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Mark 6:30-56: The Compassion of Christ Print E-mail
Sunday, 02 September 2007

I want to begin by drawing your attention to one word in our text this morning.  Look at verse 34.  Mark records that Jesus had compassion on the crowd.  We have said before that Mark is writing to answer the question: who is Jesus Christ?  Up to this point, we have already seen many great truths concerning our Savior, namely He is the Son of God, He is healer, He is Lord of the Sabbath, He has power over all, and He has ushered in the ‘already, not yet’ Kingdom, over-which He presides as King.  This morning our text teaches us that He is compassionate.  Thus, I want us to consider this characteristic of Jesus as we look at the text together.  I want to identify four lessons concerning Jesus’ compassion.

First, Jesus’ compassion is accompanied with power.

Of course, these are not the first nor the last miracles performed by Jesus in the gospel of Mark.  He has already healed many, cast out many demons, calmed a storm, and raised one from the dead.  Yet, in this first story about the feeding of the 5,000, Mark gives us a clear reason for why Jesus performs such miracles, namely His compassion.  As we saw in Mark 5, Jesus is not just putting on a display of power to let people know that He is powerful.  No, His power and His compassion go hand in hand.  He heals people because He loves them.  He protects the disciples because He cares for them, physically and spiritually.  He feeds the 5,000 because, as Mark says, He had compassion on them.  Thus, His acts of power are motivated by His compassion for the people.

It is interesting to note that the disciples struggled with this idea.  Look at verses 35-38.  They seemingly cared for the people and were concerned about them getting something to eat.  Yet, they failed to really consider what Christ could do.  Now it should be said in their defense that Jesus had not yet performed a miracle like this (apart from the turning of water into wine).  Even so, they should have been conscious of the One that they had with them.  They should have recognized His compassion and His power (see verse 52).  Of course, the same could be said of us as well.  We often fail to see the connection between compassion and power.  We might desire a display of power, but we fail to heed Paul’s warning in 1 Corinthians 13: 2, And if I have prophetic powers, and understand all mysteries and all knowledge, and if I have faith, so as to remove mountains, but have not love, I am nothing.  I believe that if we long to see people healed and fed and rescued in our day, then we must begin by praying for compassion.

Second, Jesus’ compassion comes to those with no shepherd, or to the lost.

Mark identifies for us the specific reason why Jesus has compassion on this crowd.  Look with me once again at verse 34.  His compassion did not begin because they were hungry physically.  No, according to the text, it was their lack of a shepherd that moved Christ to minister to them.  And notice what that ministry began with: teaching.  Jesus spent the majority of His time with them teaching them many things.  In fact, the reason why they were caught out in the middle of a desolate place with no food was because Jesus had spent so much time teaching them.  Look at verse 35.  I am tempted to insert that much grace should be given to a pastor who keeps the flock from their noon meal like Jesus, but I am sure that someone would come back with the thought: ‘Sure, we’ll stay as long as you promise to feed us all with five loaves and two fish.’  Over and over again Mark emphasizes the teaching ministry of Jesus.  He is very aware of our greatest need: spiritual nourishment.  We need a Shepherd who will lead us to the green pastures.  Jesus has compassion on these people who are lost and in need of a leader.

In much the same way, we should view Jesus’ leading of His Church as an act of great compassion.  If it were not for Christ and His leading us through His Word and through the gift of His Spirit, we would be as lost as those who were gathered that day.  Yet, as we saw in Mark 5, Jesus comes and meets our great need with great mercy and compassion.  Thus, as His sheep, we must labor to understand and know His direction for us through His Word and through the guidance of the Spirit.  As we have said before, our success and failure as a Church and as individuals will depend upon our adherence to His Word.  The further we get away from it, the further we get away from Him.  Likewise, the closer we get to it, the closer we get to Him.  May we be thankful for His compassion to lead us and pray that we might always willingly follow His lead.

Third, Jesus’ compassion extends to the common.

After the last point, we might be tempted to conclude that Jesus is not concerned about anything but our spiritual needs.  Granted, I do think that is His primary concern, but that does not mean that He is not concerned with things that we might consider more common, such as rest and food.  In fact, we see His compassion for both of these needs in the text.  Look at verses 30-32.  Remember from last week that Jesus had sent out His disciples on their first missionary trip (see 6:7-13).  Verse 30 tells us about their return from that trip.  Immediately, Jesus recognizes that they are tired and calls them to come away with Him for some much needed rest.  Notice too, that Mark seems to indicate that it was Jesus who did the teaching and not the disciples.  Thus, Jesus recognizes their need, and our need, for physical rest and labors to meet it.  Look also at verses 48-51.  Jesus takes notice of the fact that the disciples are struggling to make it across the Sea of Galilee.  After this, Mark tells us that He proceeded to walk out to them.  After He assures them who He is and they take Him into the boat, Mark tells us that the wind ceased.  Now I should note that probably the main point of this story is Jesus’ power to walk on the water, but it is interesting to note the detail about Jesus recognizing their physical struggle and calming the wind.

Of course rest is not the only physical need that is met in this passage.  Consider the feeding of the 5,000.  Again, Jesus has been teaching the crowd all day and it comes to the disciples’ attention that they are going to need to eat.  And since they are in a desolate place, the disciples tell Jesus to send the crowd away to go get food.  Yet, Jesus has a different plan.  He tells the disciples: You give them something to eat, to which they respond: Shall we go and buy two hundred denarii worth of bread and give it to them to eat?  When He asks them about what they have on hand, we see in their reply that they fail to consider Him in their equation.  They don’t have enough money, enough time, or enough food, to even begin to feed this crowd.  Yet, they have Christ, whose compassion extends not only to meeting our spiritual needs, but our physical needs as well.  He takes the five loaves and two fish, blesses them, and has the disciples distribute them to the people.  His provision is so great that Mark tells us that they had more than enough (see verses 42-43).

I often forget that the Lord’s grace covers my ‘common’ needs as well as my greater needs.  I remember going once to help a friend of mine at a youth retreat.  We were having an outside service at this pavilion and before it started he and I were having a difficult time getting the projector set up.  After basically trying everything we knew to do (which in hindsight, wasn’t very much), he laughed to himself and prayed out loud: ‘Lord, we can’t get this thing to work, but you spoke the trees and everything we see into existence, we need your help.’  I don’t know why it hit me so hard, but I have never forgotten that prayer.  In my frustration and helplessness, I forgot who I was trying to serve.  Instead of resting and trusting in His might and His compassion, I was simply focusing on everything I could not do.  When I think about it now, it reminds me so much of the disciples and their failing to consider Christ.  Brothers and sisters, do not forget who is with you.  The One you serve spoke the whole universe into existence and His compassion is great.  He will meet all your needs, from the forgiveness of sins to a good meal after a long day of teaching.

Fourth, Jesus’ compassion is consistent.

I must confess that my compassion often depends on a number of factors: am I tired, am I needy, do I have the time?  Yet, as we read through the book of Mark, we see Jesus consistently giving Himself away.  Everywhere Jesus has gone, besides in Nazareth due to their lack of faith, we have seen Him taking the time to teach and heal and drive out demons.  We have even seen Him heal someone while He was on the way to heal someone else.  We see this in our text this morning as well.  Look at verses 53-56.  The people are coming to Him from all over to hear Him teach and to be healed.  Mark tells us that they followed Him and His disciples to the desolate place and here Mark tells us that they ran about the whole region and began to bring the sick people on their beds to wherever they heard he was.  Jesus’ compassion is consistent.  We see it throughout His earthly ministry and most clearly displayed at the cross. 

How are we supposed to respond to the compassion of Christ?  Let me close with two thoughts.  First, we must trust in the compassion of Christ to meet all our needs.  Many see the feeding miracles (see also 8:1-10) as foreshadowing to the Last Supper.  Just as Jesus broke the bread and provided for the needy on the shores that day, He has also broken His Body and provided for us as sinners, the needed propitiation for our sins.  If you have not turned from your sins to follow Christ, then I plead with you to recognize your need for forgiveness and cast yourself at the feet of Christ.  You will find compassion there.  For those of us who have, may we come to the table with great thanksgiving for all that Christ has done and great trust in all that He will do.  Second, we must long to have and to demonstrate such compassion in our own lives.  As we read through the gospel of Mark and see the compassion of Christ on display, it is vital that we demonstrate that same compassion toward the needy all around us.  From giving one our packages to a panhandler to sharing the gospel with our neighbors, people are in need all around us.  May we begin the work of seeing their needs met by praying that God would give us true compassion for them.  If we lack compassion we will never be able to faithfully meet their needs.  Ask the Lord even now to reveal to you someone that you can show compassion to this week.  May we be followers of the powerful and compassionate Jesus of Nazareth.  Amen.

~ William Marshall ~

Last Updated ( Wednesday, 12 September 2007 )

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