The Compassion of Jesus

16 Nov

B.B. Warfield

“The emotion which we should naturally expect to find most frequently attributed to that Jesus whose whole life was a mission of mercy, and whose ministry was so marked by deeds of benevolence that it was summed up in the memory of his followers as a going through the land ‘doing good’ (Acts 10:38), is no doubt ‘compassion.’ In point of fact, this is the emotion which is most frequently attributed to him.”

One man goes on to summarize in list form the qualities of Christ’s compassion as pointed out in Warfield’s essay on the emotional life of our Lord:

1. The compassion of Christ is “the internal movement of pity which is emphasized when our Lord is said to be ‘moved with compassion.’”

2. The compassion of Christ flows from genuine concern for others. It is “aroused…by the sight of individual distress” (Mk 1:41; Matt 20:34; Lk 7:13, and others).

3. The compassion of Christ is pity that goes beyond feeling sorry for those with physical disability. Jesus demonstrated great compassion toward those with physical disabilities; however, “It was not merely the physical ills of life…want and disease and death—which called out our Lord’s compassion. These ills were rather looked upon by him as themselves rooted in spiritual destitution. And it was this spiritual destitution which most deeply moved his pity.” Warfield then links Mark 6:34 with Matthew 14:14 and declares, “We must put the two passages together to get a complete account: their fatal ignorance of spiritual things, their evil case under the dominion of Satan in all the effects of his terrible tyranny, are alike the object of our Lord’s compassion.”

4. To say the same thing another way, the compassion of Christ sees the deepest human need—the need of the soul—and that “awakens our Lord’s pity and moved him to provide the remedy.”

5. The compassion of Christ commonly produced tears. Jesus was truly sympathetic. He was not afraid of compassion’s “manifestation in tears and sighs. The tears…wet his cheeks. In reference to John 11:35 (Jesus’s weeping at the tomb of Lazarus), Warfield explains that these were “tears of sympathy. Even more clearly, his own unrestrained wailing over Jerusalem and its stubborn unbelief was the expression of the most poignant pity” (Luke 19:41). “The sight of suffering drew tears from his eyes; obstinate unbelief convulsed him with uncontrollable grief.”

HT: Monergism

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