When he saw the crowds, he had compassion on them, because they were harassed and helpless, like sheep without a shepherd (Matthew 9:36).
As a child, I thought compassion meant only to feel sorry for someone. During my early teenage years, I observed my parents and neighbors behaving kindly toward others in need. Their small kindnesses helped open the door to my understanding of genuine compassion.
That door opened wide after I gave my heart to Christ at age 17. I understood why the Father, in love for humanity, gave His Son. Jesus won the hearts of the common people, not just by the miracles He performed but by His active compassion for them.
Let us look at two New Testament examples that reveal His caring heart.
Feeding the hungry.
One day while Jesus walked by the Sea of Galilee, He climbed up the side of a mountain. People came with their sick, and He healed and ministered to them. Jesus knew that the crowd had pressing physical needs: After three days with Him, they had nothing to eat. In His compassion, Jesus didn’t want to send them away hungry (Matthew 15:29-32).
Where could they find enough bread to feed four thousand men, besides women and children? What food was available? Only seven loaves and a few fish. After instructing the crowd to sit down, Jesus took the loaves and fish and blessed them, then broke them into pieces. He gave the pieces to His disciples, then told them to hand out the food to the crowd.
The result? “They all ate and were satisfied. Afterward the disciples picked up seven basketfuls of broken pieces that were left over” (v. 37). Jesus’ miracle not only fed the hungry thousands but also reminded His spiritually slow-witted disciples of His power to care for needy people.
Healing the blind.
Two blind men sat on the side of the dusty road outside Jericho. When they heard that Jesus was coming toward them, they cried out to Him, “Lord, Son of David, have mercy on us!” (20:30). In His compassion, Jesus touched their eyes, and they were healed. In gratitude, they followed the Son of David (vv. 31-34).
We discover treasures in these two miracles of Jesus actively revealing His compassionate nature to the people He encountered.
In feeding the four thousand, Jesus was sensitive to the physical needs of the people and used what was available. He also stated His concern for the crowd’s future safety. What would happen to them after they left His presence if they didn’t eat?
When Jesus encountered the two blind men, He paid attention to their cries for help. He stopped and asked them what they wanted Him to do. After He heard their request, Jesus made physical contact with them, and they received their sight.
Through these miraculous encounters, we see that Jesus hears the cries of desperate, suffering people and enters their need. Jesus desires we tell Him our every worry and sorrow. He answers our prayers and is concerned about our future.
As a child, I had a child’s understanding of what it meant to be compassionate. As an adult, Christ-follower, and reader of the Gospels, I better understand that to be compassionate is simply to be and act like Jesus — in the moment.