The Compassion of Jesus, Happy Easter

Many people when talking about Jesus Christ, refer to his message of love. They are correct in doing so because according to the scriptures, it was love that was the chief motivation behind every thing that he did. Jesus saved some of his harshest criticism for the religious people of his day. He was particularly harsh on them because of their hypocrisy, and because of the way that many of them allowed their traditions to become a stumbling block to the people who were genuinely seeking God. Who can forget the incident of Jesus going into the temple and capsizing the tables of the money changers? He was in a state of rage when he took this action, and he called out the religious leaders who were engaging in acts of greed right there in the temple. Jesus was so hard on the religious leaders that they eventually began plotting against him to take his life. He was not swayed by that  though, and he continued to call out the religious leaders of the day. He did not care too much about how they felt. His main concern was to speak truth to them.

People who have studied the scriptures say that one of the main reasons Jesus was so hard on the religious leaders was because they knew better, so they had no excuse for their behavior. They were supposed to be the ones guiding the people, and helping them in their search for God. They knew what Moses law demanded of the people, and what was generally expected of them in terms of how they should live their daily lives. The religious leaders, in the attempt to portray themselves as more than who they were, placed unnecessary burdens on the people. Many of the traditions that they embraced and imposed on the people were nothing more than exercises in self righteousness. Jesus was on to their game, and he let them know it. For this he was despised and he became their target.

Contrast Jesus’s attitude with the people regarded as sinners. In some of the most poignant accounts given, Jesus is shown to be gentle with them. He is kind, forgiving, and non judgmental. He seemed to relish being with the worst of the worse. The bible says that he ate with the tax collectors and sinners. The tax collectors were despised  by their countrymen because they worked for the oppressor Roman Government, but more than that; they often cheated the people to benefit their own pockets. Though these people were despised by their countrymen, the Bible says that Jesus was their friend, and indeed he was. One day, he singled out one of the most notorious tax collectors and said to the man called Zacchaeus that he wanted to dine at his house. The scribes, Pharisees and religious leaders recoiled in horror because Jesus invited himself to the home of this awful man.

In one of the most touching stories in the Bible, a woman who was reputed to be a prostitute, was so moved by the compassion of Jesus, that in a show of utter humility, she came before Jesus and poured some of the most expensive ointment on his feet. While performing this act of humility, she began to cry, and as her tears fell on the feet of Jesus, she took her hair, and in an awkward manner attempted to dry his feet. Jesus disciples were incensed when they saw the woman anointing Jesus’ feet with the ointment, wiping  his feet with her hair,  and when she even kissed his feet. Judas said, this ointment could have been sold and given to the poor, but he did not care about the poor, he said it because he was the one who kept the purse, and he was a thief. This was one of Jesus’ disciples, whose heart and soul and mind was not in the right place. Another religious person exclaimed that if Jesus was all that he claimed to be , he would know the type of woman that touched him, for she was a sinner. Jesus knew what was going in their hearts and he asked why they don’t leave the woman alone. He was so touched by the woman’s gesture that he declared that wherever the gospel is preached in the entire world that the story of this woman’s action will be told.  Prior to this incident  a woman was caught in the act of adultery (some say that it was the same woman, but the records do not say who it was). The people wanted to stone the woman, and they wanted trip up Jesus using the occasion. They asked him what should be done to punish her for her sin. We know the story well. Jesus said to them that he who is without sin should cast the first stone. Stunned by Jesus’ response her accusers all walked away, leaving her alone with Jesus. With her accusers all gone away, Jesus said to her that he does not condemn her either.

It is this type of compassion, demonstrated by Jesus time and again that people often refer to when they object to being told that their lifestyle puts them at enmity with God. It is one of the main reasons that people hate religion in general, and Christianity in particular. People who claim to be followers of Jesus Christ seem to be most judgmental, and demanding of those whom they deem to be sinners, in contrast to the way that Jesus himself responded to sinners.  There may be some truth to that, but it is important to point out that in some of these prominent stories, though Jesus was compassionate, loving, understanding and kind; their was an expectation that people abandon their life of sin and walk in newness of life. To the woman caught in adultery, he said, neither do I condemn thee, but he then admonished her to go and sin no more. When he went to the house of Zacchaeus the tax collector; being in the presence of Jesus had such a profound effect on Zacchaeus that he became repentant, and promised to pay restitution for his past wrongs. The woman with the alabaster box was deeply moved by Jesus’s compassion and the story indicates that she too was repentant, and forsook her life of sin. In another instance, after Jesus healed a man who was infirmed for thirty-six years, Jesus saw him on another occasion, and he said to the man “go and sin no more, lest a worst thing come upon you.” On one occasion when Jesus was hanging out with the “sinner crowd,” (those despised by the self righteous); the religious people asked him “why do ye eat and drink with publicans and sinners?” Jesus answered and said “They that are whole need not a physician; but they that are sick. I came not to call the righteous, but sinners to repentance.” After telling one of his parables, Jesus said “I say unto you, there is joy in the presence of the angels of God over one sinner that repents.” In the story of the prodigal son, though the father was pleased to see his son come back home, the son first came to himself, recognized his mistake, acknowledged it, and expressed his sorrow over his mistake.So in every one of these situations, though the compassion of Jesus is evident, the common theme in these stories is sorrow, repentance and the acceptance that a life of sin must be forsaken. Indeed Jesus said that he did not come to judge the world, but that the world through him might be saved. He said those that do not believe shall be condemned. He came into the world, died and was resurrected for that purpose. That in essence is the message of Christianity. No one has to like it. No one has to accept it. No one has to believe it. People are free to be indifferent about it, and they are free to mock it, criticize it and outright reJect it. However should also not try to change it. Take it or leave it!

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