When he saw the crowds, he had compassion on them, because they were harassed and helpless, like sheep without a shepherd.
Here is one example of the use of the word for compassion in the New Testament that appears 12 times. The word in the original is splagchnizomai, the translation of which misses a beautiful undercurrent that I have already discussed in a different context.
The literal meaning is “to be moved as to one’s bowels” which might at first seem a little odd until you consider it for a bit longer.
The bowels (& incidentally kidneys) were, in the time the passage was written, thought to be the seat of emotion, love, thought, feeling & experience. We don’t really think about them in this way these days, but if you can think back to the last time you had a shock, found out you’d made a mistake, got nervous or excited about something or ‘had a hunch’. What did you feel and where?
All in the guts right? Sometimes its butterflies, sometimes like a kick in the stomach, sometimes a dropping – sickening feeling.
It serves to accentuate the deep levels of intense, emotional commitment and visceral compassion that Jesus showed to the people he interacted with and by inference, a level we are expected to aspire to.
These are the passages in which the word is used.
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