The Passion – Compassion – of Christ
A Devotional Communion Service
Study Guide, April 9, 2017
Pastor Clay Olsen
This is a powerful week in the Christian calendar. It’s referred to as “Passion Week”. The events of it all are like a countdown to the Cross and the Resurrection. Actually, it was like a rapid succession of prophecies being fulfilled one after the other. You remember how Matthew recorded Jesus’ entrance into the city. Matt 21:1-5- “Now when they drew near Jerusalem, and came to Bethphage, at the Mount of Olives, then Jesus sent two disciples, saying to them, “Go into the village opposite you, and immediately you will find a donkey tied, and a colt with her. Loose them and bring them to Me. And if anyone says anything to you, you shall say, ‘The Lord has need of them,’ and immediately he will send them.” All this was done that it might be fulfilled which was spoken by the prophet, saying: “Tell the daughter of Zion, ‘Behold, your King is coming to you, Lowly, and sitting on a donkey, A colt, the foal of a donkey.'” NKJV
The prophet Zechariah had foretold of this day five hundred years before it ever happened, that the Messiah King would ride into Jerusalem on the foal of a donkey. Now what especially marked Jesus entry was that He didn’t ride in on a horse, the way a conquering King would, but on a colt of a donkey. That should have showed them right there that their King had another purpose. One day Jesus will come to the city as the conquering King on a horse. Revelation 19 tells us all about that. But this time there was something else for the King to accomplish first. The Cross would have to come before the Crown. But that’s the part in the Old Testament prophet’s messages the people had not been paying attention to.
We read today from what’s called the Messianic Psalm; Psalm 22. The Psalm, which was written 1000 years before this ‘Passion Week’, eerily describes many of the exact experiences Jesus had on the Cross. It even starts with the very words that Jesus would speak from the Cross: Ps 22:1- “My God, my God, why have You forsaken me?” NASU
Along with the question itself, did anyone there know the answer to it when Jesus asked it from the Cross? Why would a King ride into the city to cheers of “Hosanna” on the first day of the week and then be crucified on a cross at the end of the week? And how odd that they were chanting “Hosanna”, which came from another Psalm, Psalm 118, which meant: ‘Save now’, or ‘Save us, we pray’. Save them from what? Many were asking to be saved, but they were asking to be saved from the bondage of their political rulers, when what they should have first been asking was to be saved from the bondage of their personal sins. And if they would have been paying attention to the messages of the prophets then they would have known that. Plus, then they would have also known the answer to their King and Messiah’s later question from the Cross of: “My God, my God, why have You forsaken Me?”
The prophet Isaiah had already answered why the Messiah had to be forsaken. Isa 53:3-6- “He was despised and rejected—a man of sorrows, acquainted with deepest grief. We turned our backs on Him and looked the other way. He was despised, and we did not care. Yet it was our weaknesses He carried; it was our sorrows that weighed Him down. And we thought His troubles were a punishment from God, a punishment for His own sins! But He was pierced for our rebellion, crushed for our sins. He was beaten so we could be whole. He was whipped so we could be healed. All of us, like sheep, have strayed away. We have left God’s paths to follow our own. Yet the Lord laid on Him the sins of us all.” NLT
Isaiah clearly foretold that the Deliverer, the Messiah, would have to bear our sins in order for others, in order for us, to be pardoned. And so when Jesus asked “Why have you forsaken Me?”, of course Jesus already knew the answer…He had just never experienced the answer. He had never been forsaken. And thanks be to Jesus, that because He was forsaken for us that He later then said to us: “I will never leave you nor forsake you.” Heb 13:6 ESV We will never be forsaken by God because Jesus was forsaken for us, in our place, as our substitute, our Savior!
The Passion Week also included a second cleansing of the Temple by Jesus. Mark 11:15-17- “They came to Jerusalem, and He went into the temple complex and began to throw out those buying and selling in the temple. He overturned the money changers’ tables and the chairs of those selling doves, and would not permit anyone to carry goods through the temple complex. Then He began to teach them: “Is it not written, My house will be called a house of prayer for all nations? But you have made it a den of thieves!” Holman Bible Jesus had done the same thing on His first visit during Passover, but rather than those religious leaders repenting of their ‘thieving ways’, they simply restarted their thievery again after Jesus had left. So instead of the Temple being a place where the religious leaders were praying for others, it became a place where they were preying upon others, swindling and over-charging people for sacrificial offerings and such.
It’s interesting that John also recorded this: John 2:17- “Then His disciples remembered this prophecy from the Scriptures: “Passion for God’s house will consume Me.” NLT ‘Passion’: It was Jesus’ ‘passion’ for all the things that God loved that led to His ‘passion’ for all the people that God loved. It’s like that great prayer: “Lord, let my heart love the things You love and let it break over the things that break Your heart.” That’s probably a prayer we should each regularly pray.
And of course, the Passion Week included the Passover and the Lord’s Supper. Actually, you remember that Jesus gave the Passover meal a new meaning. The bread and the cup would now represent Jesus’ own body and blood that was to be sacrificed and shed as the Passover Lamb of God so that our sins would forever be covered by the forgiveness of God.
But before we partake of that Bread portion of the Lord’s Supper, think about this: We often think about what the Lord’s Supper means for us, and rightly so. But we should also think about what the Lord’s Supper meant to Jesus. For it’s one thing to receive the sacrificial Lamb of God, but it’s quite another to be the sacrificial Lamb of God. Right after they ate of the Lord’s Supper, they went to the Garden of Gethsemane. Matt 26:36-38- “Then Jesus came with them to a place called Gethsemane, and said to His disciples, “Sit here while I go over there and pray.” And He took with Him Peter and the two sons of Zebedee, and began to be grieved and distressed. Then He said to them, “My soul is deeply grieved, to the point of death; remain here and keep watch with Me.” NASU
The word ‘Passion’ means a deep and strong emotion, like in something that is rewarding. But it can also mean a deep and strong emotion, like in something that causes great suffering. The ‘Passion’ of Christ was also the suffering of Christ. What He was suffering was the weight of the world. ‘Gethsemane’ means ‘an oil press’. In the olive groves of Gethsemane they would place massive stones on piles of olives and the weight of these stones would crush the olives, and the oil would flow out of them. We, and everyone else who has ever lived are those Gethsemane stones. We were the stones that Jesus felt weighing upon Him in the garden and then on the Cross. It was the weight of our sins that crushed the Savior till the oil of His blood was shed and washed away the penalty of our sins. That’s ‘Passion’.
When you look at the world of people, what do you see? Here’s what Jesus sees: “Seeing the people, He felt compassion for them, because they were distressed and dispirited like sheep without a shepherd.” Matt 9:36 NASU When Jesus looks at the world of people He sees ‘sheep without a shepherd’. When Jesus looked at you and me He saw sheep without a shepherd. But not only did He see us, He also felt ‘compassion’ for us. The word ‘Passion’ means ‘to suffer’; the word ‘compassion’ means ‘to suffer together’. The reason that Jesus went through with the sufferings of ‘Passion Week’ was because of the ‘compassion’ that went through Jesus. When Jesus looked at the world, looked at us, He felt compassion for us. And He still does.
Just think: The driving emotion that God feels toward you and me is ‘compassion’. “Seeing the people, He felt compassion for them”…for us. The Apostle John says ‘we love Him because He first loved us.’ From what Matthew said we could put it another way: ‘We have become His sheep because He first wanted to be our Shepherd. And He wants to be our Shepherd because He feels compassion for us.’
God has always wanted to be our Shepherd. It’s as the Psalmist said in Ps 100:3- “Know that the Lord Himself is God; It is He who has made us, and not we ourselves; We are His people and the sheep of His pasture.” NASU God made us because He wanted us. He made us the sheep of His pasture because He wanted to be our Shepherd. But our Shepherd saw that we were distressed and dispirited.
Isn’t it strange that people don’t know that apart from Christ that they are sheep without a shepherd, who are distressed and dispirited? Now strangely enough, some people, or some straying sheep, don’t think of themselves as distressed and dispirited. They think that they are fairly satisfied and happy. They might even think their heart and soul are healthy. But that’s called ‘deception’. You see, What people who are without Christ in their lives don’t know is that their mind and heart are completely deceived. The Great Physician of souls has revealed that the unconverted human heart is in a desperate and dangerous condition: Jer 17:9- “Who can understand the human heart? There is nothing else so deceitful; it is too sick to be healed.” TEV All the straying sheep of the world who have not yet come to the Shepherd have a soul disease and they are dying in their sins, even though their deceitful heart and mind tells them they are fine. In fact, the sin sickness of their heart is so bad that it cannot even be healed. But, praise God, it can be replaced. Even the prophet Ezekiel foretold how this new heart, this new birth, this new life in Messiah can be experienced. Ezek 11:19-20- “And I will give them one heart, and put a new spirit within them. And I will take the heart of stone out of their flesh and give them a heart of flesh, that they may walk in My statutes and keep My ordinances and do them. Then they will be My people, and I shall be their God.” NASU
How desperate the condition of the unsaved is: their mind is deceived, their heart is too sick from sin to be healed, and their spirit is dead…separated from the spirit of God. But then: “Seeing the people, He felt compassion for them, because they were distressed and dispirited like sheep without a shepherd.” Because of the compassion of Jesus there was the ‘passion’ of Jesus, the ‘Passion Week’ where Jesus was “pierced for our rebellion, crushed for our sins. He was beaten so we could be whole. He was whipped so we could be healed. All of us, like sheep, have strayed away. We have left God’s paths to follow our own. Yet the Lord laid on Him the sins of us all.”
And that’s why Jesus calls for everyone to now come to Him. He was forsaken so that no one who comes to Him will ever have to be forsaken. He was made sin for us so that anyone who comes to Him could be made righteous in Him. He died so that any who would come to Him could live; could be given a new spirit, a new heart, a new life in union with His own life. But they have to come…to come to Him. The straying sheep have to come to the Shepherd in order to be reunited with the Shepherd of their souls.
That’s why we call for people around us to come to the Shepherd; to come to the One who suffered through Passion Week because of His eternal compassion for them. We trust that you have come to Christ and asked Jesus Christ to come into your life and be your Savior, your eternal Shepherd. If you have any doubt about your relationship with Christ…this is a key moment to make sure of it by praying to Christ about it. And then you can rejoice in Christ’s promise that anyone who comes to Him will receive eternal life from Him…and in Him. And then share that with as many others as you can. For every sheep needs to come home to their Shepherd.