The Compassion of the Christ
Mark 1:32-42, I Corinthians 13:10-13
Intro: The Missing Middle.
In the last chapter I noted that the Apostles’ Creed leaves out the entire life of Jesus between his birth and his death. It is called “the Missing Middle”. I have decided to insert into our review of the creed, a brief look at look at the life of our Lord. I do so not only to fill in a blank, but because the 4 gospels deemed his life and his teachings to be as important as his birth, death & resurrection.
When the surveys are taken about what people think about Jesus, several things tend to come to mind, but one item stands out above all others. People note his compassion for the people he met. They admire him as though he were a male version of Mother Theresa of Calcutta. Even among those who are not Christians, Jesus is frequently admired because of the way he lived life loving people in need,
1. The Compassion of Jesus
Listen to the constant refrain of the gospels.
“And Jesus went about all the cities and villages teaching and preaching the gospel of the kingdom, and healing every sickness and every disease among the people and when he saw the multitudes he was moved with compassion on them because they fainted and were scattered abroad as sheep having no shepherd.”
“And Jesus went forth and saw a great multitude and was moved with compassion toward them, and healed their sick.”
“Then Jesus called his disciples unto him and said, “I have compassion for the multitudes because they have continued with me now for three days and have nothing to eat, and I will not send them away lest they faint.” And he fed them.”
“And Jesus when he came out saw the many people and was warmed with compassion toward them because they were as sheep having no shepherd and he began to teach them.”
“There was a dead man being carried out of the house, the only son of his mother who was a widow; and many people of the city were with her, and when the Lord saw her, he had compassion on her and said to her do not weep, and he came and touched that coffin and the young man came to life.”
The verses we read say, “He was moved with compassion.”
What is compassion?
The word “COM” means, “with”, much as the word Community means to share life WITH others.
The word Passion” means to suffer. We speak of Passion Week, the week of our Lord’s suffering. But it would be more correct to speak of the Passion Life. Because Jesus suffered with people wherever he found them. Compassion means we suffer with someone. And Jesus had a passion for people, a passion deep enough to suffer because of our suffering.
Even when the word compassion is not used the 4 gospels are a litany of the acts of someone who cared deeply about the plight of the leper, the blind, the deaf, the maimed, the foreigner, and the poor. He wept at the grave of Lazarus as he felt the anguish of those that mourned.
And even at the end of the story, he cries out over the city of Jerusalem, that would take his life in just a few days, “Jerusalem, Jerusalem, how often would I have gathered you as a hen gathers her chicks and you would not.” And then as he is dying he reaches out to a thief on a cross and grants forgiveness, and then makes provisions for his mother by releasing her into the care of the Apostle John.
2. The Compassion of God
But not only was Jesus the compassionate Christ, he wants to remind us that he is simply reflecting what God is like and what God has always been like.
When Adam & Eve sinned, God clothed them.
When Cain killed his brother Abel, God even protected Cain.
When Sarah expels Hagar and her son Ishmael, God cares for them.
When Israel was enslaved, He came to rescue them. And so the account goes on to the end.
But God had been given a bad rap. The presumption of most people across the nations was that God was to be feared and worshipped, but loving him was just about unthinkable. And feeling that God cared about our little lives, was just somewhat inconceivable. God was a great King, a mighty Lord, but hardly a friend, and never a lover.
It is John’s Gospel that tells us that Jesus came to reveal what God was really like. Later on in chapter 5:19 Jesus is heard to say, “I tell you the truth, the Son can do nothing on his own, but only what he sees the Father doing; for whatever the Father does, the Son does likewise.”
Jesus was exhibiting the compassion of God to those he met. This is why he wants us to think of God as our Dear Father when he says to his disciples, “When YOU pray, say, Our Father…”
And finally when John has finished his Gospel and his three epistles he declares in one bold statement, “God is Love”.
It is in John 3:16 that we hear that affirmation, “For God so loved the world that He sent his only begotten son, so that whoever would believe in Him need not perish, but have eternal life.” SO LOVED. How much? As wide as the world itself, including all the world, throughout all of human history.
The compassion exhibited by Jesus, was a reflection of the compassion that God has towards all.
3. The Compassion of God’s people
The compassion exhibited by Jesus, which was a reflection of the love that God has towards all creation, is also the essential element in being a Christian.
Listen to Jesus the Chief Rabbi of the Christian Church. To the question, “which is the greatest commandment?” he answered without hesitation and without equivocation, “You are to love God with all your heart, soul, strength and mind, and the second is just like it. You are to love your neighbor just as much as you love yourself.”
Later to a squabbling church in Corinth, Paul will say,
“Though I speak in the tongues of men and of angels, but do not have love, I am a noisy gong or a clanging cymbal.
And if I have prophetic powers, and understand all mysteries and all knowledge, and if I have all faith, so as to remove mountains, but do not have love, I am nothing.
If I give away all my possessions, and if I hand over my body to be sacrificed, but do not have love, I gain nothing.
Throughout the rest of his letters we can hear him affirming that the Law and the Prophets are fulfilled in this one word “You shall love your neighbor as yourself.”
Jesus is the revealer of what it means to be essentially a Christian: little Christs in the communities of our world. “They will know that we are Christians by our Love.”
The texts we reviewed earlier say that Jesus saw the multitudes, and was MOVED with compassion. He was moved emotionally and He was moved physically. His passion for people moved him to action.
He saw the hungry, and he fed them
he saw the ill, and he healed them
he saw the ignorant, and he taught them
he saw the dead, and he raised them
he saw the weak, and he strengthened them
he saw the lonely, and he went to dinner with them
he saw the guilty, and he forgave them.
For us to be like our Savior, we too will need to move beyond feeling to doing.