Authority and Compassion
A sermon on Luke 8:40-9:17 by Coty Pinckney, Desiring God Community Church, Charlotte, NC, 3/12/2006
Imagine that you are alive in the 1940’s. World War II is in progress. Hitler controls Europe. The Japanese empire is strong and expanding in the Pacific.
The President summons you to the White House. He says, “You have been selected for a vitally important task. We want to send you behind enemy lines to the people of Germany. You are to tell them that our forces will win this war. Make clear to them that we harbor no animosity toward the German people. We want them to join us! To show our good will, our scientists have developed miracle drugs that will cure many, many diseases. You will take this message and these drugs behind the lines. This could be a key element in ending this war.”
That’s your task: To go behind enemy lines with an important message about the end of the war, taking along life-giving drugs to demonstrate your country’s goodwill. The president commissions you for this task. You’re sent.
To carry out this task faithfully, you need to believe in what the President says. You must trust him. You must believe in the outcome of the war.
So when the President asks, “Will you go?” you assess your faith, and say, “Yes, sir!”
We’ll return to that picture later. At this point, remember where we are in our series on Luke. The last four sermons in the series all focused on those who follow Jesus:
This section of Luke culminates in next week’s text, with Jesus’ first prophecy about His own death. He then tells His disciples that they must take up their cross daily and follow Him. In today’s text, He is preparing His disciples to hear and obey this most difficult of all commands.
As we indicated last week, today’s section focuses much on Jesus’ authority. It also underlines Jesus’ compassion. But in addition, these verses prepare the way for the call to die to self by underlining the way that God intends to use His people in the expansion of His kingdom.
So we’ll look at these verses under three headings:
Recall first the two stories that immediately precede today’s text.
In Luke 8:22-25, Jesus is crossing the Sea of Galilee in a boat with His disciples. He is asleep in the stern. The wind begins to blow strongly, so that waves crash over the sides. Even these experienced fishermen have never seen anything like this. As the boat fills with water, all seems lost. They awaken Jesus in fear, crying out, “We are perishing!” Jesus simply commands the wind and the waves to calm. They obey Him.
What kind of authority does He display? Authority over natural elements.
Then in Luke 8:26-39, Jesus encounters a man who has many demons. No one was able to control him. At times in the past he was captured and bound with chains, but he had broken those chains with ease. These demons had withstood all attempts to control them. But these same demons cower before Jesus. He casts them out.
What kind of authority does He display? Authority over demons, over Satan’s cohorts.
Let’s consider briefly three stories from today’s text that highlight different aspects of Jesus’ authority:
Luke 8:43-48 concerns a woman who had suffered from a discharge of blood for twelve years. She had spent all she had on doctors, but all to no avail. No medicine of the day could help her. But what happens? She simply touches the fringe of Jesus’ garment, and is healed.
What kind of authority does He display? Authority over chronic disease.
The story of a synagogue ruler named Jairus brackets the story of the woman with the flow of blood. Jairus’ twelve year old daughter is ill and near death. He seeks out Jesus, imploring Him to come heal her. Let’s pick up the story in verse 51:
And when he came to the house, he allowed no one to enter with him, except Peter and John and James, and the father and mother of the child. 52 And all were weeping and mourning for her, but he said, "Do not weep, for she is not dead but sleeping." 53 And they laughed at him, knowing that she was dead. 54 But taking her by the hand he called, saying, "Child, arise." 55 And her spirit returned, and she got up at once. And he directed that something should be given her to eat. 56 And her parents were amazed, but he charged them to tell no one what had happened. Luke 8:51-56
He arrives and finds many mourners weeping and wailing. Jesus says she just sleeps. Now, the word “sleep” has been used as a euphemism for death for centuries, even millennia. For example, Psalm 13:3 reads. “My God, light up my eyes, lest I sleep the sleep of death.” But note that Jesus does not say, “She is asleep” as a nice way to say, “She is dead.” He explicitly says, “She is NOT dead.” The mourners therefore laugh at him; they know she is dead. But He goes to her, says, “Child, arise” - and she gets up.
Jesus has authority even over death.
The closing verses in today’s text tell about Jesus teaching a large crowd of over 5000 men. The disciples have only a few loaves of bread and a couple of fish – hardly enough to feed them even themselves. But Jesus breaks the bread and fish, and everyone is satisfied, with more to spare.
What kind of authority does He display? Authority over food. Authority over the necessities of life.
The brief interlude in chapter 9:7-9 sharpens the discussion of Jesus’ authority. Let’s read these verses:
Now Herod the tetrarch heard about all that was happening, and he was perplexed, because it was said by some that John had been raised from the dead, 8 by some that Elijah had appeared, and by others that one of the prophets of old had risen. 9 Herod said, "John I beheaded, but who is this about whom I hear such things?" And he sought to see him. Luke 9:7-9
Herod is ruler of Galilee. As a tetrarch, he is ultimately under Roman authority, but has considerable latitude to do what he wishes. As long as the taxes come in and no civil discord arises, he stays in power. So in the eyes of many, Herod is the most powerful authority in Galilee. Indeed, he is the one who put John the Baptist to death. He appears to have authority over the life and death of all his subjects.
But Herod is perplexed at reports about Jesus. He can’t understand what is going on. He got rid of one problem religious figure, but this other man has sprung up.
So what does Herod do? He “sought to see Him.” He wanted to check out Jesus for himself. But Herod does not have the power even to do this. After Jesus’ arrest, Pilate sends Him to Herod – but Jesus says not one word (Luke 23:7-12).
This highlights the sharp contrast between Jesus’ true power and Herod’s apparent power, Jesus’ genuine power over death and Herod’s ultimate impotence. Herod can kill the body. But Jesus has authority over death. Jesus has authority much greater than that of any earthly king.
So consider again these five stories. Do you see the complete range of Jesus’ authority? What threatens life?
Jesus has authority over all this. He has authority over every force that threatens life.
If Jesus has all this authority, we need never fear.
Or do we?
To say that Jesus has authority over all these dangers is not enough. The question is: Will He use His authority to act for our good?
Herod, after all, used what authority he had for evil – killing John, taking his brother’s wife.
Authority without compassion is tyranny.
In order to entrust ourselves to Jesus, in order to take up our cross and follow Him daily, we need to see not only Jesus’ authority but also His love and compassion.
Many Scriptures assures us that God is both powerful and compassionate. Psalm 62:11-12a is one example:
One thing God has spoken, two things have I heard: that you, O God, are strong, and that you, O Lord, are loving. (NIV)
God is strong! He is mighty. Powerful. Authoritative.
But He is no tyrant. He is loving. Compassionate. Merciful.
In today’s passage, the same five stories that highlight Jesus’ authority also show the tremendous depth of His compassion. Let’s look at them again briefly.
During the storm on the Sea of Galilees, Jesus has compassion on His disciples. Although He rebukes them for their lack of faith, He saves them from what looks to be certain drowning.
In the second, Jesus reaches out to the man who has been tormented so long by a legion of demons. In His compassion, He sends the demons away and leaves the man in his right mind.
Let’s look more closely at the third story, of the woman with the flow of blood. She is chronically ill. She also has become poor by spending all she had on doctors. Her situation is difficult, but not unusual. You may know someone in similar circumstances today.
But today we easily fail to see the worst aspect of her situation. Consider Leviticus 15:25:
When a woman has a discharge of blood for many days at a time other than her monthly period or has a discharge that continues beyond her period, she will be unclean as long as she has the discharge. (NIV)
Thus, this woman had been unclean for twelve years. This meant that she was cut off from the most important activities of the Jewish people:
She is almost like a leper. And she has no hope. But when she hears of Jesus, she thinks, “If only I can touch Him briefly – I know I will be healed!” So she manages to work her way through the crowd, and reaching out barely brushes the fringe of His cloak. Immediately she is healed.
That physical healing shows Jesus’ compassion. But is that all He does? No. He does not let her get away unnoticed. He does not want her to see his cloak as magic. He wants to draw attention to a lesson that is important for her and for others. So He asks, “Who touched Me?”
She falls down before Him, trembling, and tells both why she came and what happened. What does Jesus say? “Daughter, your faith has made you well. Go in peace.”
This is the only time in Scripture Jesus calls someone “daughter.” She is trembling and fearful. He shows His gentleness and compassion. And He says, “Believe in Me! I am the source of peace, of true well-being. You have been cut off, isolated, suffering, separated from God and man. But now you are at peace. You have true well-being. All this comes through Me. So Believe!”
So Jesus shows compassion to His disciples, to a demon-possessed man, and to a poor, insignificant woman.
The fourth story stands in marked contrast. Jairus is a synagogue ruler, a prominent man. Given his position, quite possibly he is an associate of Jesus’ enemies. Indeed, Jairus may well be putting his position in jeopardy by going to see Jesus publicly. But he loves his daughter and, like the woman with the flow of blood, he has nowhere else to go. He implores Jesus to go home with him, and Jesus agrees.
Time is of the essence – yet Jesus stops to find the woman who touched Him! This must have driven Jairus to distraction. If he had had a watch, he would have been looking at it. He must have been thinking, “Jesus! Come on! I told you, she’s dying!”
Then, as soon as Jesus tells the woman, “Go in peace,” Jairus’ worst fears are realized. Someone comes from his house. His daughter is dead. All his hope is gone.
Then this messenger uses a very interesting expression: “Don’t trouble the Teacher any more.” Why should a member of Jairus’ household be concerned about troubling Jesus? I don’t think he is. More likely, he is trying to keep Jesus away from the house now that there is no reason for Him to come. Perhaps this messenger is thinking, “Maybe with the funeral and all the mourning, the fact that he went to see Jesus will be forgotten, and he can continue as ruler of the synagogue.”
But Jesus, full of compassion, knowing the conflict in Jairus’ head, knowing his despair, looks right at him and says, “Do not fear. Only believe, and she will be well.”
The woman’s faith had saved her. Jesus tells Jairus also to have faith. And He raises the dead girl to life.
Note one more wonderful detail in the story. After giving her new life, Jesus says, “Something should be given her to eat.” His compassion extends to her hunger.
Our final story, of the feeding of the 5,000, also displays Jesus’ compassion. Jesus is trying to get away alone with His disciples, but He fails. The crowds guess where they are sailing, and are able to come around the lake on land. This is not what Jesus planned. But verse 11 tells us Jesus welcomed them. They are unexpected. This encounter was unplanned. Nevertheless, Jesus welcomed them. He gave them what they most needed. He spoke of the kingdom of God, of the Gospel, and healed many.
Then the disciples say, “OK, that’s enough. Send the crowd away to go buy dinner somewhere. It’s getting late.” But Jesus says, “You give them something to eat.” The disciples are astounded. They can’t possibly feed this crowd! But Jesus enables His disciples to fulfill His command.
Jesus is full of compassion toward this crowd of people who crash His meeting with His disciples. He is compassionate to a prominent man, to an insignificant woman; He is compassionate towards His own followers, to a man in the control of the Enemy. Jesus has all authority. Jesus has all aompassion.
“You, O God, are strong. And You, O Lord, are loving.”
When absolute power is united with abundant compassion, then we are secure. Then we can believe. Then we can step out in difficult ways.
And that is exactly what Jesus asks us to do. He will give us more details on the difficulties next week. But even this week He sends out those who are His.
Jesus not only demonstrates authority. He not only demonstrates compassion. He also commissions His disciples to go out under His power and authority as they trust in Him.
We have seen inklings of this commissioning in the stories we have already considered. First, remember what Jesus says to the demon-possessed man:
“Return to your home, and declare how much God has done for you." Luke 8:39
The man fulfills the commission. Jesus leaves. But His witness remains. Jesus commissions this newly healed man to be His ambassador.
A second, rich picture of such a commissioning is in the feeding of the 5000. Consider: Who gives the food to the people? Not Jesus! Look at verse 16. Jesus has instructed the disciples to have all the people sit down in groups.
And taking the five loaves and the two fish, he looked up to heaven and said a blessing over them. Then he broke the loaves and gave them to the disciples to set before the crowd. Luke 9:16
The verb “gave” in the last sentence is in the imperfect tense, referring to a process repeated over a period of time. Jesus was giving the bread to His disciples. Picture it this way: One by one, each disciple comes to Jesus with a basket. Jesus fills Peter’s basket, then sends Peter out to feed the crowd. Then He fills Andrew’s, then John’s, then James’, and on down through Thaddeus and Judas. By the time He has filled the basket of the twelfth disciple, Peter is back with his empty basket. Jesus fills that one again. The rotation continues. Jesus keeps giving, and the disciples keep giving.
The point: Jesus tells the disciples to give the people something to eat. He then empowers them to do so. They have plenty to give – as long as they keep coming back to Jesus.
So Jesus uses the formerly demon-possessed man as His ambassador; He uses His skeptical disciples as His ambassadors.
The last story we’ll consider is the clearest on Jesus’ commissioning. Let’s read Luke 9:1-6:
And he called the twelve together and gave them power and authority over all demons and to cure diseases, 2 and he sent them out to proclaim the kingdom of God and to heal. 3 And he said to them, "Take nothing for your journey, no staff, nor bag, nor bread, nor money; and do not have two tunics. 4 And whatever house you enter, stay there, and from there depart. 5 And wherever they do not receive you, when you leave that town shake off the dust from your feet as a testimony against them." 6 And they departed and went through the villages, preaching the gospel and healing everywhere.
We have already seen that Jesus has all authority. In 9:1 He then gives His disciples from His authority and power! How much power and authority does He give them? Authority over all demons, authority to cure diseases. Then He sends them out to do what? Exactly what Jesus has been doing Himself throughout Judea and Galilee. Exactly what He Himself does for the 5000 according to verse 11 of chapter 9: Proclaim the kingdom of God by preaching the Gospel, and healing.
In verse 3 He tells them to take almost nothing with them. He says in effect, “You need nothing else except what I provide.” As Paul will say later,
“My God will supply every need of yours according to His riches in glory.” Philippians 4:19
As the disciples proclaim the Gospel of the kingdom, they display not only God’s authority and compassion, but also His justice. In verse 5, Jesus tells them to shake the dust off their feet as a testimony against those who don’t receive them. In this way, they are showing that the war will end. God’s Kingdom will conquer. Those who hear must believe this! If they don’t, they are lost.
What do the disciples do? They accept their commission. They step out. They act as ambassadors. They preach and heal. They extend the kingdom to the glory of God.
Recall the World War II example: You go behind enemy lines carrying life-giving drugs, proclaiming that the Allies will be victorious. You invite the German people to join the effort against Hitler.
Where are you in that illustration?
Are you like the German people - duped by a charismatic dictator, working for a war effort that is doomed, fighting against forces that are sure to overwhelm you?
My friends, Jesus has all authority. You must submit to that. He has authority over disease, over spiritual forces, over natural forces - even over death. And He has all compassion, on all sorts of people. He offers you the opportunity to be part of His intimate family, to be His ambassador. Don’t remain His enemy! Turn to Him! Submit! Confess your sinfulness! Say, “Jesus, you are my only hope! I cannot live up to your righteous laws! I look to Jesus as my Savior, my Lord, my Treasure!” The words of Jesus to Jairus are for you: “Do not fear! Only believe!” Believe in Jesus.
If you are His ambassador, if He is your Savior, Lord, and Treasure, then the same message is for you: Do not fear! Only believe! You are called. You are sent. You have a vital message. You have His authority. You are to show His compassion. So step out in faith!
Jesus has all authority, so you need not fear. Jesus has all compassion, so you can love with His love. His Holy Spirit indwells all His children, so you have power. You can fulfill your commission.
So my friends: Trust in His authority. Trust in His love. Step out as an agent of His authority and love. Follow Him
This sermon was preached on 3/12/06 at Desiring God Community Church in Charlotte, NC. See www.expository.org/mark5b.htm for my exposition of Mark’s version of the stories of Jairus and his daughter and the woman with the flow of blood, from which this sermon draws in part.
Copyright © 2006, Thomas C. Pinckney. This data file is the sole property of Thomas C. Pinckney. Please feel free to copy it in written form, but only in its entirety for circulation freely without charge. All copies of this data file must contain the above copyright notice.
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