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Modeling Compassion

July 19, 2020 Speaker: Dr. Rick Gregory Series:

Topic: COMPASSION Verse: Luke 14:1–14:6

Theme: Jesus’ compassion overcomes any obstacle.

Introduction: Jonah sat down with a murmuring heart suspicious that God was going to be compassionate toward Ninevah. He had preached the message that God had given him to deliver – “Yet 40 days and Ninevah will be overthrown.” Having seen the repentance in response to his message, Jonah feared that God would forgive. When the 40 days expired and nothing happened, Jonah became angry. He erupted toward God and basically said: “I told you so!” – explaining that this was the very reason that had fled to Tarshish (or at least tried). Then he said this in Jonah 4:2: “He prayed to the Lord and said, “Please Lord, was not this what I said while I was still in my own country? Therefore in order to forestall this I fled to Tarshish, for I knew that You are a gracious and compassionate God, slow to anger and abundant in lovingkindness, and one who relents concerning calamity.” 

God is compassionate – it is a reliable truth. We do not have to hope that we will “catch God in a good mood” when we approach Him. As a result, God the Son, our Lord Jesus Christ, is likewise compassionate – always willing to show mercy and grace toward those who come to Him. This consistent character became something that the enemies of truth felt that they could use against Jesus. Like the enemies of Daniel of old knew they could trap Daniel due to his predictability of faithfulness to God, the Pharisees thought they could trap Jesus by presenting Him an opportunity to show mercy. Through this clash, we walk away seeing how Jesus’ compassion overcomes any obstacle! 

I. The Predictability of Jesus’ Compassion – 14:1-2

A. The Plot Against Jesus’ Compassion – v. 1

  • We are reminded in the context of Luke, that Jesus is on His way to Jerusalem to lay down His life for sinners – to pay the price for sin for all those who would trust in Him – a journey that began in Luke 9:51.
  • He is most likely still in the area known as Perea, to the east of the Jordan river in modern day Jordan.
  • The phrase “It happened that when He went …” describes an occasion that is not located specifically in a chronology of events but is included to provide yet another evidence of the hardness of heart that characterized the Jewish people to the provisions of the Messiah.
  • “… He went into the house of one of the leaders of the Pharisees on the Sabbath to eat bread …” - as we mentioned on the last occasion involving Jesus being invited to join a Pharisee for a meal (Luke 11:37) that on each occasion that a Pharisee seeks to spend time with Jesus, it always has a subversive purpose.
  • This man was a “leader” [ἄρχων] – a reference to one who has preeminence in a ruling capacity – one of the most learned and influential among the Pharisees, perhaps even a member of the Sanhedrin.
  • “… to eat bread” - this was a prearranged event with the work of preparing this meal having been done on Friday in order to avoid the violation of Sabbath rules of cooking or preparing a meal on the Sabbath.
  • But notice “they were watching Him closely.” – the real evidence of why Jesus had been invited – they were setting Him up to once again violate the Sabbath by healing on the Sabbath.
  1. “watching … closely” [παρατηρέω] – a term that can be translated “to lie in wait” for someone – Acts 9:24.
  2. It conveys a sinister notion that they were hoping that He would do something that they could use against Him – cp. Luke 20:20.
  3. Additionally, we are told that there were “lawyers” present – cp. v. 3.

B. The Personal Focus of Jesus’ Compassion – v. 2

  • Jesus was not the only one who had been invited to “the house” who was not appreciated by this Pharisee – they had also invited a man who was an outcast – “And there in front of Him was a man suffering from dropsy.”
  • “Dropsy” [ὑδρωπικός] – is a medical condition in which the body abnormally retains fluids – referred to more commonly as edema.
  1. It is not a disease, but a symptom of a condition often related to the heart, lungs, or liver.
  2. In Jesus day, it was commonly concluded that a person suffering from these symptoms was guilty of immorality as the body couldn’t properly eliminate its fluids – Leviticus 15:1-3.
  3. The person would have been considered sinful and unclean – and never would have been invited into the home of the “ruler of the Pharisees.”
  • Having seen Jesus’ compassion move Him to do things to help people like this on the Sabbath, they had manufactured the encounter, hoping that Jesus would remain merciful and show compassion on this man and heal him.
  • This would provide them the “ammunition” to accuse Him before the larger judicial body of the Jews in Jerusalem – the Sanhedrin.
  • If Jesus did heal the man, their rejection of Him would – in their minds – be justified and they would “have what they needed” to discredit Him before the people.
  • What is particularly ironic – Luke uses the term “behold” [ἰδού] – literally, “behold, a man was in front of Him …”


  1. The Pharisees’ expectations of Jesus can shame us – do you have an ability to anticipate Jesus’ compassion, or is your default perspective that He is not prone to compassion?
  2. Has your experience proven Jesus to be compassionate – give examples of either answer?
  3. Have you been judged by someone because of an ailment from which you have suffered – or have you been guilty of judging another because of a medical condition? – why is this so inappropriate?

II. The Propriety of Jesus’ Compassion – 14:3-4a

A. The Initiative of Jesus’ Compassion – v. 3 

  • Jesus didn’t wait to see what game was afoot – He took the initiative when He saw this man. 
  • “And Jesus answered and spoke to the lawyers and Pharisees …” – demonstrating yet again that they were waiting for him with the question: “Will He be so bold as to heal this man on the Sabbath?”
  • He knows their “question” and so He “answered … saying, ‘Is it lawful to heal on the Sabbath, or not?’”
  • Jesus’ awareness of their plot enabled Him to demonstrate once again that He is the “Lord of the Sabbath” – Luke 6:5.
  • It wasn’t against God’s Law to show mercy on the Sabbath as Jesus had already emphasized over and again with the Pharisees – cp. Matthew 12:1-7.
  • Yet, the “lawyers and Pharisees” had added superseded God’s commands with their own traditions that were more restrictive than what God had provided – “exceeding what is written” and had “become arrogant” – cp. Mark 7:8-9.
  • This was a recurring theme in the conflict between Jesus and the religious legalists of His day - Luke 6:6-9; 13:10-17 and they desired to kill Him, in part, because He was exposing their unbiblical positions.
  • Jesus wouldn’t allow the technicalities added by man to keep Him from fulfilling the weightier priorities of God – justice and mercy and faithfulness to Him and His nature.

B. The Intimidation re: Jesus’ Compassion – v. 4a

  • The “lawyers and Pharisees” immediately are thrown into a state of confusion.
  1. If they try to coax Jesus to go ahead, that it will be okay, they would lose their ability to accuse Him because they had “approved” it.
  2. However, if they tell Him it is not lawful to heal, they might cause Him to refrain from healing the man and all their efforts would backfire.
  • As Jesus commonly affected His enemies – “But they kept silent.”
  • However, by keeping “silent,” they had failed to prohibit it when they were asked so if Jesus went ahead, they had lost their ability to accuse Him since He had offered to defer to them.
  • This was absolute genius on the part of Jesus – providing Himself with the total freedom to pursue mercy on this man and deliver Him from his suffering and the attending stigma.


  1. Most of our tensions with other believers is due to our willingness to exceed what is written and judge others on our own opinions instead of God’s Word – are you ever guilty of this?
  2. Scripture is a “discerner of the thoughts and intentions of our hearts” – do you find the Scriptures leaving you dumbfounded at your lack of godliness? 
  3. How should you respond when you are confronted by God’s Word?

III. The Priority of Jesus’ Compassion – 14:4b-6 

A. The Relief through Jesus’ Compassion – v. 4b

  • Jesus wasted little time in getting to the demonstration of His compassion for the man – “And He took hold of him and healed him, and sent him away.”
  • “took hold” [ἐπιλαμβάνομαι] – a term that is somewhat aggressive and means that Jesus grabbed the man or took hold of him – possibly in an embrace.
  • By doing so, the man realized that Jesus didn’t consider him unclean – or if he had been, Jesus touch completely cleansed him at the same time it “healed him.”
  • Imagine the instant removal of the swelling in this man’s body – skin no longer taut, mobility instantly restored so that he could be “sent … away” a well man.
  • In addition to desiring to enable the man to return to his family, Jesus was eager to mercifully enable this man to escape the circus of evaluations, probing, interrogations, and intrusions to which the Pharisees would likely desire to conduct. 

B. The Response to Jesus’ Compassion – vv. 5-6

  • Jesus remains on the offensive with these legalists – “And He said to them, ‘Which one of you will have a son or an ox fall into a well, and will not immediately pull him out on a Sabbath day?’”
  • Jesus’ comparison is not lost on us – He says that if your “son” fell “into a well” and was drowning would you not “pull him out” of the water? – Of course they would!
  • Likewise, because of the high value of such an animal, if you had “an ox” fall “into a well” and was drowning would you not “pull him out on a Sabbath day?” – of course they would, and likely such mercies were codified in their myriads of laws.
  • But, here is a man who was literally drowning in a “well” of his own fluids and you would fault me for healing him.
  • Instead of acknowledging Jesus’ point, the chose to remain silent – “And they could make no reply to this.”
  • Jesus had them and they were completely stiff-necked and hardened to the mercy of the Lord.
  • Jesus then truly indicts them in the parable that He shares with them as we will observe in our next message.  


  1. How does Jesus’ act of grabbing the man in our story parallel your own experience of salvation?
  2. Do you tend to avoid admitting that Scripture confronts your own wrong thinking? 
  3. Jesus prioritizes justice and mercy over sacrifice and worship – how should your own life change in light of this?



- You don’t have to fear that God might not have the compassion for you that He has had for others – He cares about your situation.

- When we are “disappointed” by Jesus’ “failure” to show compassion to us in the ways that we desire, we must back up and consider that His compassion is being demonstrated to us in other ways.

- When we desire for God to show no compassion to someone we dislike, we must consider that we are in no more worthy state than they are.

- Our sense of gratitude to the Lord for His compassion toward us must translate into our compassion for others.

- Do not scorn the compassion of Christ who desires to forgive you of your sin – and He calls on you to come to Him for find compassion, mercy and grace.