29 As Jesus and his disciples were leaving Jericho, a large crowd followed him. 30 Two blind men were sitting by the roadside, and when they heard that Jesus was going by, they shouted, “Lord, Son of David, have mercy on us!” 31 The crowd rebuked them and told them to be quiet, but they shouted all the louder, “Lord, Son of David, have mercy on us!” – Matthew 20:29-31
It’s not surprising to find two blind men begging along the road. Jericho was known for producing balsam, believed to be help treat eye defects. Because of its reputation, it attracted people who were looking for help.
It’s also not surprising to find the crowd rebuking them. Rather than putting themselves in the shoes of the blind men and feeling sympathetic to their situation, the crowd responds the way many of us would: harshly. Why? Compassion for others does not come naturally to us.
The late Mother Teresa, who served the poor in Calcutta, India, and won the Nobel Peace Prize in 1979 once said this about American culture: “Maybe they are starved for bread in Africa. You are starved for love in the United States.”
How does Jesus handle this interruption to his schedule?
32 Jesus stopped and called them. “What do you want me to do for you?”he asked. 33 “Lord,” they answered, “we want our sight.” 34 Jesus had compassion on them and touched their eyes. Immediately they received their sight and followed him. – Matthew 20:32-34
The word compassion is a combination of two words put together: a word that means to feel sympathy for someone and a second word that means one’s “gut.”
When Matthew tells us that Jesus had “compassion” on them, the idea is that Jesus was moved to the very core of his being.
But compassion is more than just a feeling. It would be wrong to think that compassion is simply a sympathetic thought. When you study the life of Jesus, you’ll notice that whenever the word compassion is associated with Jesus, it’s always followed by action.
May that lesson not be lost on us.