According to the dictionary the word “compassion” means having a deep understanding of another’s suffering coupled with a desire to alleviate the suffering. On seven different occasions Matthew and Mark describe Jesus as having compassion.
In Matthew 9:35-36 we read, “Jesus went through all the towns and villages, teaching in their synagogues, preaching the good news of the kingdom and healing every disease and sickness. When he saw the crowds, he had compassion on them, because they were harassed and helpless, like sheep without a shepherd.”
In other New Testament passages Jesus showed compassion to particular persons. But in Matthew 9 His compassion was expressed in general terms. It is fairly easy to have compassion for a specific person. When we see someone face to face and are confronted with his or her need it is normal to want to help. But it is not normal to have compassion for the faceless crowd. If you were told there were ten thousand hungry children in Uganda you would most likely reply, “That’s too bad” yet do nothing. But if you were introduced to a real, starving child you would reach deep into your pocket to help.
Written by Roger Bothwell on March 7, 2001
Spring of Life, PO Box 124, St. Helena, CA 94574