Rev. John G. Lake
I wonder if you ever settled in your own mind what is the greatest blessing, or revelation of the Spirit or power of God. I believe the greatest thing is that Jesus showed the world how to exercise compassion for one another. The law of Moses, that preceded Jesus, was exacting in its demands, as all law is. That is the nature of law. And Jesus undertook to reveal the Father-heart to the world. The greatest movement in the soul of God Himself was that movement of compassion for a needy world, which was so great, that the Word says, that “God so loved the world, that He gave His only begotten son, that whosoever believeth on Him, should not perish, but have everlasting life.”
We are inclined to think, sometimes, that God is careless about the world. Not so. “For God so loved the world, that He gave His only begotten son, that whosoever believeth on Him, should not perish, but have everlasting life. For God sent not His son to condemn the world, but that the world through him might be saved.”
When the multitude had followed Jesus into the wilderness, He was moved with compassion for them, for they were like sheep without a shepherd. The disciples said, “Now Lord, let us send them away.” Jesus understood men’s humanity. He understood the fact that they were hungry; and the heart of the Christ was moved with compassion for them. He said, “No, get them to sit down. All there is in the company is 5000 people, beside women and children. You get them to sit down.” When they were seated, He took the five loaves and the two fishes, blessed them, brake, and gave to His disciples to give to the multitude. Jesus taught the world to have compassion. Men have loved to have compassion on the lovable, and on the beautiful; but Jesus taught the world to have compassion on the unholy, the sinful and the ignorant. One day they brought to Him a sinful woman, and. they said, “According to our law, she should be stoned.” According to the law there was nothing else for her; but the compassion of Jesus covered that soul and He said, “Go, and sin no more.”
Someone told me this incident: A lady who lives in the country, a widow, who had one daughter, was labouring for small wages; her great ambition was to be able to educate her daughter. She had toiled, and worked, and invested the money in Liberty Bonds, to hold for the education of her daughter. Recently she came down from one of the country towns to Spokane, to make a few purchases for the daughter, that would be necessary for the girl’s new life and school. She stood at one of the counters of the Crescent Store; she turned her back for a moment and presently discovered that the little treasure was gone. The savings of a whole life, the struggles of a mother’s heart! The endeavour to gratify the one big love of her soul in the education of her daughter. In spite of the assistance of the officials of the store, she was unable to find any trace of it. At last. she sat down and. wept bitterly. A lady, the widow of a, banker who saw her, told her to come up on the balcony with her and sit down. Another lady joined them, and the lady who first saw her said, “Now come, we are going to sit down together and believe God on behalf of this soul. We are going to believe that God will move the soul of the person who took that little treasure, until his soul sees that thing like this mother sees it.” Men are learning, Blessed be God. And they sat down together, to pray for that soul. The mother returned to the country, and in the mail following her came a letter with the little treasure, and a little note, saying: “I couldn’t keep it; forgive me, and may God forgive me. Compassion reaches further than law; further than demands of judges. Compassion reaches to the heart of life, to the secret of our being. The compassion of Jesus was the Divine secret that made Him lovable. Religious people are exacting; good people are exacting; but good folks have to learn to exercise compassion just like others do.
We remember the incident with the disciples and the Samaritans. The Samaritans did not want Jesus and His disciples to come. They said, “We have heard strange stories: how this thing happened, and how that thing happened. How a great amount of swine were drowned,” and so on. They had heard about the pigs, but they probably had never heard how the widow’s son was raised from the dead, how the water had been turned into wine. The disciples loved their Lord; they were exercising His power, they were ministering to the sick, they were endeavouring to alleviate the sufferings of the world; but still that sense of insult was so overpowering, that they said, “Master, shall we call down fire from heaven, to consume them?” My, how the big thing in your soul gets hurt; and how easy it is for us to feel the righteousness of the issue, rather than the compassion of the Son of God. There is no limit to the compassion of Jesus.
Two blind men were crying by the wayside, calling on the Lord to have mercy on them. And He stopped, and asked what they wanted. They answered, “Lord, that we may receive our sight.” And He healed them. And if you want the real explanation for His saving men out of their sins and sicknesses, it is in the love of His soul; that Divine compassion of God, and His desire to help men out of their sorrows and difficulties, and back to God.
Jesus’ example on the Cross, is set forever and ever as the very peak, and the very soul of the compassion of God, through Christ. After they had pierced His hands, and pierced His feet, when with His last breath He prayed to God, “Father, forgive them, for they know not what they do.” When a man is able to look upon his own murderers, and speak such words as these, surely it shows, that he speaks beyond that which the human heart is capable of giving, and is speaking only that which the soul of God can give.
How long should we endure? How long should we endure the misunderstandings of friends without rebuff? If we consider these things, surely we see the secret of the life that He endured all the way. And unto the very end, and also in the very end, He was blessed by God. His triumph was there. The ignorant crucify you, and trample over the loveliest things of your soul, like they bruised the soul of Jesus. The triumph is there.
In the Divine fullness of the heart of God in Christ, is the revelation of a Divine conception, that alone endures, even unto death, and through which the nature and love of God is revealed to a dying world. When Jesus was trying to give us balance in the life of God, He gave us, once more, a beautiful parable; the parable of the Good Samaritan. “A certain man went down from Jerusalem to Jericho, and fell among thieves which stripped him of his raiment, and wounded him, and departed, leaving him half dead. And by chance there came down a certain priest that way.” And one should have expected compassion of a priest; but when he saw him, he passed by on the other side. And the Levite, the holy man of the people came down, and he looked upon him, and passed by on the other side. But the poor Samaritan, the dog in the mind of the Jew, “When he saw him, he had compassion on him, and went to him, and bound up his wounds, pouring in oil and wine, and set him on his own beast, and brought him to an inn, and took care of him. And on the morrow when he departed, he took out two pence, and gave them to the host, and said unto him, ‘Take care of him; and what-so-ever thou spendest more, when I come again, I will repay thee.’” He did not do the best thing, but he did the best thing he knew, and Christ commended it. How often you have had the loveliest things of your soul trampled upon? Not by some drunken person, but probably by the one nearest to your heart; probably by the one who ought to have understood more than any other.
And do you not see the manner in which we wound the soul of Jesus continuously, through our lack of holy compassion? There is a something a man has never divined, and probably that a man never will be able to divine; that subtle something in the nature that can be touched and moved by Divine compassion. It takes down the bars of our life, and lets the Divine love of God flow through our soul.
How often you and I have stood or knelt by the side of the dying and disease smitten, and have waited and prayed, ineffectively, until, within our own heart, something melted, something dissolved, and something richer than tears came from our souls, and by the grace of God, we saw the answer to our prayers before our eyes.
There is such a thing in the world as stigmata, that is, contemplating something so much that it actually becomes a fact in your own being. It is well explained by telling an incident from the life of St Francis, who had contemplated the Cross of Christ with such intensity, and it so moved him, that he said to his follower, “When I am dead, open my body, and you will find the impress of the Cross of Christ on my heart.” And sure enough, after his death, when they opened his body, there was the impress of the Cross of Christ on his heart. There is an inner life, an. inworking of God.
The compassion of Jesus was illustrated when He broke up a funeral procession, one day, as He passed along in that little city of Nain. He was named by these tender terms; the only son of his mother, and she was a widow. When Jesus looked on that procession, something broke loose in His soul. He stepped up to the bier, being moved with compassion, and said, “Young man, I say unto thee arise.” The sorrows of others moved the soul of Jesus, and touched His heart. Lazarus, His friend, died, and four days later the Lord went there, and hearing that He was approaching the village, one sister came to meet Him; and she said to Him, “Lord, if Thou hadst been here, my brother would not have died.” The other sister poured out her heart to Him in a similar manner. Eventually, He stood by the grave of His friend. And Jesus wept. Something terrific was moving, in His soul He said, “God, I thank Thee that Thou hearest me always.” Then He cried with a loud voice, “Lazarus, come forth.” And he that was dead came forth.
Once in South Africa, we were praying for a sick lady, for a time without result. Then I said, “I will take my sister and go and pray for her” We prayed again, and there was no victory. A day or two afterwards, we were down in the city, in one of the large department stores. As we stood there, the Spirit of the Lord said to me, “Go to her now.” I said to my sister, “As soon as you are through, we will go over and pray for that sick lady.” We went and I watched her writhe in pain and agony, until I put my arms about her, and cuddled her head close to my heart. And then, presently, something broke loose in my soul; and then in one moment, (I hadn’t even started to pray) she was lifted out of her agony and suffering. A Divine flood moved her, and I knew she was healed. Then I laid her down on the bed, and took my sister’s arm and we went away, Praising God.
And yet one more incident; and I want to give you this for your own help and blessing. I knew a man in South Africa, who was an ardent Methodist. He had ten sons, all Methodist (local) preachers; and three daughters; three beautiful daughters; holy women; a wonderful family; one of the most wonderful families I have ever known. The old gentleman had been stricken with disease, and the agony of his suffering was so great that there seemed to be only one way, and that was to drug him into insensibility. As the years passed, he became a morphine fiend. He told me that he smoked 24 cigars, drank two quarts of whisky, and used a tremendous quantity of morphine every day. Think of it. So the old man, until he was 73 years old, was drugged into senselessness most of the time. I prayed for him unceasingly for 16 hours without result. William Duggin, one of my ministers, hearing of the situation, came to my assistance; and I remember how he stood over him and prayed for him in the power of God. Somehow there was no answer. I watched that man in convulsions until his daughters begged me just to let them give him morphine, and let him die senseless, rather than to see him suffer longer. And I said, “No. I have had your pledge and his too, that life or death, we were going to fight this battle through.” Presently, as I stood there, and was watching the awful convulsions, particularly in his old bare feet that were sticking out at the bottom of the bed, this came to my mind, “Himself took our infirmities.” And I reached out and got hold of them, and held them as in a grip of iron; and that thing, that is too deep for any form of expression that we know, broke forth in my soul: and in a single moment I saw him lie still, healed of God. Many a day after that I have walked with him over his three vast estates, on which there were 50,000 orange trees and 50,000 lemon trees, and the old man told me of his love for God, and of the richness of His presence, and I had my reward, Blessed be God.
If this Church ever succeeds in doing that big thing, that great thing, that unspeakable thing that God purposes that we should do, it can only be when we enter into that Divine compassion of the Son of God.
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