COMPASSION AND CHALLENGE
Mark 6:30-44 Princeton Christian Church 03 November 2021
30 The apostles *gathered together with Jesus; and they reported to Him all that they had done and taught. 31 And He said to them, “Come away by yourselves to a secluded place and rest a little while.” (For there were many people coming and going, and they did not even have time to eat.) 32 And they went away in the boat to a secluded place by themselves.
33 The people saw them going, and many recognized them and ran there together on foot from all the cities and got there ahead of them. 34 When Jesus went ashore, He saw a large crowd, and He felt compassion for them because they were like sheep without a shepherd; and He began to teach them many things. 35 And when it was already late, His disciples came up to Him and said, “This place is secluded and it is already late; 36 send them away so that they may go into the surrounding countryside and villages and buy themselves something to eat.” 37 But He answered them, “You give them something to eat!” And they said to Him, “Shall we go and spend two hundred denarii on bread, and give it to them to eat?” 38 But He said to them, “How many loaves do you have? Go look!” And when they found out, they said, “Five, and two fish.” 39 And He ordered them all to recline by groups on the green grass. 40 They reclined in groups of hundreds and fifties. 41 And He took the five loaves and the two fish, and looking up toward heaven, He blessed the food and broke the loaves, and He gave them to the disciples repeatedly to set before them; and He divided the two fish among them all. 42 And they all ate and were satisfied; 43 and they picked up twelve full baskets of the broken pieces of bread, and of the fish. 44 There were five thousand [e]men who ate the loaves.
Most of us know the stories of the feeding of the 5,000 and the feeding of the 4,000 by Jesus in His ministry here on earth. We are impressed by the great miracles Jesus performed on those occasions. But there is much more we can learn from these accounts.
Jesus not only performed feats that benefitted thousands on that day, but He also taught His closest followers a powerful lesson. The lesson came in the form of questions He asked of the men. These questions came as a result of the compassion Jesus had for those who had sat and listened to Him for hours. They also came to the disciples as a challenge.
Today we too can learn some valuable lessons concerning compassion and challenge, and how they motivate us to respond to the needs of others.
First, let’s look at the compassion of Jesus. Perhaps we first need to understand what compassion involves. Compassion can be understood as a yearning for helping someone; or as something which moves us inwardly to act in a particular situation. It is this yearning that we always see Jesus – moved with compassion for the needs of humanity.
He is always considerate. The virtue of being considerate is one that never forgets the details of life. That is, the common things that fill our lives daily.
Jesus looked at the crowd. They had been with Him for three days. The crowd sat, they listened, they were moved by His presence. But now Jesus and His disciples were ready to move on. As Jesus looked at the crowd his thoughts went to the condition of the crown. They had come from far distances to hear Him. They had no cars, busses, trains nor planes to hop into to make the long journey home. They would make that trek on foot. They not only faced a long walk home, but they would also do so without having any nourishment for an extended period of time.
Jesus could have, simply because He is Jesus, called the twelve together and said, “Let’s ship out.” But, of course, that would not be Jesus. He cared about the well-being of His listeners. His concern was about what would happen to them as they traveled homeward.
When Jesus was confronted with a lost soul or a tired body His instinct was to help. Too often our instinct is to not help but consider our own situation as more important than that of one who is in need. It is somewhat human to want to avoid the trouble to get involved in someone else’s life.
While that may be our human instinct, Jesus’ Divine instinct is to be moved with such compassion and pity that we can do nothing else but to help.
And that is the Challenge of Jesus to His followers, and to us 2000 years later. Jesus had pity on the crowd. He wanted to give them something to eat. In their human eyes, they saw a problem with that. They pointed out to Jesus that it was nearly impossible to get any food in the desert place, much less enough to find this multitude of people.
So, then comes the question, “What do you have that you could use to help?” And here is where the Challenge comes in. Jesus’ compassion became a challenge to the disciples.
Jesus was saying to them, “Don’t try to push the responsibility for helping on to someone else. Don’t say that you would help if only you had something to help with. Don’t say that in these circumstances it is impossible to help.” He says, instead, “Take what you have and give it and see what happens.”
One of the most joyous of all the Jewish feasts is the Feast of Purim. It falls on the 14th of March on our calendars and commemorates the deliverances of which the book of Esther tells. Above all, it is a time of giving gifts. And one of its regulations is that no matter how poor a man is, he must seek out someone who is poorer than himself and give him a gift.
Jesus had no time for the spirit of man which waits until all the circumstances are perfect before he thinks of helping. Jesus says, “If you see someone in trouble, help him with what you have. You never know what you may find yourself able to do, or how it may enhance the life of the one helped.
As we look at the two feedings of the multitudes, we see two different, but, at the same time, quite similar situations which prompt two questions from the disciples.
In the feeding of the 5000 as in Mark 6:37 above, they asked, “Why should we feed them?” In the feeding of the 4000 in Mark 8:4, they asked, “How can we feed them?” Do you see the differences in the questions, and what motivates them?
“Why” is the question of a skeptic?
“How” is the question of one who wants to believe and desires to help.
We can become more effective for Christ today if we will accept the challenge before us and ask, “How can I?” instead of “Why should I?”
What we have here is probably all that Jesus needs and asks of us. He says, “Find a real need and fill it.” God only asks that we give Him what we have so that He can show us how He works miracles with our meager resources. What we have to give can never match the size of the need. Only God can fill in the gap.