“But when He (Jesus) saw the multitude, He was moved with compassion for them, because they were weary and scattered, like sheep having no shepherd. (Matthew 9:36)
The word “compassion” is an amazing word in the Greek. It speaks of man’s bowels, for it is with the inward parts that one truly loves others. It is expressive of the deepest emotion. It embraces mercy, affection and a deep yearning. In other words, Jesus “felt” deeply for the crowd that followed Him.
We find this expression “moved with compassion” most frequently used when crowds of people were assembled. The amplified Bible says they were bewildered, – harassed and distressed and dejected and helpless. Twice it was because that they were hungry and faint, and in the fulness of his sympathy he multiplied the loaves and fishes to feed them, showing the practicality of his compassion as well as His healing power. Jesus was their Shepherd, and He fed them both spiritually and physically – because He was moved with compassion.
In many cases when healing took place, the Bible says He was moved with compassion
In Mark 1:40-42 He was moved with compassion when the leper came to him and said “Lord, if you are willing, you can make me clean.” He had full faith in Christ’s ability, but he had some doubts as to Christ’s willingness. Jesus stretched out His hand and touched Him and said “I am willing, be cleansed,” and immediately the leprosy left him.
Leprosy is symbolic of sin. The believer who is struggling with any sin issue should know that the Lord is always willing to forgive, and cleanse if only we come to Him and confess.
“For we do not have a High Priest who cannot sympathise with our weaknesses, but was in all points tempted as we are, yet without sin” (Hebrews 4:15)
He is moved with compassion for the mothers praying for their children
Luke 7:11-15 refers to the widow at the gates of Nain. Her only son had died and was being carried out. He was moved with compassion, and He restored her son.
What an encouragement for mothers (and fathers) that are weeping for their children. When we have ungodly or unconverted children, the Lord Jesus sees our tears. The tears and prayers of a mother are very powerful. He hears us as we weep alone sometimes. Jesus knows the griefs and sorrows that we bear regarding our children. He was always tender to his own mother, and he is to us. And as we mourn over those that have been taken from us, Jesus is “moved with compassion.”
Not only did Jesus feel compassion, He used the term often in parables and exhortations.
- In the parable of the prodigal son (Lk 15), a foolish lad took his inheritance and departed from his father into a far country, where he wasted his possessions on reckless living. Finally, he resolved to return to his beloved father.
His father saw him when he was still a great way off, and being “moved with compassion,” ran and fell on his neck and kissed him.
The father, of course, represents God. Even when we have disgraced ourselves, he still grievously feels for us, and wants us back.
- Jesus spoke of a king who had compassion on his penniless servant and forgave him his debt, teaching His people that they too should forgive one another (Matt 18:21-35).
- We also have the story of the man who fell among thieves, who left him half dead. The lawyer, wanting to test Jesus and justify himself, asked the question, “Who is my neighbour?” Samaritans have no dealings with Jews, yet the despised Samaritan is the hero of the story as he was the one who had compassion on his enemy and showed mercy on him. (Lk 10:25-37). The Lord’s exhortation was “Go and do likewise”.
Such was the tender heart and yearning of the Lord when He looked upon the multitudes and saw them as sheep not having a shepherd. Such was His heart moved when He looked upon those who were suffering with various illnesses, diseases and demon possession. Such was His care and concern to feed the multitudes who were following Him, with not only spiritual food, but natural food.
It was this compassion that came from the depth of His being that caused Him to reach out and touch those in need; to heal the sick; feed the multitudes, restore sight to the blind; cleanse the lepers; cast out demons; raise the dead.
We should be seeing the same miracles in everyday life in this present age, because the same power that raised Jesus from the dead, now lives in us. Could it be that one of the reasons we are not effective is that we don’t have compassion? – That we don’t have that same inward passion for the lost and for the bewildered – the harassed, distressed, dejected and helpless? There was nothing superficial in what He did; no selfishness or hope of personal gain, fame or recognition. But rather something stirred within the Lord in the very depth of His being and moved Him to reach out.
Jesus bore our griefs and carried our sorrows. When our heart is pained, when burdens press in, when cares distress us, He is moved with compassion. When we are afflicted with pain or illness, He is moved with compassion. When we are confused or lack direction, he cares. As our High Priest and Intercessor, His eternal blood is continually speaking on the mercy seat in heaven.
Ought not His people to do the same for each other and for others?
“But whoever has this world’s goods, and sees his brother in need, and shuts up his bowels of compassion from him, how does the love of God abide in him?” (1 Jn 3:17)
If we love Him and wish to be like Him, how can we look at the masses and not be moved with compassion for their souls? Do we feel contempt for the unlovely and the unloved, or is there something stirring in our inward parts, in our bowels of mercy? Can we not say, I will show compassion to others, because He first showed compassion to me?
Compassion is not just an attitude. It comes from the depths of our spirit and moves us to act in love. Affection is part of it, but it is not natural affection, but supernatural.
(Matt 9:37-38): Then he said to His disciples, “The harvest truly is plentiful, but the labourers are few. Therefore pray the Lord of the harvest to send out labourers into His harvest”.
He was moved with compassion, and the implication is that the labourers He is sending out need this same compassion.
Lord, help us to be gracious, compassionate and merciful. Help us to see others through your eyes.