“Seeing the people, He felt compassion for them, because they were distressed and dispirited like sheep without a shepherd” (Matthew 9:36).
Jesus felt compassion for the crowds as only the Son of God could feel. It is among God’s attributes to love and care because “God is love” (1 John 4:8). The term for “felt compassion” literally refers to the intestines, and most often occurs in Scripture with the figurative reference to the emotions, the way we use “heart” today. But Jesus’ concern was not just symbolic. He no doubt physically felt the symptoms of genuine caring—ones such as aching and nausea when encountering the agony of people’s struggles with sin and hardship. In order to fulfill prophecy, “He Himself took our infirmities and carried away our diseases” (Matt. 8:17).
Of course Jesus did not physically contract people’s diseases and infirmities. But in deep, heartfelt compassion and sympathy, He physically and emotionally suffered with all who approached Him for relief. He was not unlike the concerned father who becomes ill from worry about a desperately sick child, or for one in danger or difficulty.
After Jesus had been in a boat following the death of John the Baptist, crowds sought Him and He “felt compassion for them and healed their sick” (Matt. 14:14). Shortly after that, Jesus told the Twelve of His real concern for the masses who had no food on hand (15:30–32). But our Lord’s omniscience saw an infinitely greater need in people’s lives—the profound, pervasive nature of their sin and their desperate plight of spiritual blindness and lostness. Of this horrific condition He was most compassionate of all.
Without already knowing Him, this is not what most of us would expect from the One who created the universe and continues to sustain it by His mere word. A God who cares? Worship Him today for this gracious quality of His.
From Daily Readings from the Life of Christ, Vol. 1, John MacArthur. Copyright © 2008. Used by permission of Moody Publishers, Chicago, IL 60610