My brother and I were on our way to an important meeting when we saw an old man standing by the side of the road hitchhiking. He was dressed in an old, thread-worn suit but it looked nicely pressed. We commented that someone should stop and give the man a ride. Then an idea hit us, we should take compassion on him and lend him a helping hand. At the next exit, we turned around and went back to where the man was standing with his thumb outstretched.
When he was safely in our car, he told us he had been standing out in the freezing wind for forty-five minutes. Hundreds of cars had passed him, but no one stopped to help. A group of teenagers had even slowed down and thrown beer bottles at him. He was in a city that has some of the greatest churches in the world, yet no one had time to help him.
Why did we stop to help the man? Because we had compassion on him. Other people may have felt pity for the man, but their pity did not compel them to stop. We helped him, because we had compassion.
In mystery stories detectives look for the motives of criminals who commit crimes. If Jesus was on trial for healing the sick, compassion would be His motive. One of the main reasons Jesus helped people was because He was filled with compassion.
The healing ministry of Jesus flowed from His compassion. One day, when Jesus left His boat, He was greeted by a large crowd, and “he had compassion on them and healed their sick” (Matthew 14:14). When two blind men cried out to Jesus, He “had compassion on them and touched their eyes. Immediately they received their sight” (Matthew 20:34). A leper got down on his knees and begged Jesus to heal him, “filled with compassion, Jesus reached out his hand and touched the man. ‘I am willing,’ he said. ‘Be clean!’” (Mark 1:41).
On numerous occasions, Jesus was moved with compassion. The Greek word for “compassion” is splanchnos which refers to a deep inner feeling. Have you ever experienced such a strong emotion that you felt it in the deepest pit of your stomach? This word is the strongest expression of compassion in the Greek language and it is used many times by the Gospel writers to explain Christ’s motivation for healing the sick.
Jesus did not just feel sorry for people, He fixed their problems. Sympathy makes us want to sit down and have a pity party with the hurting person. Compassion, on the other hand, makes us want to do something to fix the problem.
Where did the compassion of Jesus come from? The answer is found in Psalm 116:5, “our God is full of compassion.” Jesus was filled with compassion because His Father was compassionate. In His private prayer times, Jesus adopted the compassionate attitude of His Father for the sick. Healing is a visible representation of God’s innermost feelings of love for humankind. Jesus healed the man at the pool of Bethesda (John 5:1-15) out of His compassion, not in response to the man’s faith. This explains why many non-Christians are healed, God simply has compassion for hurting people. He heals people because of His overwhelming love.
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