of Mary. So Jesus looks out and sees the need within our own lives. While we’re powerless and ungodly, Jesus dies for us. While we were sinners, Christ demonstrates his love. Nothing to offer. There’s no way to impress God.
God can already do everything for himself. But the insane thing about this grace is that you’re never more loved than you are right now by this God, and that he has given everything for you. So, Jesus goes on to Romans 10 and says, “For whoever calls on the name of the Lord will be saved,” anyone, everyone. The invitation to our lives is this Gospel message is heralded. It’s to grab hold of that.
When we do as a body of believers, we’re not working for our salvation but rather now when we do things for God, we’re working from our salvation because the love that’s been demonstrated in our life … It’s not about what we do. It’s about what he has done, and that’s why we make today and every time we gather together a day of celebration, because Jesus said, “It is finished, paid in full.”
Now, think about Jesus commenting to his mother the application of relating this cross to our own lives though. If you’re a follower of Jesus, it’s important just to ask the question, “How did Jesus get his eyes off of himself in these moments? How did he just continue with this attitude of compassion through all of this?” If you ever have been on a plane, when you get on a plane, if the plane were to ever go down, Lord forbid, right? Just so you know, the safest place on a plane is over the wings. Its pivot point, right? Front and end, one of those is going to hit first. Ride on the wing, right?
But if you’re ever on a plane and it goes down, they always go through this procedure to let what to do, right? The event that this thing crashes and you think you’re going to make it, oxygen will drop down. Before you put it on a child, put it on yourself, because you can’t do anything if you’re not breathing. So help yourself before you help others. When you’re in those moments of panic, that’s all you can think about, right? If you’re in survival mode, it’s just you, and you got to take care of you.
Before you can take care of you, or when you can take her you, then you can look outside of yourself. But it’s not until you take care of you that you can begin to look beyond yourself. Then there are other times where you ride the plane where you don’t think about that part. All of a sudden, the pilot takes off the seatbelt sign and says, “You are free to move about the cabin.” Why? Because the pilot has you in a place of safety, granted your freedom is stuck into a little trailer traveling through the sky. But in that box, you are free.
When Jesus goes to the cross, I think his heart continues to look out because even in the midst of the chaos, he’s free in the hands of the Father. Jesus is free, and to us, it looks like a despised moment. But from the beginning, God had already proclaimed. This is what will be for your heart. Jesus continues to focus beyond himself because he entrusts himself to the Father. In these moments for us, I think the demonstration of the cross is made known in how we respond to the chaos of life around us.
This word compassion literally means from the depth of your bowels, which doesn’t really create the best of imagination. I mean, be thankful for your bowel movements, right? But when you think about that today, that is not quite what we think about with the happy thoughts there. Compassion from the depth of my bowels, right? But what he’s really saying is from the depth of your soul, from the being of who you are, compassion. From the depth of who Jesus is, compassion. That thought becomes important because that thought becomes the nature by which those that understand what Jesus has done lived their lives.
In fact, Colossians 3:12 says this. “So as those who have been chosen of God, holy and beloved,” look at this, “put on a heart of compassion.” I would say the evidence of your faith in the cross is made known in your heart of compassion. How do you care about people around you? Look at this guys. If I just took it a step further, I’m not talking about people that are easy to love because when I think about what Jesus did, he said, “Father, forgive them to the very ones that crucified him.” There is no limit to this compassion, and God calls his people to put on compassion.
But if I just played the devil’s advocate for a moment, if the cross teaches us something about following Jesus, we learn it’s dangerous to care. There is sacrifice, and you can get hurt, and sometimes in life, if follow this Jesus, we have a hard time living out the hope of the resurrection in a personal way because of the pain that we experience on this journey. You get burned. But people are going to be people. There’re going to be people wherever you go. So, why have compassion?
One of my favorite verses in Scripture that I think juxtaposes the challenges of relationships with the truth and the power of God in a personal way comes from the Apostle Paul. In 2 Corinthians 12, he says this. Thinking about living out this compassion in his life, Paul I think did this wonderfully, but he says, “To keep me from exalting myself, there was given me a thorn in the flesh. A messenger of Satan to torment me.”
Concerning this, I implored the Lord three times that it might leave me, and He said to me, “My grace is sufficient for you for power is perfected in weakness. Most gladly therefore, I will rather boast about my weakness so the power of Christ may dwell in me. Therefore, I am well content with weakness, with insults, with distresses, with persecution, with difficulties for Christ’s sake, for when I’m weak, then I am strong.”
People have looked at this and asked the question, “Okay, Paul’s talking about this thorn in his flesh. What exactly is this thorn?” People have speculated, “Is this thorn an ailment Paul had? Is this thorn literally a spiritual being coming over Paul and bringing darkness over him?” He goes on to describe it here. He says a couple of things. He says, “It’s a messenger of Satan.” You see that highlighted? He tells us it makes him walk in his weakness. You see that highlighted there?
Then look at the very end of verse 10. He describes that weakness what it looks like. In insults, distresses, persecutions, difficulties. Now, people have asked the question, “What exactly is this thorn?” I don’t really think that the Scripture leaves us up to speculating. In fact, if you just flipped one chapter before this, I think Paul very clearly tells us what this thorn is and aside, when you look at this verse, look at the 2 Corinthians 11:13. Paul in this passage is starting to talk about false teachers in this chapter, and he starts talking about them being angels of light, and he says, “Look, they’re teaching about of Jesus.”
But they’re using the name Jesus, and it’s actually a different Jesus, and I am the same Jesus. So he’s warning people about this, and he says, verse 13, “For such men are false apostles deceitful workers, disguising themselves as apostles of Christ,” meaning they’re using the name of Jesus, but it’s not the same Jesus. No wonder for even Satan disguises himself as an angel of light. Look, we said this before for us as a church. Satan doesn’t walk around with a pitchfork in hand being like, “I’m the devil. Run and hide.” That’s not what he wants to do.
He wants to deceive you as an angel of light, so he goes like this. “Therefore, it’s not surprising then if his servants also disguise themselves as servants of righteousness.” Chapter 12, Paul talks about messengers sent by Satan. In chapter 11, he describes those messengers as people. In verse 30, he goes on and says this. “I have to boast. I will boast of what pertains to my weaknesses,” and between these couple of verses, he goes and describes all the pain that these people brought them, but he says it brings him to his weakness, which is the same words he uses in this verse.
He goes on to describe there’s distress as some persecutions and difficulties, all these brought on by people. What’s Paul’s thorn? It’s people. What brought the crown of thorns to Jesus’s head was people. But what does Paul say in this passage? Yes, there’s challenges, but God’s grace is sufficient. Where did this grace become personal for Paul? The cross of Christ. His grace is sufficient. So what’s Paul doing in this verse? He’s trusting in his pilot.
Yes, we all have adversity, and people bring adversity. But look at the cross of Christ. People brought Jesus adversity. What God did for us on this day carries far more power and implication on our destiny than what any human can bring against us. Despite the challenges, Jesus taught us that when the power of his compassion has lived out, greater things happen. Resurrection power happens. In fact, Paul’s teaching us when we embrace this compassion and choose to live in it, his strength and our weakness is greater and far better it be for us to boast in that weakness that the power of Christ is made known in our lives.
In the end, what Paul did, he made this resurrection personal. He trusted in Jesus even in adversity. I would say a person of faith, especially in adversity. In fact, Paul’s saying that the messengers of Satan, what they’re doing for Paul, what they’re working for Paul is that they’re showing Paul if he is truly finding his strength in the cross of Christ. I would say it like this for us this morning. The event of the resurrection is more than an event.
It’s intended to be personal, and I hope Romans 5:6 is that place your soul rests to see the sufficiency of Jesus that when he hung on the cross and said, “It is finished,” that was for your life to come to that king, to give your life, and then to ask the question, “How do I know I’m walking faithfully in him?” Life is hard, but the way you choose to live and walk demonstrates the power of this resurrection. Compassion and adversity that even in the midst of your weakness, the declaration of your soul, your king has won. Your pilot will see you through, and Jesus at the end of the day gets the victory, and you become a victor because your soul rests in him.