In the New Testament writings, the Greek word that is typically translated as mercy is based on the root concept of compassion. One of the clearest definitions of this concept is captured in the Outline of Biblical Usage as, “mercy: kindness or good will towards the miserable and the afflicted, joined with a desire to help them.” This term is used in describing God’s actions towards mankind and also for people interacting with other people.
That compassion and mercy are so closely linked provides some insight into its nature. In biblical usage, compassion is both an emotion or feeling one has towards others and an action in the outward help or assistance one provides.
Yeshua constantly illustrated this concept for his followers; here are just a few examples:
Matthew 15:32 – Yeshua called his disciples and said, “I have compassion on the crowd, because they’ve already stayed with me three days and have nothing to eat. I don’t want to send them away hungry, otherwise they might collapse on the way.”
Notice, Yeshua had a feeling of compassion towards the crowd because of their commitment to his teaching and their desire to learn, so his feeling of compassion resulted in an action: the miraculous feeding of them all.
Here is another instance in Luke’s gospel:
Luke 7:12-15 – Just as he neared the gate of the town, a dead man was being carried out. He was his mother’s only son, and she was a widow. A large crowd from the city was also with her. When the Lord saw her, he had compassion on her and said, “Don’t weep.” Then he came up and touched the open coffin, and the pallbearers stopped. And he said, “Young man, I tell you, get up! ” The dead man sat up and began to speak, and Yeshua gave him to his mother.
His feeling of compassion for the mother’s plight caused him to provide a miraculous resuscitation of the son who had died.
Now, you may be thinking, “Well, that is great for those individuals, but I don’t have the ability to create miracles to help other people.” But, isn’t that the point? Yeshua was doing the works of the Father; the Father was working through him to reach out to others. In the same way, whenever we extend compassion to others, from their perspective, it’s as if a miracle has occurred. Someone took pity on them and did something for them that they could not do for themselves when it was not required.
In saying this, I in no way want to cheapen legitimate miracles that Yeshua performed; however, I also can’t overstate how significant it is when we provide real help to those in need. You can probably understand this from your own experience whenever you may have received genuine help from someone else when you needed it most. It was likely an extremely significant occurrence for you.
Helping others who cannot help themselves IS God’s method of operation, and Yeshua demonstrated God’s mercy in action time after time in the gospels. So when we choose to follow Yeshua, it is expected that we also would extend God’s mercy to others, helping those who cannot help themselves, just as he did. In this way, we demonstrate we are truly God’s children when we act like him and have real concern and provide real care to those who need it most.
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