The Touch of Compassion

This article is part of the Gentle and Lowly: A 14-Day Devotional series.

Day 2

And Jesus went throughout all the cities and villages, teaching in their synagogues and proclaiming the gospel of the kingdom and healing every disease and every affliction. When he saw the crowds, he had compassion for them, because they were harassed and helpless, like sheep without a shepherd. —Matthew 9:35–36

Consider Jesus. In Levitical categories, he is the cleanest person to ever walk the face of the earth. He was the Clean One. Whatever horrors cause us to cringe—we who are naturally unclean and fallen—would cause Jesus to cringe all the more. We cannot fathom the sheer purity, holiness, cleanness, of his mind and heart. The simplicity, the innocence, the loveliness.

Gentle and Lowly

Dane Ortlund

How does Jesus feel about his people amid all their sins and failures? This book takes readers into the depths of Christ’s very heart—a heart of tender love drawn to sinners and sufferers.

And what did he do when he saw the unclean? What was his first impulse when he came across prostitutes and lepers? He moved toward them. Pity flooded his heart, the longing of true compassion. He spent time with them. He touched them. We all can testify to the humaneness of touch. A warm hug does something that warm words of greeting alone cannot.

But there is something deeper in Christ’s touch of compassion. He was reversing the Jewish system. When Jesus, the Clean One, touched an unclean sinner, Christ did not become unclean. The sinner became clean. Jesus Christ’s earthly ministry was one of giving back to undeserving sinners their humanity.

Jesus walked the earth rehumanizing the dehumanized and cleansing the unclean. Why? Because his heart refused to let him sleep in. Sadness confronted him in every town. So wherever he went, whenever he was confronted with pain and longing, he spread the good contagion of his cleansing mercy.

Jesus walked the earth rehumanizing the dehumanized and cleansing the unclean. Why? Because his heart refused to let him sleep in.

But that was when he lived on earth. What about today?

Here we remember that the testimony of the New Testament is that “Jesus Christ is the same yesterday and today and forever” (Heb. 13:8). The same Christ who wept at the tomb of Lazarus weeps with us in our lonely despair. The same one who reached out and touched lepers puts his arm around us today when we feel misunderstood and sidelined.

The Jesus who reached out and cleansed messy sinners reaches into our souls and answers our halfhearted plea for mercy with the mighty invincible cleansing of one who cannot bear to do otherwise.

In other words, Christ’s heart is not far off despite his presence now in heaven, for he does all this by his own Spirit. Through the Spirit, Christ himself not only touches us but lives within us.

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