The story I want to dive into is one of compassion. It is the story of Jesus raising Lazarus from the dead in John 11. I encourage you to read through the whole chapter on your own, it’s pretty amazing. While the resurrection itself is a miracle we could talk about for days on end, I want look specifically at the compassion of Jesus. It’s groundbreaking.

I’ve had my own journey of understanding compassion. Growing up I always felt like it was this amazing, powerful thing, but whenever someone talked about compassion, I was left unsatisfied with my definition. Most people describe compassion as pity, and while that is true, I think there is a much deeper meaning that more fully encompasses the word. I recently learned that the word compassion also means, “to have the bowels yearning”. It is a deep, deep groaning of something within you that says, “This is not how it is supposed to be”. It is from this posture that I think Jesus treated people who were hurting.

We see Jesus express compassion is verses 33-35 when it says, “When Jesus saw her weeping, and the Jews who had come with her also weeping, he was deeply moved in his spirit and greatly troubled. And he said, “Where have you laid him?” They said to him, “Lord, come and see.” Jesus wept.” The crazy thing is that Jesus was not deeply moved and weeping because Lazarus was dead, he knew that Lazarus would be raised from the dead in a few moments. We see that earlier in the story in verse 4 Jesus says, “This illness does not lead to death. It is for the glory of God, so that the Son of God may be glorified through it.” Jesus was deeply moved and weeping because he came face to face with the hurt of this world that God never intended to be there. It was as if Jesus felt a deep, deep yearning for the world to be restored.

The story does’t stop there. Compassion lead Jesus to do something, to be with people. If we skip to the end of the story, Jesus raises Lazarus from the dead. The Latin word for compassion actually means, “co-suffering”. While that can seem like a heavy thing, compassion actually isn’t heavy at all. While Wikipedia can be a little unpredictable at times, I think they hit the nail on the head with this one. Wikipedia says that sympathy is different from compassion, “in that the former responds to suffering with sorrow and concern while the latter responds with warmth and care.” 

The key word from that quotation is respond. Compassion is not a feeling that you sit in until you don’t feel it anymore. Compassion is the signal for hope to be ushered into the room. It’s powerful. It’s filled with hope because we get to call on the name of Jesus and he gets to move and heal and make new.

Compassion is also a gift. It is an expression of love to let our hearts soften and feel deeply with those who are hurting, and it is an expression of love to allow that compassion to move us to respond with Jesus. To respond with hope. 

Author | Kennedy Browning