Summary: Our Lord's emotions help guide us in ours if we let Jesus be Lord of our hearts.
This chapter has three stories from the life and times of Jesus. The first is about how John the Baptist was killed. The second is about how Jesus fed the 5000 with five loaves and two fish. The third is about how Jesus walked on the water and about Peter’s attempt to do the same.
Acts 1:1-2 is Luke’s description of his gospel account. He says: In my former book, Theolophilus, I wrote about all that Jesus began to do and to teach, up until the day he was taken up to heaven… In other words, Luke’s concern in his gospel is to tell us all that Jesus did and taught including, of course, his death, burial and resurrection. What I’d like to consider with you today is another side of Jesus that is not so commonly addressed. That is, what did Jesus feel? What were the emotions of our Lord? One reason to study these things is that all of the rest of scripture points to Jesus’ suffering as the means by which we are saved. Hebrews also reflects on how it was the joy set before Jesus that motivated him to endure the cross, even as he despised the shame. 1 Peter speaks of the sufferings of Christ as our model for Christian living saying that he gave us an example that we should follow in his steps. The prophet Isaiah in the famous chapter 53 speaks of Jesus as the man of sorrows and acquainted with grief. The Psalms speak of Jesus as dealing with his enemies in wrath, and the book of Revelation says specifically concerning those who are not prepared when Jesus comes again that they cry out to the mountains and rocks to fall on them and hide them from the wrath of the Lamb. There are many expressions of Jesus’ feelings in the gospels ranging from anger and frustration to joy and exaltation.
One of the most common words to describe the feelings of Jesus is the word: compassion. This word occurs in reference to Jesus more times in Matthew than in any other gospel and just so happens to occur in our text for today. Matthew 14:14.
Compassion as an English word is a compound word with two parts: the prefix “com” and the root word “passion.” Together these carry the idea of sharing the suffering of someone in such a way as to be moved to help. The Greek word is splanchnizomai and it has to do with the feelings you have in your stomach when you hurt for someone who is in pain. Jesus joins us in humanity so that he can be a compassionate high priest, fully understanding our fleshly experiences in temptation and struggle. Jesus has compassion for us. He is uniquely able to bring us to know God by his identification with us.
Historically, there was a time when many in the Christian faith had great difficulty with the concept of Jesus as an emotional being. The Greek theologians who had become Christians in the first century believed that human emotions and feelings were sinful and expressed imperfection. They reasoned that since Jesus was perfect and sinless, he must not have had emotional feelings or passions. For several in the first few centuries of the church it became a goal to rise above any feelings or passions and become perfected by living a life of unemotional commitment to God. Having seen the pitfalls of the passions of the flesh, they sought a rational relationship with God that was stripped of the human fleshly struggles of the emotions. It was sort of a Spock type logical approach to faith and Christian life, for those of you familiar with Star Trek. These early Christians noted how often scriptures spoke of putting away and even crucifying the fleshly passions and desires and how these things were responsible for human failure morally and spiritually even from the beginning in the garden of Eden. I wonder what you think about that? Do any of us here have a problem with fleshly passions? Would any of us here like to be freed from some of those emotional trappings? I know for myself that my emotions often get right in the way of my service to Christ. Sometimes I would like to be free from the ups and downs of the emotional roller coaster of my heart. I really am challenged by the words of Galatians 5:25 and other passages that say: “Those that belong to Christ Jesus have crucified the flesh with its passions and desires.” James tells us that the reason we fall into sin is that we are dragged away and enticed by our own evil desires. James 1:13-15. It specifically says that this never happens with God. He is neither tempted, nor does he tempt us. Is God then, above feelings? Certainly He is above feelings in any fallen, sinful sense, but what we know about God in scripture bears out that God is fully able to experience and express emotions and feelings. In fact, God does so with perfection! He is the God of comfort, compassion and peace. He is also the God of wrath, judgment, and eternal punishment. But in none of these does God cease to be pure and holy, perfect and completely just. In fact, if God could ever come down here and show us what He looks like and feels like, what we would see is Jesus Christ.