The ninth chapter of Matthew’s gospel paints a picture of Jesus as a man in perpetual motion. He heals a paralyzed man (then forgives his sins just to prove a point), heals a woman who had been hemorrhaging for twelve years, raises a dead girl to life, and heals two blind men as well as a mute man. He proceeds to go through all of the cities and villages “healing every disease and every affliction.” Verse 36 summarizes Jesus’ motivation for this healing campaign: “When he saw the crowds, he had compassion on them because they were confused and helpless, like sheep without a shepherd.” This statement gives us insight into what moved Jesus — what motivated and energized him — throughout his life and ministry. This powerful force was compassion. The Greek word translated compassion here and elsewhere in the New Testament has as its root the word for bowels, or internal organs. Among the Jewish people, the bowels were seen as the place in one’s being where tender, heartfelt, affectionate qualities, such as kindness and benevolence, love and pity, blossom.
Compassion is a characteristic of our Daddy God that He has passed down to us as His children. In Luke 1:78, we learn that the compassion, or the “tender mercy” of God moved Him to send Jesus to the earth to bring light and peace to all of humanity. God expects us to resemble Him by being similarly moved by compassion. First John 3:17 asks: “If someone has enough money to live well and sees a brother or sister in need but shows no compassion – how can God’s love be in that person?” Compassion should move us to use the resources at our disposal to meet the needs of others. In other words, compassion is more than a feeling – it compels us to act.
We see this connection between compassion and action in the life of Jesus. He was able to say, “Anyone who has seen me has seen the Father (John 14:9 NIV).” When Jesus acted to show love to people by meeting their needs, the Father’s heart of compassion was on full display. One beautiful example is Matthew’s account of Jesus healing two blind men: “Moved with compassion, Jesus touched their eyes; and immediately they regained their sight and followed Him [as His disciples] (Matthew 20:34 AMP).” This story highlights several truths that can help us develop the compassion muscles we have inherited from our Father and allow them to move us to impact others in a powerful way.
In an overwhelming ocean of need, compassion moves us to the specific.
At the beginning of this story, we see that as Jesus and his disciples walked from one city to another, “a large crowd followed him” (Matthew 20:29). Like Jesus, we are confronted every day by the multitude: the sheer number of human needs can easily become overwhelming. This year especially, the scope of the suffering around us is daunting. People close to us are facing health needs from the pandemic, financial needs from the recession, and social and emotional needs from isolation. It is natural for our minds to be paralyzed when we compare the needs surrounding us to our capacity to help. Thankfully, the seat of compassion is not our intellect, it is the “bowels” of our heart. God is able to quiet the cacophony around us and focus our attention on a specific person or need He has placed in our path. That is what happened when the two blind men in this passage called out to Jesus. I believe that God allowed their voices to supernaturally pierce through the tumult of thousands of needy people and activate Jesus’ compassion.
In a culture of busyness, compassion moves us to stop for someone else.
In our culture, we wear activity as a badge of honor. Jesus’ actions in this story teach us to never be so focused on the task at hand that we can’t take time to stop. In verse 32, Jesus stood still. I find this character trait of Jesus very compelling — he never focused on a task or goal at the expense of the person in his path. It reminds me of the parable Jesus told of the Good Samaritan. In modern terms, the religious people in that story literally stepped over a beaten, bloody man on the way to church. Similarly, we God-girls can be so focused checking off the next task on our daily list that we close our ears, eyes, and hearts to anything that threatens to slow us down. I aspire to live a “people-first” life in which God knows he can trust me to stop for someone in need.
Compassion works best when we connect.
After Jesus stopped, he could have simply looked at the men, seen that they were blind, and reached out to restore their sight. Instead, he asked them, “What do you want me to do for you?” Being moved by compassion is not the same as assuming what people need or want from us. Wherever possible, we must allow people the dignity and respect to participate in their own miracle. When we connect, it helps to build relationship, which enriches the lives of all involved.
The ultimate goal of compassion is to inspire discipleship.
After the men received their sight, the scripture simply says, “and they followed him.” There was no sermon or altar call. Having their deepest need met moved these men to become disciples of Christ. Just as God’s kindness leads us to repentance, the love we demonstrate to others opens their hearts to the truth.
Today, allow margin in your schedule and your budget so that you can stop and help when moved to do so. Then ask God for an opportunity to be moved by compassion. When the opportunity comes, connect and act. Then watch God work.
Genesis Consulting Group, Founder and Managing Partner