Students of the life of Christ are familiar with the references to His compassion toward the spiritually needy, the physically hungry, the two blind men, the leper, and the widow whose son had just died (Matthew 9:36-38; 14:13-14; 15:32-38; 20:30-34; Mark 1:40-41; Luke 7:12-17).

In addition, we have three of Jesus’ parables in which compassion plays a key role.

When the deeply indebted servant pled with his master for mercy, “the lord of that slave felt compassion and released him and forgave him the debt” (Matthew 18:21-35). When the Samaritan saw the wounded traveler, “he felt compassion . . .” (Luke 10:25-37). As the Prodigal returned home, “his father saw him and felt compassion . . .” (Luke 15:1-2, 11-32).

The divine compassion

In each story the compassionate character represents God or Christ. This is certainly consistent with what we know of the Father and His Son.

The expression of compassion

In each case the divine compassion does not remain a feeling but is expressed in loving action. The master cancels the debt. The Samaritan provides abundant help. The father runs and embraces his son and joyfully celebrates his return.

The opposite of compassion

In each case the compassion expressed in these parables stands in stark contrast to the lack of compassion evident in other characters in these stories. The forgiven servant shows no mercy to a fellow slave who owes him. The priest and Levite ignore the plight of the wounded traveler. The elder brother is angered by the grace shown to his wayward brother.

So what are we to learn?

While it’s wonderful to be on the receiving end of Christ’s compassion (and aren’t we all?), isn’t it also wonderful when we learn to feel compassion toward others and act accordingly?

In doing so we become “imitators of God, as beloved children” (Ephesians 5:1).


Scripture quotations taken from the NASB:

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