THE POWERFUL COMPASSION OF JESUS CHRIST
One of the things that makes God God is that he is in control and we are not. He made all of this; every life, every breath, comes from him. He calls, he directs, he purposes; we receive, respond, we follow, we worship. So much of the Bible is dedicated to reinforcing these truths for us, reminding us that God is all-powerful, so he can do whatever it is he wants to do. God is sovereign and all-knowing, so he has ordained all that will come to pass. God is absolutely holy and transcendent, high above us, so he is fundamentally different than us.
As we are introduced to Jesus the Christ, the Son of God, in the Gospel of Mark, his power and authority are emphasized to help us begin to understand that he is God. Jesus is the one who is “mightier” than John the Baptist; John is not even worthy to untie his sandals. Jesus is the one who immerses us with the Holy Spirit of God. He is the one who at his baptism is authenticated by the thunderous voice of the Father as the heavens tear open. He is the one who stands toe to toe with Satan and triumphs. Jesus calls, and the power of his summons compels an immediate response. He teaches with the authority of God that leaves everyone amazed. He commands unclean spirits and they obey. The kingdom of God is at hand in him.
As Mark establishes the power and authority of Jesus Christ, however, he also makes sure to emphasize the love and compassion of Jesus Christ. He does this because as important as it is to recognize the power and authority of God, it is just as necessary for us to remember that the all-powerful God of the universe is compassionate, loving, and healing, intimately concerned with even the details of our lives. If God were all-powerful but not also compassionate and loving, to live before him would not be joy but terror. Millions of people throughout history have lived with this kind of understanding of God or of the gods. They have lived in constant fear of displeasing their god or of even drawing his attention, believing that there is some kind of powerful being they must constantly appease, otherwise he might “get” them. They have believed they must do certain rituals, live a certain way, say certain chants, or make certain sacrifices in order to get this god on their side.
So as soon as we begin to see the power of God in Jesus Christ, Jesus makes it clear to us that he is not some cosmic bully, that the one true and living God of the universe has compassion on us, loves us, and cares about us. Jesus is not only the Lion of Judah but the Lamb of God. His authority brings life and freedom, not oppression and tyranny. Jesus’ yoke is easy, his burden is light (Matthew 11:28–30).
Jesus is the one who heals Simon Peter’s mother-in-law, lifting her up, taking her by the hand, and overcoming what hurts her with his love, compassion, and grace (Mark 1:29–31). Jesus is the one who that very evening accepts all who come to him with their need, healing the sick, freeing the demon-oppressed, ministering to the hurting and the desperate (Mark 1:32–34). Jesus is the one who the next morning leads the disciples to go to other places where they might help those in need, sharing the life-changing message of the gospel with them (Mark 1:38). He is the one who welcomes the leper, willing to reach through social, physical, and spiritual separation to cleanse and heal (Mark 1:40–42).
Jesus’ displays his power and authority, the power and authority of God, through his love, compassion, and grace. We don’t have to be afraid that God doesn’t care about us, or that God isn’t interested in our suffering. Whatever our need is, we can bring it to him. Praise God that when we ask him if he is willing to cleanse, the answer is always, “yes.” The God of the universe, who spoke every molecule into existence, is the same God who loves us and will work in our lives when we turn to him by faith.