IF YOU HAD TO NARROW IT TO ONE, what emotion would best describe how you feel right now?

Depending on the research you look at, there are anywhere from six to thirty-four thousand emotions you can experience. I won’t list all thirty-four thousand here. You probably don’t need a list to narrow down how you feel most of the time, anyway. If you’re not sure about your emotional state, ask a few of the people you do life with. If they look at you like they’re afraid to answer, then irritable or temperamental may be the diagnosis.

I decided to read through the Gospels to try to determine if there was a primary emotion Jesus felt. He is described as experiencing exhaustion, joy, anger, frustration, disgust, grief, loneliness, rejection, and dread. But the one emotion attributed to Jesus more than any other is compassion.

Most of our emotions tend to be self-centered. How we feel is usually determined by what we’re experiencing at any given moment. Jesus’s primary emotion was determined by what others were going through.

Always an And

My wife will tell you I can’t watch an episode of Little House on the Prairie without wiping away a few tears. And my heart is broken when a commercial comes on with images of starving children living in poverty. If I see someone in pain, I feel for them, and for a long time I understood compassion to be a feeling, so I thought of myself as a compassionate person.

But as I traced the times Jesus had compassion in the Gospels, I noticed that a conjunction almost always followed his feeling of compassion. It’s not “Jesus had compassion.” It’s “Jesus had compassion and . . .”

In Matthew 20:34, Jesus had compassion on two blind men and touched their eyes. In Mark 1:41, Jesus had compassion on a leper and healed him. In Mark 6:34, Jesus had compassion on the people and began feeding them, and in Matthew 9:35–38, Jesus had compassion on the people and prayed for them.

When Jesus felt compassion, it was followed by action and it always created a story. So many of the one at a time stories in the Gospels start with Jesus’s compassion.

Idleman, Kyle. 2022. One at a Time: The Unexpected Way God Wants to Use You to Change the World. Grand Rapids, MI: Baker.

We have just released a new Bible Study based on Kyle Idleman’s book, One at a Time. These lessons are available on Amazon, as well as a part of Good Questions Have Groups Talking Subscription Service. Like Netflix for Bible Lessons, one low subscription gives you access to all our lessons–thousands of them. For a medium-sized church, lessons are as little as $10 per teacher per year.