Jesus frequently demonstrated the empathy of God toward people with every kind of suffering. God empathized with humanity and jumped in to the world with us in the coming of Jesus. You cannot read the gospels without seeing Jesus reach beyond social conventions to redeem those whom his world rejected. He jumped into the environments where chaotic people needed help.
What can we learn about genuine empathy from the King of Love? The story of Jesus meeting a man who could not hear or speak illustrates Jesus’ empathy. How we can graduate from being sympathizers and become empathetic healers with those we encounter?
31 Then Jesus left the vicinity of Tyre and went through Sidon, down to the Sea of Galilee and into the region of the Decapolis.32 There some people brought to him a man who was deaf and could hardly talk, and they begged Jesus to place his hand on him.
33 After he took him aside, away from the crowd, Jesus put his fingers into the man’s ears. Then he spit and touched the man’s tongue. 34 He looked up to heaven and with a deep sigh said to him, “Ephphatha!” (which means “Be opened!”). 35 At this, the man’s ears were opened, his tongue was loosened and he began to speak plainly.
36 Jesus commanded them not to tell anyone. But the more he did so, the more they kept talking about it. 37 People were overwhelmed with amazement. “He has done everything well,” they said. “He even makes the deaf hear and the mute speak.”
There are five ‘A’ words that describe the life of an empathetic healer. If Jesus is your rabbi and you are learning to be like him, here are some defining characteristics. The first one is adventure.
31 Then Jesus left the vicinity of Tyre and went through Sidon, down to the Sea of Galilee and into the region of the Decapolis.
The geographic and social setting for this miracle is The Decapolis, an ancient group of ten cities known to be centers of Greek and Roman culture. Jesus was Jewish but was often found in places that Jews avoided. He was not fearful or intimidated by people or places that your mother told you to avoid.
Jesus instructs his disciples to go into every part of the world with good news.
If you are rejected, shake the dust off your feet. In other words, your presence and the message you bear is more important than your need to keep things safe and your reputation bland.
In the adventure of following where Jesus leads, we find that empathy for people grows. We become more aware of their limitation and strength. The good news is most visible when you are face-to-face. You participate in the salvation, healing and deliverance of others when you open yourself to discovering the world around you. Where are you going today? If it does not expose you to adventure, you may be out of God’s will.