I wish I could be more like Jesus. It comforts me that this is God’s unalterable plan for me, a process that is in progress now. (Philippians 1:6, Romans 8:29) Glory! Bring it on!
A glaring example of the gap between what I am and what He intends to make me is my attitude toward “the multitude,” all those out there who irritate me and interrupt my agenda. Or I am simply apathetic. Which is a far cry from sympathetic.
When he saw the crowds, He had compassion on them, because they were harassed and helpless, like sheep without a shepherd. Then He said to his disciples, “The harvest is plentiful but the workers are few. Ask the Lord of the harvest, therefore, to send out workers into his harvest field. Matthew 9:36-38
From its Latin roots, our word compassion means “to feel or suffer together with.” This requires putting ourselves mentally in the position of the other person, in order to feel their emotion — be it anger, fear, hunger, pain, or despair. Jesus wasn’t irritated at the crowds around Him; He felt with them, seeing them as helpless and harassed, imagining their pain as His own. Here, His response was to urge His disciples to beseech God for more workers to help meet their physical and spiritual needs.
When Jesus helped His disciples to get away from the demands of the crowd to rest, they found more demanding crowds waiting for them at their intended retreat (Mark 6:34). But His response was compassion, which was acted out in patiently teaching them. His response of compassion was worked out in different ways in various situations. Faced with a crowd with nothing to eat, He fed them. (Mark 8:2) Deeply moved and troubled by Lazarus’ grief-struck family and the mourning crowd (John 11:33,38), He wept and raised Lazarus back to life.
A repeated emphasis throughout Old and New Testaments is that the compassion we undeserving sinners receive from our gracious God obligates us to show the same kind of compassion to the undeserving people around us. Not only should our compassion be given without consideration of how deserving the recipient is , but also our feelings should be expressed in actions.
O Father God, forgive me for my hard heart, critical spirit, and smugness. Help me to see people as You see them — struggling, helpless, clueless, desperate. Move me to do for them what You might do, were You still now here in the flesh. Help me to meet their deepest need of the moment, confidently pointing them to You, the Fountain of Life, and perhaps meeting some physical or emotional need, as well.