Compassion of Christ

The word “compassion” is made up of the prefix “com” which means “with,” and the root “passion” which is a word used for describing an intense feeling of emotion. But not only that, the word “passion” goes back to the Latin word Passio which is the origin of the word for patience and suffering. In a literal sense, the word compassion means “to suffer with.” Entering into the feeling of someone else’s is what compassion is all about. We sometimes say, “I feel your pain” but we never really feel somebody else’s pain but our own (even though we may have a little idea of the pain the person is going through).

“One of the most difficult things for any of us at any time is to experience authentic empathy – that is, to try to project to ourselves into the skin of somebody else, and try to feel what they are feeling and to think what they are thinking. And yet in the New Testament, we are called, as part of Christian virtue, to weep with those who weep, and to rejoice with those who rejoice, and to be people who manifest a spirit of compassion. If there is any sense in which the Christian is called to imitate God it is at this point – to be people of compassion. Because were it not for the compassion of God, none of us could possibly stand in His presence. The only way we can ever stand before Christ face to face is on the basis of his compassion, mercy and grace… Usually, we are not exercised or offended if somebody says that we should show compassion for somebody in pain or in great suffering, and try to feel what they are feeling, but sometimes we resist the idea of having a sense of compassion for someone who’s involved in gross and heinous sin. We don’t want to feel sorry for somebody who is wicked. And yet, if there is any place where we should have the ability to have compassion, it is with the wicked. It should be easier for us to relate to the wicked than it is to the virtuous, because of who we are.” – R.C Sproul.

Put on then, as God’s chosen ones, holy and beloved, compassionate hearts, kindness, humility, meekness, and patience, bearing with one another and, if one has a complaint against another, forgiving each other; as the Lord has forgiven you, so you also must forgive [Colossians 3:12-13]… It is because of the LORD’s lovingkindnesses that we are not consumed, for His compassions fail not. They are new every morning; Great and beyond measure is Thy faithfulness [Lamentation 3:22-23]. The Lord is gracious and full of compassion. Slow to anger and great in mercy [Psalm 145:8].

Looking to Jesus, we see the very heart of compassion. “For we do not have a High Priest [Jesus] who is unable to sympathize [have compassion] with our weaknesses; who cannot be touched with the feelings of our infirmities; but one who is in every respect has been tempted as we are, yet without sin.” – Hebrews 4:15. Note that the Bible does not say, ‘touched by’ but ‘touched with.’ At times, we can be touched by the sorrows of another, but not touched with that sorrow; we can pity the sorrowing but not sorrow with them. The word sympathise means to feel what another feels. Jesus as He is seated in heaven feels what you and I feels experientially. It’s not just that he feels like we feel, but he feels what we feel. He knows about our discouragement, disappointments, burdens and despairs. He understands our grief better than we do. We have a Saviour who feels with great profundities our need.

During his earthly ministry, Jesus went about showing compassion to people he crossed path with. “Jesus went throughout all the cities and villages, teaching in their synagogues and proclaiming the gospel of the kingdom and healing every disease and every affliction. When he saw the crowds, he had compassion for them, because they were harassed and helpless, like sheep without a shepherd.” – Matthew 9:35-36.

Before departing on boat to the region of Magadan, Jesus was moved with compassion for the crowd of people who had followed him for 3 days and had nothing left to eat [Matthew 15:32-39]. He did not want to send them away hungry, for he was concerned that they might faint on their way. And although, his disciples only had 7 loaves of bread and a few small fish left, that was more than enough. Jesus took the 7 loaves and the fish, and gave thanks to God for the provision. Miraculously, the whole crowd was fed through it and were satisfied, and there was much leftover food too. Among those who ate were 4,000 men (not counting women and children).

On another occasion [Matthew 20:29-34], when Jesus was leaving the city of Jericho with his disciples, a large crowd followed. When two blind men sitting by the roadside heard that Jesus was passing by, they cried out, “Have mercy on us, O Lord, Son of David!” When Jesus heard their cries, he stopped in his track, called for them and asked, “What do you want me to do for you?” They said to him, “Lord, let our eyes be opened.” Moved with compassion, Jesus touched their eyes; and immediately their eyes received sight, and they followed Him.

The apostle John tells of an account when Jesus went all the way to the village of Bethany with one purpose in mind – to raise his friend, Lazarus from the grave [John 11:11]. And when he was brought to the tomb of Lazarus (who had been dead and buried for four days), Jesus wept. Jesus was moved with compassion. He was weeping with those who weep. He was weeping because of the sorrow of Mary and Martha even though afterwards he miraculously brought Lazarus back to life.

The greatest display of the compassion of Christ is seen at the cross where mercy met the anger of God’s rod. Surely, he [Jesus] has borne our griefs and carried our sorrows; yet we esteemed him stricken, smitten by God, and afflicted. But he was pierced for our transgressions; he was crushed for our iniquities; upon him was the chastisement that brought us peace, and by his wounds we are healed [Isaiah 53:4-5].

How sure, his compassion for us
Oh how deep is his love,
So come, come to Jesus, and rest in him

{Words and Music by Jordan Kauflin and Matt Merker}