March 24, 2020
"I have compassion for the crowd, for they have been with me now for three days and have nothing to eat" (Mark 8:2). If you search through the Gospels for the word "compassion," you'll notice that the word is used almost exclusively to describe one person: Jesus. Nowhere else in the Gospels is another person said to "have compassion," yet Jesus has compassion for hungry crowds, for blind men (Matthew 20:34), for a woman who had lost her son (Luke 7:13), and for those who were "harassed and helpless, like sheep without a shepherd" (Matthew 9:36). There seems to be a lesson here: No one else shows compassion like Jesus. As we sing in a beloved hymn, "Jesus thou art all compassion, pure, unbounded love thou art."
Yet in today's Gospel passage from Mark 8, Jesus extends his compassion to the crowd through his followers. Seeing the hungry crowd, Jesus takes the food his disciples have, blesses it, and multiplies it, giving it to his disciples to distribute to the crowd. Jesus remains the source of compassion, but that compassion spreads through his disciples to those who need it. This is good news for us in multiple ways. For those of us who identify with the hungry crowd, the gospel is that Jesus sees our needs and he's sending his servants to show his love. Others of us might feel like the disciples who ask, "How can one feed these people with bread here in this desert?" (8:4). Resources seem scarce and the needs seem endless, especially given the current state of our world. But the good news is that Jesus has unlimited resources, unlimited compassion, and unlimited love. When we think our supplies are short, we can turn to him and ask him to multiply what we have. As we pray together for our needs and those of the world this week, let us ask Jesus to pour out the compassion that only he can give.
Grace and Peace,
P.S. Remember that in this season when we can't gather physically, I'll be hosting an online Midday Prayer service at 12:15 on Wednesdays. Join us tomorrow using Zoom by clicking here.