One of the salient characteristics of Jesus is His abundant ‘compassion’ (Matthew 9:36).
When He was here on earth, wherever He saw suffering, sorrow or misfortune, His desire was to restore to wholeness or to normality those who were in trouble. He fed the hungry (Matthew 14:15-21; 15:32-38), healed the sick (Matthew 9:35), and He even brought people back life (Luke 7:13-15; John 11:35-44). There was always action on His part as a result of His compassion. He could not stand by and not do anything – so strong was His empathy and care for those in trouble.
When Matthew wrote his Gospel he drew attention to the great compassion of Jesus. Here are some extracts that illustrate this:
Matthew 9:36 ‘But when He saw the multitudes, He was moved with compassion for them, because they were weary and scattered, like sheep having no shepherd.’
Matthew 14:14 ‘And when Jesus went out He saw a great multitude, and He was moved with compassion for them, and healed their sick.’
Matthew 15:32 ‘Now Jesus called His disciples to Himself and said, “I have compassion on the multitude, because they have now continued with Me three days and have nothing to eat. And I do not want to send them away hungry, lest they faint on the way.”’
Matthew 20:34 ‘So Jesus had compassion and touched their eyes. And immediately their eyes received sight, and they followed Him.’
In fact, it was the compassion of Jesus that gave Him His desire to come to earth, to suffer, to die and to rise again to be a ransom (Matthew 20:28) for many. He saw their suffering; He saw their iniquity; He saw their hopelessness, and He had compassion on them. He forgave them their sins (Luke 5:20-24) and overlooked their transgressions (Hebrews 9:15).
What is our response? Are we like Him? Are we compassionate for those in trouble: those who are suffering, those who are being persecuted, those who are sick, widows, orphans (James 1:27) and the needy?
When Jesus had compassion He felt the distress, the pain and the anguish of those in difficulty. He cared for them – even loved them. Often they were people He hadn’t met before, but He invariably acted to take away their distress. Here’s an example from Luke’s Gospel, Chapter 7, verses 13-15 ‘When the Lord saw her, He had compassion on her [a widow] and said to her, “Do not weep.” Then He came and touched the open coffin, and those who carried him stood still. And He said, “Young man, I say to you, arise.” So he who was dead sat up and began to speak. And He presented him [her only son] to his mother.’
There was the time when He healed a leper: ‘Then Jesus, moved with compassion, stretched out His hand and touched him, and said to him, “I am willing; be cleansed.” As soon as He had spoken, immediately the leprosy left him, and he was cleansed (Mark 1:41, 42).’
We are not able to do miracles, but if we are believers we can be compassionate like Jesus (cf Psalm 86:15) and we can react positively with prayer (Luke 18:1), and if it is practical, respond with actions. At the same time we can be thankful for Jesus’ compassion for us and for our salvation (Romans 13:11; 1 Thessalonians 5:9).