Have you ever considered what Jesus’ body language was like, as he ministered to the weak, helpless, and hurting? If Jesus Christ was standing before you right now, what would his face communicate? When I’ve asked folks this question, I’ve heard a variety of different responses: “Disappointed… Frustrated… Ashamed… I think he’d look away…”
Oftentimes we project how we view ourselves or how we view others onto our Savior. “If I’m ashamed of myself, how could Jesus react any differently?” We focus on Jesus’ words to the disciples on the road to Emmaus, “O foolish ones…” abstracted from the loving patience in remaining with them, explaining God’s Word to them, and eating with them.
It’s easy to forget the compassion of Jesus, however, this is how the gospels describe him. B.B. Warfield, the prominent Princeton theologian of the late 19th and early 20th centuries, argues that compassion “is the emotion which is most frequently attributed to [Jesus].” Blessedly, we have many excellent resources that re-orient us to Scripture’s teaching about the gentleness and compassion of Jesus. One such resource is the book Gentle and Lowly by Dane Ortlund. This book quickly became a staff favorite and was lauded by many as one of the best books of 2020.
We should regularly be reading and re-reading narratives of the heart of Christ on display in his compassion and care towards us. In our counseling at Hope, we strive to help people encounter this Redeemer who took on flesh and ate with sinners like us.
While the compassion of Jesus is a central theme in the content of our counseling (the things that we’re talking about when we meet), it is also reflected in the process of our counseling (how we provide our care and counsel). Counselors, pastors, and fellow Christians who want to provide care like Jesus must strive to demonstrate compassion in our tone of voice, facial expressions, and physical posture. We should be quick to listen. We should weep with those who weep. Maybe not literally, but we should share in the sorrow of those who share their darkest, most hurtful experiences with us. Anticipating that some of our friends might be awaiting a harsh or severe reaction when they open up about their struggle(s), we can lessen shame by sharing with them what we’re thinking and how we’re feeling about them.
We should carefully study Christ’s responses to his stumbling and struggling sheep throughout the gospels. As God’s Word transforms us into Christ’s image, we strive to reflect this change to those we counsel. For example, consider Jesus’ words to anxious and over-responsible Martha when she complains to Jesus that Mary is neglecting to help her. In Luke 10:41–42, Jesus addresses her by repeating her name: “Martha, Martha…” The double vocative indicates Christ’s compassion towards her. He is not frustrated or impatient with her. Even before his counseling content, he indicates his care and concern for this struggling woman. He continues by inviting her to choose the good portion like her sister: “…you are anxious and troubled about many things, but one thing is necessary. Mary has chosen the good portion, which will not be taken away from her.” Sometimes an open-ended invitation is more effective than a directive, or a rebuke (even one given in love). Invitations also put their weight on the person’s response. “What will you do with what you’ve heard?” Luke 10 ends without a description of Martha’s response, inviting the reader to put himself or herself into Martha’s shoes. When the cares of our hearts are many and our to-do lists are long, how will we respond?
This passage is just one small example of Christ’s compassion in action. What can we learn from other narratives of Jesus like the bleeding woman in Luke 8 or at the grave of Lazarus in John 11? Let us continue studying the way that Jesus has compassion on others. Gospel-centered relationships consider not just what we say, but also how we say it.
Is there someone you know who needs the compassion of Jesus today? Consider reaching out and embodying the love, care, and compassion of our Savior.
 B.B. Warfield, The Person and Work of Christ, (Oxford U.K.: Benediction Classics, 2015), 96.
 Darrell L. Bock, Luke, Baker Exegetical Commentary on the New Testament (Grand Rapids, MI: Baker Academic, 1996), 1042.
 Laura Andrews, “Be Like Martha? God’s Invitation to Over-Responsible People,” Journal of Biblical Counseling 33, no. 3 (2019) 64.