“Moved With Pity”
TWO blind men are sitting beside the road, just outside Jericho. They come there each day, find a place where crowds are likely to pass, and publicly ask for charity. This day, however, they are about to experience something that will dramatically change their life.
2 Suddenly, the beggars hear a commotion. Unable to see what is going on, one of them asks what the excitement is about, and he is told: “Jesus the Nazarene is passing by!” Jesus is on his way to Jerusalem for the last time. But he is not alone; large crowds are following him. Upon hearing who is passing by, the beggars cause something of an uproar by shouting: “Lord, have mercy on us, Son of David!” Annoyed, the crowds tell the beggars to be quiet, but the men are desperate. They will not be silenced.
3 Jesus hears their shouting above the din of the crowd. What will he do? There is much weighing on his mind and heart. He is about to enter the final week of his earthly life. He knows that suffering and a cruel death await him at Jerusalem. Still, he does not ignore the insistent cries. He stops and asks that the ones doing the shouting be brought to him. “Lord, let our eyes be opened,” they plead. “Moved with pity,” Jesus touches their eyes, and they recover sight.* Without delay, they begin to follow Jesus.—Luke 18:35-43; Matthew 20:29-34.
4 This was no isolated case. On many occasions and under many different circumstances, Jesus was deeply moved to show compassion. Bible prophecy foretold that he would “feel sorry for the lowly one.” (Psalm 72:13) True to those words, Jesus was sensitive to the feelings of others. He took the initiative to help people. His compassion was a motivating force in his preaching. Let us see how the Gospels reveal the tender compassion behind Jesus’ words and actions and consider how we can show similar compassion.
Consideration for the Feelings of Others
5 Jesus was a man of deep empathy. He identified with and shared in the feelings of those who were suffering. Even though he did not share all their circumstances, he truly felt their pain in his heart. (Hebrews 4:15) When healing a woman who had suffered from a flow of blood for 12 years, he described her ailment as a “grievous sickness,” thus acknowledging that it had caused her great distress and suffering. (Mark 5:25-34) When he saw Mary and those with her weeping over the death of Lazarus, he was so deeply touched by their sorrow that he became inwardly agitated. Although he knew that he was about to resurrect Lazarus, Jesus was so moved that his eyes brimmed with tears.—John 11:33, 35.
6 On another occasion, a leper approached Jesus and pleaded: “If you just want to, you can make me clean.” How did Jesus, a perfect man who had never been sick, respond? His heart went out to the leper. Indeed, “he was moved with pity.” (Mark 1:40-42) He then did something extraordinary. He well knew that lepers were unclean under the Law and were not to mingle with others. (Leviticus 13:45, 46) Jesus was certainly capable of healing this man without any physical contact. (Matthew 8:5-13) Yet, he chose to reach out and touch the leper, saying: “I want to. Be made clean.” Immediately the leprosy vanished. What tender empathy Jesus expressed!
7 As Christians, we are called on to imitate Jesus in showing empathy. The Bible urges us to show “fellow feeling.”* (1 Peter 3:8) It may not be easy to grasp the feelings of those suffering from chronic illness or depression—especially if we have not gone through such pain ourselves. Remember, though, that empathy does not depend on shared circumstances. Jesus empathized with the sick even though he himself had never been sick. How, then, can we cultivate empathy? By patiently listening as suffering ones open up their hearts and share their feelings. We might ask ourselves, ‘If I were in their situation, how would I feel?’ (1 Corinthians 12:26) If we sharpen our sensitivity to the feelings of others, we will be better able to “speak consolingly to the depressed souls.” (1 Thessalonians 5:14) At times, empathy may be expressed not only with words but also with tears. “Weep with people who weep,” says Romans 12:15.
8 Jesus was considerate of others, and he acted in ways that spared their feelings. Recall the time when a man who was deaf and hardly able to speak was brought to Jesus. Evidently sensing some uneasiness in this man, Jesus did something that he did not ordinarily do when healing others: “He took [the man] away from the crowd.” In private and free from the stares of the crowd, he healed the man.—Mark 7:31-35.
9 Jesus acted with similar consideration when people brought him a blind man and asked that he be healed. Jesus “took the blind man by the hand” and “brought him outside the village.” He then healed the man in stages. This perhaps allowed the man’s brain and eyes to adjust gradually to the dazzling sights and complexities of the sunlit world around him. (Mark 8:22-26) What consideration Jesus showed!
10 Being followers of Jesus calls on us to show consideration for the feelings of others. We are thus mindful of our speech, remembering that thoughtless use of the tongue can hurt the feelings of others. (Proverbs 12:18; 18:21) Harsh words, disparaging remarks, and biting sarcasm have no place among Christians, who are sensitive to the feelings of other people. (Ephesians 4:31) Elders, how can you show consideration for the feelings of others? When giving counsel, cushion your words with kindness, allowing the listener to keep his dignity. (Galatians 6:1) Parents, how can you be considerate of your children’s feelings? When administering discipline, endeavor to do so in ways that spare your children needless embarrassment.—Colossians 3:21.
Taking the Initiative to Help Others
11 Jesus did not always have to be asked before he showed compassion to others. After all, compassion is, not a passive quality, but an active, positive one. Not surprisingly, then, tender compassion moved Jesus to take the initiative in helping others. For example, when a large crowd stayed with him for three days, going without food, no one had to tell Jesus that the people were hungry or suggest that he do something about it. The account says: “Jesus called his disciples to him and said: ‘I feel pity for the crowd, because it is already three days that they have stayed with me and they have nothing to eat; and I do not want to send them away fasting. They may possibly give out on the road.’” Then, entirely of his own volition, he fed the crowd miraculously.—Matthew 15:32-38.
12 Consider another account. In 31 C.E., as Jesus neared the city of Nain, he came across a sad scene. A funeral procession was leaving the city, perhaps heading for nearby hillside tombs, to bury “the only-begotten son of . . . a widow.” Can you imagine the pain in that mother’s heart? She was about to bury her only son, and she had no husband to share her grief. Of all the people in the procession, Jesus “caught sight of” the now childless widow. What he saw touched him—yes, “he was moved with pity for her.” No one had to implore him. The compassion in his heart impelled him to take the initiative. So “he approached and touched the bier,” and then he restored the young man to life. What happened next? Jesus did not ask the young man to join the large crowd traveling with Him. Instead, Jesus “gave him to his mother,” making them a family again and ensuring that the widow would be cared for.—Luke 7:11-15.
13 How can we follow Jesus’ example? Of course, we cannot provide food miraculously or restore the dead to life. We can, however, imitate Jesus in taking the initiative to help those in need. A fellow believer may suffer a severe financial reversal or lose his job. (1 John 3:17) The home of a widow may be in urgent need of repair. (James 1:27) We may know of a bereaved family that needs comfort or some practical aid. (1 Thessalonians 5:11) In cases of genuine need, we do not have to wait to be asked before offering some help. (Proverbs 3:27) Compassion will move us to take appropriate initiative to assist, as our circumstances allow. Never forget that a simple act of kindness or a few words of comfort spoken from the heart can be powerful expressions of compassion.—Colossians 3:12.
Compassion Moved Him to Preach
14 As we saw in Section 2 of this book, Jesus set an outstanding example in preaching the good news. He said: “I must declare the good news of the kingdom of God, because for this I was sent forth.” (Luke 4:43) Why did he give priority to this work? Primarily because of his love for God. But Jesus had another motive: Heartfelt compassion moved him to respond to the spiritual needs of others. Of all the ways that he showed compassion, none were more important than satisfying the spiritual hunger of others. Let us examine two incidents that reveal how Jesus viewed the people to whom he preached. Such a consideration can help us to analyze our own motives for sharing in the public ministry.
15 In 31 C.E., after about two years of exerting himself vigorously in the ministry, Jesus expanded his efforts by embarking “on a tour of all the cities and villages” of Galilee. What he saw touched his heart. The apostle Matthew reports: “On seeing the crowds he felt pity for them, because they were skinned and thrown about like sheep without a shepherd.” (Matthew 9:35, 36) Jesus felt for the common people. He was keenly aware of their miserable spiritual condition. He knew that they were mistreated and utterly neglected by the very ones who should have been shepherding them—the religious leaders. Motivated by deep compassion, Jesus worked hard to reach the people with a message of hope. There was nothing they needed more than the good news of God’s Kingdom.
16 Something similar happened a number of months later, near Passover time in 32 C.E. On this occasion, Jesus and his apostles boarded a boat and sailed across the Sea of Galilee in search of a quiet place to rest. But a crowd of people ran along the shore and arrived on the other side ahead of the boat. How did Jesus react? “On getting out, he saw a great crowd, but he was moved with pity for them, because they were as sheep without a shepherd. And he started to teach them many things.” (Mark 6:31-34) Again, Jesus was “moved with pity” because of the poor spiritual condition of the people. Like “sheep without a shepherd,” they were starving spiritually and left to fend for themselves. Compassion rather than a mere sense of duty motivated Jesus to preach.
17 What motivates us as followers of Jesus to share in the ministry? As we saw in Chapter 9 of this book, we have a commission, a responsibility, to preach and to make disciples. (Matthew 28:19, 20; 1 Corinthians 9:16) But our motive for sharing in this work must go beyond a mere sense of duty or obligation. Above all, love for Jehovah moves us to preach the good news of his Kingdom. Our preaching is also motivated by compassion for those who do not share our beliefs. (Mark 12:28-31) How, then, can we cultivate compassion for others?
18 We need to see people as Jesus saw them—“skinned and thrown about like sheep without a shepherd.” Imagine finding a lamb that is hopelessly lost. Without a shepherd to lead it to green pastures and water, the poor creature is starving and thirsty. Would not your heart go out to that lamb? Would you not do your best to give it some food and drink? That lamb is like many people who do not yet know the good news. Neglected by false religious shepherds, they are starving and thirsting spiritually and without a real hope for the future. We have what they need: the nourishing spiritual food and refreshing waters of truth found in God’s Word. (Isaiah 55:1, 2) When we reflect on the spiritual needs of those around us, our heart goes out to them. If, like Jesus, we feel deeply for people, we will do all we can to share the Kingdom hope with them.
19 How can we help others to follow Jesus’ example? Suppose we want to encourage a Bible student who qualifies to begin sharing in the public preaching work. Or perhaps we want to help an inactive one to have a full share in the ministry again. How can we assist such ones? We need to appeal to their heart. Recall that first Jesus was “moved with pity” for people, and then he taught them. (Mark 6:34) So if we can help them to cultivate compassion, their hearts may well move them to be like Jesus and share the good news with others. We might ask them: “How has accepting the Kingdom message changed your life for the better? What about people who do not yet know this message—do they not also need the good news? What can you do to help them?” Of course, the strongest motivation for sharing in the ministry is love for God and a desire to serve him.
20 Being a follower of Jesus involves more than just repeating his words and copying his deeds. We need to cultivate the same “mental attitude” that he had. (Philippians 2:5) How thankful we can be, then, that the Bible reveals to us the thoughts and feelings behind Jesus’ words and actions! By becoming familiar with “the mind of Christ,” we will be better able to cultivate sensitivity and heartfelt compassion and thus treat others the way Jesus treated people in general. (1 Corinthians 2:16) In the next chapter, we will consider the various ways that Jesus showed love for his followers in particular.
The Greek word rendered “moved with pity” has been called one of the strongest words in Greek for the feeling of compassion. One reference work notes that this word indicates “not only a pained feeling at [the] sight of suffering, but in addition a strong desire to relieve and to remove the suffering.”
The Greek adjective rendered “fellow feeling” literally means “suffering with.”
How Can You Follow Jesus?
● In what way did Jesus show compassion in the way he exercised authority, and how can we imitate him?—Matthew 11:28-30.
● What actions of Jesus demonstrated that he understood the feelings of others, and how can we follow his example?—Luke 7:36-50.
● How does the parable of the neighborly Samaritan show that compassion is a positive quality, and in what way can we apply the point of the story?—Luke 10:29-37.
1-3. (a) How does Jesus respond when two blind beggars plead with him for help? (b) What is meant by the expression “moved with pity”? (See footnote.)
4. How did Jesus fulfill the prophecy that he would “feel sorry for the lowly one”?
5, 6. What examples show that Jesus was a man of empathy?
7. What can help us to cultivate empathy, and how may this quality be expressed?
8, 9. How did Jesus show consideration for the feelings of others?
10. In what ways can we show consideration for the feelings of others?
11, 12. What Bible accounts show that Jesus did not have to be asked before he displayed compassion to others?
13. How can we imitate Jesus in taking the appropriate initiative to help those in need?
14. Why did Jesus give priority to the work of preaching the good news?
15, 16. Describe two incidents that reveal how Jesus viewed the people to whom he preached.
17, 18. (a) What motivates us to share in the ministry? (b) How can we cultivate compassion for others?
19. What might we do to help motivate a Bible student who qualifies to share in the public ministry?
20. (a) What is involved in being a follower of Jesus? (b) What will be considered in the next chapter?
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“Lord, let our eyes be opened”
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Show “fellow feeling”
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Take the initiative to help those in need
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Preach with compassion