The Compassion of JesusDaily Reflection / Produced by The High Calling
Then Jesus called his disciples and told them, "I feel sorry for these people. They have been here with me for three days, and they have nothing left to eat. I don’t want to send them away hungry, or they will faint along the way."
A few days ago we read the story of the feeding of the 5,000. Today we come upon a similar narrative in which Jesus multiplies bread and fish to feed 4,000 men (plus many women and children).
One of the unique features in this story is the description of Jesus' motivation for feeding the crowd. According to the New Living Translation (2nd ed), Jesus said "I feel sorry for these people" (v. 32). The original Greek text uses a verb that means "to have compassion." We might paraphrase, "My heart is moved for these people." (Ironically, the Greek verb is based on the word for the intestines, which was thought to be the seat of emotions. The heart was a place of thinking and willing.)
On a literal level, Jesus felt compassion for the crowds because they were hungry. But what this story illustrates goes beyond the literal. It helps us to envision the compassion Jesus has for all who are needy, including us. We may not suffer from actual hunger, but we do have a yearning for God. Even when we know God through Christ, we still ache to know God more deeply. We seek his presence, his power, his peace.
QUESTIONS FOR REFLECTION: Have you ever experienced God's compassion for you? When? Does it sometimes seem as if God doesn't care about you? In times when God feels distant, what helps you to have confidence in his love?
PRAYER: Dear Lord, what an encouragement it is to know that you have compassion for people. There are times, I must confess, when it seems as if you're far away from me and don't care. But this story from Matthew reminds me of the truth, that you feel compassion for me when I hurt, when I'm lost and struggling to find you. Thank you, Lord.
Even as you have compassion for the needy, help me to do the same. When my heart is hard, may your Spirit bring tenderness. When I fail to see the needs of people, give me your eyes. May I feel genuine compassion today for the people around me. Then may I act out my heart of love for them, just like you did . . . and still do. Amen.
A P.S. from Mark
Immediately after I finished writing this Daily Reflection, I checked my email. I got a note about a man who is struggling physically and facing yet another surgery. I don't really know this man, though we've spoken on the phone once. But, by God's grace, I my heart was moved by his condition, and by the Spirit. So I called him up. We had a warm conversation and then I closed by praying for him. Thanks be to God for answering my prayer for a more compassionate heart!