The Compassion Of Christ


I love Holy Week.  Ever since my oldest was two, I have read the resurrection story to my children every day of holy week, and every year I learn more than they do.  The student teaches the teacher, again. This year as we were reading about the Garden of Gethsemane, Darcy asked me why Jesus was so scared.  Why was he sweating drops of blood and asking God to find another way?  He knew he would be alive again soon.  He knew that His job had a definite end, and it was only going to be a few days.  Even though there was joy set before Him, and He knew He would make all things new through this death, He was still afraid.

I have had a similar conundrum when reading the story of Lazarus.  When Jesus arrived at his house, Lazarus had already been dead for days.  Jesus knew He could raise him from the dead.  But still, he wept.  He knew resurrection was in his power, but He still felt the sting of the death of His dear friend.  He could have come to Lazarus sooner and healed him while he was sick, but Jesus chose to wait.  He chose to subject himself to the pain of loosing a loved one.  He says it is the best way for God’s glory to be shown in that circumstance.

I don’t want to pretend like I know why Jesus did everything the way he did, but I do know that it shows us something about Himself.  Our Lord is compassionate.  He subjected himself to feel what we do when confronted with strong temptation, with terrifying situations, and even with death.  He did not just rush through these experiences, knowing that He was an omnipotent God.  He knew that he could heal and reverse death and call a legion of angels to His side at any moment.  But He chose not to.  He chose to feel what we are feeling, to withstand temptation, to endure his own death, to weep at the side of his friend’s grave.  His power is made perfect in weakness.  This is a mystery.  His love is compassion.  His love is allowing himself to be in the same kinds of situations that we face all through this life.  His love is kindness.  His love is reversing our deaths by subjecting himself to death.

On a much (much!) smaller scale, this kindness and compassion can teach me about how I lead my own children in their small, daily struggles. How many times have I been in a situation where I know everything is going to be fine but my children don’t?  They are worried, they are freaking out, and it is probably over something that I know I can fix.  How many times do children just cry because they are hungry, as if they will never get another meal?  How many times do children fall limp on the floor because my command to clean up the toys seems impossible?  Can I be like Jesus when He gently told Martha and Mary that their brother was only asleep?  Can I have the compassion of Jesus and understand what they are feeling?  Jesus cries along side them, and then comforts them with his words that Lazarus will rise.  Jesus doesn’t tell us not to worry as someone who has never faced worry. He sweats blood in a garden and pleads with the Father over his situation.  He knows the temptation to worry, and He tells us to cast it off.  He knows the weight of hunger, and He feeds 5000 people.  Can I be a compassionate mother like that?  Can I look into my child’s eyes and tell her not to fuss about dinner, but with the same compassion of one who knows how hard it is to wait? Can I hold them when they have a bad dream, and tell them none of it is real, but with the kindness of someone who knows what it feels like to be afraid?  Or do I dismiss their fears and their worries and their struggles because I know they won’t last long?  Can I find a more compassionate way to exercise my authority and abandon the answer “because I told you so”?  Am I the kind of mother who tells my children to “get over it” because I know that a scratch on their knee isn’t going to kill them?  Or am I the kind of mother who can, like Jesus, compassionately kiss their hurts, understanding that their fears are real to them, and kindly tell them that they will heal?  Can I be kind like Jesus on the stormy waters when He asked His disciples be calm while He gently calmed the waves?  Can I be kind when nobody in the house is being calm?  Can I bring the calm?

Jesus knows the end of the Easter story when He rides into Jerusalem.  He knows that He will soon be with His Father again, and He will soon conquer death.  But it does not stop Him from being afraid.  It does not stop the pain from being very real.  Knowing the end will be good, doesn’t mean the story won’t be hard.  I want to understand this in the most minuscule circumstances, in the smallest little stories that happen in our little daily lives.  Just because I know that everything will be fine, doesn’t mean I should treat my children’s experiences and fears like they don’t matter.  As they grow, their troubles will get bigger.  Can I be like Jesus?  Can they come to me with any hurts, no matter how small or how big, and find compassion even when I know they will be fine in the end?  I don’t want to raise children who are tough and independent, I want to raise children who are strong in Christ and rely completely on Him to heal their troubles.

Jesus turned to the criminal who hung beside him and said “Truly I tell you, today you will be with me in Paradise.”  This is not a comfort coming from someone who doesn’t understand the pain that is currently happening.  This is a comfort coming from a man who is hanging, dying for the sins of the world.  A man in the midst of pain, understanding the pain of the man beside him, becomes the comforter.  He gives hope, but He also gives great compassion.  He know this hurts. He knows it will be over soon.  He knows what it feels like.  And he knows everything will soon be healed.

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