But when he saw the multitudes, he was moved with compassion on them, because they fainted, and were scattered abroad, as sheep having no shepherd. – Matthew 9:36
What a thrill it was for my wife and me to visit Mount Rushmore in the summer of 2004, and to view the famous sculpted heads of four United States presidents: George Washington, Thomas Jefferson, Abraham Lincoln, and Theodore Roosevelt. One thing that remains vivid in my memory is how the sculptor carved their eyes. Most of us never have to consider this, but the eyes in sculptures are usually flat and “unseeing.” Not so at Mt. Rushmore, where the pupils stand out from the rest of the eye by clever grooves cut into the stone. The Presidents appear alive because their eyes seem so real.
Max Lucado, in his book Six Hours One Friday, talked about the eyes of the huge statue of Christ which overlooks the city of Rio de Janeiro, Brazil. Lucado said the eyes of the figure are cold, hard, and impersonal—the complete opposite of Jesus’ true nature. In giving evidence of Jesus’ warm and loving eyes, Lucado cited the dramatic confrontation between the hypocritical religious leaders and the woman taken in adultery. In their eyes, she saw nothing but harshness and anger; but when she looked at Jesus, she saw mercy and compassion. After the others had left in confusion, Jesus lovingly said to her, “Neither do I condemn thee: go, and sin no more” (John 8:11).
After Peter had denied Jesus, he might have expected condemnation. Instead, we read, “And the Lord turned, and looked upon Peter . . . And Peter went out, and wept bitterly” (Luke 22:61-62). After Peter repented, he went on to become a mighty leader of the Early Church.
Imagine the sadness in Jesus’ eyes as He looked over the multitude and uttered the words of our focus verse. Or how His eyes must have danced with delight as He sat with little children on His knees and told bystanders, “Of such is the kingdom of God” (Mark 10:14). And the warmth He had when looking on the young couple at the marriage in Cana of Galilee. Our Savior’s eyes are anything but cold, hard, and impersonal.
What about Jesus in the twenty-first century? When I think on the mercy and compassion in Jesus’ eyes as He looks upon someone as unworthy as myself, I cannot help but love Him. It makes me want to live in every way to please Him. I want to keep His commandments—not because I have to, but because I want to show Him my appreciation for what He has done for me. Never do I want to do anything that would bring sadness to His eyes.