My selfishness and Jesus’ compassion (Mark 10:49-52)

POST OVERVIEW. A post displaying a sinner’s sudden outburst of selfishness contrasted with Jesus utter selflessness and compassion. Our biblical text is Mark 10:49-52.


We received my sister-in-law’s invitation to my niece’s bridal shower on Saturday, a mere eight days before the shower was to take place. We live in Charlotte and the shower was going to be on Sunday afternoon at 2PM in Lexington, SC. (Lexington is a short distance from Columbia.) A quick check on Google Maps showed that the venue was only about 90 minutes from Oakhurst Baptist Church. Yes, attendance at the bridal shower would require a quick departure from church right after the service, but it was definitely doable.

Now, Lisa does not like to drive on the interstate, and she especially does not like to drive alone on the interstate. When we travel any distance from Charlotte, the driving always falls to me. And I enjoy driving us wherever we go, even if it is the almost ten hours to Grove City, PA, to see our grandchildren. Lisa expects me to drive and I expect to be the driver. That is just how it is.

So, when Lisa gently asked me if I would be willing to drive her to the bridal shower in Lexington, SC, on Sunday afternoon only 90 minutes up the road, it was reasonable for her to expect a pleasant and affirmative reply. After all, I have vowed to love her till death do us part. She is bone of my bone and flesh of my flesh. She is my one-flesh life partner and the woman whom I seek to “love as Christ loved the church and gave Himself up for her” (Eph. 5:25). That Sunday afternoon was wide open on our calendar and I even have a brother in Columbia and I could visit with him while she was at the shower. There was every reason in the world for Lisa to expect me to say that I would be delighted to drive her.

Ah, but “every reason in the world” did not take into account my selfishness. In fact, to my shame and chagrin, the words that came out of my mouth displayed that my selfishness was alive and well within me and could burst out at the worst possible moment. So, instead of giving my wife the gracious answer that she deserved, selfish me said, “Well, sweetheart, I guess you will need to drive down there by yourself.” Yes, I actually said that to my wife. Why did I say that? I can only speculate that, at that moment, I was feeling particularly selfish and mean, and I wanted to keep my Sunday afternoon open for my own use. But, regardless of the explanation or the reason why, sinful selfishness had boldly stepped onto center stage.

This episode is admittedly an astonishing display of human selfishness, but it is by no means unique. All the descendants of Adam have been ruined by the fall and so all the descendants of Adam must constantly be on their guard against sudden outbursts of selfish-ness and against eruptions of a myriad of sinful behaviors. “All have sinned and fall short of the glory of God” (Romans 3:23), and truly, we are “inventors of evil” (Romans 1:30).


But there has been one Man who walked among us who was completely other, who never felt or expressed the faintest hint of selfishness nor ever sinned against any of the commandments of God in the slightest way. His was perfect obedience from manger to cross, always doing the things that were pleasing to the Father (John 8:29). In Mark 10:49-52, we see in Jesus a display of unselfishness and compassion for others that is truly divine and that stands in stark contrast to our outbursts of fleshly selfishness. Let’s look at our Savior as He has compassion on Bartimaeus.

CONTEXT. To appreciate the magnitude of Jesus’ compassion toward Bartimaeus, we must observe the context of Jesus’ compassion. “They were on the road going up to Jerusalem, and Jesus was walking on ahead of them” (Mark 10:32). And why is Jesus so intent on getting to Jerusalem? In another gospel, the Scripture says, “He was determined to go to Jerusalem” (Luke 9:51). Jesus was going to Jerusalem because He knew that a cross awaited Him. Jesus is on the most important mission in human history. In a little more than a week, there will be a bloody cross and an empty tomb and redemption promised will have become redemption accomplished. As Jesus leaves Jericho and heads up to Jerusalem, He must have been contemplating the horrors of bearing the Father’s wrath against all the sins of God’s people. Meanwhile, the crowd is oblivious to all this and talks excitedly about recovering the throne of David and restoring the Kingdom on earth. So, this is the context: Jesus with His mind fixed on Calvary while the crowd imagines a soon-coming conquest.

“And as He was leaving Jericho with His disciples and a large crowd, a blind beggar named Bartimaeus was sitting by the road” (Mark 10:46). As Jesus strides ahead, intent on Jerusalem and on the end of His mission and as the crowd jostles and babbles, way in the background can be faintly heard the voice of a blind beggar. “Jesus, Son of David, have mercy on me!” (10:47). When the crowd can no longer ignore him, they seek to silence him. “Be quiet, Bartimaeus. Jesus does not have time for the likes of you.” But Bartimaeus will not be denied. “If the Son of David is nearby, I will call till He answers.”

A blind beggar, covered with the dust of the Jericho road, has lifted a pathetic cry to the incarnate Son of God, who is bent on accomplishing His life’s mission. How will Jesus respond to this dust-covered nobody?

“Jesus stopped” (Mark 10:49).

God stopped?? Jesus momentarily interrupted His mission of saving the world to “STOP” and call to a blind beggar in Jericho? Now here is profound mystery! In another gospel account, it states that Jesus was “moved with compassion” (Matt. 20:34). But what kind of compassion is this that would stop the greatest mission in human history because of a blind beggar’s cry for mercy! But our Lord does more than just stop for the beggar. When Bartimaeus is brought near, Jesus gives him a blank check. “What do you want Me to do for you?” (Mark 10:51). The faith-filled man boldly asks for his sight to be restored. And, since Jesus is God, He immediately fulfills the man’s request. Having regained his sight, Bartimaeus begins following Jesus.

So, we see the remarkable contrast between the sinful, selfish creature and the compassionate, unselfish Creator. The creature (me, in this story) may manifest selfishness at any time, but our Savior always displays selfless compassion in even the most extreme circumstances.

CONCLUSION. The good news is that, after acting in ugly selfishness toward my wife, I realized my sin and went to Lisa to ask her for forgiveness. I admitted my selfishness to her and told her, after I had thought more about it, that I would be delighted to drive her to the bridal shower on Sunday. And Lisa forgave me. Praise the Lord that He has given us forgiveness!

Soli Deo gloria            rmb                 1/12/2023                   #611

Can Paul’s compassion for the Jews save? (Romans 9:1-5)

INTRODUCTION. Considering Paul’s compassion for his fellow Israelites, does this influence God’s sovereign choice? Is Paul suggesting that Israel gets special treatment because they had been “God’s chosen people?” Evaluate compassion and duty in evangelism. How can we use these ideas to equip a congregation to proclaim Christ more effectively?

These are my notes and thoughts copied from the Study Guide for “Romans” by John MacArthur. These notes are from page 75 in the chapter on Romans 9-11.  

When talking about Paul’s earnest desire for the salvation of his fellow Israelites, MacArthur writes, “Paul’s love and concern for his countrymen was such that he wished he could trade places with them, literally that he could go to hell so that they might be saved.” Then MacArthur asks a question about how we might increase our compassion for the lost.

My response to that question was, “I do not see evangelism as a matter of compassion but as a matter of duty and obligation.” (Matt. 28:18-20; Acts 1:8; 1 Cor. 9:16-23; 1 Thess. 2:4)

Below that answer, I observed that “Here in Rom. 9:1-5, Paul expresses his compassion for his fellow Jews.” We can see Paul’s compassion for his fellows as admirable, and it certainly is admirable, but I do not think Paul wrote these emotional words in the inspired Scripture to highlight his own compassion. Rather, I think it is more likely that Paul told of his fervent desire for the salvation of his fellow Israelites to show that not even apostolic compassion or deep longing for another person’s salvation can influence God’s sovereign choice in election. Despite Paul’s most impassioned pleas and his deepest longings for the salvation of his fellow Israelites (see also Romans 10:1), God is always fully sovereign over the salvation of every human being.


[NOTE: In this section, “proclaim the gospel” (or something similar) refers to the believer’s intentional attempt to encounter the unsaved and to bring up topics or ideas related to the gospel of Jesus Christ. We might also call this “intentional evangelism.” The believer may be “scattering seeds” or he may be “reeling in a hooked fish,” but the gospel is in the believer’s mind and winning a lost soul to Christ is the ultimate aim of the effort. This is what I mean by “proclaiming the gospel.”]

So, let’s consider compassion. Compassion is good, but compassion is unreliable. My level of compassion ebbs and flows depending on my emotional level or my physical energy, and compassion varies widely from one individual to the next. In some, compassion may motivate to action, but in others, compassion, whether great or small, does not motivate. Notice, however, that in either case, compassion cannot save. Emotional feeling for the lost cannot save them. To be meaningful, compassion must compel us to proclaim the gospel to the lost, for it is the gospel that has the power to save (Romans 1:16). Compassion that remains divorced from action is simply a feeling.

Now consider duty. As a believer, it is my duty to be Christ’s witness (Acts 1:8), regardless of my level of compassion. It is simply a matter of responsibility, part of my “job description” as a worshiper of Jesus, whether I feel emotions about it or not. (Consider these verses: Matt. 4:19; 13:3; 28:18-20; 1 Cor. 9:15-23; 2 Cor. 5:20.)

Notice also that all Paul’s compassion and emotion for his fellow Israelites did not save a single soul and did not influence God’s sovereign choice in the slightest way. Romans 9:16 says, “So then it does not depend on the man who wills or the man who runs but on God who has mercy.” Thus, the Scripture explicitly says that salvation depends on God’s mercy, not on man’s compassion.

“Compassion is subjective, but command is objective.” This statement is not meant to dismiss human compassion, but rather is intended to put the emphasis where it will produce results. So, I witness to the lost because of the commands of Jesus Christ and because of the clear teaching of the New Testament (objective), rather than waiting until I feel compassion about the perilous position of the unsaved. To paraphrase, “To obey is better than compassion, and to fulfill your duty than to have fervent emotion” (modification of 1 Sam. 15:22). Compassion has no power to rescue the lost, but preaching the gospel, regardless of how I feel, “is the power of God unto salvation” (Romans 1:16).


With these thoughts fresh in our mind, how can we work with our congregation to make them more active in their evangelism, in “proclaiming the gospel?” My suggestion would be to make the congregation more aware of their biblical duty of witnessing for the Lord Jesus. That is, review those verses in the New Testament which make it clear that it is every believer’s duty to be a witness for the Lord Jesus and to be an ambassador for Christ. This means that the believer does not seek to win the lost primarily because they feel compassion for them, although the believer certainly should have compassion for those who are perishing. The disciple of Jesus does not sow the seed of the gospel primarily because of the emotion they feel for those outside Christ, although we should feel emotion for those outside of Christ. The believer is an ambassador for Christ and a fisher of men and a sower of the gospel seed and a witness for Jesus and a proclaimer of the excellencies of our gracious Redeemer primarily because of the believer’s love for Jesus Christ.

Therefore, the more we understand about our responsibility and our duty to be witnesses and ambassadors of the Lord Jesus, the more we will be compelled to reach the lost. So the leadership of the church (pastors and elders) focuses their teaching energies on making the congregation aware of our duty to our Lord to proclaim the gospel.

But awareness of a duty without equipping to fulfill that duty only produces guilt and resentment. So, the pastors and elders must go beyond awareness and must also train the congregation how to fulfill their duty. The leadership should provide means and methods for “proclaiming the gospel” so that the congregation can discharge their duty. This means that the leadership of the church (or other members of the church) should make available regular and tangible proclamation vehicles.

“Regular” means that proclamation vehicles are regularly scheduled on the church calendar. “Regular” also means that these opportunities for proclamation are preceded by training to equip the participants so that their experience is edifying and successful.

“Tangible” means that the proclaiming activity gives the participant the sense that they meaningfully participated in a bona fide evangelism event. The goal is for participants to have the sense that they genuinely proclaimed the gospel and discharged their duty to their King.

SDG                 rmb                 6/1/2022                     #538