Bible Society of South Africa

Absolutely Alive: Clothed in compassion - 19 July 2024

By Louise Gevers

Bible text(s)

Jesus Feeds Another Great Crowd

32Jesus called his disciples to him and said, “I feel sorry for these people, because they have been with me for three days and now have nothing to eat. I don't want to send them away without feeding them, for they might faint on their way home.”

Matthew 15:32GNBOpen in Bible reader

“As long as we live on this earth, our lives as Christians must be marked by compassion”, wrote Henri Nouwen, doubtless thinking of how compassion was palpable in Jesus’ life, the hallmark of everything he did. We understand why he wrote this: compassion is true love in action, the kind that 1 Corinthians 13 speaks about. Wherever Jesus went, it was his compassion for human suffering that made the difference, as he whole-heartedly set about healing and setting free individuals with problems of body, mind or spirit.

He chose disciples from all walks of life to accompany him – even the one who would betray him – and when he looked into the crowds, he didn’t see a faceless mass – but each person was an individual to him, with their own need. Jesus always reached out to meet that need in the person who came to him, despite the social, religious or political barriers, his spirit flowing from him so powerfully that the woman, who came up behind him and, in faith, touched his garment, was healed.

In the verse today, Jesus was on a mountainside ministering to “great crowds” who “came to him, bringing the lame, the blind, the crippled, the mute, and many others, and laid them at his feet; and he healed them”, causing ripples of wonder, excitement and, finally, praise to erupt as “they praised the God of Israel.” (Matthew 15:30) Jesus hadn’t been daunted in any way by the amount he’d had to do, and give out, to meet their needs.

Human suffering and need triggered Jesus’ compassion, and his actions always mirrored his Father’s heart as he cared for these vulnerable people, all the while revealing to them and the disciples God’s own compassion at work in our needy world and emphasising the importance of a “heart of flesh” (Ezekiel 36:26) to accomplish his work.

Isn’t it surprising that after being there three days – when the disciples thought they’d finished – that Jesus identified another need and called them together to feed the people? Their food had finished, and Jesus didn’t want them to go home hungry and risk “collapse on the way”.

The true Shepherd, after teaching and healing them, showed that he also cared about their physical hunger. From seven loaves “and a few small fish” (Matthew 15:35) he fed “four thousand men – not counting the women and children” – and “they all ate and were satisfied”, leaving the disciples to collect up “seven basketfuls of broken pieces that were left over.” (Matthew 15:37)

Jesus sent away a transformed crowd! Do we have compassion that changes hearts and lives?

Believers, hear Paul’s words: “Therefore, as God’s chosen people, holy and dearly loved, clothe yourselves with compassion, kindness, humility, gentleness and patience.” (Colossians 3:12) Let’s make a difference.

Prayer: Lord Jesus, your goodness surpasses our understanding. Help me to see people through your eyes and reach out to them with your compassion that you may transform their lives. Amen

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