How do you see people in need? If I am honest I often view people in need as an inconvenience to be dealt with rather than as people made in God’s image, people God calls me to serve in Jesus’ name. After all, most of us are so busy and preoccupied with our own list of things we need to accomplish that we have a hard time finding the time or the emotional energy necessary to do everything in our power to serve others.
In Mark 6:30-44, the disciples are understandably worn out. They have just returned to Jesus after completing a ministry trip and Jesus recognizes their need for rest. So, they get in a boat and travel to a desolate place, but rather than finding a place of respite from the demands of ministry, they are greeted by throngs of needy people. But, when Jesus sees them He is not annoyed by their presence or disappointed that He and the disciples will not be able to enjoy some much-needed rest and relaxation. Instead, Mark tells us that Jesus had compassion for the people because they were like sheep without shepherd. This is standard Old Testament language used to describe the situation God’s people face without faithful leaders. Jesus is moved by the plight of the the people and He decides to do something about their struggles. Rather than send them away to fend for themselves as the disciples suggest, Jesus challenges the disciples to feed them. The disciples do not have the food necessary to feed the multitude, but Jesus instructs them to bring what they have to Him and Jesus takes their inadequate resources and multiplies them so that the people are satisfied and there is even plenty leftover.
Are you usually more like the disciples or Jesus when faced with people in need? Are you filled with compassion that moves you to do something no matter how small–or do you send people away to fend for themselves? Ask God to give you a heart of compassion for the people God puts in your path.
Mark 6:30-56 (ESV):
30 The apostles returned to Jesus and told him all that they had done and taught. 31 And he said to them, “Come away by yourselves to a desolate place and rest a while.” For many were coming and going, and they had no leisure even to eat. 32 And they went away in the boat to a desolate place by themselves. 33 Now many saw them going and recognized them, and they ran there on foot from all the towns and got there ahead of them. 34 When he went ashore he saw a great crowd, and he had compassion on them, because they were like sheep without a shepherd. And he began to teach them many things. 35 And when it grew late, his disciples came to him and said, “This is a desolate place, and the hour is now late. 36 Send them away to go into the surrounding countryside and villages and buy themselves something to eat.” 37 But he answered them, “You give them something to eat.” And they said to him, “Shall we go and buy two hundred denarii worth of bread and give it to them to eat?” 38 And he said to them, “How many loaves do you have? Go and see.” And when they had found out, they said, “Five, and two fish.”39 Then he commanded them all to sit down in groups on the green grass. 40 So they sat down in groups, by hundreds and by fifties. 41 And taking the five loaves and the two fish, he looked up to heaven and said a blessing and broke the loaves and gave them to the disciples to set before the people. And he divided the two fish among them all. 42 And they all ate and were satisfied. 43 And they took up twelve baskets full of broken pieces and of the fish. 44 And those who ate the loaves were five thousand men.
45 Immediately he made his disciples get into the boat and go before him to the other side, to Bethsaida, while he dismissed the crowd. 46 And after he had taken leave of them, he went up on the mountain to pray.47 And when evening came, the boat was out on the sea, and he was alone on the land. 48 And he saw that they were making headway painfully, for the wind was against them. And about the fourth watch of the night he came to them, walking on the sea. He meant to pass by them, 49 but when they saw him walking on the sea they thought it was a ghost, and cried out, 50 for they all saw him and were terrified. But immediately he spoke to them and said, “Take heart; it is I. Do not be afraid.” 51 And he got into the boat with them, and the wind ceased. And they were utterly astounded, 52 for they did not understand about the loaves, but their hearts were hardened.
53 When they had crossed over, they came to land at Gennesaret and moored to the shore. 54 And when they got out of the boat, the people immediately recognized him 55 and ran about the whole region and began to bring the sick people on their beds to wherever they heard he was. 56 And wherever he came, in villages, cities, or countryside, they laid the sick in the marketplaces and implored him that they might touch even the fringe of his garment. And as many as touched it were made well.