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Pastor Scott L. Harris
Grace Bible Church, NY
August 6, 2017
The Compassion of God
This morning we come to a passage in which Jesus demonstrates His own compassion and points out that such compassion was in perfect keeping with God’s law. He then expands to explain the nature of God’s kingdom. Please turn with me to Luke 13:10-21 and follow along as I read.
10 And He was teaching in one of the synagogues on the Sabbath. 11 And there was a woman who for eighteen years had had a sickness caused by a spirit; and she was bent double, and could not straighten up at all. 12 When Jesus saw her, He called her over and said to her, “Woman, you are freed from your sickness.” 13 And He laid His hands on her; and immediately she was made erect again and began glorifying God. 14 But the synagogue official, indignant because Jesus had healed on the Sabbath, began saying to the crowd in response, “There are six days in which work should be done; so come during them and get healed, and not on the Sabbath day.” 15 But the Lord answered him and said, “You hypocrites, does not each of you on the Sabbath untie his ox or his donkey from the stall and lead him away to water him? 16 “And this woman, a daughter of Abraham as she is, whom Satan has bound for eighteen long years, should she not have been released from this bond on the Sabbath day?” 17 As He said this, all His opponents were being humiliated; and the entire crowd was rejoicing over all the glorious things being done by Him. 18 So He was saying, “What is the kingdom of God like, and to what shall I compare it? 19 “It is like a mustard seed, which a man took and threw into his own garden; and it grew and became a tree, and the birds of the air nested in its branches.” 20 And again He said, “To what shall I compare the kingdom of God? 21 “It is like leaven, which a woman took and hid in three pecks of flour until it was all leavened.”
Jesus’ Compassion – Luke 13:10-13
Jesus’ long day of ministry recorded in Luke 11 & 12 has come to an end and it is now a Sabbath. According to His regular practice, Jesus went to a local synagogue to join in worship, and as was common in that time, since Jesus had become a well known itinerant rabbi, he was asked to teach. As He is teaching, He notices a woman who is crippled. The text specifically states she “was bent double, and could not straighten up at all.” This is not being a little bent over or stooped from old age and osteoporosis. The word used here (sugkuvptw / sugkupt ) describes a much worse condition of being bent over so that the ends are coming together, hence the translation of bent double. Added to this is the fact that she could not straighten up at all. The text adds that she has had this sickness, (ajsqenhvV / astheneia) incapacity, weakness, limitation, for eighteen years. Any of you with bad backs can probably better imagine what she felt like in this condition than I can, but even I know it was bad. We are not told of a disease that she had or any accident. The text does say that the origin of her problem was a spirit.
The idea that a spirit could cause such physical problems is either ignored or considered ludicrous in our modern world of science and medicine. However, the scriptures are clear that such things did happen. Jesus cured many people of their physical maladies by casting out the demons that were causing them. This woman had been bent double by a spirit for eighteen years. I am not suggesting all or even many medical problems are caused by evil spirits, but I am saying that what happened in ancient times is still possible today. I don’t find anything in the Scriptures that suggests that demons have lost their ability to cause problems for humans in the present time. While this seems to be more overt in other cultures, I wonder how many problems people face in our own culture caused by demons are just masked with drugs without the cause of the problem being addressed.
I also want to point out something else about this woman that is very positive even though she was crippled. Jesus sees her in the synagogue. It could not have been easy for her to get there. They did not have cars. They did not even have wheel chairs. Most people walked from place to place, and even if she had a horse or donkey, it is doubtful she would have been able to ride one in her condition. She was serious enough about the worship of God that she put in the effort to overcome the obstacles and join with the others in her community to worship God in the synagogue.
I think that presents a good challenge to us. What effort will you make to overcome obstacles that might keep you from gathering with other believers to worship God? Sadly, it has been my observation that many professing Christians will skip church for many reasons that are in reality poor excuses. Certainly it is wise to stay home if you have a contagious disease since that helps prevent others from getting sick. It is also wise to stay home for your own safety when it is too dangerous to travel or a medical condition makes the risk too high for you. But why is it easier to skip church than go to work, a sporting event, or a desired social engagement? Going to bed earlier would go a long way in overcoming being tired, a common reason people do not come. This woman overcame a lot to make it to the synagogue. I fear that many professing Christians skip church because ultimately it is not that important to them. There are other things they would rather do and the quest of fulfilling their personal desires is greater than seeking to worship God.
When Jesus saw the woman, He called her over to Himself. Notice that Jesus initiates this and not the woman. Usually it is the person who is sick that seeks out Jesus to be healed once they hear about what He can do and find out He is present. That was often the major cause of large crowds gathering around Him (Matthew 4:24; 8:16; 15:30). In this case, like with the widow at Nain when He stopped the funeral procession and raised her son from the dead (Luke 7), Jesus sees the need and initiates divine intervention. This is an action of compassion. That is part of Jesus’ character and for it is the character of God.
Exodus 34:6–7 records the Lord’s actions after Moses prayed that the Lord would show him His glory. Then the Lord passed by in front of him and proclaimed, “The Lord, the Lord God, compassionate and gracious, slow to anger, and abounding in lovingkindness and truth; 7 who keeps lovingkindness for thousands, who forgives iniquity, transgression and sin; yet He will by no means leave the guilty unpunished, visiting the iniquity of fathers on the children and on the grandchildren to the third and fourth generations.” David wrote in praise of God’s mercies in Psalm 103 saying, 1 Bless the LORD, O my soul, And all that is within me, bless His holy name. 2 Bless the LORD, O my soul, And forget none of His benefits; 3 Who pardons all your iniquities, Who heals all your diseases; 4 Who redeems your life from the pit, Who crowns you with lovingkindness and compassion; 5 Who satisfies your years with good things, So that your youth is renewed like the eagle.” He adds in verse 13-14, “Just as a father has compassion on his children, So the Lord has compassion on those who fear Him. For He Himself knows our frame; He is mindful that we are but dust.” Solomon observed and wrote in Psalm 72:13, “He will have compassion on the poor and needy, And the lives of the needy he will save.”
Jesus notices this woman and shows compassion to her saying, “Woman, you are freed from your sickness.” When Jesus laid His hands on her, she was released from what had kept her crippled for so many years and she was able to stand up straight again. Jesus did not have to touch her to heal her for He often healed people without touching them, and in the case of Centurion’s servant in Matthew 8, the sick man was not even in Jesus’s presence. But for whatever reason, He did touch her. Because verse 11 specifically states that the cause of her debilitation was a spirit, then casting out the demon or demons was included in her healing. Her response was to praise God.
While praising God for such a healing would be the reasonable and expected response, yet it is a response that is worth noting for a couple of reasons. First, because not everyone that God heals does give thanks to God and praise Him. In Luke 17 we are told the story of ten leapers that came to Jesus to be healed. Jesus granted their request and told them to show themselves to the priest as was commanded in Leviticus 13. The lepers were cleansed as they were going to the priest, but only one of them, a Samaritan, turned back to glorify God and fall on his face at Jesus’ feet and give Him thanks.
The truth is that people are too often like Israel in the wilderness described in Psalm 78:11, “They forgot His deeds And His miracles that He had shown them.” In a desperate situation people will plead with God and make all sorts of promises to Him if only He will rescue and save them from the impending calamity, yet as soon as the crisis is passed, God and the promises are forgotten.
It is like the story of the sailor that fell overboard in a storm and prayed desperately that if God would save him, he would reform his life, quick drinking, smoking, gambling and chasing girls, become faithful in church attendance and be best friends with the chaplain and help him. He soon found a lifeboat that had broken free from the ship. He climbed aboard and continued to pray because he knew he was a long way from land, but he was no longer promising to help the chaplain. The days turned to weeks and he continued to pray, then he sighted land and his prayers began to change quickly. The closer he got to land, the fewer promises he made. The boat capsized in the surf, but he washed up on shore. He picked himself up and walked across the beach and saw a road and said to himself, “I am going to follow this road to a town and find a bar, I need a drink.”
This woman arrived at the synagogue without any expectations, but Jesus noticed her and miraculously healed her. She was now standing up straight after eighteen years and she was thankful and she glorified God. Notice as well that she is glorifying God. There is no doubt she was thankful to Jesus, but she also clearly recognized that her healing had to have come by God’s gracious intervention and so her praise was directed toward Him. She had been crippled by a demon for many years, but that neither stopped her from going to the synagogue to worship God nor kept her from having clear theological insight into the source of her healing. It was the synagogue official that was spiritually blind.
The Synagogue Official’s Blindness – Luke 13:14
14 But the synagogue official, indignant because Jesus had healed on the Sabbath, began saying to the crowd in response, “There are six days in which work should be done; so come during them and get healed, and not on the Sabbath day.”
The synagogue official was the leader or ruler of the synagogue that directed its affairs and worship services. He is the man that would have asked Jesus to teach that day. Now it is apparent that he regrets it because he is indignant, (ajganaktevw / aganakte ), angry with Jesus for something he believed was wrong. Verse 10 only states that Jesus was teaching when He noticed the woman. We do not know what Jesus was teaching or how far into His lesson He had gotten when He healed the woman. Remember that the previous teachings of Jesus recorded by Luke exposed many false teachings of the religious leaders and beliefs of the people calling them to repentance. That had already caused many to be upset with Jesus. (See: The Necessity of Repentance). We do not know if the synagogue ruler was already upset by what Jesus taught, but it is very clear that he is angry about Jesus healing this woman on a Sabbath.
As I have pointed out in studies of previous passages, the Pharisees had developed many detailed rules concerning the fourth commandment to “8 Remember the sabbath day, to keep it holy” (Exodus 20:9), and especially about what did or did not constitute work that would violate it. In regards to medical care, their traditions allowed for emergency treatments that would save the life or keep the condition from getting worse, but they restricted anything that would improve the condition of the person. For example, if someone had a compound fracture of their leg, you could stop the bleeding, but you could not set the bone back into place until the Sabbath was over. For that reason, whenever Jesus healed someone on a Sabbath, they believed He was violating God’s commands regarding the Sabbath.
Properly, the synagogue official should have praised God for the miracle and then asked Jesus why he was healing on the Sabbath, or being that indignant, he should have directed his rebuke to Jesus. But for some unstated reason, he does not do either of those. Perhaps he was afraid of Jesus? Maybe he was trying to minimize embarrassment since he had invited Jesus? Whatever the reason, he instead speaks to the people in the synagogue and instructs them about what he believed was a violation of the Sabbath. “There are six days in which work should be done; so come during them and get healed, and not on the Sabbath day.” That is a strange statement.
First, it gives the impression it was the woman’s fault that Jesus healed her. Second, it commands the people to not repeat what the woman supposedly did wrong. Third, it assumes people could come to the synagogue to get healed as they desired – just don’t do it on a Sabbath. Fourth, it ignores the actual miracle that just took place. The formally crippled woman clearly understood the miracle of her healing was from God but the synagogue official was blind to it. The only thing he seems to have noticed and cared about was that miracles should not be done on the Sabbath.
I wish I could say that the blindness of this man was rare, but we have already seen other Jewish religious leaders miss the obvious hand of God at work to complain that their traditions were not being kept. We can also see the same thing today among professing Christians who value their own traditions over the plain teaching of the Scriptures and the obvious working of God. While some Christian sects have traditions that go back multiple generations, traditions develop quickly, so every group has them has them to one degree or another and can be prone to evaluating spirituality by them instead of God’s actual standards of godliness. The Jesus of the Bible would not be and is not welcome in many churches. He is too restrictive in calling people to holiness for those who are liberal, and He is too patient and longsuffering with sinners and struggling saints for those who are ultra conservative. Spiritual blindness results whenever man tries to determine godliness by his own standards instead of God’s.
Jesus Rebukes Them – Luke 13:15-17
If the synagogue official was not afraid of Jesus, he should have been, for Jesus now not only rebukes him, He includes everyone else who held to such man-made standards. First, He calls them hypocrites, a word which consistently had an evil sense in Jewish usage. The word gained its sense of deception when it was used to describe those who gave speeches full of mime and gesture and then actors who portrayed themselves to be someone or something they were not. By Jesus’ time it was used among the Jews to describe someone who was deceptive, someone that gave the appearance of being one thing when they were in reality something quite different. In Jesus’ usage of the term here and elsewhere (Matthew 6:2, 5, 16; 7:5; 23:13-29), He is referring to those that conceal their evil hearts under a veneer of what was presented as piety and godliness.
The specific hypocrisy Jesus points out here is that their standards for work that could be done on the Sabbath showed more compassion for animals than for man. They did not consider it a violation of Sabbath work restrictions to feed and water their animals, yet they did consider it work to fulfill a much greater need and heal someone. They had compassion for animals, but not for people.
Jesus then points this woman out and emphasizes that she is a daughter of Abraham. This emphasis shows that Jesus is referring to more than the fact that she was a physical descendant of Abraham. Her consistency in attending the synagogue despite her handicaps and quickness to give praise to God demonstrate she was a spiritual descendant of Abraham as well. Jesus is specific that she had been physically incapacitated by Satan for eighteen years, so the Sabbath, a day set aside for man to rest and focus on the worship of God instead of carrying out the work required of him every other day, was a perfect day to release her from her bondage finally give her rest.
This rebuke exposed Jesus’ opponents for what they were resulting in their humiliation. They were being put to shame as they should have been for their hypocrisy was shameful. The text does not tell us their reaction. It would be nice to think that their humiliation resulted in their becoming humble and repenting, but that rarely happened among the religious leaders. While some, like Nicodemus, became genuine followers of Jesus Christ, most remained proud and sought to discredit Him, then kill Him, then conspire to deny His resurrection while persecuting His followers.
All of the rest of the people present rejoiced over what Jesus did and said for they were glorious. They were wonderful to behold and displayed the splendor of God’s character and power. He is compassionate and heals the sick and releases those in bondage. He upholds righteousness and rebukes the hypocrites, for God resists the proud and is gracious to the humble.
Two Parables of the Kingdom – Luke 13:18-21
It was good that the people were rejoicing, but Jesus was not finished yet. He immediately follows up His rebuke with two parables about the kingdom of God and its expansion. Jesus has used both of these parables or ones very similar to them before to express the same ideas (Matthew 13:31-33; Mark 4:30-32). In this context it confirmed what was already seen in part by what had just happened. Though the kingdom of heaven would be opposed as the synagogue official had done, it would nevertheless expand just as the people had rejoiced over the glorious things Jesus had done.
The first parable is that of the mustard plant. Jesus was in an agricultural area in which the people were familiar with seeds and the plants that grew from them, so there was no need to stress seed size as He had earlier in Matthew 13:31-32. They knew mustard has a small seed that grows into something quite large, with this particular type of mustard reaching 10-15 feet. When the branches of the plant became firm, they would be used by the birds as a nesting place. Jesus used the growth of the mustard plant as an illustration of the kingdom of God. It would start small, but it would grow into something large and be a place where many will be able to find shelter.
The common expectation at that time was the kingdom of God promised by the prophets would come boldly and rapidly to establish itself and exert its power and authority over all. There was no mystery that it would become large, but it was a mystery for it to start so small. Jesus started with a small following that only amounted to 120 people at His ascension (Acts 1:15), which would not even be considered a large church now. Yet those few “turned the world upside down” (Acts 17:6) and provided the structure and foundation upon which all of Western Civilization was built, and in a real sense even all the Islamic countries were built off that same foundation since Islam is really only a corruption of Judaism and Christianity mixed with Arab paganism.
There is a lot of discussion in the literature about whether the birds in the parable illustrate evil or not. Jesus did not explain them and it can quickly get speculative either way. To be honest, I do not think it matters. The professing Church, the present manifestation of the kingdom of God on earth, has benefitted all of mankind which includes both those in the church and those who are evil and outside the church. Both good and evil have nested in the shelter provided by the structure that the kingdom of God as manifested by the church has given to the world.
The parable of the mustard plant illustrated the mystery of the small start of God’s kingdom growing to be great. That remains an encouragement to us today. The Biblical prophecies of the end times, though difficult to understand in all their detail, are yet clear that the world will be against God, and whatever form of Christianity exists then will be greatly perverted to be supportive of the anti-Christ. It appears that we are rapidly moving in that direction in both the increase of hostility against Christianity from without and the perversion of it within. Even so, the reality is that the world will never be able to get away from God. He is the sovereign One and it is only His longsuffering patience that allows His adversaries to continue to exist. While the number of Christians in the world may fluctuate from year to year in the present time, in the end, it will only be God’s kingdom that will remain. Our mission in the present remains the same as those in the First Century. We are to proclaim the good news of the Gospel of the Lord Jesus Christ. We may feel small and insignificant at times, but God uses just that very thing to do great things. Little is much when God is in it.
The second parable of the leaven also illustrates the expansion of the kingdom of God from something very small to something very large. In the parable of the mustard plant, the emphasis was on the outward, visible expansion. In this parable, the emphasis is on the inward nature of that expansion. Again, remember that the people, and especially the religious leaders, were looking for the kingdom of God to come with great power. It would be something outward and mighty that would come about majestically and suddenly. Yet here we find the opposite. The kingdom starts small and expands inwardly with an effect on everything around it.
Leaven, which is yeast, is often used in the Scriptures to describe something influential because of the effect it has on dough in the baking process. It is used to describe the influence of both evil things and good things. In this passage it is used as an example of the kingdom of God, a very good thing.
The kingdom of God will change things the same way yeast does in cooking. It does not swell up and overwhelm the flour, instead, it slowly but steadily permeates the flour causing it to react differently than it would have otherwise. It changes the nature of the flour so that you get light, fluffy bread or cake instead of a dense cracker – matzoh.
Historically, true Biblical Christianity has had that effect on the cultures into which it has spread even if it does not become the dominate power. It is great to have Christians in the seats of authority since a Biblical foundation makes for better government, and for that reason I encourage Christians so motivated to run for office and be involved in government. However, true Christianity spreads best by influence instead of power. Where authority has been used to force Christianity on a nation, it always ends up being perverted. Using Christian terms and symbols does not make you a Christian. Getting baptized without conversion only yields wet sinners who are still under God’s condemnation. Reforming obnoxious and evil habits makes you nicer to be around, but it does not save your soul. However, regeneration not only saves you from sin, but also results in personal moral reformation.
I believe a direct correlation can be made between national moral decline or improvement with the faithfulness of the church in that nation to preaching the gospel and living according to it. When the professing Christians in a nation lose their focus on the gospel and spreading the kingdom of God, they personally decline and the nation does so along with them. This is clearly seen in our own nation over the last century. As the churches moved away from the Scriptures as their source of authority, the shift was made from the gospel to humanitarian works. Faith and hope in God was exchanged for faith and hope in man’s efforts in science, charity and government. Morality moved from God’s declarations of truth to situational ethics and now to moral relativity and indifference. That is why there are so many now that claim to be Christians that support things such as open homosexuality, same sex marriage and gender fluidity all of which are declared abominations to God.
When the professing believers in a nation are faithful in walking with God, they are personally changed and the nation is positively influenced by them. Humanitarian works are done for the glory of God and advancement of the gospel. Faith and hope remain in God’s mercy and grace to change people and nations and that He will fulfill all His promises for the future. Morality remains anchored in the absolutes of God’s word so that personal ethics remain upright and those practicing immorality are warned of the grave dangers into which they have fallen.
I will state again the obvious that every nation is better off when true Christians are in the seats of authority. However, this parable is an encouragement to all Christians because it means you are used by God to influence others without having to be in a position of power. The Holy Spirit uses you to carry out His work in proclaiming the gospel and changing people through discipleship and the use of your spiritual gifts. Nations change as the hearts of the people are changed. Your part is simply to be faithful in following God and proclaiming the truth. He does the rest.
This also is the compassion of God. Jesus Christ left heaven to become a man, live a sinless life and die as the voluntary sacrificial payment for man’s sin. He rose on the third day and offers forgiveness of sins to all that believe. Those that do are radically changed by the Holy Spirit, and they in turn influence those around them.
Sermon Notes – 8/6/2017
The Compassion of God – Luke 13:10-21
Jesus’ Compassion – Luke 13:10-13
Jesus goes to a synagogue on the ______________and is asked to teach
As He is teaching, Jesus notices a woman who is _________over double and cannot straighten up
Her condition was caused by a _________- and spirits can still be the cause of physical maladies
This woman was committed to attending the synagogue and _________the obstacles that made that difficult
Her example is a challenge to Christians who _________ church with little valid reason
Jesus initiated and carried out the healing without her seeking it – an act of ______________
Jesus frees her from her sickness / bondage – which included the ______________and being crippled
People make desperate prayers and promises when in a serious crises, but ___________them when it is over
The woman is glorifying God because she recognized the miracle could only have come from _______
The Synagogue Official’s Blindness – Luke 13:14
The synagogue official / ruler directed its affairs including picking the teacher and he is _____________
Whether he was upset by Jesus’ teaching is not known, but he is angry Jesus _____the woman on a Sabbath
The Pharisees believed that improving a person’s medical condition was ________and violated the Sabbath
The synagogue ruler makes a _________statement to the congregation instead of talking to Jesus
The synagogue ruler was _____to the miracle that took place being only concerned about his own traditions
People are still spiritually blinded by valuing their own __________over the clear teaching of the Scriptures
Jesus Rebukes Them – Luke 13:15-17
Jesus rebukes them for being ______________- those that concealed evil hearts under a veneer of piety
They were hypocrites for having more compassion for ___________than people
This woman was a daughter of Abraham physically and _______________as demonstrated by her actions
The Sabbath, a day of rest, was a perfect day to heal this woman and give her _______from her bondage
The hypocrites were exposed and ______________. The humble repent and the proud become more defiant
The people _____________over what Jesus did and said for they were glorious
Two Parables of the Kingdom – Luke 13:18-21
The mustard has a small seed that grows into a __________plant in which the birds can nest
The people commonly expected the kingdom of God to come __________and rapidly establish its authority
Jesus started with a _________following that grew over time to “turn the world upside down”
The Church, the current manifestation of the kingdom of God, is a _______to both believers and unbelievers
The parable encourages us that the kingdom of God will ______despite opposition from Satan & sinful men
The parable of the leaven emphasizes the spread of the _____________of God’s kingdom
Leaven, yeast, steadily permeates dough to influence it and ________its character – bread instead of matzoh
True Biblical Christianity spreads best by its _________. Forced Christianity is false and becomes perverted
When the church loses its focus on the gospel and God’s kingdom, it ____________and so does the nation
When believers are faithful in walking with God, they are personally __________and that nation with them
Be encouraged for God uses believers to ___________things even without them being in the seats of power
The expansion of God’s kingdom displays His ______________in saving sinners and blessing all through it
Parents, you are responsible to apply God’s Word to your children’s lives. Here is some help. Young Children – draw a picture about something you hear during the sermon. Explain your picture(s) to your parents at lunch. Older Children – Do one or more of the following: 1) Count how many times Jesus is mentioned. 2) Discuss with your parents how Jesus showed compassion to the crippled woman.
THINK ABOUT IT!
Questions to consider in discussing the sermon with others. Why was Jesus teaching in the synagogue? What was the condition of the woman He saw? Why was she in that condition? What problems can demons cause man today? What obstacles do you think the woman had to overcome in order to go to the synagogue? What are legitimate reasons for a Christian to miss church? What are common invalid excuses why people miss church worship services? What does that reveal about the heart? Why does Jesus initiate healing her? How do we know that God is compassionate? What two miracles had to occur for this woman to be able to stand up straight? Why was her praise of God notable? Why do some people quickly forget what God does for them? Why is she praising God instead of Jesus? What were the responsibilities of a synagogue official / ruler? Why was this one indignant with Jesus? Why do you think he responded by addressing the congregation instead of Jesus? Why was his command to the congregation very strange? What blinded him to the nature of the miracle that took place in front of him? How do religious traditions contribute to spiritual blindness? What does it mean to be a hypocrite and why does Jesus call them that? Why does He include more than just the synagogue ruler in His rebuke? How did Jesus’ rebuke humiliate them? What is the significance that Jesus calls the woman “a daughter of Abraham”? What was the response of the people over what had happened? Why would they respond that way? Explain the parable of the mustard plant? How did the church expand in its early years? How is this parable and encouragement to Christians living in this time period? What can we expect in the future? How is the parable of the leaven similar to yet different from the parable of the mustard plant? What is leaven? What is its effect upon bread? How does it exert its influence on dough? How does genuine Christianity influence nations and cultures? Why does forcing Christianity on a nation through power lead to perverting it? What is the correlation between the faithfulness of the church in following God in a nation and the condition of that nation? How do true Christians influence their nation / culture? How does the spread of God’s kingdom demonstrate the compassion of God?
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