Jesus was a candid, straightforward leader. It was nevermore true than in the days as He advanced toward the cross. Jesus never hid the demands of being His follower and the cost of true discipleship. He was the most forceful, demanding teacher who ever lived, and even asserted that loyalty to Him had to come before loyalty to a person’s own family. Those statements are not typically the type that endear leader to people. But Jesus was tremendously popular. How did that happen? Why did people love Him despite the fact that following Him was so consuming and difficult? I believe the answer lies in another trait we Christ-followers should develop: COMPASSION.
We tend to not include compassion in a list of must-have traits when we think about strong leadership, perhaps thinking that intense focus and extreme energy expenditure would make compassion recede. Not so with well-loved leaders who earn the loyalty of their followers. Just one chapter in the book of Luke, chapter 7, illustrates His compassion even under stress. He was walking and teaching, rarely a moment alone because people were always hanging around and hanging on Him.
He was headed back to Capernaum, and messengers came to Him from a desperate father whose son was near death. Jesus already had His plans made for the day, but His compassion made Him willing to be interrupted. He went with them (v.6). The young man was healed, and now Jesus walked through the village of Nain with a large crowd following Him. The grief-stricken wails of a widow whose only son had died reached His ears and “When the Lord saw her, his heart overflowed with compassion.” (v.13) The Lord got involved in her situation. John the Baptist was in prison for his faithful message and feeling pretty discouraged. He experienced and even expressed some doubt about who Jesus was. The Lord’s heart was full of respect and compassion for John, no defensiveness, and He sent him back a message of affirmation and hope. Then He took the time to set the record straight to all those who were following - John was the greatest man they would ever see. (v.18-28) The last event in the chapter was the gratitude of a public sinner, a woman whose reputation was shot. Her immorality had earned her rejection from everyone but Jesus, and she sought Him out to lavish perfume, what she had to give, on his feet. She put herself in the public eye to do this, and immediately reaped disgust and disrespect from those around her. Jesus, however, stood for her and with her. He was proud to know her and identify with her, despite the rejection of the big names around Him. Jesus’ compassion was huge. He knew that every person He met, every situation in which He found himself was an opportunity to respond with the compassion and love that everyone needs.
As we live these last few weeks heading into Easter, emulating Jesus is a worthy goal. Compassion will have to be one of our main characteristics. Every person I meet, every situation I face,especially when I am interrupted, weary, or inconvenienced, is a test. How well I respond is a truth-teller. How much am I like Jesus?