When the Lord saw her, He had compassion on her and said to her, “Do not weep.”
The Lord has compassion – it’s something that cannot be overemphasized . It’s a theme throughout the synoptic Gospels (Matthew, Mark, and Luke). Interesting, but neither the word “compassion” nor “mercy” is found in John, who tends to focus on the word love.
The Greek word Luke uses for compassion is not the same word used for mercy, the word that’s the basis for the Kyrie Eleison (Lord, have mercy); it’s a more affectionate word rooted in the Greek word for “inward parts,” splangchna. I’ve always liked the translation “gut-spitting love.” It’s the idea of feeling in your gut a care and concern for someone in their pain.
In Matthew and Mark, Jesus has “splangchna” for the crowds who were like sheep without a shepherd (so He fed them), a blind man, and one who was demon possessed. Luke’s three uses include the widow in this week’s Gospel, the good Samaritan, and the father of the prodigal son.
We can run with the gut, the mid-section of the body, and follow it all the way back to eternity. Jesus “is in the bosom of the Father” St. John tells us, and this is from eternity, Proverbs tells us when in it Wisdom (the Word) says, “I have been established from everlasting, From the beginning, before there was ever an earth.”
Or as the Lord says of His anointed in Psalm 2, “You are My Son, Today I have begotten You.” And try as the enemies of God might, no one can break their bonds asunder: “Against the LORD and against His Anointed, saying, ‘Let us break Their bonds in pieces And cast away Their cords from us.’ ” God laughs as such nonsense.
Because to have gut-splitting love is not incidental or accidental to God’s nature, as it is with other non-Trinitarian understandings of God. It is the essence of His being. God is love. Were God only one Person, this love would have to be either potential only, for He would have no object of His love, or else, His love would only be self-directed, which means nothing for us. But being a Trinity, from eternity love is seen in this, that the Father from eternity has ben begetting the Son…from His gut regions. To be one with Christ is to have no doubt of the Father’s eternal love. As Jesus says, “for the Father Himself loves you, because you have loved Me.”
When God made man in His image, it stands to reason man would have a similar gut-gift, when the Lord took from Adam’s gut Eve, the one bound to him as one flesh, and let no one put them asunder – it’s the relation between the gut-giving one and the gut-given one.
And then where does life happen from Eve? From the gut point.
The Holy Spirit gives life from gut to gut, from the Father to the Son, from Adam to Eve, and from Eve to child. It’s the flow of life, the creation and procreation furthering the Father’s life, love, and giving-Person.
When Adam sinned, life still goes on, but now in pain. Now it’s gut-splitting. Eve gives birth in pain. Adam supports and provides for his wife in pain. The Father sends His Son, abandoning Him – without doubt in pain and sadness, though I’m not aware of any text that specifically says this.
Except for the fact that Jesus – Who reflects the Father’s nature in every way – split His gut open to provide for His bride, the Church, in His death, when water and blood, with the Spirit, flowed out of Him.
To love and have compassion is always to take up the cross and do so sacrificially. It cannot be any other way. Love in a fallen world requires sacrifice. This is something everyone knows. To love neighbor requires giving up Self for the sake of other, and often this happens in pain and denial.
There were lots of people in the world at the time of Jesus who experienced loss, like the widow, but only this widow was “seen” by Jesus. She became His neighbor. Neighbors are not some abstraction of “humanity” but actual persons with whom we come in bodily contact. Yes, Jesus died for “humanity,” but even this means nothing until a flesh and blood messenger delivers the benefits of that cross to neighbors, bodies in his vicinity. And that too requires sacrifice, as the martyred apostles will attest to.
And that compassion for the widow certainly cost Jesus. He touched the coffin and became unclean, and He took that unclean-ness to the cross, where He was placed outside the city gates. His compassion moved Him to this sacrifice. No surprise here. It’s what the Lord has been doing from eternity.