Someone Here Has Compassion
Rev. Kurt Lantz Trinity 7 Mark 8:1-9
July 23, 2023 Resurrection Lutheran Church St. Catharines, ON
Dear disciples of Jesus,
Grace to you and peace from God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ.
Jesus has compassion. He mentioned it frequently. He has compassion on people who are herded around this way and that by secular philosophies so that they they are harassed like sheep without a shepherd (Matthew 9:36). He had compassion for people who were sick and He healed them and cast out the demons that oppressed them (Matthew 14:14). He had compassion on people who were blind (Matthew 20:34), and on lepers (Mark 1:41) whose chronic conditions made life just about impossible.
Little children, do you know what compassion is? When you have compassion for someone, it means that you feel sad because they feel sad about something and you want to help them. You feel sad with them, and you want to take their suffering away, not just so that you don’t feel sad anymore, but so that they don’t feel sad anymore. Jesus has compassion for people who feel sad. It makes Him feel sad, too, and He wants to help so that you don’t feel sad anymore.
We might feel sad for people who are sick or lost or who cannot do the things that most people are able to do. When we see someone who is sad, we might become sad, too. That is compassion. When we see someone cry, we might start crying too. That is compassion. Even if we are not sick, when we feel sad for people who are sick, sometimes it causes an ugly feeling in our stomach. That is compassion.
In today’s Gospel reading we heard Jesus say, “I have compassion on the crowd because they have been with Me three days and have nothing to eat” (Mark 8:2). Jesus knows what it is like to feel hungry. That is an amazing concept to wrap your head around, right there. God knows what is like to be hungry. He knows what you are feeling when you are hungry and mom and dad forgot to bring an apple. He knows how when we are hungry it becomes harder to be happy, to sit still, and to concentrate on what we are being taught.
Jesus had compassion on the crowd of people because they had been listening to Him preach the Word of God for three days and they had run out of snacks. Three days is a lot longer than a thirteen minute sermon. But Jesus felt sad for them that they were hungry, so hungry that they might not make it home safely, not being able to concentrate on where they were going or not having enough energy for their tired legs to carry them.
Jesus especially had compassion for them because they had been listening carefully to what He was teaching them. They had treated the Word of God as more important than food. Just like Jesus Himself said when He was in the wilderness for forty days being tempted by the devil. “Man shall not live by bread alone, but by every Word that comes from the mouth of God” (Matthew 4:4). The people in the crowd listening to every Word that came from the mouth of Jesus were hungry for food, but they were more hungry for God’s good news, so they endured the uncomfortable feeling in their stomachs in order to hear more and more and more of God’s promises to save them from their sins and to live with them forever.
When we feel pain in our lives then we have a hunger not just for food, but for some good news, especially good news about healing for those who are sick, refreshment for those who are tired, direction for those who are lost, forgiveness for those who are troubled by their sins, restoration for those who are ashamed, eternal life for those who face death; God’s Word feeds us when our souls are hungry for these things.
And God is compassionate to know what we feel and to want us to feel better, to be forgiven, healed, restored. He has done something about all of that in sending His Son, Jesus, to be our Saviour from sin, death, and hell. Jesus suffered the effects of our sins in His own body. The eternal, divine, Son of God did not just experience hunger in His stomach, and the anguish of compassion in His gut, but also the punishment and penalty for each and every sin of everyone in the whole world. He took our infirmities in His own body and He bore all of our sins in His own body on the cross. He died in anguish, out of compassion, in order to free us from our pains and sorrows of body and soul.
Jesus has compassion for your whole being. No matter how you may be suffering, Jesus has compassion for you. It makes Him sad to see you suffer physically, emotionally, mentally, spiritually, in any way. He has compassion and has done something for you in order to deliver you from it all.
Sometimes in our suffering we don’t know where to look for help. We might want to help someone but not know how, or not have the resources to do what needs to be done. We cannot cure cancers. We cannot feed the world. Jesus’ disciples also felt helpless and useless about the hungry crowd. They said to Jesus, “How can one feed these people with bread here in this desolate place?” (Mark 8:4).
Now, we just heard a couple of weeks ago how Jesus filled Simon Peter’s fishing net so full that two boats could not hold the number of fish Jesus miraculously provided (Luke 5:1-11). Why didn’t they think of that? In fact, Jesus had also fed more people with less bread, too (Mark 6). Why could they not remember? When we are in the hour of deepest need, we don’t always know where to look for help. In fact we have a hymn that helps to point us in the right direction. It is number 615 (Lutheran Service Book).
When in the hour of deepest need We know not where to look for aid;
When days and nights of anxious thought No help our council yet have brought.
Then is our comfort this alone That we may meet before Your throne;
To You, O faithful God, we cry For rescue in our misery.
For You have promised, Lord, to heed Your children’s cries in time of need
Through Him whose name alone is great, Our Savior and our advocate.
Just like the disciples we need to be reminded to look to Jesus. They asked, “How can one feed these people with bread here in this desolate place?” Well, no one can, except one. And that One was right there with them in that desolate place. Jesus could do it. He did it for more people with less. He did it with bread as well as fish. And in His compassion, Jesus did not just turn away and say, “Well, if you think it cannot be done, then forget about it.” His compassion would not allow Him to do that. “He took the seven loaves, and having given thanks, he broke them and gave them to His disciples to set before the people” (Mark 8:6).
And they saw again what Jesus, the eternal divine Son of God could do in His compassion for the people. As they had seen a miraculous catch of fish; as they had seen 5000 people fed with five loaves and two fish, so they saw Jesus in compassion care for the hungry people who had come from far to hear His Word for three days.
With seven loaves and a few fish He fed the 4000 people there and had far more left over than ever before. It has been estimated that with the type of basket mentioned in this account (not hand baskets, but the same kind of basket used to smuggle Paul out of the city of Damascus (Act 9:25)) from the seven loaves Jesus blessed there may have been the equivalent of pieces from 350 loaves leftover after the 4000 people ate. It would have gone well with the overabundance of wine that He provided in His compassion at the wedding in Cana (John 2:1-11).
It is beyond our comprehension, not just how majestic and powerful Jesus is in regard to the created elements of this world and His ability to create and multiply in such staggering abundance, but it is also beyond our comprehension just how compassionate Jesus is in that after preaching for three days to the people who were so spiritually hungry, He was just as concerned for their physical hunger and met that need in equal abundance.
For Jesus feeds our hungering souls with superabundance in the good news that He preaches through His Word. Our souls find more than enough to satiate their desire for forgiveness, restoration, peace, hope, and joy, in the words of the Gospel. This divine, eternal, and compassionate Son of God has taken on our human nature fully and completely to have full and complete compassion for us.
Our suffering causes Him to suffer. In His compassion He took our suffering upon Himself. In His compassion He suffers with us. In His compassion He suffered for us. In His compassion He suffered the anguish of death upon the cross and the wrath of God against the sins of the whole world. For three days He lay in the tomb of death, in order that we might be filled by the preaching of the Gospel of forgiveness, life, and salvation in Him.
Are you getting hungry yet? You may have been sitting there hungry for more than thirteen minutes, now. You may have been sitting there hungry for more than three days or three years as your suffering of body or soul has been gnawing away at you. What shall we do in this your hour of deepest need? God has heard our cries through our compassionate Saviour and advocate. And in His compassion He has supplied more than enough to appease your hunger.
“How can one feed these people here in this desolate place?” He has given you the same word that He preached to the hungry crowd. And, on the night when He was betrayed, “as they were eating, He took bread, and after blessing it, broke it and gave it to them, and said, ‘Take; this is My body’” (Mark 14:22). This bread in which Jesus compassionately gives to you His body sacrificed upon the cross for all of your sins, fills your need. He forgives you for your lack of compassion toward others in need. And He heals your body and soul for an everlasting life with Him.
This compassion of Jesus, which He shows toward all people, desiring all people to be saved and to come to the knowledge of the truth, is given to you here in this place, no matter how desolate it may seem. The compassionate Jesus is here in the preaching of His Word and in His body and blood given to hungry bodies and souls. May it stir in us such divine compassion that we not only suffer with those who suffer, but cry out on their behalf to the One who can provide what they need, and may indeed provide it by our very hand.
The peace of God, which passes all understanding, keep your hearts and minds in Christ Jesus.