Study Guide

Gospel of Matthew Compassion and Forgiveness

Compassion and Forgiveness

And forgive us our debts, as we also have forgiven our debtors [...] For if you forgive others their trespasses, your heavenly Father will also forgive you; but if you do not forgive others, neither will your Father forgive your trespasses. (NRSV 6:12-15)

And forgive us our debts, as we forgive our debtors [...] For if ye forgive men their trespasses, your heavenly Father will also forgive you: But if ye forgive not men their trespasses, neither will your Father forgive your trespasses. (KJV 6:12-15)

Don't forget to read the fine print. These verses indicate that in order to be forgiven, Jesus's followers must do a lot of forgiving themselves. Want more? There's a parable for that. We know it as the Unforgiving Servant (18:23-35).

When Jesus saw their faith, he said to the paralytic, "Take heart, son; your sins are forgiven." Then some of the scribes said to themselves, "This man is blaspheming." But Jesus, perceiving their thoughts, said, "Why do you think evil in your hearts? For which is easier, to say, 'Your sins are forgiven,' or to say, 'Stand up and walk'?" (NRSV 9:2-5)

And, behold, they brought to him a man sick of the palsy, lying on a bed: and Jesus seeing their faith said unto the sick of the palsy; Son, be of good cheer; thy sins be forgiven thee. And, behold, certain of the scribes said within themselves, This man blasphemeth. And Jesus knowing their thoughts said, Wherefore think ye evil in your hearts? For whether is easier, to say, Thy sins be forgiven thee; or to say, Arise, and walk? (KJV 9:2-5)

Jesus considers sin to be a greater sickness than anything physical. That helps explain why he first forgives the sins of the paralytic. But when he sees that the scribes have a major case of skepticism, Jesus heals the guy, too. So wait. He only heals the guy to prove a point? Is that true compassion?

When he saw the crowds, he had compassion for them, because they were harassed and helpless, like sheep without a shepherd. (NRSV 9:36) 

But when he saw the multitudes, he was moved with compassion on them, because they fainted, and were scattered abroad, as sheep having no shepherd. (KJV 9:36)

Ever seen Jesus pictured as a shepherd? Well, here he is shepherding in Matthew. For more of Jesus cuddling baby sheep, check out the Parable of the Sheep and the Goats (25:31-46).

Now when Jesus heard this, he withdrew from there in a boat to a deserted place by himself. But when the crowds heard it, they followed him on foot from the towns. When he went ashore, he saw a great crowd; and he had compassion for them and cured their sick. (NRSV 14:13-14)

When Jesus heard of it, he departed thence by ship into a desert place apart: and when the people had heard thereof, they followed him on foot out of the cities. And Jesus went forth, and saw a great multitude, and was moved with compassion toward them, and he healed their sick. (KJV 14:13-14)

Sometimes being around a whole crowd of people is the last thing you want to do. Especially when you're just looking for some me-time. The fact that Jesus still finds compassion for the people who just won't leave him alone is pretty impressive.

Just then a Canaanite woman from that region came out and started shouting, "Have mercy on me, Lord, Son of David; my daughter is tormented by a demon." [...] he answered, "I was sent only to the lost sheep of the house of Israel." But she came and knelt before him, saying, "Lord, help me." he answered, "It is not fair to take the children's food and throw it to the dogs." She said, "Yes, Lord, yet even the dogs eat the crumbs that fall from the master's table." Then Jesus answered her, "Woman, great is your faith! Let it be done for you as you wish." (NRSV 15:21-28)

Then Jesus went thence, and departed into the coast of Tyre and Sidon. And, behold, a woman of Canaan came out of the same coasts, and cried unto him, saying, Have mercy on me, O Lord, thou son of David; my daughter is grievously vexed with a devil. [...] he answered and said, I am not sent but unto the lost sheep of the house of Israel. Then came she and worshipped him, saying, Lord, help me. But he answered and said, It is not meet to take the children's bread, and to cast it to dog. And she said, Truth, Lord: yet the dogs eat of the crumbs which fall from their master's table. Then Jesus answered and said unto her, O woman, great is thy faith: be it unto thee even as thou wilt. (KJV 15:21-28)

Check it out: this lady responds to one of Jesus's parable with her own parable. Fancy. And guess what? It works. Looks like faith is rewarded with compassion.

Then Jesus called his disciples to him and said, "I have compassion for the crowd, because they have been with me now for three days and have nothing to eat; and I do not want to send them away hungry, for they might faint on the way." (NRSV 15:32)

Then Jesus called his disciples unto him, and said, I have compassion on the multitude, because they continue with me now three days, and have nothing to eat: and I will not send them away fasting, lest they faint in the way. (KJV 15:32)

Jesus has a soft spot for his followers, especially when they make sacrifices—like not eating—in order to hang out with him. Why do you think Jesus's acts of compassion are always such grand gestures, like feeding the masses or healing the sick? Or is he compassionate in smaller ways, too?

Then Peter came and said to him, "Lord, if another member of the church sins against me, how often should I forgive? As many as seven times?" Jesus said to him, "Not seven times, but, I tell you, seventy-seven times." (NRSV 18:20-22)

Then came Peter to him, and said, Lord, how oft shall my brother sin against me, and I forgive him? till seven times? Jesus saith unto him, I say not unto thee, Until seven times: but, Until seventy times seven. (KJV 18:20-22)

Wait, seventy-seven time or seventy times seven? Eh. Tomayto, tomahto. The point is that you should always forgive. Oh, and why does Peter guess seven? Because that's a mighty significant number in Judaism. Anyone remember on which day God rested? Yeah.

There were two blind men sitting by the roadside. When they heard that Jesus was passing by they shouted, "Lord, have mercy on us, Son of David!" [...] Jesus stood still and called them saying, "What do you want me to do for you?" They said to him, "Lord, let our eyes be opened." Moved with compassion, Jesus touched their eyes. Immediately they regained their sight and followed him. (NRSV 20:30-34)

And, behold, two blind men sitting by the way side, when they heard that Jesus passed by, cried out, saying, Have mercy on us, O Lord, thou son of David [...] And Jesus stood still, and called them, and said, What will ye that I shall do unto you? They say unto him, Lord, that our eyes may be opened. So Jesus had compassion on them, and touched their eyes: and immediately their eyes received sight, and they followed him. (KJV 20:30-34)

Jesus wasn't kidding when he said, "Ask and it will be given to you." Why does Jesus have so much compassion for people he doesn't even know?

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