The Compassion of Christ

The Compassion of Christ
Matthew 9:32-38
‘Seeing the people, He felt compassion for them, because they were distressed and dispirited like sheep without a shepherd.”

It is easy to become indifferent when we continually see people's suffering.  When people's hardships become normalized, we become complacent and unmoved by their struggles.  It is not that we are harsh or uncaring; it is just that in the busyness of life, we stop seeing the suffering of people around us.  Chapter 9 begins with the complacency of the religious leaders.  In 1-7, Jesus is confronted with a paralytic whose plight was a result of a sinful act that he had done.  When the scribes saw the man, they saw someone who deserved his fate because of his actions.  However, Jesus recognized that the condition of this individual was more than just physical; it was also spiritual.  While the world saw the physical problem, Christ’s understanding penetrated far deeper and saw the person's spiritual need.  Even if Christ healed the man of his paralysis, Jesus recognized that it would do little for the person.  He needed to obtain the forgiveness of God.  Therefore, in response, Jesus offered him grace and mercy by bringing spiritual healing through forgiving sins.  

The blindness and indifference of the religious leaders are further highlighted in response to the Pharisees who condemned Jesus for spending extended time with “tax collectors and sinners” (vs. 11). Because of their sinful lifestyle, the religious leaders saw them as hardened sinners beyond the hope of salvation and, thus, to be avoided.  But Jesus saw people who needed a physician, not one who can heal physical diseases, but one who brings spiritual salvation and restoration.

In this passage, and echoed in 14:14 and 15:32, we witness the depth of Jesus' compassion for the people.  The word 'compassion' is not a casual term; it speaks of a deep, gut-wrenching emotional response. The emotion we experience when we hear news affects us deeply, and we say, “When I heard the news, I felt like someone hit me in the gut.” This is the level of compassion that Christ felt when He saw the crowds.  While others saw people as an inconvenience to them or people trapped by their own choices, Jesus saw people deeply wounded and destroyed by the ravages of sin.  

This story serves to remind us that God is not indifferent and uncaring.  He does not sit in heaven, remaining a casual observer of the events in our lives. Instead, he deeply cares for us and is moved by the tragedies we experience.  He sympathizes with us in our suffering, even when it results from our sinful choices. He not only cares deeply, He moves to bring deliverance in response.  His compassion is integrated with His grace and mercy.  When sin brings its destructive effect in our lives, God grieves and desires to bring salvation and deliverance.  So great is His desire that He sent His son to provide the ultimate remedy to not only pay the penalty of the guilt of our sin but also to deliver us from the destructive consequences of our sin.  This does not mean we are exempt from the tragedies of the present.  We still live in a world where sin wrecks its destructive force.  However, he does not remain indifferent. He cares and sustains us by working in our lives to move us toward His salvation, which guarantees our final and complete forgiveness and restored relationship with Christ.  God is the most caring and loving when heaven seems the most silent.  When God seems the most distant, he is the nearest, caring and moving with compassion so that the events will not bring eternal harm but will bring what is eternally good (Romans 8:28). Today, as you face the struggles of life, reflect deeply upon His compassion for you.

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