Deeply Moved – Introduction

Deeply Moved – Introduction

Deeply Moved – Introduction.

splagchnizomai  (splawnk – NITZ – oh – mi). Don’t let that strange Greek word put you off. It turns out to be one of the most meaningful ideas in the gospels, and it describes Jesus to a T. Most Bible versions translate this word to mean “moved with compassion.” But somehow that translation doesn’t quite do it justice. One might even say it doesn’t go deep enough. The literal meaning of this word is “to have one’s bowels yearn,” which makes sense since the root word for it is “intestines.” Since the innermost organs were considered at that time to be the seat of human emotions, and since love is the emotion being implied, splagchnzomai could be understood as an experience in which true compassion has its beginnings from down deep in the gut. This word points to an intense emotional experience that is felt in the pit of one’s stomach. This profound compassion is not superficial by any means, not casual, not distant. This compassion is immediate and so deeply felt that it demands action. This compassion is so visceral that it must find an outlet, a target, in doing something physical and helpful.

As we deepen our union with Christ, as we live into His reality and character, we also live into His compassion, into being deeply moved to our very innards. As theologian Jeff McSwain once said, “If we truly are ‘in Christ,’ then just as we’ve been given the mind of Christ, we’ve also been given the ‘gut’ of Christ. In all acts of compassion, believers can give credit where credit is due, to the Savior who in solidarity with humanity shares his sensitive gut with us.” And the more we live into Christ, the more our gut matches the gut of Christ.

For a long time now it has been the heart, not the gut or intestines, that was considered to be the emotional center of the person. So we could paraphrase splagchnzomai to mean: to feel something in onIn all acts of compassion, believers can give credit where credit is due, to the Savior who in solidarity with humanity shares his sensitive gut with use’s heart of hearts; to be heart-broken with empathy; to have one’s heart overflow with compassion; to feel one’s heart ache with concern; or to have one’s heart skip a beat with pity.

This overlooked Greek word is used only a handful of times in the gospels, and practically every time it is used in reference to Jesus in His ministry. The gospel writers are trying to communicate that the compassion from Jesus comes from a very deep place. He is a Person whose heart could break with love. He is Someone who can feel compassion from the pit of His stomach. And of course, Jesus is never content to just feel this intense compassion, He has a driving need to demonstrate it. Jesus has a deep well of compassion that goes down far below the surface, deep into His innards. And He often dips down into that well whenever He sees human need. Jesus had a gut feeling in His ministry, and that gut feeling was compassion.

We will study the gospel passages in which Jesus experienced splagchnzomai. We will see the contexts in which He was moved in His innermost organs. We will observe Him as this intense emotion moved Him to action. We will see His profound feelings after witnessing the people who were living like sheep without a shepherd (Matthew 9:36 and Mark 6:34); when He was surrounded by neediness (Matthew 14:14); when He observed the huge throng of people skipping meals just to hear Him teach and preach (Mark 8:2); when He encountered a man who was leprous and two men who were blind (Mark 1:41 and Matthew 20:34); when He came upon a grieving widow who just lost her only son (Luke 7:13). The gospel writers also reported that Jesus used this fancy Greek word splagchnizomai in three of His famous parables: The Unforgiving Servant (Matt. 18:21-35); The Good Samaritan (Luke 10:25-37); and The Prodigal Son (Luke 15:11-32). By using this particular word in His stories, perhaps Jesus wants us to so identify with this idea that we would want to demonstrate it ourselves. Perhaps He wants us to feel compassion from the pit of our stomach like He did. If we are to follow this Man Jesus, we need His Spirit to develop the ability to dip deep into the well of compassion, to develop a sensitive gut.

But that one Greek word doesn’t reveal all the other times Jesus was deeply moved. In Luke 10:21, we find Him jumping for joy as He welcomes home His 72 missionaries after a successful mission trip (agalliato). We also weep with Him as He groans painfully in anger and sorrow at the death of His friend Lazarus (embrimaomai) in John 11:33. We are confronted with a supremely riled up Jesus in John 2:17 when He was consumed with a fiery, passionate zeal (zelos) after seeing the moneychangers in the Temple. After the joy of Palm Sunday, we find Jesus sobbing loudly (klaio) over the destiny of Jerusalem (Luke 19:41). And don’t forget the time (and “deeply moved” doesn’t even begin to describe it), the agony in the Garden of Gethsemane, when He was thrown into terror and overwhelming horror (ekthambeo), and was swallowed up in sorrow, struggling with very intense anguish (agonia), in Matthew 26:36, Mark 14:32, and Luke 22:40.

There is absolutely no doubt whatsoever that Jesus was fully human while being fully divine. He was 100% human, and 100% divine. Somehow, Jesus was 200%. And so He was fully in union with the human experience, including His emotional life. No matter how we are feeling emotionally, there is a good chance Jesus has been there, and we can ask Him to be present with us.