Wednesday, September 24, 2008

Matthew 14:13-14 "Available in Love"

"When Jesus heard what had happened, he withdrew by boat privately to a solitary place. Hearing of this, the crowds followed him on foot from the towns. When Jesus landed and saw a large crowd, he had compassion on them and healed their sick." NIV
Here was Jesus grieving for his murdered cousin, just taking a little time alone, and the crowds followed Him. When He gets out of the boat, here is this mass of people from all over the region waiting for Him. Now coming from a very emotional time of grief and prayer, He could have reacted to this influx of humanity in several ways:

1. He could have shouted at them all to go home and leave him alone. "Can't you see that I need some space? I just lost my cousin."
2. Had His disciples hide Him and sneak Him through the crowd to escape.
3. Get back in the boat and row away.
4. Have compassion on them and heal their sick.

See, here's one of the catrillion reasons why I'm not the Messiah and He is. I would have chosen option #3 and sailed away into the sunset. The prospects of facing all those people and having to give, give, give would have just been the straw that broke the camel's back. I would have snapped because I was hurting and needed time for myself. (Hmmm, lots of personal pronouns in those last few sentences.)

But of course, that is not what Jesus did and why was He able to overcome His personal grief to reach out to the crowd? Because "He had compassion on them." The Greek word for "compassion" is "splagchnizomai" which means, "to be moved as to one's bowels, hence to be moved with compassion, have compassion (for the bowels were thought to be the seat of love and pity)" This is the same definition of compassion that we see when the master forgave the servant's debt in Matthew 18; the Samaritan coming upon the injured man in Luke 10; and the father's feelings toward the prodigal son in Luke 15. Compassion is not just taking pity on them, but taking action to relieve their pain. Jesus saw a crowd of hurting people and in love took steps to relieve their pain.

How often do we turn away from people's pain because it's an inconvenient time, at least in my selfish perspective? We see people hurting and do nothing about it. It may be physical pain, emotional turmoil, or they may be spiritually lost, and we turn around and get back in the boat. It's safer there, quieter, less demanding, not risky, easier. But Jesus demonstrates the exact opposite and reaches out to give help.

We are never going to escape personal pain on this earth - schedules will continue to hound us, children will still need to be fed, and death will touch all of us in some way. Our excuses are meaningless because they are endless. If we wait to reach out to people when it's convenient, it will never happen. Jesus says that there is always time to help a fellow human being, to ease their pain.

Lord Jesus, give me more compassion for the hurting, crying, and lost people around me. Open my eyes to their pain. Help me to see them through Your eyes and love them with Your love through my hands.

Further Thoughts:
  1. Read the stories of the prodigal son in Luke 15 and the good Samaritan in Luke 10. What were the actions of their compassion. What did they ask of the people that they had compassion on?
  2. Be very conscious this week of those around you who need your compassion. Then give it.

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