Jesus' Compassion

, by Christopher D. Hudson

Therefore, as God’s chosen people, holy and dearly loved, clothe yourselves with compassion, kindness, humility, gentleness and patience. Bear with each other and forgive one another if any of you has a grievance against someone. Forgive as the Lord forgave you. And over all these virtues put on love, which binds them all together in perfect unity. 

The disciple Matthew wrote, “When [Jesus] saw the crowds, he had compassion on them, because they were harassed and helpless, like sheep without a shepherd” (Matthew 9:36).

The scene in Matthew 9 repeated itself throughout Jesus’ earthly ministry. Crowds flocked to Jesus because they could sense his concern for them. They were changed by his words and healed by his power, but above all they were touched by his compassion.

As seen in the Bible, Jesus’ compassion manifested itself in three stages, which have tremendous relevance for those who seek to follow him.

1. Jesus noticed.
“As he went along, he saw a man blind from birth” (John 9:1). The root of Jesus’ compassion is found in this seemingly ordinary sentence from the Gospel of John. Many in Jesus’ day (as in ours) were oblivious to the suffering of others. The disabled frequently gathered near the temple to beg money from kindhearted worshipers. They were often ignored because some believed their affliction was God’s punishment for some sin they—or their parents—had committed.

Jesus refused to ignore the blind man. He didn’t stare straight past or increase his pace to avoid an awkward encounter. He looked directly at the man and took note of his condition. He made a connection.

2. Jesus empathized.
“Jesus wept” (John 11:35). The shortest verse in the Bible is loaded with implications for Jesus’ followers. In this instance, Jesus had come to visit his friends Mary and Martha after receiving news that their brother, Lazarus, had died. Jesus already knew he was going to raise Lazarus from the dead in order to demonstrate his power. He—and he alone—knew that in a matter of minutes, Lazarus would be alive again. 

Yet when Jesus saw the mourners who had gathered— anguished and devastated by the loss of their loved one—he wept with them. He put himself in their place, felt the pain they were experiencing, and reacted with empathy toward them. He didn’t just observe their grief; he joined them in it.

3. Jesus intervened.
Jesus gave sight to the blind man in John 9. He brought Lazarus back to life. Elsewhere in the Gospels, he cured people’s disabilities, healed all manner of sickness, and freed others from demon possession. Yet not all his interventions were supernatural. In John 8, he protected a woman from a crowd of men who threatened to stone her to death for adultery. In Luke 19, he socialized with a reviled tax collector and his socially unacceptable friends.

In each situation, Jesus acted on someone else’s behalf. That’s his legacy of compassion. He stepped into people’s lives, acquainted himself with their circumstances, and took steps to meet their needs. 

This blog post has been adapted from the special-edition magazine Walking with Jesus, which is available wherever magazines are sold. 


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