A. To what ministry of mercy does Christ call his church?
1. To a ministry that flows from the compassion of Christ
a. Christ’s compassion is perceptive, directed toward the needy.
Jesus fed the hungry, healed the sick, and comforted the sorrowing and afflicted. He gave an illustrative list of such human needs, including also shelter and personal caring for the prisoner (Mt. 25:35,36).
b. Christ’s compassion is active, expressed in deed as well as word.
Jesus was “mighty in deed and word” (Lk. 24:19). His compassion was communicated by his hands as well as his lips: he healed the leper with a touch, put his fingers on the eyes of the blind and in the ears of the deaf, broke the bread with his hands. The Shepherd’s great deed of compassionate love was giving his life for his sheep.
c. Christ’s compassion is gracious, directed toward the undeserving.
Jesus ministered to publicans and sinners (Lk. 15:1,2). He defended his ministry by saying that he came to call, not the righteous, but sinners to repentance (Mk. 2:17; Mt. 9:13; Lk. 5:32). He came to seek and to save that which was lost (Lk. 19:10). Christ died for the ungodly (Rom. 5:6).
d. Christ’s example and precept call us to compassionate ministry.
(1) The claim of his free grace
Christ teaches us to love our enemies, for God loved us when we were enemies. Not only does God in his common grace send his rain on the just and unjust (Mt. 5:45); he demonstrated his own love to us in that while we were yet enemies Christ died for us (Rom. 5:8, 10). We are not to ask, “How many must I love?” (“Who is my neighbor”), but “How may I show the love of Christ?” (“To whom am I a neighbor?” Lk. 10:25- 37).
(2) The example of his ministry
“The Son of Man came not to be ministered unto, but to minister…” (Mt. 20:28). The compassion of Christ fills his ministry, but is nowhere more evident than on the cross. He ministers not merely in healing the sick and washing the disciples’ feet, but in giving his life a ransom for many. Having loved his own in the world, he loved them to the end (Jn. 13:1). Christ fills his church with manifold gifts of the Spirit to minister his compassion in word and deed (I Pet. 4:11).
(3) The bond of his body
Jesus binds his body, the church, not only to one another, but to himself. That union appears in the ministry of mercy. The service that we bring to the least of his brethren is service to Christ himself (Mt. 25:40).
(4) The thrust of his mission
Jesus sent out his disciples to heal the sick and to proclaim the kingdom of God (Lk. 10:9). As the church fulfills the Great Commission it continues to show Christ’s compassion in a needy world. The ministry of the Apostle Paul on the island of Malta demonstrates the concern of the apostle to show the mercy of Christ as he bore witness in a missionary situation (Acts 28:8,9).
e. Christ’s Spirit conveys his compassion
At the heart of the ministry of compassion is the love of Christ. The gifts of the Spirit equip us for ministry, but our motivation springs from the love of God poured out in our hearts, as we are drawn to love him who first loved us (Rom. 5:5; 1 Jn. 4:19).