The Incarnate Lord (3)
But when He saw the multitudes, He was moved with compassion for them, because they were weary and scattered, like sheep having no shepherd. Then He said to His disciples, “The harvest truly is plentiful, but the laborers are few. Therefore pray the Lord of the harvest to send out laborers into His harvest.” Matthew 9.36-38
And Jesus, when He came out, saw a great multitude and was moved with compassion for them, because they were like sheep not having a shepherd. So He began to teach them many things. Mark 6.34
And when Jesus went out He saw a great multitude; and He was moved with compassion for them, and healed their sick. Matthew 14.14
Now Jesus called His disciples to Himself and said, “I have compassion on the multitude, because they have now continued with Me three days and have nothing to eat. And I do not want to send them away hungry, lest they faint on the way.” Matthew 15.32
In this part of our study, we’re trying to enrich our understanding and vision of Jesus by considering Him as He walked among us, doing good and teaching about the Kingdom of God. We all can see Him in our mind’s eye in the various situations of His ministry. But we want to see Him more clearly, more closely, and in a way that allows what we see in Him to have a formative influence in our own lives. We’re asking God to open the eyes of our heart and let the light of Jesus shine throughout our souls in richer, fuller ways.
Now some may be put off by this exercise, thinking it to be a bit too fanciful or mystical for their liking. No one was more circumspect about the use of the imagination in this capacity than the Puritan John Owen. Yet he wrote, “It is no work of fancy or imagination—it is not the feigning images in our minds of such things as are meet to satisfy our carnal affections, to excite and act them; but it is a due adherence unto that object which is represented unto faith in the proposal of the gospel. Therein, as in a glass, do we behold the glory of Christ, who is the image of the invisible God, and have our souls filled with transforming affections unto him.”
This entire study is devoted to seeing Jesus like this, giving a “due adherence” to how Jesus is presented to us in the Scriptures – and especially in this part of our study, in the gospels – so that we may “behold the glory of Christ” and “have our souls filled with transforming affections” toward Him. Owen continued, “This is our duty, this will be our wisdom, upon affecting discoveries of the glory of Christ; namely, to apply ourselves unto him by invocation or praise; and thereby will the refreshment and advantage of them abide upon our minds.”
To see Jesus, to know Christ, to love and serve and worship Him: This is our project, by which we earnestly hope to know “the refreshment and advantage” that comes with seeing Him for the enrichment of our soul.
Jesus sees us striving to see Him, and He sees us with eyes of compassion and love.
In each of the texts introducing this installment a variation of the verb “to have compassion” is used. In the Greek, that verb is σπλαγχνίζομαι splangnizomia. According to Louw and Nida, this word means “to experience great affection and compassion for someone – to feel compassion for, to have great affection for, love, compassion.” The root of the verb is the word “bowels” or “guts.” Compassion is something you feel in the depths of your being. It rumbles in your gut, stirs deep within you, and creates a mild wrenching or troubling, and makes you want to do something.
What does a person look like who is “filled with compassion”? The face softens. The eyes moisten. The brows furrow slightly as if to share in the need that is being observed. A somber mood of sympathy, sorrow, and urgency settles one who is filled with compassion, and he just feels like he needs to do something.
We have compassion for all kinds of people in all kinds of situations. It's why we grieve and give when disaster strikes; or take steps to assuage sorrow and pain in the midst of disease; or why we take a meal to others; or write a letter of condolence. Compassion moves us to give, to pray, to come alongside a sufferer and put a comforting arm around a shoulder.
The compassion of Jesus
We can see all this in Jesus in these four vignettes. Look at Him feeling compassion. Listen as He tells His disciples that He “has compassion” on those lost, searching, hungry people. See in His face the unmistakable signs of Someone Who truly feels your pain, Who knows what you’re up against and really cares, and Who bends toward you to greet you with the strength and delights of His grace sufficient for all your times of need.
And see Him, enthroned as the Word of God, as He condescends to take on flesh and come among us as a compassionate Servant, to bring the love of God for our salvation by His own suffering, death, and resurrection (Phil. 2.5-11).
Jesus is looking upon us at all times, and at all times the King Who welcomes us into His great strength looks upon us with compassionate eyes. “Come unto Me, all you who labor and are heavy laden,” He says, as He prepares just the measure of mercy and grace you need for whatever you’re facing just now.
When you look to see Jesus, don’t see Him looking past you. He didn’t look past those mulling crowds. Look at those fiery, flickering eyes as they look at you with tenderness, warmth, and shepherding care and love. Then flee into His welcoming arms with squeals of praise and rejoicing and thanksgiving. Feed on His Word and shelter in His rest; and let His Spirit work within you that same compassionate care for the people to whom the Lord sends you each day.
The glory of God which we may see in the face of our Lord Jesus Christ is the extraordinary look of compassion, a look that is followed by the Lord Who stoops to save by serving us in all our needs with the riches of glory He holds within Himself. See Jesus, the all-compassionate One, and rejoice in His never-failing compassion for you.
1. What is compassion? What does it feel like? To what does it lead?
2. Why did the Greeks believe that compassion begins deep within us, in our bowels or guts? How can we become more truly compassionate?
3. How does seeing Jesus as compassionate help us to become more like Him?
Next steps – Preparation: Think about the day ahead. What opportunities for showing compassion might you expect? Prepare for them now by seeing Jesus as He looks compassionately upon you.
T. M. Moore
A Thanksgiving Challenge
A generous friend of The Fellowship is offering a $5000 challenge gift for new donations and donations over and above regular giving. Will you join us to give thanks to God for this, and to ask Him whether you should participate in this opportunity? If the Lord moves you to give, you can use the Contribute button at the website to give with a credit card or through PayPal, or you can send your gift to The Fellowship of Ailbe, 360 Zephyr Road, Williston, VT 05495.
At the website
You can also now listen, each Lord’s Day, to a weekly summary of our daily Scriptorium study, which is presently working through the book of Jeremiah. Click here for last week’s summary of Jeremiah 22, 23.
Have you discovered The InVerse Theology Project yet? You’re missing Patrick’s report on his ministry. You can pick up Part 2 of “Celtic Flame” by clicking here.
Two new resources are available at our website to help you grow in the Lord and His work. Our new Personal Mission Field Workshop offers weekly training to help you shepherd the people to whom God sends you. And The Ailbe Podcast will introduce you to The Fellowship and how its resources and Brothers can be of help to you in your walk with and work for the Lord.
Except as indicated, Scripture taken from the New King James Version. © Copyright 1982 by Thomas Nelson, Inc. Used by permission. All rights reserved.