Jesus was going through all the cities and villages, teaching in their synagogues and proclaiming the gospel of the kingdom, and healing every kind of disease and every kind of sickness. Seeing the people, He felt compassion for them, because they were distressed and dispirited like sheep without a shepherd (Matthew 9:35-36).
Seeing the people, He felt compassion for them.
The compassion of Jesus’s is mentioned over and over throughout the Gospels, and exhibited most famously in His lament for Jerusalem, Israel’s capital city where God’s Temple was: “Jerusalem, Jerusalem, you who kill the prophets and stone those sent to you, how often I have longed to gather your children together, as a hen gathers her chicks under her wings, and you were not willing” (Matthew 23:37).
How many times have we responded to people with revulsion, or disgust, or indifference, or anger, or fear? The homeless person sitting on the streetcorner. The LGBQT person flaunting their sexuality in the parade. The atheist proudly proclaiming there is no God. The driver stuck on the road blocking traffic with their hood open. The people who don’t believe what we believe and behave the way we behave.
How many times did Jesus respond in those ways? Have this attitude in you, which was also in Christ Jesus…
Feeling and Acting
And having compassion is not just something we feel, it’s also something we choose do to; Paul tells us to “put on a heart of compassion” in Col. 3:12. This is exactly what we see Jesus doing in Matthew 9 – both feeling compassion but also acting in compassion too:
9:36: Seeing the people, He felt compassion for them, because they were distressed and dispirited like sheep without a shepherd. (Doesn’t that describe our society today – distressed and dispirited? Or harassed and helpless, as in another translation?)
9:37-38: Then He said to His disciples, “The harvest is plentiful, but the workers are few. Therefore beseech the Lord of the harvest to send out workers into His harvest.” (Beseech = pray earnestly, beg)
10:1: Jesus summoned His twelve disciples and gave them authority over unclean spirits, to cast them out, and to heal every kind of disease and every kind of sickness. (He empowered the rest of us too with the sending of the Spirit)
10:5: These twelve Jesus sent out… (and so He sends us out too.)
There’s a theme here that keeps popping up as I study and pray: Jesus calls us, empowers us, sends us, and is with us (especially as it relates to being His witnesses – see Matt. 28:18-20). And it’s equally true with having compassion too, since sharing the Gospel with someone is a greatly compassionate act in itself. But sharing the Gospel doesn’t excuse us from acting in more “mundanely” compassionate ways too, like giving food to the poor, visiting those in prison, and standing up against injustice.
May we repent of our hard-heartedness toward those Jesus feels compassion for, and may we “clothe ourselves with compassion, kindness, humility, gentleness and patience” (Col. 3:12).