The Compassion of Jesus

Today’s Reading: Matthew 14:1-33; Mark 6:14-52; Luke 9:7-17; John 6:1-15

“Give as freely as you have received” – (Matthew 10:8b).

After giving these instructions to his disciples, Jesus received some heartbreaking news. Herod Antipas, the ruler of Galilee, had promised the daughter of his favorite wife anything she wanted because she performed a dance that greatly pleased him. She chose the head of John the Baptist on a tray. Pressured by the fact that he had made this vow in front of all of his guests who were waiting for his answer, Herod ordered her wish to come true and John the Baptist was beheaded.

As soon as Jesus heard the news, he left in a boat to a remote area to be alone… – Matthew14:13a

Can you imagine how Jesus must have felt when he heard of the death of his cousin? The man whose purpose in life was to prepare the way for him had just been killed in a brutal and dishonoring way. Jesus, feeling the same emotions any of us would have felt, retreated to an area where he could grieve alone. He had spent so many days reaching out to others and taking care of the needs of many but now it was time for him to take care of his own needs. Or was it?

But the crowds heard where he was headed and followed on foot from many towns. Jesus saw the huge crowd as he stepped from the boat, and he had compassion on them and healed their sick. – Matthew 14:13b-14

Having more compassion for others than he had love for himself, Jesus reached out to others in response to their reaching out to him. This is who Jesus was and this is who Jesus is today. When we reach out to him, he responds to us. Jesus responds to our needs with compassion, which is exactly what he did next.

That evening the disciples came to him and said, “This is a remote place, and it’s already getting late. Send the crowds away so they can go to the villages and buy food for themselves.” – Matthew 14:15

This is your chance, Jesus! It’s getting late and the crowd is getting hungry. This is the perfect opportunity for us to lose this crowd and have some alone time.

But Jesus said, “That isn’t necessary – you feed them.”
“But we have only five loaves of bread and two fish!” they answered.
“Bring them here,” he said. Then he told the people to sit down on the grass. Jesus took the five loaves and two fish, looked up from heaven, and blessed them. Then, breaking the loaves into pieces, he gave the bread to the disciples, who distributed it to the people. They all ate as much as they wanted, and afterward, the disciples picked up twelve baskets of leftovers. About 5000 men were fed that day, in addition to all the women and children!
– Matthew 14:16-21

Instead of sending the people away, Jesus invited them to sit and allow him to supply their needs. He broke bread and they ate as much as they wanted. The great love of our Savior was displayed that day. At a time when tradition and human reasoning both gave him a reason to pull inward and enter a time of grieving, Jesus had compassion on others and thought more of their needs than his own. What a great example for us today. But now the crowds have been fed and Jesus can spend some time alone with his Father – not just apart from the crowds but even apart from his disciples.

Immediately after this, Jesus insisted his disciples get into the boat and cross to the other side of the lake, while he sent the people home. After sending them home, he went up into the hills by himself to pray. Night fell while he was there alone.

Meanwhile, the disciples were in trouble far away from land, for a strong wind had risen, and they were fighting heavy waves. About three o’clock in the morning Jesus came toward them, walking on the water. When the disciples saw him walking on the water, they were terrified. In their fear, they cried out, “It’s a ghost!”

But Jesus spoke to them at once, “Don’t be afraid,” he said. “Take courage. I am here!”

Then Peter called out to him, “Lord, if it’s really you, tell me to come to you, walking on the water.”

“Yes, come,” Jesus said.

So Peter went over to the side of the boat and walked on the water toward Jesus. But when he saw the strong wind and the waves, he was terrified and began to sink. “Save me, Lord!” he shouted.

Jesus immediately reached out and grabbed him, “You have so little faith,” Jesus said. “Why did you doubt me?” – Matthew 14:22-31

Jesus took time to be alone with God but did not turn away from the needs of others. Don’t get me wrong. I strongly believe in taking time to grieve, I strongly believe in spending time alone in God’s presence. God calls us to this. But He also calls us to walk away from that time filled with Him in such a way that we are ready to care more about others than we do about ourselves. Ouch! This is not always easy to do.

Lord, thank you for the compassion you daily show on your people. You are a God who supplies our needs and meets us at our time of crisis with the words, “Don’t be afraid. Take courage. I am here!” Only you know what lies before us this week. As we fill ourselves with Your presence, please go with us. Give us eyes to see and ears to hear the needs of others around us. May we focus on you and in doing so see others, rather than focusing on our own needs. In your power, may we experience the kind of faith that has us walking on water – believing that you will supply our needs so that we can turn our eyes off our own situation and see the opportunities around us. Amen.