Chapter 3

Compassion in the Parables

We talk about the things we care about. A spouse. A child. A grandchild. A sports team. A new recipe. A favorite book or movie. The list could be long one. We discuss the things that are important to us.

Jesus had loved the Father since all eternity past, so it’s only natural that Jesus constantly talked about the Father in His teaching. In fact, former US Senate chaplain Lloyd John Ogilvie entitled his book on Jesus’s parables as Autobiography of God. Through His parables, Jesus exposed aspects of the Father’s character and heart. And while that can be seen throughout all the parables, we will focus on two of Jesus’s most beloved parables, for they reveal God as compassionate.

The Good Samaritan: In this familiar story (see luke 10:30–37), a man is attacked by bandits on the Jericho Road. They beat him, rob him, and leave him for dead. This battered man is ignored by two religionists before a Samaritan finds him on the side of the road. (Samaritans were despised by the Jews and treated as an ethnically inferior outsiders; more on this later.)

But a Samaritan, who was on a journey, came upon him; and when he saw him, he felt compassion. (luke 10:33)

In a pattern found throughout the New Testament (see matthew 9:36–38; acts 17:16–17), this Samaritan sees something, feels something, and does something.

This Samaritan sees something, feels something, and does something.

This is powerful, because what drove the Samaritan’s actions was compassion. Jesus is picturing here how the Father sees us in our brokenness, is filled with compassion for us, and works on our behalf.

The Prodigal’s Father: Arguably the best-known of Jesus’s parables, we are probably all familiar to some degree with this story (found in luke 15:11–32). The prodigal (which means “wasteful”) son demands his inheritance from his father—an act of great disrespect—and takes the money and runs. He is the “wasteful” son because he squanders all that he has received and, as a last resort, returns home in shame and despair. The dishonored father’s response is stunning:

So he got up and came to his father. But while he was still a long way off, his father saw him and felt compassion for him, and ran and embraced him and kissed him. (luke 15:20)

Though his son had brought him great dishonor, this father—representing the heavenly Father—welcomes him home because of the compassion he has for this wayward child.

In both of these parables, the Father is seen acting out of His compassion to rescue and restore the damaged person. The beaten man was damaged by others, and the prodigal was damaged by his own choices, but both desperately needed compassion. Jesus, through these stories, reveals to us that this is how the Father views us—with a compassion that works on our behalf.

So, having seen compassion as a vital quality of God’s character and a subject of Jesus’s teaching, how did Jesus Himself live out the compassion we are talking about?