How did Jesus demonstrate compassion?

Exploring how Jesus demonstrates compassion in the Bible through His miracles, teaching and ultimate sacrifice
  • By: Alyssa Esparaz
A teenager in Uganda reading the Bible.

One of the most remarkable aspects of Jesus’ life was how He demonstrated compassion. It is not only a beautiful way that Jesus shows us God’s character, but also serves as a model for how we can live compassionately today.

But how exactly did Jesus demonstrate compassion? Let’s look to Scripture to find examples of Jesus’ compassionate heart.

How Jesus demonstrates compassion in the Bible

Moved with compassion: Jesus’ miracles

Two similar and striking instances of how Jesus’ compassion are found in the Gospel of Matthew. In Matthew 14:14, we read: “When Jesus landed and saw a large crowd, he had compassion on them and healed their sick.” This passage sets the scene for the miraculous feeding of the five thousand—one of Jesus’ most famous miracles.

Feeding the hungry

After healing and teaching the crowd, Jesus asks His disciples to feed them, despite their limited resources of five loaves and two fish. Jesus blesses the food and instructs His disciples to distribute it. Miraculously, everyone eats until they are satisfied, and twelve baskets of leftovers are collected.

In Matthew 15, we see another similar situation. Matthew 15:32 says: “Jesus called his disciples to him and said, ‘I have compassion for these people; they have already been with me three days and have nothing to eat. I do not want to send them away hungry, or they may collapse on the way.’”

Adult hands working with flour in a bowl on a red dirt ground in Togo.

Jesus again shows deep concern for the physical needs of the crowd. They had been with Him for three days, absorbing His teachings and witnessing His miracles, but now they were hungry. Understanding the potential dangers of their journey home without food, Jesus performs another miracle. With seven loaves and a few small fish, He feeds the four thousand, ensuring that everyone is nourished.

These miracles are more than a demonstration of divine power—they are profound acts of compassion. Jesus demonstrates compassion through action, providing not just spiritual nourishment through His teachings but also ensuring the physical well-being of His followers.

Healing the sick

Jesus’ compassion is also demonstrated in His healing miracles. In the Gospels, He heals numerous individuals, often moved by their suffering.

For example, in Mark 1:40-41, a leper approaches Jesus, begging to be made clean. Jesus, “moved with compassion,” reaches out, touches him and heals him. This act was not only a miracle but a radical expression of love, particularly because in Jesus’ time, lepers were ostracized from society and considered unclean.

In Jesus, we see that compassion consistently moves him to action—to reach out, to touch, to feed, to serve, to heal.

Compassion in Jesus’ teaching and parables

Jesus’ teachings and parables are infused with compassion. On one occasion, an expert in the law asks Jesus, “Who is my neighbour?” Jesus responds with a story, known today as the Parable of the Good Samaritan (Luke 10:25-37).

A good neighbour

In the story, a man is beaten, robbed and left for dead. A priest and a Levite—religious leaders  whom Jesus’ listeners might have expected to help—pass him by. It is a Samaritan—a religious and cultural “outsider”—who stops to care for the man. The Samaritan bandages his wounds, takes him to an inn and pays for his care.

A dry dirt road in Indonesia, lined by dry trees.

As the story concludes, Jesus flips the question and asks the expert in the law: “Which of these three was a neighbour to the man who fell into the hands of robbers?”

The answer is clear: The one who showed the man mercy and compassion.

In this parable, Jesus demonstrates that true compassion transcends ethnic and social barriers and shows how compassion should move us to action. The Samaritan’s compassionate actions toward a wounded stranger highlight the kind of love Jesus calls His followers to embody.

A compassionate father

Another parable in which Jesus demonstrates compassion is the Parable of the Prodigal Son (Luke 15:11-32), which reveals the compassionate character and nature of God. In this story, a son asks his father for his inheritance while his father is still alive. This is a shockingly insulting request. The son then squanders the fortune and finds himself as hired help in a pigsty. While working and starving, he realizes that even his father’s servants have food to spare, and decides to return home, if only to become one of his father’s servants.

But when he returns home, the father in the story, representing God, shows immense compassion and forgiveness toward his wayward son, welcoming him back with open arms despite his insulting behaviour and mistakes. He throws an extravagant party to welcome his son back home.

A father and son in Brazil.

Jesus highlights the scandal of this compassion—the father’s older son is indignant over his brother’s welcome. But the father gently invites the older son to share in his celebration and compassion. He invites him into a mindset of abundance over scarcity, assuring his older son that “everything I have his yours.”

Jesus’ teachings and parables invite his followers into counter-cultural love and compassion.

The cross: Jesus’ ultimate act of sacrificial love and compassion

The ultimate way Jesus demonstrated compassion is His sacrifice on the cross. In John 15:13, Jesus says, “Greater love has no one than this: to lay down one’s life for one’s friends.” Soon after, He is betrayed, tortured and executed.

Details on the wall of The Church of Saint George, one of many monolithic rock-cut churches hewn into the rocky hills of Lalibela, Ethiopia.

Jesus was willing to endure the worst of humanity’s suffering and injustice to demonstrate His compassionate love for humanity. He overcomes this suffering, injustice and death through His resurrection three days later. Through His death and resurrection, Jesus brings the opportunity for the restoration of our broken relationships with God, ourselves, each other and the world around us. In Revelation 21:5, He says, “I am making everything new!”

Jesus offers us restored lives in which we can live out the good news that He is restoring and redeeming all that is broken in our world. He invites us to demonstrate that same compassionate love in the world today and to be a part of His restorative mission.

Living out Jesus’ compassion today

Jesus’ life and teachings call us to embody compassion in our daily lives. By caring for others, addressing their needs and extending love and forgiveness, we follow His example. Whether through acts of kindness, advocating for justice, being generous to people in need or simply offering a listening ear, we can reflect the compassion of Jesus in our world.

Jesus demonstrated compassion through His miracles, His teachings and ultimately, His death and resurrection. His life provides a powerful model for us to emulate. He shows that true compassion involves seeing the needs of others, feeling deep care and concern, and moving to action. As we strive to live out this compassion, we draw closer to the heart of Jesus and bring His love to those around us.

“This is how love is made complete among us so that we will have confidence on the day of judgment: In this world we are like Jesus.”

1 John 4:17

How can you share Jesus’ compassion with children in poverty?

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