Vol. 12 No. 4 April 2010
The Lord Jesus Christ exhibited to the ultimate every positive human emotion because He was perfection personified. One of those emotions was His compassion for the ones whose lives He touched.
Vine’s defines compassion, “To have pity, a feeling of distress through the ills of others; to suffer with another; to show kindness or assistance.” Webster says it is, “A feeling of deep sympathy and sorrow for someone struck by misfortune, accompanied by a desire to alleviate the suffering; mercy.” Compassion may very well be the acid test of our emotions.
We are living in a world that now takes a lot to be moved with compassion. It has to be a distress, a calamity of a suffering of some magnitude to get our attention. Some of us have witnessed personally or seen in the media people being robbed, raped, driven over, beaten, murdered, kidnapped, and on and on. Sadly, many of us are jaded to these occurrences.
In many cases, not a move is made to render help or even contact authorities! Horrifying as it is to hear and witness these notorieties, in some cases, authorities are present and do absolutely nothing! What has happened to cause such ruthless, callous, cynical and heartless attitudes and actions in our society today?
What would Jesus think, say and do if He were to personally visit one of our cities for just one day to witness the lack of compassion? How would He feel when He observed these same kinds of worldly attitudes and actions in the church for which He gave His life?
Mark’s account of the ministry of Jesus Christ tells us of several occasions when the compassion of the Lord was shown. In Mark 1:35-45, we are told how Jesus rose a long while before daylight and went out to a solitary place to pray. Peter and others were searching for Jesus and said everyone was looking for Him.
At that time, Jesus was preaching throughout all of Galilee and a leper came imploring Him and kneeling down to Him saying, “If You are willing, You can make me clean” (vs. 40b). Can we pause just long enough to imagine what it must have taken for this leper to say to the One through whom all things were created, and the One who died for us all, if He was willing to do something to relieve his suffering? The man’s desperation is all too real!
We do not have to imagine what the Lord’s response was because verse 41 says, “Then Jesus, moved with compassion, stretched out His hand and touched him, and said to him, ‘I am willing, be cleansed.’” Jesus strictly warned the man not to say anything to anyone but to follow the commandments of Moses for being cleansed of leprosy as a testimony to the people. However, he went out and told it freely, and they came to Jesus from every direction (vs. 45 b).
Mark 5:1-20 is the account of the man who was demon-possessed and asked that Jesus heal him. After his healing, he begged the Lord that he might be with Him. Verse 19 says, “However, Jesus did not permit him, but said to him, ‘Go home to your friends, and tell them what great things the Lord has done for you, and how He has had compassion on you.’” The man did just that, and they all marveled.
Mark 6:30-34 records how the apostles gathered to Jesus to tell Him all the things they had done and what they had taught. Jesus had insisted that they come aside to a deserted place in a boat by themselves and rest a while. “For there were many coming and going, and they did not even have time to eat” (vs. 31b). However, the multitudes saw them departing and ran on foot from all the cities. Verse 34 says, “And Jesus, when He came out, saw a great multitude and was moved with compassion for them, because they were like sheep not having a shepherd. So He began to teach them many things.”
Mark 8:1-3 says, “In those days, the multitude being very great and having nothing to eat, Jesus called His disciples to Him and said to them, ‘I have compassion on the multitude, because they have now continued with Me three days and have nothing to eat. And if I send them away hungry to their own houses, they will faint on the way; for some of them have come from afar.” Verses 4-9 tell us exactly what Jesus did from His feelings of compassion before He sent that multitude away. He miraculously fed those four thousand people with seven loaves and a few fish!
Perhaps the best known account from the world’s standpoint of compassion is what has become commonly known as “The Parable of the Good Samaritan” in Luke 10:25-37. A Jewish lawyer had come to Jesus wanting to know what he needed to do to inherit eternal life. Jesus had answered him, but the lawyer wanting to justify himself asked the Lord who was his neighbor.
Jesus then told him about a man, who fell among thieves, was stripped of his clothing, wounded, and left half dead. Jesus further told him about the two “God fearing” people who were certainly expected to stop and render assistance, but they passed by on the other side! Could Jesus have been describing the actions of some of us who are supposed to be Christians?
In verse 33 Jesus said, “But a certain Samaritan, as he journeyed, came where he was. And when he saw him, he had compassion.” For Jesus to say a Samaritan was the one who rendered to this man immediate medical attention, a place to recover from his injuries as he continued to care for him, and money for current and any additional expenses was almost beyond a Jew’s comprehension!
Biblical history tells us the Jews intensely hated the Samaritans because they were a race of people formed when Jews married non-Jews. The heartrending account in John 4:1-43 of Jesus’ encounter with the Samaritan woman at the well addresses this racial hatred. John 4:9 records, “Then the woman of Samaria said to Him, ‘How is it that You, being a Jew, ask a drink from me, a Samaritan woman? For Jews have no dealings with Samaritans.’”
Racial prejudice toward non-Jews was further emphasized when Peter was called to the household of Cornelius, a Gentile in Acts 10. When Peter and his companions arrived, he found many who had come together. “Then he said to them, ‘You know how unlawful it is for a Jewish man to keep company with or go to one of another nation. But God has shown me that I should not call any man common or unclean’” (Acts 10:28).
When Jesus concluded His narrative on compassion, the Jewish lawyer was pricked to the core of his heart about what he needed to do to inherit eternal life, and who was his neighbor (Luke 10:25-29). Then Jesus asked him, “‘So which of these three do you think was neighbor to him who fell among the thieves?’ And he said, ‘He who showed mercy on him.’ Then Jesus said to him, ‘Go and do likewise’” (Luke 10:36-37).
As soon as we hear the words “Good Samaritan,” we know something good has been done for a soul in distress or disaster! Those of us who still have hearts of compassion are at times moved to tears for people we do not personally know, but are thankful to God that somebody came to their rescue!
What is the lesson for those who have been crucified with Christ and it is no longer us, but Christ living in us? It is noteworthy that whenever the Bible says Jesus was “moved with compassion,” it not only tells us why He was but also what He did.
If we are not moved to do something for our brothers and sisters in Christ or anybody else in need or distress, we have not been “moved with compassion.”