Jesus tell us that showing compassion trumps all our sacrifice. That’s an amazing statement when you think about it. It actually turns religion on its head, for religious ritual is all about sacrifice and self-denial. But Jesus’ way is the way of other-centered love, which may include sacrifice to show compassion but never to gain status with God, or with others through our religious virtue signaling.
Jesus allows His disciples to pick grain heads on the Sabbath beccause they haven’t eaten in days. The Pharisees accuse Jesus of breaking the Law (see Matt.12:1-5). Jesus’ response is stunning:
7 If only you could learn the meaning of the words ‘I want compassion more than a sacrifice,’ you wouldn’t be condemning my innocent disciples. (Matt.12:7 TPT)
Compassion requires an awareness of other’s needs, even sufferings. We cannot be self-serving and be compassionate. They are mutually exclusive. Showing compassion also means we know what it means to have experienced God’s mercy for ourselves. As Jesus also tells us, those who’ve been forgiven much love much.
47 Therefore I say to you, her sins, which are many, are forgiven, for she loved much. But to whom little is forgiven, the same loves little.” (Luke 7:47 NKJV)
This is why keeping the Law was more important to these Pharisees than showing compassion. They had never opened their hearts to God’s mercy and love, so they had none to give. The same is true today with closed hearts.
If you’ve been watching The Chosen TV Series you watched Mary Magdalene’s slide into a dark place in her soul in episode 5 of season two (see my post, “He knows where we left us.”) In episode 6 , we see Mary’s rescue from herself. (SPOILER ALERT: If you haven’t seen episode 6, you may want to watch before reading further!)
Jesus sends Peter and Matthew after her and they find her back where Jesus had originally rescued her from her demons. She feels so ashamed and doesn’t think Jesus could ever forgive her again. Peter and Matthew talk her into coming back with them and now she has to face Jesus, the One she feels she betrayed. Here’s the clip:
I love the following dialogue from this scene between Jesus and Mary:
Mary: “I owe you everthing, but I just don’t think I can do it.”
Jesus: “Do what?”
Mary: “Live up to it. Repay you…how could I leave, how could I go back to the place I was, and I didn’t come back on my own. They had to come get me….I just can’t live up to it.”
Jesus: “Well, that’s true…but you don’t have to. I just want your heart. The Father just wants your heart. Give Us that, which you already have, and the rest will come in time.”*
While we know we can never “repay” Jesus for what He’s done for us, we often still do try to repay Him in how we respond to our own failures and shame. Worse, we may want to punish ourselves in some way, usually by keeping our distance from Jesus, or by doing acts of service as some form of penance (which has nothing to do with repentance). Sadly, much of what passes for philanthropy is born out of guilt rather than compassion.
But, again, all that means is that we still haven’t learned that compassion, or mercy, always trumps sacrifice. We have to receive mercy for ourselves before we will ever walk in true compassion for others.
This is what Mary had to find out (and we have to find out). Her life in Christ, and ours, will never be self-sustaining. That’s a religious hamster wheel that only leads to frustration and disillusionment. Her life, and ours, must be constantly nourished and sustained by the power of His love.
23 Jesus replied, “Loving me empowers you to obey my word. And my Father will love you so deeply that we will come to you and make you our dwelling place. (John 14:23 TPT*)
And His love also empowers us to carry one another’s burdens.
My beloved friends, if you see a believer who is overtaken with a fault, the one who is in the Spirit should seek to restore him in the Spirit of gentleness. But keep watch over your own heart so that you won’t be tempted to exalt yourself over him. 2 Love empowers us to fulfill the law of the Anointed One as we carry each other’s troubles. (Gal.6:1-2 TPT*)
Jesus tells Mary in this scene, “I just want your heart. The Father just wants your heart. Give Us that, which you already have, and the rest will come in time.” This perfectly describes our journey with Jesus.
Then, Jesus tells Mary to look up, to look at Him. After struggling to do so, she looks up and He says the words that are the healing balm to our soul, “I forgive you….It’s over.”
“When I thought I lost me
You knew where I left me
You reintroduced me to Your love
You picked up all my pieces
Put me back together
You are the defender of my heart”
This scene beautifully depicts how Jesus—the Lover of our soul—reintroduces us to His love when we’ve lost our way. May we always remember that showing compassion is better than all our sacrifice as we navigate this broken world. Amen.