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"And Jesus came up and spoke to them, saying, 'All authority has been given to Me in heaven and on earth.'" (Matthew 28:18)
This lesson presents 10 facets of the authority of Jesus Christ as taught in the Gospels of Matthew, Mark, Luke, and John.
The scripture references below are from the New American Standard Bible 1995 on the Bible Gateway website unless indicated otherwise (Ref. 1).
Consider. Which aspects of Jesus' authority really amaze you?
In the New Testament and in the examples below, the Greek word translated as "authority" is exousia [pronounced ex-oo-see'-ah]. Exousia means power to act, conferred or delegated power, ability, and weight (Ref. 2).
1. Jesus' Authority as a Teacher
"They were amazed at His teaching; for He was teaching them as one having authority, and not as the scribes" (Mark 1:22).
People were amazed [literally shocked or astonished] at the authority [ability and weight] that Jesus exhibited in his teaching (Matthew 7:28-29, Ref. 2, Ref. 3). Whereas the scribes quoted secondhand from other human sources such as rabbis ("Hillel says ..."), Jesus spoke from himself independently and absolutely as one sent of God (Ref. 4, Ref. 5). Jesus' formula was not "Ye have heard that it hath been said," but "I say unto you" (Ref. 6, Matthew 5:43-44 KJV).
2. Jesus' Authority over Unclean Spirits
"And Jesus rebuked him, saying, 'Be quiet, and come out of him!' Throwing him into convulsions, the unclean spirit cried out with a loud voice and came out of him. They were all amazed, so that they debated among themselves, saying, 'What is this? A new teaching with authority! He commands even the unclean spirits, and they obey Him'" (Mark 1:23-27).
Jesus demonstrated his authority [power to act] over unclean spirits by verbal word of command (man in synagogue - Mark 1:23-27, Gerasene demoniac - Luke 8:26-39, deaf mute boy with convulsions - Mark 9:14-29).
3. Jesus' Authority to Heal Diseases
"And a leper came to Jesus, beseeching Him and falling on his knees before Him, and saying, 'If You are willing, You can make me clean.' Moved with compassion, Jesus stretched out His hand and touched him, and said to him, 'I am willing; be cleansed.' Immediately the leprosy left him and he was cleansed" (Mark 1:40-42).
Jesus demonstrated his authority to heal diseases by touch and verbal command (Simon's mother-in-law - Mark 1:30-31, leper - Mark 1:40-45, paralytic - Mark 2:10-12, man with withered hand - Matthew 12:9-14, blind man - Mark 8:22-26). In the remarkable encounter with the centurion whose slave was sick and about to die, the centurion recognized Jesus' authority to heal the centurion's slave from a distance by just saying the word (Matthew 8:5-10, 13).
4. Jesus' Authority to Raise the Dead
"And He came up and touched the coffin; and the bearers came to a halt. And He said, 'Young man, I say to you, arise!' The dead man sat up and began to speak. And Jesus gave him back to his mother'" (Luke 7:14-15).
Jesus demonstrated his authority to raise the dead by spoken command. In addition to raising the widow of Nain's son (Luke 7:11-17), Jesus raised Jairus' daughter (Luke 8:40-42, 49-56), and Lazarus (John 11:1, 11:21-27, 38-45). These miracles of Jesus' authority proved who Jesus was (and still is). Martha said to Jesus, "Yes, Lord; I have believed that You are the Christ, the Son of God, even He who comes into the world" (John 11:27).
5. Jesus' Authority to Forgive Sins
"Being unable to get to Him because of the crowd, they removed the roof above Him; and when they had dug an opening, they let down the pallet on which the paralytic was lying. And Jesus seeing their faith said to the paralytic, 'Son, your sins are forgiven'" (Mark 2:4-5). Some of the scribes who were present reasoned in their hearts, "Why does this man speak that way? He is blaspheming; who can forgive sins but God alone?" (Mark 2:7, Exodus 34:6-7, Isaiah 43:25, Micah 7:18).
Jesus used his divine authority to heal the paralytic (with results the scribes could see) to prove his divine authority to forgive sins. Jesus said, "'But so that you may know that the Son of Man has authority on earth to forgive sins'—He said to the paralytic, 'I say to you, get up, pick up your pallet and go home'" (Mark 2:10-11). The forgiven and healed paralytic did rise, and took out his pallet in the sight of all (Mark 2:12). The people were amazed and glorified God (Mark 2:12). Such is the authority of Jesus!
6. Jesus' Authority over the Creation
"And He got up and rebuked the wind and said to the sea, 'Hush, be still.' And the wind died down and it became perfectly calm" (Mark 4:39).
Jesus -- the Creator (Genesis 1:1, John 1:1-3, Colossians 1:15-17) -- demonstrated his authority over the creation by commanding the sea to be still (Mark 4:35-41). This miracle powerfully showed Jesus' disciples who he was (and still is). The Old Testament teaches that God is the only one who can still the roaring sea (Psalm 65:5-7). Jesus' disciples remarked, "Who then is this, that even the wind and the sea obey Him?" (Mark 4:41).
7. Jesus' Authority to Execute Judgment
"For just as the Father has life in Himself, even so He gave to the Son also to have life in Himself; and He gave Him authority to execute judgment, because He is the Son of Man" (John 5:26-27).
God has given Jesus -- the Son of God (Luke 1:31-35), the Son of Man (Daniel 7:13-14), and the Messiah (John 4:25-26) -- authority to execute judgment. The Greek word for "judgment" in John 5:27 is krisis (pronounced kree'-sis). Krisis means a judicial decision with the results of either a positive verdict for (righteousness) or a negative verdict against (condemnation) (HELPS Word-studies - Ref. 7).
The Gospel of John tells us that those who do not believe in Jesus are "judged already" (John 3:18, for context, read John 3:16-21). Those who do believe in Jesus do not need to worry about judgment [condemnation] because "He who hears My word, and believes Him who sent Me, has eternal life, and does not come into judgment, but has passed out of death into life" (John 5:24).
8. Jesus' Authority over Mankind to Give Eternal Life
"Jesus spoke these things; and raising His eyes to heaven, He said, 'Father, the hour has come; glorify Your Son, so that the Son may glorify You, just as You gave Him authority over all mankind, so that to all whom You have given Him, He may give eternal life" (John 17:1-2 NASB 2020).
Note the distinction Jesus makes in this prayer between "all mankind" and those "given him." Although Jesus has authority over all mankind, Jesus gives eternal life to those his heavenly Father has given him, that is, all who will believe in him (John 3:14-16, 1 John 5:13, Ref. 8).
9. Jesus Gives Authority to His Disciples
"And He called the twelve together, and gave them power and authority over all the demons and to heal diseases. And He sent them out to proclaim the kingdom of God and to perform healing" (Luke 9:1-2).
Twelve sent out: Jesus not only gave the twelve disciples the authority to act, but also gave them the power to act. The power and authority that Jesus gave his disciples over demons and to perform healing confirmed their preaching message. Luke 9:6 tells us, "Departing, they began going throughout the villages, preaching the gospel and healing everywhere."
Seventy sent out: Luke 10:1 tells us that Jesus appointed seventy others and sent them to every city and place where He was going to come. Jesus instructed the seventy to heal the sick and say to them, "The kingdom of God has come near to you" (Luke 10:9). The seventy returned with joy, saying, "Lord, even the demons are subject to us in Your name" (Luke 10:17). The authority of Jesus' disciples to heal the sick, to cast out demons, to preach the gospel, and to make disciples is not in the authority of their (our) own name but is in the authority of the name of Jesus.
Disciples after Pentecost: At Pentecost and after Pentecost, God poured out the Holy Spirit on Jesus' disciples and filled them (Acts 2:1-4, Acts 2:17, Acts 4:31, Acts 10:44-48). Jesus had told them in advance that the Holy Spirit would come upon them so they would be his witnesses "in Jerusalem, Judea, Samaria, and even the remotest part of the earth" (Acts 1:8). In the authority of Jesus' name, Jesus' spirit-filled disciples healed the sick, cast out demons, and raised the dead. These miracles resulted in opportunities for Jesus' disciples to testify about Jesus Christ with the results of many people believing in the Lord. Examples include:
10. All Authority Has Been Given to Jesus
After Jesus' resurrection, "The eleven disciples proceeded to Galilee, to the mountain which Jesus had designated" (Matthew 28:16). "Jesus came up and spoke to them, saying, 'All authority has been given to Me in heaven and on earth'" (Matthew 28:18).
God has exalted Jesus Christ and has given him supreme authority in heaven and earth. The Apostle Paul tells us about Jesus, "Being found in appearance as a man, He humbled Himself by becoming obedient to the point of death, even death on a cross. For this reason also, God highly exalted Him, and bestowed on Him the name which is above every name, so that at the name of Jesus every knee will bow, of those who are in heaven and on earth and under the earth, and that every tongue will confess that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father" (Philippians 2:8-11).
God has given Jesus all authority over all peoples and nations (Daniel 7:13-14, Philippians 2:10-11). Jesus governs and protects the church (Ephesians 1:19-23). Jesus bestows the Holy Spirit (John 14:16-17, Acts 1:8), and he employs the angels of God to render service for those who will inherit salvation (Hebrews 1:13-14, Ref. 10).
In the supreme authority that God has given Jesus Christ, Jesus said to his disciples then, and he says to us -- his disciples today -- "Go therefore and make disciples of all the nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and the Son and the Holy Spirit, teaching them to observe all that I commanded you; and lo, I am with you always, even to the end of the age" (Matthew 28:19-20).
Apply. In the authority that Jesus has given you as his disciple, how will you serve others in Jesus' name?
Gills Exposition - Mark 1:22
Cambridge Bible for Schools and Colleges - Mark 1:22
Barnes notes on John 17:2
Pulpit Commentary on Matthew 28:18
"Believe in the Lord Jesus, and you will be saved, you and your household." (Acts 16:31)
This lesson is the second in a series on what "to be saved" means in the Bible. The first lesson described what "to be saved" means in the Old Testament (Ref. 1). This lesson describes what "to be saved" means in the New Testament.
This lesson uses scripture quotations from the English Standard Version (ESV) and the New American Standard Bible (NASB) (Ref. 2).
Consider. What do the words, "to be saved," mean to you? How does a person become saved?
1. "To be saved" in the New Testament means "to be delivered out of danger into safety" and "to be made well or whole."
The Greek word, sózó, translated as saved in Acts 16:31 occurs over 100 times in the New Testament (Ref. 3). Sózó (pronounced sode'-zo) means to deliver, heal, make whole, preserve, and save (Ref. 3). When God saves us, God delivers us out of danger into his provisions (safety).
Items "a," "b," "c," and "d" below provide examples from the New Testament for what it means to be saved.
a. Jesus saves people through storms
(1). Jesus saved his disciples when they were afraid
Matthew 8:25-26 -- "And they went and woke him, saying, 'Save us, Lord; we are perishing.' 26 And he said to them, 'Why are you afraid, O you of little faith?' Then he rose and rebuked the winds and the sea, and there was a great calm." (Read the entire account: Matthew 8:23-27.)
(2). Jesus saved Peter when he doubted
Matthew 14:30-31, brackets added -- "But when he [Peter] saw the wind, he was afraid, and beginning to sink he cried out, 'Lord, save me.' 31 Jesus immediately reached out his hand and took hold of him, saying to him, 'O you of little faith, why did you doubt?' " (Read the entire account: Matthew 14:22-33.)
Notice in these examples that Jesus saved them even when they had little faith. Let that thought encourage you and calm you in whatever storm you are going through.
b. Jesus saves people when they are lost
Luke 19:8-10 -- "And Zacchaeus stood and said to the Lord, 'Behold, Lord, the half of my goods I give to the poor. And if I have defrauded anyone of anything, I restore it fourfold.' 9 And Jesus said to him, 'Today salvation has come to this house, since he also is a son of Abraham. 10 For the Son of Man came to seek and to save the lost.'" (Read the entire account: Luke 19:1-10).
In Luke 19:10, the Greek word for lost, apollumi (ap-ol'-loo-mee), has a more severe meaning than just needing directions to point the way. Apollumi (being lost) implies to die with the implication of ruin and permanent (absolute) destruction by experiencing a miserable end (Ref. 4). Jesus Christ came to save Zaccheus, you, and me from experiencing ruin, permanent destruction, and a miserable end.
c. Jesus saves suffering people and makes them well (healed and whole)
The Greek word sózó which means save also means make well, heal, and restore to health (Thayer's Greek Lexicon, Ref. 3). The New Testament strongly teaches the healing nature of being saved.
(1). Jesus healed the woman with a hemorrhage
Mark 5:33-34, brackets added -- "But the woman, knowing what had happened to her, came in fear and trembling and fell down before him and told him the whole truth. 34 And he said to her, 'Daughter, your faith has made you well [saved you]; go in peace, and be healed of your disease.'" (Read the entire account: Mark 5:25-34.)
(2). Jesus healed Bartimaeus from blindness
Mark 10:51-52, brackets added -- "And Jesus said to him, 'What do you want me to do for you?' And the blind man said to him, 'Rabbi, let me recover my sight.' 52 And Jesus said to him, 'Go your way; your faith has made you well [saved you].' And immediately he recovered his sight and followed him on the way." (Read the entire account: Mark 10:46-52.)
(3). Church elders are to pray for the sick to be restored (saved)
James 5:14-15, brackets added -- "Is anyone among you sick? Let him call for the elders of the church, and let them pray over him, anointing him with oil in the name of the Lord. 15 And the prayer of faith will save [restore] the one who is sick, and the Lord will raise him up. And if he has committed sins, he will be forgiven."
When you are suffering and need healing, seek the Lord Jesus Christ in prayer and faith, and trust him for the results.
d. God will save people who call on him from the day of the Lord and from the wrath of God against sin
(1). People who call upon the name of the Lord will be saved from the day of the Lord
The prophet Joel describes the day of the Lord in Joel 2:30-32. In Joel 2:31, he describes the day of the Lord as "great and awesome [where awesome means to be feared]" (Ref. 5). Then, Joel adds "And it shall come to pass that everyone who calls on the name of the Lord shall be saved [delivered, escape]" (Joel 2:32, brackets added; Ref. 6). On Pentecost, the Apostle Peter quoted Joel 2:28-32 in Acts 2:17-21.
"Calling on the name of the Lord" means "to adore and worship" the Lord and "to invoke" [petition, appeal to, and make an earnest request to] the Lord in prayer (Ref. 7, Ref. 8).
God has promised -- people who call on him (adore, worship, appeal to, and pray to him) will be saved. When you believe in Christ, the time of his return will be a time of salvation, not a time of fear. Thank God and rejoice in that promise.
(2). God will save believers in Christ from the wrath of God against sin
Romans 5:8-10 -- "but God shows his love for us in that while we were still sinners, Christ died for us. 9 Since, therefore, we have now been justified by his blood, much more shall we be saved by him from the wrath of God. 10 For if while we were enemies we were reconciled to God by the death of his Son, much more, now that we are reconciled, shall we be saved by his life."
According to HELPS Word-studies, the wrath of God refers to God's fixed, controlled, passionate feeling against sin (Ref. 9). As believers in Christ, we are justified [made righteous] by the blood of Christ (Ref. 10, Romans 5:9). That is why we who believe in Christ will be saved by him from the wrath of God against sin (Romans 5:9-10).
2. Biblical Principles about Being Saved
a. God was so moved by his love for the world that he has already provided the way for the world to be saved
John 3:16 -- "For God so loved the world, that he gave his only Son, that whoever believes in him should not perish but have eternal life."
b. God sent his Son not to judge the world, but that the world might be saved through him
John 3:17 -- Jesus said to Nicodemus, "For God did not send the Son into the world to judge the world, but so that the world might be saved through Him." Nicodemus, a Pharisee (John 3:1), may have been expecting a Messiah that would destroy Israel's Gentile enemies (Ellicott's Commentary on John 3:17, Ref. 11). Jesus came at that time not to initiate the final judgment of the world, but to provide the way for the people of the world -- Gentiles and Jews -- to be saved.
c. For those who believe in Christ, God has saved us from our former life of sin
Romans 5:8 -- "But God demonstrates His own love toward us, in that while we were still sinners, Christ died for us."
Ephesians 2:4-5 -- "But God, being rich in mercy, because of the great love with which he loved us, 5 even when we were dead in our trespasses, made us alive together with Christ—by grace you have been saved."
d. God has provided his Son, Jesus Christ, as the only way by which people are saved
Acts 4:10,12 -- The Apostle Peter referred to Jesus Christ of Nazareth when he said, "And there is salvation in no one else, for there is no other name under heaven given among men by which we must be saved."
e. Our only "to do" to become saved is to believe in Jesus Christ, God's Son
Acts 16:30-31, brackets added -- "Then he [the Philippian jailer] brought them [Paul and Silas] out and said, 'Sirs, what must I do to be saved?' 31 And they said, 'Believe in the Lord Jesus, and you will be saved, you and your household.'"
The Greek word for believe means trust in, have faith in, and have confidence in (Ref.12).
3. Salvation Prayer
Apply. If you are not yet a believer in Jesus Christ, tell him you are sorry for all the sins in your life (1 John 1:9), and put your faith and trust in him. Tell Jesus that you believe in him and that you believe he died for you (Romans 5:8). Tell Jesus that you believe in your heart that God raised him from the dead (Romans 10:9). Thank Jesus for being your Savior and Lord.
"Everyone who calls on the name of the Lord will be saved" (Romans 10:13).
"What Does 'To Be Saved' Mean in the Old Testament?" (Psalm 18:3)
"God's Offer of Salvation and Eternal Life" (John 3:16)
"Faith Comes from Hearing" (Romans 10:17)
"I call upon the Lord, who is worthy to be praised, and I am saved from my enemies." (Psalm 18:3)
This lesson explains what "to be saved" means in the Old Testament of the Bible. In the Old Testament "to be saved" means to be delivered by God into safety.
This lesson uses scripture quotations from the English Standard Version (ESV) and the New American Standard Bible (NASB) (Ref. 1) unless noted otherwise.
Consider. What do the words, "to be saved," mean to you in the religious sense?
1. "To be saved" in the Old Testament means "to be delivered"
The Old Testament Hebrew word for saved is yasha, pronounced (yaw-shah'). Yasha means to deliver (Ref. 2). To be saved means to be delivered with the implication of being delivered by God into safety. Strong's Exhaustive Concordance translates yasha as help, preserve, rescue, be safe, and savior (saviour) (Ref. 2). Brown-Driver-Briggs adds the meanings of to make wide, spacious, and liberate (Ref. 2).
Items "a" through "d" below provide examples from the Old Testament for what it means to be saved.
a. Delivered by God from all enemies
Psalm 18:3 -- "I call upon the Lord, who is worthy to be praised, and I am saved from my enemies." David wrote this psalm of deliverance early in his reign when God had recently delivered him from the Philistines as well as from Saul (2 Samuel 21:15-2 Samuel 22:4). In Hebrew, the tenses of David's calling upon the Lord and being saved are frequentive (present), describing "David’s habitual experience of God’s readiness to answer prayer" (Ref. 3).
b. Delivered by God from all foes - physical and spiritual
(1). Calamities and distresses
1 Samuel 10:19 -- The prophet Samuel said to the Israelite people, "But today you have rejected your God, who saves you from all your calamities and your distresses, and you have said to him, ‘Set a king over us.’ Now therefore present yourselves before the Lord by your tribes and by your thousands."
Psalm 34:6 -- David writes, "This poor man cried, and the Lord heard him and saved him out of all his troubles." Note that this verse does not say that as God's people we will have no troubles. This verse says that God hears us and delivers us out of our troubles.
Exodus 14:29-30 -- "But the people of Israel walked on dry ground through the sea, the waters being a wall to them on their right hand and on their left. 30 Thus the Lord saved Israel that day from the hand of the Egyptians, and Israel saw the Egyptians dead on the seashore." God saved the Israelites that day to make his power known -- to them, to succeeding generations, and to us. See Psalm 106:7-12.
2 Chronicles 32:22 -- "So the Lord saved Hezekiah and the inhabitants of Jerusalem from the hand of Sennacherib king of Assyria and from the hand of all his enemies, and he provided for them on every side."
(4). Wounds and sicknesses
Jeremiah 17:14 -- The prophet Jeremiah writes, "Heal me, O Lord, and I shall be healed; save me, and I shall be saved, for you are my praise."
The Lord saved (delivered) Hezekiah in two respects - first, from his enemy, Sennacherib (2 Chronicles 32:22), and second, in regard to his health (Isaiah 38:19-20). For background on Hezekiah's illness, prayer, and healing, read Isaiah 38:1-8.
(5). Wild animals
Psalm 22:21 -- David writes, "Save me from the mouth of the lion! You have rescued me from the horns of the wild oxen!"
(6). Sin, Idols, and Moral Troubles
Ezekiel 37:23 -- "They shall not defile themselves anymore with their idols and their detestable things, or with any of their transgressions. But I will save them from all the backslidings in which they have sinned, and will cleanse them; and they shall be my people, and I will be their God." The context of this verse is the reunion of Judah and Israel into one kingdom, one nation. See Ezekiel 37:15-22.
2. God invites people to be saved (Old Testament)
a. God is our Savior (Saviour). There is no other.
Isaiah 45:21 -- "And there is no other God besides Me, A righteous God and a Savior; There is none except Me."
Compare Isaiah 45:21 with Acts 4:10, 12.
b. God invites all the world to turn to him and be saved.
Isaiah 45:22 -- "Turn to me and be saved, all the ends of the earth!"
Becoming saved in the religious sense requires turning away from our false gods and sins and turning towards (by implication, facing) God (Ref. 4). "The direction to look to God for salvation implies a deep conviction of helplessness and of sin; and a deep conviction that he only can save" (Ref. 5).
God extends the invitation of salvation to all the world. Compare Isaiah 45:22 with John 3:16.
c. God desires to save people despite their (our) sin and rebellion.
Psalm 106:6-8 -- "We have sinned like our fathers, We have gone astray, we have behaved wickedly. 7 Our fathers in Egypt did not understand Your wonders; They did not remember Your abundant kindnesses, But rebelled by the sea, at the Red Sea. 8 Nevertheless He saved them for the sake of His name, So that He might make His power known."
Compare Psalm 106:6-8 with Romans 5:8-9.
d. Our response as God's people to being saved is to rejoice and to praise God.
Isaiah 25:9 KJV (italics added) -- "And it shall be said in that day, Lo, this is our God; we have waited for him, and he will save us: this is the Lord; we have waited for him, we will be glad and rejoice in his salvation."
Isaiah 38:20 NIV -- "The Lord will save me, and we will sing with stringed instruments all the days of our lives in the temple of the Lord."
Psalm 95:1 -- "Oh come, let us sing to the Lord; let us make a joyful noise to the rock of our salvation!
Apply. Turn to God, and he will save you from your idols and sins. Pray to God, and he will deliver you out of your troubles as he has promised (Psalm 34:6). Rejoice in God your Savior, and praise him for his salvation.
"God's Offer of Salvation and Eternal Life" (John 3:16)
"What Does 'To Be Saved' Mean in the New Testament?" (Acts 16:31)
"When Jesus went ashore, He saw a large crowd, and He felt compassion for them because they were like sheep without a shepherd; and He began to teach them many things." (Mark 6:34, underline added)
This lesson explains Jesus' attribute of compassion towards people – multitudes and individuals. Jesus not only sympathizes with people, but also acts to alleviate their distress.
Consider. As Jesus' followers, we, too, should show compassion to people, including those outside the faith community.
Definition of Compassion
Before we dive into the scriptures, let's take a look at the meaning of the word, compassion.
The Merriam-Webster online dictionary defines compassion as "sympathetic consciousness of others' distress together with a desire to alleviate it" (Ref. 1). Note the combination of sympathetic awareness of other's distress coupled with action to do something to help them.
In the New Testament, the words, feel compassion, literally mean "to have the bowels yearn" (Strong's Exhaustive Concordance, Ref. 2). In the New Testament time of Jesus' ministry, people thought that our "nobler entrails" (such as the heart, lungs, liver, and kidneys) were the seat of our affections (Ref. 2).
Jesus Feels Compassion for the Multitudes
The scriptures tell us that when Jesus saw the multitudes of people coming to him he felt compassion for them. Why? Jesus was moved with compassion for them because he saw them "as sheep without a shepherd." Mark 6:34 tells us, "When Jesus went ashore, He saw a large crowd, and He felt compassion for them because they were like sheep without a shepherd; and He began to teach them many things." Matthew 9:36 is similar, and tells us, "Seeing the people, He felt compassion for them, because they were distressed and dispirited like sheep without a shepherd."
Jesus felt compassion for the crowds coming to him because they were a flock that had no protection, no "pasture," no spiritual teaching or guidance, and were in a distressing, painful condition (Ref. 3). They were uncared-for souls, outside of the synagogues of their time. They were weary and hopeless without the Guide and Shepherd who alone can lead them in the way (Ref. 4).
Likewise today, Jesus feels compassion for people who are outside of the faith community, who do not know him as their Good Shepherd, and who are suffering through spiritual misery (John 10:1, 9, 11; Ref. 5). People need to know the compassion of Jesus Christ for them, to have their needs met, and to come to Jesus as their Good Shepherd. That's where we as Jesus' followers can help them.
Jesus Shows Us Specific Ways to Act with Compassion Towards Groups of People
The gospel writers give us examples of how Jesus acted when he was moved with compassion for the multitudes. We, as Jesus' followers, can and should do the same.
He welcomed them - "But the crowds were aware of this and followed Him; and welcoming them, He began speaking to them about the kingdom of God and curing those who had need of healing" (Luke 9:11).
He fed them - "And Jesus called His disciples to Him, and said, 'I feel compassion for the people, because they have remained with Me now three days and have nothing to eat; and I do not want to send them away hungry, for they might faint on the way'" (Matthew 15:32). "And He took the seven loaves and the fish; and giving thanks, He broke them and started giving them to the disciples, and the disciples gave them to the people. (37) And they all ate and were satisfied, and they picked up what was left over of the broken pieces, seven large baskets full" (Matthew 15:36-37).
He healed the sick - "When He went ashore, He saw a large crowd, and felt compassion for them and healed their sick" (Matthew 14:14).
He taught them many things - "When Jesus went ashore, He saw a large crowd, and He felt compassion for them because they were like sheep without a shepherd; and He began to teach them many things" (Mark 6:34).
Jesus Feels Compassion for Individuals
The following accounts describe the compassion Jesus felt for specific people, and the action he took to heal or comfort them.
Jesus touches and cleanses a man from leprosy - "And a leper came to Jesus, beseeching Him and falling on his knees before Him, and saying, 'If You are willing, You can make me clean.' (41) Moved with compassion, Jesus stretched out His hand and touched him, and said to him, 'I am willing; be cleansed.' (42) Immediately the leprosy left him and he was cleansed" (Mark 1:40-42).
Jesus touches and provides sight to blind men - "And two blind men sitting by the road, hearing that Jesus was passing by, cried out, 'Lord, have mercy on us, Son of David!' (31) The crowd sternly told them to be quiet, but they cried out all the more, 'Lord, Son of David, have mercy on us!' (32) And Jesus stopped and called them, and said, 'What do you want Me to do for you?' (33) They said to Him, 'Lord, we want our eyes to be opened.' (34) Moved with compassion, Jesus touched their eyes; and immediately they regained their sight and followed Him" (Matthew 20:30-34).
Jesus comforts a grieving mother - "Soon afterwards He went to a city called Nain; and His disciples were going along with Him, accompanied by a large crowd. (12) Now as He approached the gate of the city, a dead man was being carried out, the only son of his mother, and she was a widow; and a sizeable crowd from the city was with her. (13) When the Lord saw her, He felt compassion for her, and said to her, 'Do not weep.' (14) And He came up and touched the coffin; and the bearers came to a halt. And He said, 'Young man, I say to you, arise!' (15) The dead man sat up and began to speak. And Jesus gave him back to his mother" (Luke 7:11-15).
Summary - Main Principles in this Lesson
1. Compassion not only includes feeling sympathy for people, but also a desire to take action to alleviate their distress.
2. Jesus modeled compassion for us - in his interaction with crowds of distressed people and with individuals in need. Often, the people Jesus helped were outside of the "faith community" of Jesus' day.
3. Jesus showed his compassion for people by his actions. Specifically:
Apply. As a follower of Jesus, what are ways that you will show the compassion of Jesus to others through your actions?
"Now the tax collectors and sinners were all drawing near to hear him. 2 And the Pharisees and the scribes grumbled, saying, 'This man receives sinners and eats with them.'" (Luke 15:1-2)
God draws people who are sinners to seek Jesus. Jesus actively looks for, expectantly waits for, and warmly receives sinners.
Definitions -- Who were these people in Luke 15:1-2?
1. Tax Collectors
Tax collectors were people who collected various taxes for the Romans who occupied Palestine. They often charged much more than they should to make themselves rich (Ref. 1). The Jewish people despised the tax collectors and considered any Jew a traitor who was a tax collector for the Romans. Jesus called Matthew (Levi), a tax collector, to be his disciple (Matthew 9:9, Mark 2:14, Luke 5:27-28).
The synoptic gospel writers often lumped together "tax collectors" and "sinners" (Matthew 9:10-11, Mark 2:15-16, Luke 5:30, Luke 15:1). The Pharisees shunned both tax collectors and people that the Pharisees deemed "sinners," including:
a. People who lived blatantly in contradiction to the law - such as murderers, robbers, and prostitutes (Luke 7:37, Matthew 21:31, Ref. 2 below).
b. "The people of the land" (am ha-aretz) who did not observe the Pharisees' strict interpretation of the law (Matthew 23:1-5, Ref. 3). This category included almost everybody, so many "sinners" were in the daily company of Jesus (Matthew 11:18-19, Mark 2:15, Luke 15:1, Ref. 2, Ref. 3).
Technically, the Greek word for sinners, hamartólos, means falling short of what God approves, i.e. what is "wide of the mark"; a blatant sinner (Ref. 4).
The Pharisees were a Jewish religious sect. "Pharisee" is derived from the Aramaic term, peras ("to divide and separate"). Hence, a Pharisee was someone "separated from sin" (Ref. 5). The Pharisees separated themselves from the great mass of the populace—the "people of the land" (am ha-aretz)—by their "strict adherence to the minutia of their legal tradition" (Ref. 6).
The Pharisees believed the deception that they earned merit before God based on religious works (Luke 18:10-13, Ref. 6). In contrast, true believers in Christ recognize "For by grace you have been saved through faith. And this is not your own doing; it is the gift of God, not a result of works, so that no one may boast" (Ephesians 2:8-9).
The Pharisees appeared in the gospels as the chief antagonists of Jesus (Matthew 19:3, Matthew 22:15, Mark 8:11-12, Ref. 6).
The Pharisees largely were members of the middle class—businessmen, merchants, and tradesmen of their day (Ref. 6). In legal matters, the Pharisees had recourse to the professionals in the law, the scribes (described below).
The scribes were educated teachers and authorities in the Mosaic law (Ref. 7). In Jesus' day, the scribes were legal professionals who drafted documents such as contracts for marriage, loans, or sale of land (Ref. 8). The scribes questioned Jesus' authority, "By what authority are you doing these things, or who gave you this authority to do them?" (Mark 11:28). The scribes participated with the Pharisees in criticizing Jesus and his disciples (Mark 7:5-8). Jesus pronounced multiple woes against the practices of the scribes and Pharisees (interesting reading, Matthew 23:13-36).
What are the main principles in Luke 15:1-2?
1. God draws sinners to Jesus
Luke 15:1 is remarkable because not only does Jesus seek people who are lost (Luke 19:10), but also that God draws people who are sinners to seek Jesus. Luke, the gospel writer, says, "Now the tax collectors and sinners were all drawing near to hear him" (Luke 15:1).
At the time of the event that Luke describes in Luke 15:1-2, Jesus was in the last months of his earthly ministry (Ref. 9 below). Many people whom the Pharisees shunned as sinners recognized their need for Jesus and came to him. These were people through home and family associations or through their occupations or immoral living were looked upon with disfavor by the Pharisees and scribes. Often they were indifferent or had little to do with their more religious and orthodox countrymen. The religious people, Pharisees in heart, despised them and looked on them as hopelessly lost (Ref. 10).
No one spoke to these people like Jesus. To these people who were "outside of the synagogues" of their time Jesus brought hope. Jesus spoke to them with tenderness. Sinners came to Jesus as their Great Physician to find healing for their spiritual, emotional, and physical ailments. Jesus did not overlook their sin, but called these people to repentance (Luke 5:29-32, Mark 1:14-15).
2. Jesus warmly receives sinners - then and now
Luke 15:2 tells us, "And the Pharisees and the scribes grumbled, saying, 'This man receives sinners and eats with them.'" The Pharisees, the religious establishment of Jesus' day, were indignant that Jesus associated with people outside the synagogue community who did not keep the rules the Pharisees believed necessary for merit with God. In contrast, Jesus deliberately showed people the true nature of God. He reached out in kindness to people outside the religious establishment. He treated them with tenderness, and he called them to repentance and faith in God who loves them. Jesus does the same today.
The Pharisees accused Jesus of receiving sinners. That was (and is) a true accusation. Jesus does receive sinners - then and now. The Greek work for receive means actively look for, expectantly wait, and warmly receive (Ref. 11). Jesus is like the excellent example of the father in the parable of the Prodigal Son (Luke 15:11-32). The father expectantly waited for his son to return to him. When the prodigal son returned, the son repented of his sin, and the father received him with great joy.
Jesus expectantly waits to receive you.
Apply. Come to Jesus. He will warmly receive you. He will heal you of your spiritual, emotional, and physical sickness. Jesus will forgive your sin and will cleanse you from all unrighteousness (1 John 1:9).
"Jesus, the Great Physician, Calls Us to Repentance" (Luke 5:31-32)
(refer to "Story Planner")
2. A Theological Word Book of the Bible, Alan Richardson, Editor, MacMillan Publishing Company, 1978
9. Key to the Tree of Jesus' Life and Harmony of the Gospels, The Thompson Chain-Reference Bible, Fourth Improved Edition, B. B. Kirkbridge Bible Company, Inc., 1964
"Is there no balm in Gilead? Is there no physician there? Why then has not the health of the daughter of my people been restored?" (Jeremiah 8:22)
Consider. Would you like to receive the balm that heals us unlike any other? Jesus Christ is the only balm that can heal our sin sickness. Only Jesus can make us whole. "There is a balm in Gilead to make the wounded whole. There is a balm in Gilead to heal the sin-sick soul" (African-American spiritual).
Biblical Background. Gilead was a mountainous part of ancient Palestine, east of the Jordan River now corresponding to northwest Jordan (Ref. 1, Ref. 2). Gilead was known for its healing balm (Jeremiah 46:11). We first see balm (mastic) mentioned in scripture as precious merchandise coming from Gilead (Genesis 37:25). Joseph's father, Israel (Jacob), sent balm as a present to Joseph as lord of the land of Egypt (Genesis 43:11).
The prophet Jeremiah asked these questions, "Is there no balm in Gilead? Is there no physician there? (Jeremiah 8:22). Judah had turned away from the Lord and had completely ignored repeated warnings of judgment (for example, Jeremiah 5:20-31). Spiritual balm, God's salvation and healing, was available; however, the people were not seeking God. Spiritual balm through the priests and prophets was ineffective because "the prophets prophesy falsely, and the priests rule on their own authority" (Jeremiah 5:31).
About the Spiritual, "There is a Balm in Gilead." "There is a Balm in Gilead" and other African-American spirituals came out of the period of slavery in America (1619-1865; Ref. 4). This spiritual is evidence that African-American Christians knew and trusted Jesus for salvation and healing despite their condition on earth. African-American Christians answered Jeremiah's question with a resounding "Yes, there is a balm in Gilead" (Ref. 5).
The message of "There is a Balm in Gilead" still applies today. Despite whatever condition we are in, or whatever misery or difficulty we are going through, Jesus can heal our wounds and make us whole.
Apply. In what area of your life do you need the healing balm of Jesus Christ today?
Listen. I encourage you to listen and enjoy these two beautiful and moving presentations of "There is a Balm in Gilead."
"There is a Balm in Gilead" - Adventist Vocal Ensemble (well known on BBC).
"There is a Balm in Gilead" - East Carolina University Chamber Singers.
"Do not let your heart be troubled; believe in God, believe also in Me" (John 14:1)
Consider. On the evening before his death, Jesus spoke with his disciples. Jesus told his disciples that he was about to leave them (John 13:33). Naturally, their hearts filled with sorrow (John 16:5-6).
Jesus had already told his listeners who he is. "I and the Father are one" (John 10:30). "Truly, truly, I say to you, before Abraham was born, I am" (John 8:58, Exodus 3:6, Exodus 3:14).
As the remedy for their troubled hearts, Jesus asked his disciples to believe in him. The Greek word for "believe" is pisteuó, which means have faith in, trust in (Ref. 1).
As the remedy for our troubled hearts, Jesus asks us to believe in him. Jesus asks us to trust him and to have faith in him.
The remedy for a troubled heart is to believe in Jesus.
To the father of the boy who was deaf, mute, and had seizures, Jesus said, "All things are possible for the one who believes and trusts [in Me]!" (verse 23 in Mark 9:14-29)
To the woman who touched Jesus' cloak and was healed, Jesus said, "Daughter, your faith [your personal trust and confidence in Me] has restored you to health; go in peace and be [permanently] healed from your suffering" (Mark 5:34).
To his disciples, Jesus said, "Peace I leave with you; My [perfect] peace I give to you; not as the world gives do I give to you. Do not let your heart be troubled, nor let it be afraid. [Let My perfect peace calm you in every circumstance and give you courage and strength for every challenge.]" (John 14:27).
Apply. Is something troubling your heart today? Will you choose to believe in Jesus?
Listen. I encourage you to listen to Louis Armstrong's recording of the African-American spiritual song, "Nobody Knows the Trouble I've Seen."
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Mr. Whitney V. Myers. Christian. For more information, please visit the Author Page.
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