Jesus and His disciples ate on the Sabbath. He used it as a teaching opportunity to show the priority of compassion over sacrificial good works (Matt. 12:1-7). When Christ says He "desires compassion,"the word, desire, literally means "pressing into action" or doing the will of God. Compassion literally means mercy or "special and immediate regard to the misery which is the consequence of sins." In Matt. 11, sharing the gospel through evangelism allows people to experience God's grace and forgiveness of sin. Afterward, God's compassion and mercy address the consequences of sin rather than passing judgment or condemnation on them.
Christ illustrated compassion and mercy by healing the man with a withered hand on the Sabbath (Matt. 12:8-13). The Pharisees responded to real human need with judgment and accusations (Matt. 12:10,14). Jesus came not only to see and save the lost but to proclaim and model compassion and justice by healing hurting humanity (Luke 19:10; Matt. 12:18-21). We see another illustration of Jesus demonstrating compassion when He casted out demons from a blind and dumb man. The Pharisees came to rescue, opposing Christ again. Jesus called their bluff and said they were nuts to think Satan motivated Him to cast out demons (Matt. 12:22-29).
Jesus then addresses the root of compassion. Why are some people compassionate and others not? He explained blasphemy of the Holy Spirit as resistance against the convincing power of the Holy Spirit. Jesus implied the Pharisees lacked compassion because they rejected Him (Matt. 12:30-32). When we share the gospel and someone rejects it by not believing, they are blaspheming the Holy Spirit. At the point of faith, God justifies or declares them righteous like Abraham when he believed God (Gen. 15:6).
Christ moves from unbelievers to addressing believers. Our testimony to the world is in large part determined by the words we speak (Matt. 12:33-37). A different Greek word for "justify" is used in Matt. 12:37. Instead of declaring us righteous, our words justify or bring out the essence of our personhood by revealing our character. Our words can be idle and unprofitable or active and profitable to stir people to love and good works (Heb. 10:24-25). Ask yourself: Do I build others up or tear them down? Do I encourage or discourage others. Do I unify or divide people? Both unbelievers and believers can lack compassion.
Unfortunately, the church has been its own worst enemy in repelling people from the gospel by the caustic words we share with one another and the outside world. The world condemns us because of our lack of compassion expressed through divisive words (Matt. 12:37).
Even the church can get caught in the quest for signs or miracles by focusing on worldly marketing techniques instead of pursuing an authentic relationship with Christ (Matt. 12:38-45). Selling our soul out to celebrity and media-hype publicity to win a hearing degenerates our character so our last state becomes worst than the first (Matt. 12:45). In contrast, Christ is looking for those who do His will by relating intimately with Him as His brother or sister (Matt. 12:46-50).
Ask God to impart love and compassion in your life as a fruit of the Holy Spirit. Who can you come alongside and show love? What will compassion look like?