The Compassion of Christ

Matthew 14 starts off with the narration of the death of John the Baptist. John has been imprisoned for speaking out against King Herod’s unlawful marriage and now, at the request of Herod’s daughter, is beheaded. John’s disciples take and bury his body, and then go and tell Jesus what has happened.

The Bible doesn’t tell us too much about the specific interactions between John the Baptist and Jesus, but we know that their ministries and lives were closely connected. In addition to the fact that they were relatives, we know that John baptized Jesus, and that Jesus later had very complimentary things to say about him, proclaiming in Matthew 11.11, “among those born of women there has not arisen anyone greater than John the Baptist!”

It shouldn’t surprise us then, that “…when Jesus heard about John, He withdrew from there in a boat to a secluded place by Himself.” (Matthew 14.13)

Jesus was God’s Son, but He was human as well, and sometimes we forget that He felt the same feelings we do. When He heard that John had been killed, Jesus must have been terribly upset—after all, John was likely a close friend of His and was possibly the one person on earth who somewhat understood Who Jesus was and why He had come. Jesus was upset, and He wanted to be alone.

But by now, Jesus was popular, and the people wouldn’t let Him be alone. When they figured out where He went, they followed on foot. Jesus leaves His boat and comes ashore, and then comes Matthew 14.14, which, in the context we’ve just described, is amazing to me: “When He went ashore, He saw a large crowd, and felt compassion for them and healed their sick.”

Apparently, at the sight of the people, Jesus immediately forgets His own sorrows and sees only the troubles of those around Him. He feels compassion for the multitudes and subordinates His own needs to the needs of the people. He heals their sick, and goes on to satisfy their hunger by miraculously multiplying five loaves and two fish.

What an example Jesus provides for us! We should never be so engulfed by personal tragedies, political considerations, and economic uncertainties that we lessen our ability to feel compassion for the plight of others around us.

Let us seek to display the compassion of Christ!

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Luke Dockery serves as the Associate Minister for the Farmington Church of Christ in Northwest Arkansas and is also a student at Harding School of Theology, where he is pursuing a Master of Divinity degree. Luke loves teenagers and is devoted to helping them come to deep and mature faith in Jesus Christ. He and his wife, Caroline, have been married since 2006, and they have two young children, Kinsley and Seth. In his free time, Luke enjoys spending time with his family, reading, playing ultimate frisbee, and cheering for the Arkansas Razorbacks.

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