The Compassion of Jesus

Harvard Medical School lists a number of ways people deal with stress, highlighting the tendency we all have to deal with stress in unhealthy ways, such as:

  • Watching endless hours of TV
  • Withdrawing from friends or partners or, conversely jumping into a frenzied social life to avoid facing problems
  • Overeating or undereating
  • Sleeping too much
  • Drinking too much alcohol
  • Lashing out at others in emotionally or physically violent outbursts
  • Taking up smoking or smoking more than usual
  • Taking prescription, over-the-counter or even illegal drugs[1]

Now, I don’t know what you do when things are busy and stressful, but Jesus’ response is markedly different.  Look at what we read in Matthew 14:14:

“When Jesus landed and saw a large crowd, he had compassion on them and healed their sick.” (Matthew 14:14)

I love that phrase: “He had compassion on them…” (NIV). 

The Greek word for “compassion” here, σπλαγχνίζομαι (splanchnizomai), is a difficult word to translate because no one word entirely captures its range of meaning. It is a cognate of the word for “spleen” and has the idea of deep emotions coming from the deep places of one’s person, like the bowels or intestines. It conveys being deeply moved, pity, sympathy, compassion, and warmth toward others.[2]

Again and again, Jesus is moved with compassion by the situation of the crowd and those in need (Matthew 9:24; 14:14; 15:32; 20:34). This is Jesus’ typical response to humanity in need: compassion. Or, as one commentator, R. T. France, renders it: “His heart went out to them…”[3]

And this is, in my opinion, how you know that Jesus is the Messiah sent from God and not just some ordinary person. Worn out by grief, needs, and pressures, Jesus doesn’t check out with a cold beer and his buddies to watch Ted Lasso or the Packers game. He steps forward, open-hearted and full of compassion to those in need.

Praise God for the heart of Jesus the Messiah! 

Praise God for this revelation of the heart of God in Jesus of Nazareth. Praise God that we get this glimpse into what leads Jesus ultimately to the Cross. Why doesn’t Jesus pull back? 

Because His heart leads Him to act how God always acts toward humanity: to continually move forward into human need for healing and salvation. 

[1] “Watch out for unhealthy responses to stress,” Harvard Health Publishing, August 2, 2012,

[2] Moises Silva, ed., “σπλαγχνον,” in New International Dictionary of New Testament Exegesis and Theology, 2nd ed., Volume 4 (Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan, 2014), 353.

[3] R. T. France, The Gospel of Matthew, NICNT (Grand Rapids, MI: Eerdmans, 2007), 373.

The New Moses

This past weekend at Eastbrook, I continued our preaching series, “Who Do You Say I Am?”, by looking at the well-known story of Jesus feeding the 5,000 in Matthew 14:13-23. What does this episode tell us about who Jesus is and how can we learn to live in response to Him based on the miraculous events we encounter here? There is just so much in this passage I wish I had been able to preach 3 or 4 messages just from this text.

This message is part of the sixth part of our longer series on Matthew, which includes “Family Tree,” “Power in Preparation,” “Becoming Real,” “The Messiah’s Mission,” and “Stories of the Kingdom.”

You can find the message video and outline below. You can also view the entire series here. Join us for weekend worship in-person or remotely via Eastbrook at Home.

“When Jesus landed and saw a large crowd, he had compassion on them and healed their sick.” (Matthew 14:13)

Jesus’ Unsuccessful Withdrawal (Matthew 14:13)

Withdrawing from Herod Antipas and the crowds

Jesus pursued by the crowds into the wilderness

Jesus’ Heart (Matthew 14:13-14)

“He had compassion on them…” (NIV)

“His heart went out to them…”

Jesus Feeds a Great Crowd (Matthew 14:15-21)

Recognizing the needs of the crowd and limited provision

The gathering of the crowd

The miraculous provision for the crowd 

Jesus’ action: take – bless – break – give 

Jesus Finally Withdraws (Matthew 14:22-23)

The disciples are sent away

Jesus goes up to the mountain

Jesus the New Moses (Matthew 14:15-23)

Out in the wilderness

A huge crowd of people who are in need

Providing miraculous food

Jesus meets with God on the mountain

Making it Real

Encounter Jesus’ heart

Encounter Jesus’ provisionBe a disciple in Jesus’ hand

Dig Deeper:

This week dig deeper in one or more of the following ways:

• Memorize Matthew 14:19
• Journal, draw, paint, or ink this story or some aspect of it as a way of reflecting on who Jesus is and how you most need to meet with Him.
• Take some time to draw away with God for a few hours or a day. Use this episode in Matthew 14 as a basis for your day alone with God. Take time in prayer and reading Scripture. Be still and rest in God. Perhaps you could use the suggestions from the Potter’s Inn as a guide here.
• Consider reading Henri Nouwen’s book Life of the Beloved, which reflects on the fourfold action of Jesus in this story (taken – blessed – broken – given) as a metaphor for the spiritual life.

Eastbrook at Home – September 26, 2021


Join us for worship with Eastbrook Church through Eastbrook at Home at 8, 9:30, and 11 AM.

We continue our series, “Who Do You Say I Am?,” as I preach on Jesus’ feeding of the 5,000 in Matthew 14:13-21.

This series continues our extended journey through the Gospel of Matthew, which includes our previous series “Family Tree,” “Power in Preparation,” “Becoming Real,” “The Messiah’s Mission,” and “Stories of the Kingdom: parables of Jesus.”

We also continue in-person services at 8:00, 9:30, and 11:00 AM this weekend at the Eastbrook Campus, and you no longer need to RSVP ahead of time.

If you are new to Eastbrook, we want to welcome you to worship and would ask you to text EBCnew to 94000 as a first step into community here at Eastbrook.

Each Sunday at 8, 9:30, and 11 AM, you can participate with our weekly worship service at home with your small group, family, or friends. This service will then be available during the week until the next Sunday’s service starts. You can also access the service directly via Vimeo, the Eastbrook app, or Facebook.

If you are not signed up for our church emailing list, please sign up here. Also, please remember that during this time financial support for the church is critical as we continue minister within our congregation and reach out to our neighborhood, city, and the world at this challenging time. Please give online or send in your tithes and offerings to support the ministry of Eastbrook Church.