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THE COMPASSIONATE CHRIST
by Dr. Christopher L. Cagan, Associate
A lesson taught at the Baptist Tabernacle of Los Angeles
Hymn Sung Before the Lesson: “Hallelujah, What a Saviour!”
“And, behold, two blind men sitting by the way side, when they heard that Jesus passed by, cried out, saying, Have mercy on us, O Lord, thou Son of David. And the multitude rebuked them, because they should hold their peace: but they cried the more, saying, Have mercy on us, O Lord, thou Son of David. And Jesus stood still, and called them, and said, What will ye that I shall do unto you? They say unto him, Lord, that our eyes may be opened. So Jesus had compassion on them, and touched their eyes: and immediately their eyes received sight, and they followed him” (Matthew 20:30-34; p. 1027 Scofield).
Jesus was moved with compassion on the two blind men. Compassion is feeling the pain someone else is feeling, and feeling it enough to want to do something about it, and then actually doing something. Jesus had compassion for these blind men. And He did something – He healed them.
The Communists say they want to help people. But when they get in power, they do nothing for the people. They only make them slaves. This is because they have no compassion. They don’t really feel for other people.
The words “had compassion” translate one single Greek word, splanchnistheis. That comes from the Greek word splanxna, which means “the inward parts…the heart, lungs, liver, and kidneys.” That simply means the “guts,” as we would put it today. We could translate our text as “he was moved for them, he felt it down in his guts.” That’s what compassion is.
The compassion, the love and care of Jesus was not shown in words only. It was not a theory or a principle. It was not a “good thought.” His compassion was something that moved Him in His feelings, down in His guts. The compassion of Jesus drove Him to do something for people. The compassion of Jesus was a major part of His character and His life. Today I want to bring out three points about the compassion of Christ.
I. First, Christ presented compassion in His teaching.
Jesus taught people to have compassion, and to show it by specific acts of love. Turn to Luke 10:25 (p. 1088). Listen as I read it.
“And, behold, a certain lawyer stood up, and tempted him, saying, Master, what shall I do to inherit eternal life? He said unto him, What is written in the law? how readest thou? And he answering said, Thou shalt love the Lord thy God with all thy heart, and with all thy soul, and with all thy strength, and with all thy mind; and thy neighbour as thyself. And he said unto him, Thou hast answered right: this do, and thou shalt live” (Luke 10:25-28; p. 1088).
Jesus taught the deepest and simplest truth of all: love to God and love to others. This command is so simple, and yet so often broken. The man tried to avoid what Jesus meant, He said, “And who is my neighbour?” (Luke 10:29). Jesus gave Him the Parable of the Good Samaritan.
In that parable, a man was attacked by thieves who robbed him, beat him, and left him half dead. A priest and a Levite passed by him on the road and did nothing. But a Samaritan (not a Jew) “had compassion on him” – felt for him in his guts (Luke 10:33). The Samaritan took care of the man, bound up his wounds, and brought him to an inn. He did not care in words only. He did not care in emotion only. He did things to help the poor man. Jesus said to the lawyer, “Go, and do thou likewise” (Luke 10:37; p. 1089).
Jesus taught us to have feelings for others and do things to help them. It is a truth so simple and yet so often broken.
Christ taught us not only to care for our friends, but for our enemies. He said,
“Ye have heard that it hath been said, Thou shalt love thy neighbour, and hate thine enemy. But I say unto you, Love your enemies, bless them that curse you, do good to them that hate you, and pray for them which despitefully use you, and persecute you” (Matthew 5:43, 44; p. 1001).
And Christ gave us specific ways to do that:
“And unto him that smiteth thee on the one cheek offer also the other; and him that taketh away thy cloke forbid not to take thy coat also. Give to every man that asketh of thee; and of him that taketh away thy goods ask them not again. And as ye would that men should do to you, do ye also to them likewise” (Luke 6:29-31; p. 1080).
Verse 31 is called the “Golden Rule” – treat other people the way you want them to treat you. Jesus taught, “Love ye your enemies, and do good, and lend, hoping for nothing again” (Luke 6:35, p. 1080).
In the Lord’s Prayer we pray “Forgive us our trespasses, as we forgive those who trespass against us” – words so lovely, but so often ignored. Christ said,
“For if ye forgive men their trespasses, your heavenly Father will also forgive you: But if ye forgive not men their trespasses, neither will your Father forgive your trespasses” (Matthew 6:14-15; p. 1002).
A hard and unforgiving heart is evidence of an unsaved soul. The Apostle Paul said,
“Be ye kind one to another, tenderhearted, forgiving one another, even as God for Christ's sake hath forgiven you” (Ephesians 4:32; p. 1254).
That is the compassion Jesus taught. May you go and do likewise!
II. Second, Christ lived out compassion in His ministry.
Jesus didn’t just teach compassion. He practiced it. His compassion, his down-in-the-guts feeling, led Him to do specific things. Early in His ministry, a leper came to Jesus. Jesus didn’t leave the man as he was. The Bible says,
“And Jesus, moved with compassion, put forth his hand, and touched him, and saith unto him, I will; be thou clean. And as soon as he had spoken, immediately the leprosy departed from him, and he was cleansed” (Mark 1:41, 42; p. 1046).
Later, Jesus was out in the desert. The people “followed him on foot out of the cities” (Matthew 14:13). The Bible says,
“And Jesus went forth, and saw a great multitude, and was moved with compassion toward them, and he healed their sick” (Matthew 14:14; p. 1019).
Still later, the Disciples ran out of food. A great crowd was with them in the desert. The Bible says,
“Then Jesus called his disciples [unto him], and said, I have compassion on the multitude, because they continue with me now three days, and have nothing to eat: and I will not send them away fasting, lest they faint in the way” (Matthew 15:32; p. 1020).
Jesus did something for them. By a miracle, He multiplied the food they had. He fed “four thousand men, beside women and children” (Matthew 15:38; p. 1021).
The Apostle John said, “My little children, let us not love in word, neither in tongue; but in deed and in truth” (I John 3:18; p. 1324). Christ loved not in word nor in tongue, but in what He did. As Peter said, Jesus was a man “who went about doing good” (Acts 10:38; p. 1163). This brings me to the third point.
III. Third, Christ showed compassion in His death and resurrection.
Christ was arrested, scourged, and crucified. We could understand it if He got angry. But He did not. Jesus acted with love and care even for those who brought Him death. Judas betrayed Him and came with soldiers to arrest Him. The Bible says,
“And Jesus said unto him [Judas!], Friend, wherefore art thou come?” (Matthew 26:50; p. 1039).
Jesus could have cursed Judas as a traitor, for so he was. But the Scofield center note “f” correctly says, “Perhaps the most touching thing in the Bible. The Lord does not disown Judas.” If Judas had repented and trusted Christ, He would have been forgiven – even then.
Soon afterward, Peter denied Jesus, as Jesus had said he would – and as Peter had claimed he never would. The Bible says,
“Peter said, Man, I know not what thou sayest. And immediately, while he yet spake, the cock crew. And the Lord turned, and looked upon Peter. And Peter remembered the word of the Lord, how he had said unto him, Before the cock crow, thou shalt deny me thrice. And Peter went out, and wept bitterly” (Luke 22:60-62; p. 1109).
Peter got no lecture from Jesus. Christ gave him no rebuke. He never said, “See, I told you so.” Instead Jesus simply looked at Peter. That said it all. Peter came under conviction and wept bitterly.
The next day Christ was scourged and then crucified. Cruel men whipped His back until it was a bloody ruin. Other wicked men pounded nails into His hands and feet. Still others shouted at Him and mocked Him. But Jesus cursed no one. He prayed for them. The Bible says,
“Then said Jesus, Father, forgive them; for they know not what they do” (Luke 23:34; p. 1110).
On the Cross, Jesus lived out His own teaching, “Pray for them which despitefully use you” (Luke 6:28; p. 1080).
When Jesus rose from the dead, He did not rebuke His Disciples for having fled. He did not say, “I told you so.” He did not chide them for their fear. Instead, He came in peace. The Bible says,
“When the same day at evening, being the first day of the week, when the doors were shut where the disciples were assembled for fear of the Jews, came Jesus and stood in the midst, and saith unto them, Peace be unto you” (John 20:19; p. 1144).
Thomas was not there that night. Later Thomas said, “Except I shall see in his hands the print of the nails, and put my finger into the print of the nails, and thrust my hand into his side, I will not believe” (John 20:25; p. 1144). A week later Thomas was with the other Disciples. The Bible says,
“And after eight days again his disciples were within, and Thomas with them: then came Jesus, the doors being shut, and stood in the midst, and said, Peace be unto you. Then saith he to Thomas, reach hither thy finger, and behold my hands; and reach hither thy hand, and thrust it into my side: and be not faithless, but believing” (John 20:26, 27; p. 1144).
Jesus was not angry with Thomas. He simply offered what Thomas asked for, showing His own hands and side. That’s the love of Christ.
His death on the Cross was the greatest and deepest example of love and compassion for sinners – love for His enemies. He cared for them and did something – He died for them. As Jesus taught, so He did. The Bible says,
“While we were yet sinners, Christ died for us” (Romans 5:8; p. 1197).
That’s what Jesus did for us! Here is compassion! The Bible says, “Herein is love, not that we loved God [we did not], but that he loved us, and sent his Son [Jesus] to be the propitiation [the payment] for our sins” (I John 4:10; p. 1324).
Jesus’ Bloody death on the Cross for us was an act of love and compassion, the greatest of all. But His love and compassion went further than you might think. Christ died for all mankind. The Bible says, “He is the propitiation for our sins: and not for ours only, but also for the sins of the whole world” (I John 2:2; p. 1322). Why did He die for all people, knowing that most would reject Him? He had taught, “Love ye your enemies, and do good, and lend, hoping for nothing again” (Luke 6:35; p.1080). He gave His life for all, knowing that most would refuse Him. He loved His enemies and did them good, expecting nothing in return. That’s our Saviour!
What can you do? I’d like to tell you to take the love and compassion of Christ to heart and live it throughout your life. Yes, that is what to do. But it may seem like a lot to you, and it is. You haven’t perfectly lived it, and neither have I.
Someone says, “I don’t have much compassion.” Maybe you don’t. But can you act as if you did? Pray for God to give you compassion. But even if you don’t feel much, why not act as if you did? Why not start by doing just one thing for one person? Find one person who has a need and help that person. Why not start by forgiving just one offense from one person? Don’t take it to heart. Don’t be bitter against that person. Just forgive it. You can do that once for one person, can’t you? You can do it, and so can I. After you’ve done one thing for one person, think of another person and another thing. Soon you will be on your way. May God help you to do it!
Stand and sing “Hallelujah, What a Saviour!”
“Man of Sorrows,” what a name For the Son of God who came
Ruined sinners to reclaim! Hallelujah! What a Saviour!
Bearing shame and scoffing rude, In my place condemned He stood;
Sealed my pardon with His blood; Hallelujah! What a Saviour!
Guilty, vile and helpless, we; Spotless Lamb of God was He;
“Full atonement” can it be? Hallelujah! What a Saviour!
Lifted up was He to die, “It is finished,” was His cry;
Now in heaven exalted high; Hallelujah! What a Saviour!
(“Hallelujah, What a Saviour!” by Philip P. Bliss, 1838-1876;
stanzas 1, 2, 3 and 4).