(Matthew 9:35-38) Then Jesus went about all the cities and villages, teaching in their synagogues, preaching the gospel of the kingdom, and healing every sickness and every disease among the people. 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.”
Compassion is a word we hear an awful lot about in our culture. In simple terms it is defined in its noun form as “a deep awareness of and sympathy for another’s suffering”; in its verb form compassion is defined as “the humane quality of understanding the suffering of others and wanting to do something about it”. Even apart from being followers of Christ, humans can experience feelings of compassion. Yet experiencing sympathy for another’s suffering and even wanting to do something about it does not complete compassion’s purpose, unless we move to alleviate the suffering. Consider Psalm 103:13 where we read “As a father pities his son, so the LORD pities those who fear Him”.
In the word “pity” we see the complete definition of compassion. Pity in the Hebrew tongue means to condescend or to lower oneself to the embrace them in their low estate. This is for the purpose of laboring with the sufferer, in order to lift them out of their suffering. This word picture marries both the noun and verb above. Only in God is this constant and efficient. When it comes to lost humanity our experience with compassion is fickle at best. For those who are the redeemed of the Lord Jesus, compassion ought to be experienced as our Savior experienced it.
Matthew 9:36 records, that Jesus was “moved with compassion”. We understand this to mean “to be moved in ones bowels”. In biblical times bowels were seen as the seat of love and emotion. This is a fairly good assessment regarding how we feel when upset, anxious or afraid? At those times we don’t think, we simply feel in our bowels. This is what medicine calls and autonomic reflex, or a body process that is automatic per conditions and need. In this way the compassion such as our Savior experienced was as non-thought-of as breathing or responding to pain by flinching. For Jesus seeing people in peril, elicited an automatic feeling leading to a response. As we examine Matthew 9:35-38, we will begin to see the characteristics of Jesus’ life and disposition that let compassion flourish to be seen by all for God’s glory.
JESUS WAS ON MISSION 24 HOURS A DAY 7 DAYS A WEEK
When reading Matthew 9:35 we can see Jesus was on His mission at all times and in all places. Regard the word choices of the Holy Spirit from the Holy Spirit… In “all the cities” he preached, taught and healed “every sickness”. It should be no trouble to observe from reading all four gospels, Jesus is the 24/7 Savior on His mission to seek and save the lost. Let me challenge you to read Mark chapters 1 and 2 to see how Jesus only had time to be on mission. As we read in John Chapter 4, where Jesus meets the Samaritan woman, He needed to go through Samaria. Why? Because He had to get a drink from a Samaritan woman, in order to lead her into the kingdom of God. Every place and at all times Jesus was on mission.
In order to be on mission 24/7, Jesus had to lay down His prerogative to express any self-will, that He could follow the Holy Spirit’s leading according to the Father’s will, with no wasted word’s actions or time. In other word’s Jesus had to live as a bond slave, with no will of his own, where His greatest joy was to do his Father’s will. In fact Jesus reported that doing the will of the Father and completing His work was actually like food to Him(John 4:34). We are to be on mission 24/7 just like Him; “As He is so we are in the world” (I John 4:17).
My honest opinion is that one of the reasons we short circuit on compassion is that we do not understand our calling to be on mission 24/7. What is our mission as saints of God?
1) GO AND MAKE DISCIPLES (Matthew 28:18-20)
2) BE SET APART AND HOLY FOR HIM (I Thessalonians 4:3-4; I Peter 1:13-16)
4) TO PRAISE HIM AND CAUSE OTHERS TO PRAISE HIM (I Peter 2:9-10)
3) TO BE AS HE IS IN THIS WORLD (I John 4:17)
This call of God knows no vacation nor sabbatical. Even when we are asleep, God may wake you to pray for a Christian face in a faraway land you will never see this side of heaven. The above passages do not imply that only a special category of redeemed people are on call 24/7, but all of us. This is a problem among America Christians, because we compartmentalize our faith into appropriate venues and times to be overtly Christian. We also set aside compartments for ourselves in order to pursue our dreams, wants, and desires. This is an egregious error.
The time has come for us to stop mouthing the scriptures and consider their true implications and blessings. In Philippians 1:21 Paul declares “For to me to live is Christ and to die is gain”. For the apostle, to continue on earth was to live for Jesus 24/7. Many will say Amen to this passage, without considering if they truly are growing and living in that fashion.
If we desire to have compassion like Jesus, which does not flicker like a light bulb with a faulty filament, we must be renewed in our minds to our calling to be on mission 24/7. Are you at all times on mission, or merely saying so, while living for Christ giving less than He is worthy of?
JESUS COMPASSION AROSE FROM WHAT HE SAW
When we commit to living 24/7 to our mission for Christ, we enter a wonderful yet difficult life where we begin to think, feel, and behave differently. We begin to see life with all its ups and downs and joys and troubles, with new eyes. We begin to see life through Jesus’ eyes and scripture confirms this in Galatians 2:20 (“and the life which I now live in the flesh I live by the faith of the Son of God…”). Faith in the simplest of terms is to see what God sees and trust His assessment (Hebrews 11:1). In this we understand that living on mission 24/7 takes Jesus supernatural sight. What is it that Jesus sees?
He sees the rebellious nature of the lost and their bondage and affliction; He also sees the righteous that follow Him in faith and the fear of the LORD (Psalm 14:2; Isaiah 61:1-3; Psalm 11:4-7). Jesus also sees the heart of every believer and true condition of His church (Hebrews 4:12-15; Revelation 2:23). As we examine why Jesus was moved to compassion, we discover it was because of what He saw. “When Jesus saw the multitudes He was moved with compassion”.
Jesus saw the “weary” (to be exalted and fainting in heart)—He saw the “scattered” (those flung apart from community because of enemy attack). Our Savior saw those who were so broken and hopeless they would follow Him anywhere, because He was their only hope of life. They embarked after Him desperately, even though they did not understand what He came for. The O.T. confirms Jesus’ mission to bring them good news of salvation, to heal their broken and sinful hearts, to proclaim their freedom from the world, flesh and devil, as He would comfort them, console them, bless them with transformation, and fill them with praise inducing joy(Isaiah 61:1-3).
Note He did not come to give them food for the sake of filling their bellies—miracles for the sake of entertaining their need for signs and wonder—He did these things for the sake of bringing them to understand He was whom the scriptures foretold was their Messiah. This was for the sole purpose of reasoning with them to repent for the hour of redemption had come (Isaiah 1:18). In this redemption He would pay the price for complete removal of sin, a new life now and glory with Him forever. In this life He would become their Shepherd, and God would be their Father (Romans 8:14-16).
What He saw moved Him, it moved the early Church, and it is to move us. Yet we must train ourselves to see what He sees. Our purpose must be to preach Christ crucified and to call people to follow Christ as we follow Christ. We must understand that kindness that does not eventually lead the Holy Spirit being able through our ministry to confront their lost estate and need for Christ, is wasted effort.
Today the church in this land is being turned into a “compassion movement” where we are often “guilt-tripped” into all sorts of felt needs ministry. We are told “they won’t want to know what you know about Jesus till they know you care”. In this false argument Jesus’ words in Matthew 25 “in as much that you have done it to the least of these my brethren, you have done it unto Me”, are taken and used as a hammer to move us to meet needs. Now I am not saying we ought to shut up the bowels of compassion and mercy, which would be sinful, but I am saying our calling to compassion deals with the broken and sinful nature of the lost and weary and scattered; for without reconciliation to God through the blood of Jesus, no felt need will matter in their day of judgment. Yet with Christ’s sight all our efforts in the realm of meeting material needs serve as a channel of proclamation of Christ and His glorious kingdom.
Next time we will consider how we must train our eyes to see only see what Jesus sees.