Sixth Sunday After Pentecost: Gods Passion for Compassion
One of the lessons that Jesus wants you to get as one of His followers is that He really cares for you and you can trust Him. Over and over again throughout the Bible God is telling us how much He loves us and cares for us. He shows us this over and over again in many ways. But here is the problem, many Christians struggle with believing if God cares for them. You may find it easier to believe that God cares for someone else, but you? You know yourself. You know what sin you struggle with. You know how selfish you are. You know about your own personal rebellion and doubts toward God. Because we struggle with believing God really does care about us, He has to tell us and show us over and over again how much He cares. The great thing about God is, He doesn’t get tired of expressing His love toward you every day and in many ways.
With that said, let’s take a good look at Mark 8:1-10 where we see another expression of God’s compassion and care: In those days, when again a great crowd had gathered, and they had nothing to eat, he called his disciples to him and said to them, 2 “I have compassion on the crowd, because they have been with me now three days and have nothing to eat. 3 And if I send them away hungry to their homes, they will faint on the way. And some of them have come from far away.” 4 And his disciples answered him, “How can one feed these people with bread here in this desolate place?” 5 And he asked them, “How many loaves do you have?” They said, “Seven.” 6 And he directed the crowd to sit down on the ground. And he took the seven loaves, and having given thanks, he broke them and gave them to his disciples to set before the people; and they set them before the crowd. 7 And they had a few small fish. And having blessed them, he said that these also should be set before them. 8 And they ate and were satisfied. And they took up the broken pieces left over, seven baskets full. 9 And there were about four thousand people. And he sent them away. 10 And immediately he got into the boat with his disciples and went to the district of Dalmanutha.
In Mark chapter 6 we saw Jesus doing this exact miracle a few weeks earlier in his ministry. The first time Jesus did this miracle it was primarily for the Jewish community, the people of Israel. In the gospel reading for today that I just read, it is focused on a Gentile community. By doing this, Jesus was making the point that God’s compassion and love was for everyone, Jew and Gentile.
From this miracle we see a particular aspects about Jesus and compassion.
Mark tells us in verse 1 that “a great crowd had gathered ” Jesus is still in the Sidon area, which is predominantly Gentile territory. That means the majority of the people in that area were raised in a culture of many gods. In their cities and towns you would find various temples to this god and that goddess. In their homes you would find little statues of gods and goddesses that they worshiped and prayed to and made sacrifices to. This was a very pagan area. It’s in this area that a “large crowd had gathered.” Throughout this area Jesus had been healing many people and in Mark 7, Mark highlighted Jesus casting out an evil spirit from a woman’s daughter and restoring the hearing of a deaf man and his speech.
Just like the crowd back in Mark 6, Mark tells us that this crowd ran out of food as well. So Jesus called his disciples to Himself. Every time we are told that Jesus called His disciples to himself He is about to do something significant and it usually involves their participation. When Jesus calls His disciples to Him, He is going to involve them and teach them something significant. This is a basic principle in God’s Word, this calling and sending. When He calls you, He will involve you.
After calling the disciples to Himself, Jesus says, I feel sorry for these people. In fact the Douay-Rheims says it in this way, “I have compassion for the mulititude”. This is the only time where Jesus himself says, “I feel sorry” or “I have compassion.”
In all the other cases where the Lord’s compassion is mentioned the Bible only states the He felt compassion for the people. But in this case, how He feels toward these people comes from His own lips.
That phrase “I feel sorry” or “I have compassion” refers to a compassion that hurts. It literally means to see someone suffering and feel a physical response to their pain in your stomach. Your empathy and compassion is so strong for them that you are sick at your stomach. This is a physical and emotional reaction to someone else’s pain and suffering. Compassion hurts. Compassion is not comfortable.
The truth is some people see others suffering and could care less. We saw this earlier with the Lord’s disciples and how they treated the mother of the demon possessed little girl. The mother comes to Jesus begging for help and the disciples told Jesus, “Tell her to go away, she is bothering us with all her begging” (Matthew 15:23; Mark 7:24-30). They had no compassion for her.
The good news is that even though some people may not have compassion toward others or towards you, God always is compassionate. It is one of His attributes. Great compassion is always felt by God toward us when we experience suffering or pain. Jesus knows about our pain. Jesus has great compassion toward us. Satan has no compassion for you when you are suffering. Demons have no compassion for people that are in pain. However, God has compassion for us. We see an example of this in Jesus. God feels our pain. Let me show you this. Psalm 86:15, “But thou, O Lord, art a God full of compassion, and gracious, slow to anger, and abounding in steadfast love and truth.” Isaiah 49:13, “Sing for joy, O heavens, and exult, O earth; break forth, O mountains, into singing! For the Lord has comforted his people
and will have mercy and compassion on his afflicted.”
Remember, this crowd is filled with people who worship other Gods.
They came for the show, but many of them will stay for what He teaches and decide to follow Him. If Jesus had compassion on that crowd, maybe he could have compassion on us.
Maybe our past doesn’t define us but Jesus’ compassion does. Maybe his compassion is for all kinds of people with all kinds of sin and all kinds of suffering because his love is too great to be limited to what we deserve.
Jesus goes on to say, “They have been here with me for three days….” This means more than just attendance. Some translations say the people “remained with” Jesus for three days. They were closely listening to Jesus. So these people didn’t do anything to draw out Jesus’ compassion. The only reason they received it is because they stayed with him. Isn’t that amazing? They didn’t give him anything. They didn’t perform for him. All they did was remain with him and listen to him. They were simply with him when He decided to show compassion. Listen carefully to what I’m about to say, I believe sometimes we miss experiencing the compassion and power of God because we have walked away from God. To experience who God is, you are going to have to be with Him.
Jesus goes on to say, “They have been here with me for three days, and they have nothing left to eat”. I got to thinking about this. Why didn’t the people pack more food? They probably weren’t planning on staying three days. To them, they thought they would go for the day or evening and see Jesus do some miracles and listen to what He has to say and then go home. My next question is, when they ran out of the food they packed why didn’t they just leave and go home? I think they were so caught up in the preaching of Jesus, and the power displayed by Jesus, that they didn’t want to leave. I think they were so spiritually hungry they would rather stay with Jesus and miss a meal rather than leave Jesus and miss a miracle. They were getting something from Jesus they could not get anywhere else.
It appears these people made a choice to stay three days without food because the spiritual food they were getting from Jesus was more important than the physical food they were lacking. They discovered they were hungry for Jesus and they wanted more of Him.
Jesus says, “and they have nothing left to eat.” You ever feel like that sometimes. You “have nothing left.”
You have used up all that you have in following Jesus. You are tired. Burned out. Your exhausted. You have “nothing left.” The reason you have nothing left is not because you wasted it, but because you were following Jesus. You were with Him. You were listening to Him. You were learning from Him. You were hanging out with Jesus. It’s okay to “have nothing left” when following Jesus. Because that’s when Jesus is able to display His compassion for you and resupply your spiritual life in a miraculous way. When you are following Jesus and you feel like you have “nothing left” just hang on and wait, Jesus is about to show compassion and do something in your life. He cares about you.
Jesus made a very practical statement in verse 3, “If I send them home hungry, they will faint along the way. For some of them have come a long distance.” The omniscient and wise Jesus knows the depth of your hunger. He sees and knows about your suffering. He cares about it and about you. He is not going to send you home empty. He is going to fill you and equip you to do what He would have you to do. Some of you have a “long distance” to go. You have a lot of living left. You have followed Jesus this far, you are learning and wanting more, you have sacrificed for Him and His kingdom and He will not send you “home hungry.”
Even though we get a good look at the compassion of Jesus in this event, this great miracle of feeding 4000 families, the deepest meaning of this miracle is that Jesus became the bread of life given for us.
After feeding the 5000 in Mark 6, John connects that miracle with Jesus being the bread of life. Jesus said, “I am the bread of life; whoever comes to me shall not hunger, and whoever believes in me shall never thirst. ” (John 6:35).