READ : Mark 6:30-44
And he had compassion for them. (v. 34)
Jesus’ apostles had just gathered after a grueling road trip. They needed some rest.
Jesus sensed this and invited them to a deserted place to relax and recover. But the
crowds were relentless and discovered their secret hideaway. As Jesus and his disciples
were landing their boats at the supposedly secluded place of retreat, there was a large
crowd already awaiting them. Jesus, Mark tells us, saw this great crowd and “he had
compassion for them, because they were like sheep without a shepherd.”
My friend Paul keeps sheep and occasionally I do chores with him on his farm. I quickly
learned that sheep are not very smart. They desperately need a shepherd – someone to
make sure they are safe and well cared for. Jesus’ simile is not very flattering, perhaps,
but it is a telling analogy.
What’s most striking in this story is Jesus’ response to the crowd: he had compassion
on them. In Greek the word translated “have compassion” means to feel empathy for another
person – from your bowels, your guts. It means to care even when it is late and you are
dog-tired. What does it look like for you and for me to be people of compassion in our
God of steadfast love, fill us with your compassion for all those in need, and
by your Holy Spirit enable us to act as people of compassion.