January 20, 2021

When Jesus heard it, He departed from there by boat to a deserted place by Himself. But when the multitudes heard it, they followed Him on foot from the cities. And when Jesus went out He saw a great multitude; and He was moved with compassion for them, and healed their sick (Matthew 14:13-14).

We normally define ‘compassion’ as ‘love in action’, which it is, but there is much more to it than that. There is also deep seated-emotion. But compassion is not ‘emotion driven’ - it is ‘need driven’. When Jesus saw the crowd of people, some of which got to Bethsaida before He did, He knew they came to Him because of perceived needs in their lives. Albeit for many of them the need was more physical than spiritual, still they came to Jesus and Jesus did not turn them away. This is not to say that Jesus did not express emotions - He did, and compassion was one of those emotions He expressed, but it was based on personal need.

The word ‘compassion’ literally means ‘to be moved in one’s gut (bowels of compassion, bowels of mercy). The ancient philosophers and Jews believed feelings and emotions resided in the lower torso. Makes us appreciate that modern western folks believe feelings and emotions reside in the heart! It’s a lot easier and less disgusting to picture that on a Valentine’s card.

Jesus was not a stoic (one who endures pain or hardship without showing feelings or complaint). He was not like Mr. Spock on Star Trek. He was deeply moved by the human condition - the suffering and despair. He was moved greater still by the lostness of those around Him. He felt their physical, emotional, and spiritual pain whether they believed in Him or not. We see this at the tomb of His friend Lazarus (John 11) and when He wept over Jerusalem from the Mt. of Olives (Luke 19:41).

God is love (1 John 4:8). He is rich in mercy because of His great love for us (Ephesians 2:4). These things are true of Jesus because He is God. So, in His great love for the lostness and the need of thos who met Him in Bethsaida, He set aside His agenda to minister to them. Even to the ones who did not understand Him or His mission? Yes. Even to those who didn’t believe in Him and would eventually reject Him? Yes.

One other thought. The compassion of Jesus was also motivated by His understanding of hell and the horror a lost person will experience there. This is a motive we need to recapture today. A lost soul is a damned soul (John 3:18), and if that lost soul does not come to saving faith in Jesus Christ, he/she will be damned forever.

“Lord Jesus, give me that same compassion You have so that I might minister to people not out of emotion or guilt, but out of a genuine understanding of the need for a person to know You and the abundant and eternal life You came to give us. To Your honor and glory I ask, Amen.”


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