I enjoy Open Table. When we share the meal and time together as brothers and sisters in Christ on Thursdays at Cityview for our community meal I get really excited about what Jesus is doing in our lives. Plus we have really good food! This week we prepared ourselves for the Lord’s Supper by reflecting on the compassion of Jesus. Its really a bit surprising. Our cultural disposition is quite accusatory towards those who preach. But when it came to compassion that’s exactly what Jesus did.
You see compassion is to be moved toward another person by the reality of their condition. In this case Jesus arrived on the other side of the lake with his tired and hungry disciples seeking a quiet place. But instead of quiet they found a crowd. Jesus “saw the large crowd and had compassion on them because they were sheep without a shepherd. So he began teaching them many things.”
Obviously Jesus was an entertaining teacher; he taught through the day and past dinner. But more than that was going on. He recognized that the most desperate hunger of the crowd’s souls could only be met by truth, by Him, by the good news of His Kingdom. So he taught them. The truth could set them free. Now before you shut Jesus and the church off, see what happens next in the account from Mark.
The disciples, probably being really hungry themselves, recognized that the crowds of people where in a desperate situation for food. They were away from the towns and villages and the families that had spent the day with Jesus were now very hungry. The Disciples wanted Jesus to send them away. This is not compassion. The disciples were not moved toward the people. Rather, once they recognized the condition of the crowd, the disciples wanted to be done with them. I love what happened next.
Jesus told the disciples to feed the crowd. When they protested that it would cost eight months of wages, Jesus told them to see “what they had.” In other words Jesus told them go find out what this community had. When they came back with five loaves and two fish, Jesus took this community offering and fed them all. They collected twelve baskets of leftovers. Now that’s hard to believe. And in case you are wondering the disciples had a hard time accepting Jesus’ authority of nature as well. Just notice that even within the next twelve hours they were astonished that Jesus had this kind of authority.
My observations here are about the compassion of Jesus. 1. He was moved towards people because of their condition: their interior world was lacking truth, specifically the truth about Him and the Kingdom; so, he taught them. 2. He was moved towards people because of their condition the physical reality of hunger; so, he had his disciples gather what was already present in the community and share it beyond what one would have thought possible.
I believe Jesus was nurturing the spiritual motives necessary for His disciples to be a movement: Complete trust and dependence in Him and compassion for the lost. If we are to join Jesus in His work we must ask the Holy Spirit to nurture these motives in us. Otherwise, we will keep our mouths shut in a culture that is suspect of truth proclamations and we will run away from people whose needs exceed what we have in our pockets. Two aspects of our ministry of the gospel of the Kingdom that must be held together tightly: proclamation of the Gospel of Jesus’ grace and the sharing of our community’s resources in the name, power, and character of Jesus. Clearly Glenn Beck is not the first to struggle with Jesus’ ability to hold these two realities together, nor will he be the last.