He Had Compassion For Them

When you picture an evangelist in your head, what comes to mind? Is it a gentle compassionate person, or is it someone with a superior intellect who compels others to repent and believe?

One of the primary verses that comes to mind when Christians talk about sharing their faith is 1 Peter 3:15. You know, “always being prepared to make a defense to anyone who asks you for a reason for the hope that is in you.” We make much of the Greek word, apologia, used in this verse indicating a well-reasoned, legal argument. In fact, we often call one who is skilled at this an Apologist.

As I have shared Christ with others, I’ve reflected on several times where logic and reason is not the issue, nor is it enough to address the issues of the other. Whether they have been hurt by someone else in the church, or something else in the past, there are other issues besides logic and reason.

How do you imagine Jesus as an evangelist?

Consider the example in Matthew 9:35-38. It ends with encouragement to pray to send out laborers into his harvest. It’s about reaching the lost.

35And Jesus went throughout all the cities and villages, teaching in their synagogues and proclaiming the gospel of the kingdom and healing every disease and every affliction. 36When he saw the crowds, he had compassion for them, because they were harassed and helpless, like sheep without a shepherd. 37Then he said to his disciples, “The harvest is plentiful, but the laborers are few; 38therefore pray earnestly to the Lord of the harvest to send out laborers into his harvest.”

How does it begin? It starts with Jesus teaching and proclaiming the gospel, which is our typical picture of an evangelist, but look at verse 36. It says he had compassion for them! This should be our motivation; not to win an argument, not to be right or show someone else to be wrong, but an earnest concern and love for the lost.

Why did he have compassion for them? He gives a reason and a comparison. The reason: they were harassed and helpless. Most people follow the crowd, they are influenced by the wisdom of this world. In Ephesians 4:14 Paul urges knowledge and maturity that we may no longer be tossed to and fro and carried about by every wind of doctrine, by human cunning, by craftiness in deceitful schemes. Instead we are to be grounded and growing in the fullness of Christ.

The comparison: they are like sheep without a shepherd. Jesus is pointing them back to the Old Testament in Ezekiel 34 at a time when the shepherds of Israel, the priests, were corrupt and lacking in their responsibility. God cared for His people, despite the failings of the appointed leaders. In the New Testament Jesus is called the Good Shepherd. He never fails.

Let our evangelism be filled with compassion and the love of God for his people.

Author: Jon Neifert
Posted on March 23 2018
God is never obligated to be merciful to a rebellious creature. He doesn't owe us mercy.
R.C. Sproul