COMPASSIONATE AND POWERFUL
30The apostles gathered around Jesus and reported to him all they had done and taught. 31Then, because so many people were coming and going that they did not even have a chance to eat, he said to them, "Come with me by yourselves to a quiet place and get some rest."
32So they went away by themselves in a boat to a solitary place. 33But many who saw them leaving recognized them and ran on foot from all the towns and got there ahead of them. 34When Jesus landed and saw a large crowd, he had compassion on them, because they were like sheep without a shepherd. So he began teaching them many things.
Through no fault but a gene defect at birth, a young boy was now at the point of death with cystic fibrosis. Any one of the medical people attending to him, but especially his own relatives and parents, would willingly have exchanged places with the suffering boy. The level of compassion for him was immense, but none had any power to do anything about his slipping away.
A young man had a highly idealistic view of how his little island nation ought to be governed for the greater welfare of his people. He managed to muster a following large enough to overthrow the country's leadership. With the ultimate power now in his own hands, he became a tyrannical dictator - no longer concerned for anyone's welfare, but for his own continuing to hold the reins. He had power, but without compassion.
Those examples are admittedly extreme, and there's generally more of a balance between people's personal compassion and power, but each of us is also limited and inconsistent in both categories. - From the familiar Bible account of the feeding of the 5,000, the aim of this message is for us to examine and be encouraged by the example of Jesus, who displayed that HE's especially COMPASSIONATE AND POWERFUL.
It's helpful concerning this episode of Christ's public ministry to get a full sense of its context - the background events leading up to it. - After a year spent learning from Jesus, His disciples were sent out on their own to spread His ministry. They did so for about another year's time. As that period drew to a close, the disciples of John the Baptist reported to Jesus that King Herod had given in to his step-daughter's demand. He ordered that John's head be cut off at the prison where he was being kept and that his head be brought to the girl on a platter. The order was carried out and the girl presented John's head to her mother, while John's body was released for burial by his disciples.
After John's death, Herod got reports about Jesus and imagined that He was John, back from the dead to torment him. Herod then tried to plan how he might personally meet Jesus. He hoped that his fears might thus be laid to rest, or that he might even dispense with this "reincarnated John" again if need be.
Now let's get a picture of all the "hub-bub"! - Jesus has just received this stunning news about John, which His own disciples have yet to hear, learning that Herod is now on the lookout for Him, too. At the same time His own disciples are all just arriving back, exhausted from traveling, yet full of stories and experiences from their time away from Jesus - and each, no doubt, competing with the others to be heard first. Yet, as the text says, "there were many coming and going, and they did not even have time to eat."
Jesus had to take charge and say, "Hold it! Let's get away from here by ourselves for a while to rest and absorb all these reports." They took a boat from Capernaum to a small wilderness town beyond Herod's reach, but they encountered this "great multitude" that arrived there ahead of them on foot! - Think of how you feel when you're spread so thin and with so many things demanding your attention!
The text tells us, though, that Jesus "was moved with compassion for them." - The simple dictionary meaning of the word is sorrow for the sufferings of another. In the Jewish culture, though, it was more than just a "head" thing or eyes welling-up with tears. They believed that the abdominal organs were the center from which emotions arose. - We therefore need to understand that Mark is telling us Jesus experienced a hard hitting feeling in the pit of His stomach, strong enough to override the stress of everything else going on. His was a deep-seated "gut urge" that went beyond mere sentimentality, in other words.
Many Scriptures tell us of the strong emotions of God's Son, like His bitter tears over Jerusalem and weeping at the tomb of Lazarus, so that we can have a picture of God's compassionate nature towards us as well! We need to dig deeper, though, and learn what produced such a deep sympathy in Jesus!
Luke wrote that there were "those who had need of healing." Then too, it was late in the day, sometime near sundown, and the whole crowd was in a relatively unpopulated area where not much food was available. People were hungry and in need of provisions and lodging.
What obviously presents itself is that, for a host of sick, crippled, tired and hungry people, Jesus genuinely felt for their physical needs. They weren't in any immediate danger of starving to death, but Jesus cared for their evening meal as much as He did for the extremely ill among them.
Their bodily needs and ills were only symptomatic of the more profound and underlying condition of spiritual destitution of which most were unaware, though. The text specifically says that Jesus "was moved with compassion for them, because they were like sheep not having a shepherd." - Jesus cared about their outward hurts and need rising from the inner damage of sin and separation from God!
Let me assert that this concerns a very real event, - not some kind of parable or fable. The notorious affair about John the Baptist's death is also given credence in secular writings of the time, and all four of the New Testament's Gospel Books report Christ's feeding miracle. Several even go to the extent of stating at what point Jesus was in His ministry and that the specific location was a small desert town called Bethsaida, near the shore of the Sea of Galilee.
The place became a watershed in the Lord's ministry, because thousands of adoring fans came to reject and desert Him immediately afterwards - so that Jesus later pronounced Bethsaida as "cursed." In all His work there Jesus was also acting in accordance with numerous prophecies describing His actions. - Evidence for the text abounds. It was an authentic happening!
The critical focus, now, is how Jesus used His power in perfect accord with His compassion. In other words His compassion wasn't just feeling the knot in His stomach or telling His disciples how sorry He felt for the people. He DID for them! - The feeling of compassion was one and the same as effectively acting on their behalf!
(HIS POWER USED FOR EARTHLY NEED)
For those who were sick and "had need of healing," Jesus miraculously cured them. For the multitude in need of a meal He ordered His disciples to:
"...make them all sit down in groups on the green grass. So they sat down in ranks, in hundreds
and in fifties. And when He had taken the five loaves and the two fish, He looked up to Heaven,
blessed and broke the loaves, and gave them to His disciples to set before them; and the two fish
He divided among them all. So they all ate and were filled. And they took up twelve baskets full
of fragments and of the fish. Now those who had eaten the loaves were about five thousand men."
Not only did Jesus provide to the extent of their need, but overabundantly! All were filled, and there were those 12 baskets full of leftovers.
The scene points us to many Scripture promises that God will also more than provide for our needs as we seek His Kingdom and righteousness. "Cast your cares upon Him, for He cares for you" too! - Jesus, now exalted and holding all power in Heaven and on earth, will NOT leave Christian believers without access to His compassion!
(HIS POWER GIVEN FOR SPIRITUAL NEED)
Let's not forget that His compassion means His doing something! For the "great multitude" who "were like sheep not having a shepherd" and in real spiritual danger, the text says Jesus taught them "many things." - We don't know what specific teachings, but we do know that all Godly teaching points up our sin and Jesus as Savior from sin and its eternal consequence of death.
That need of the people is what had such absolute priority over Jesus and the disciples getting away for a little "R&R." The very same need of ALL people even today sparked the compassion that kept Jesus up all night a year later on Maundy Thursday, to give up not only His rest but His entire Being to suffer and die on the cross.
Jesus used His power not to escape what was detrimental to Himself, but to stay right there and endure it for our sakes. The Cross wasn't mere tears and pity, but Christ's deep compassion - His action - for you personally! So is His resurrection:--> Compassion in action to assure your eternal life in Heaven, - and from which nothing in all creation can separate you! "We have not a High Priest who is unable to sympathize with our weaknesses," the Bible assures us.
This message had a lot to do with our being comforted that the personal compassion and power of our Lord Jesus is extended and available to us. Let's go a step further, though, and also be encouraged to follow His example. Let's learn not just to feel sorry for the sick, or hungry, or physically and spiritually needy, but DO what we're realistically able in order to help when opportunities present themselves. Be it in regard to either a great or small thing, as God enables us, Christlike compassion is probably only 1% pity but 99% ACTION. - To paraphrase a certain Bible verse: "We have compassion, because He first had compassion for us." r.e.d.