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Moved With Compassion

And he said unto them, Come ye yourselves apart into a desert place, and rest a while: for there were many coming and going, and they had no leisure so much as to eat. And they departed into a desert place by ship privately. And the people saw them departing, and many knew him, and ran afoot thither out of all cities, and outwent them, and came together unto him. And Jesus, when he came out, saw much people, and was moved with compassion toward them, because they were as sheep not having a shepherd: and he began to teach them many things.

Mark 6:31-34

Compassion, like love, is profoundly internal and external at the same time. This may seem strange but it is true nonetheless.

Two years ago I came home during the worst wind and rain storm of the year to find a wet and shivering little dog on our front doorstep. His eyes seemed to reflect fear and sadness from past experiences. I love dogs and my heart went out to this little guy in compassion. We tried to find his owner, but we never did, so we adopted him. He is lying on my lap now as I write this.

When I have compassion toward someone or something I experience a physical sensation – I suppose “heartache” is the best way to describe it. Strong’s Concordance defines the Greek word “compassion” in the scripture above as “to have the bowels yearn”. It is a profoundly internal thing, but somehow it is at the same time profoundly external – all of my attention is focused on the object of my compassion and there is no concern for myself. Compassion attempts to share the pain of another and to find a way to help. Emotions can be transient and deceitful but compassion is much more than mere passing emotion. Webster’s 1828 Dictionary has this to say: “Compassion is a mixed passion, compounded of love and sorrow.”

Jesus was moved with compassion. Think about that for a moment - he was moved with compassion. You see, compassion moves – it moves inside and it moves outside. Compassion yearns to help and the internal ache doesn’t easily go away until compassion has accomplished its practical work.

Years ago, my wife and I heard the sound of a crash near where we lived and we hurried outside to see what had happened. It was a head-on collision and there were children in one of the vehicles. We saw emergency personnel feverously attending to the occupants and as one of them was doing so, we saw her frequently wiping her face with her coat sleeves, presumably to keep the tears from falling into the wounds of the child who had been so badly injured. She was moved with compassion. The tears were evidence of the pain inside of her and her actions were evidence that the compassion refused to stay inside. That gives some sense of the kind of compassion that Jesus had toward the people who came to him that day.

It was not a convenient time for Jesus and his disciples to show compassion. They had already been ministering to others earlier in that day and had been so busy that they had not taken time to rest or eat. They left the crowds seeking a quiet place to find some relief.

But God does not call his disciples to serve others only when it is convenient to do so. Compassion rarely is convenient. Sometimes we must sacrifice our own desires and comfort for the good of others. And think about this: It was not convenient for Jesus to leave his home in glory where all the legions of angels worshipped him. It was not convenient for him to come to this sinful world as a man and experience all of the problems and temptations that we face. It was certainly not convenient for him to take upon himself all of the sin of the world and die on a cross. But he did that because he had compassion on us.

What was it that moved Jesus to compassion on those who had come to him in that desert place that day? First of all, the Scriptures tell us that “he saw”. That is often what prompts compassion. “He saw” a great unmet need. “He saw” people who were “as sheep not having a shepherd”. Domestic sheep need a shepherd and these people were like sheep wandering through dangerous country without any sort of protection or care. I believe that he ached inside when he saw this, don’t you? These people hadn’t been taught much if anything about God’s grace and truth by their religious leaders because they were (at least for the most part) only “hirelings” and not genuine shepherds. So Jesus “began to teach them many things”. His compassion drove him to meet the need and meet it abundantly.

My friend, there are “much people” in this world who have great unmet needs. I see them, don’t you? There are people who are like lost sheep in need of salvation, and there are saved people who are ignorant of so many Bible truths because of “hirelings” masquerading as shepherds. Perhaps you are one of those sheep or perhaps you see these sheep as Jesus did that day.

Let those of us who know the one who was moved with compassion that day

be moved with compassion as he was.

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