We are working through the gospel of Mark, we are seeking to grow in the knowledge of Jesus.
Specifically we are seeking to grow in the knowledge of Jesus in the context of relationship.
The gospels are written to reveal Jesus in a way that invites us into a living relationship with the living Jesus.
In every relationship there is inevitably a gap between our perception of another person and the reality that is that person. A good relationship involves an ever increasing alignment between perception and reality.
Of all our relationships, our connection with Christ is unique in that we cannot see him. We do not hear his voice. So where does our knowledge come from?
As we walk through the journey of life with Jesus, where do our thoughts about what he is like come from?
Our sense of what Jesus is like and how he feels about us are shaped by a variety of factors:
Our relationships with our parents. How did our fathers respond when we experienced pain? How did our mothers respond to our mistakes? Were our parents present and engaged? Were they dependable and consistent?
Our relationships with authority figures. What kind of attention or affection, if any, did I receive from authority figures?
Our church environment. Underneath the surface of language, what did the culture of our church environment teach us about Jesus?
Our invisible enemy. Underneath it all, there is an invisible force seeking to poison our hearts against our creator. Constantly whispering, suggesting, accusing.
It is very possible for these factors to combine to form an image of Christ in our minds that is very far from the reality.
What do you think? How close is your perception of Jesus to the real thing?
There is only one tool God has given us to give us an accurate understanding of Jesus – the eternal Word of God. In the Bible we have an unerring revelation of the character and nature of God in the face of Christ.
It is absolutely vital for us to hold firmly to that Revelation and continually seek a solid understanding of Jesus in the revealed Word.
Today we are going to do that in the book of Mark:1-10.
This account probably sounds familiar to you. Just a few weeks ago, in Mark 6, we saw a very similar story of a large crowd and a miraculous multiplication of bread and fish.
Why is that? Why the repetition?
We are not given an explicit answer, but we can make some educated guesses.
First of all, we see the importance of repetition made clear in the Scriptures.
Finally, my brothers, rejoice in the Lord. To write the same things to you is no trouble to me and is safe for you.
Therefore I intend always to remind you of these qualities, though you know them and are established in the truth that you have.
2 Peter 1:12
Every parent knows the necessity of repetition. We humans are often dense. We can be slow to pick up a lesson. The disciples certainly fit that description.
Only through repeated teaching and demonstration to we really gain understanding. It would take years for the disciples to learn that when Jesus is around you will never lack provision. It would take years for them to learn to reach beyond their limitations, knowing that Jesus can fill in the gap and provide grace for the need.
We can also make an educated guess by comparing and contrasting these two stories.
Both events involve…
- Great crowds
- An explicit reference to the compassion of Jesus
- Jesus sat them down & prayed
- Jesus directed the disciples to set food out
- They ate and were satisfied
- Jesus dispersed the crowd
- Followed by lessons for the disciples
- Disciples initiated
- 5 loaves, 2 fish
- Jewish crowd
- 5000 men (plus women and kids?)
- 12 Baskets of leftovers
- Jesus initiated
- 7 loaves and a few fish
- Gentile crowd
- 4000 people
- 7 Baskets of leftovers
I want to first consider in the similarities the explicit references to the compassion of Jesus.
Although the emotional life of Jesus is more than evident in the gospels, the outright descriptions of his emotions are relatively few.
Emotions of Jesus . . .
- Anger 1x Mark 3:5 (and maybe one more in Mark 11:15-18)
- Indignant 1x Mark 10:14
- Sorrow 1x Mark 14:34
- Weeping 2x John 11:35, Luke 19:41
- Joy 1x Luke 10:21
- Love 3x Mark 10:21, John 11:5, John 13:1 (Is this emotion?)
- Compassion 6x Mk 1:41, 6:34, 8:2, 14:14, Mt 20:34, Lu 7:13
There are also two parables that use the word compassion to describe the emotional passion behind the kingdom of God.
Here’s what I learn from this study: compassion is far and away the most dominant expression of the character of Christ expressed in the Scriptures.
What does that say to you?
The word compassion comes from the Greek root for the inmost parts. It is a movement, a twisting of the inward parts. It is the physical manifestation of an emotional attachment to another person’s well-being. It is the pain that flows from the suffering person to another person which then becomes their own. It is a pain that cannot be alleviated until the suffering of another is alleviated.
Compassion sees. Compassion understands. Compassion feels. Compassion gets involved.
Friends, this is Jesus.
Consider the journey of your life. Consider your troubles, your disappointments, your grief, your heartache.
At each step, Jesus was there.
He saw. He understood. He felt. He was involved.
That’s who he is.
You may say, “you say Jesus was there, pastor, so why didn’t he do anything?”
That’s an important question.
First of all, can we ever say whether or not God was present and at work or not? Surely our human perception is far too limited to make that kind of judgment.
The Scriptures reveal a God whose thoughts and plans are far higher than our own. God is writing a story so vast, it is impossible for us to grasp the significance of any individual circumstance.
We can’t understand what we are experiencing in any chapter of our lives until the last chapter is written.
So often, God doesn’t give us answers for our experience. But He does give us clarity about the big picture.
He is compassionate. He is capable. He is wise. Everything works together for our good and his glory.
Why did my father die a shameful death instead of turning his life to Christ? Why didn’t God answer my prayers for him?
I don’t know.
I do know that through my pain I gained understanding and compassion for the pain of others. I gained a comfort from God which has become a resource for me to share with others who grieve.
Through my suffering, the amount of compassion in the world has multiplied.
Whatever your feelings tell you, whatever your intuition says, Scripture is absolutely clear: Jesus is compassionate.
He sees. He understands. He feels. He gets involved.
In the comparison of Mark 6 and Mark 8, we see the compassion of Jesus underlined and highlighted. The compassion of Jesus, so clearly jutting out of these accounts gives us a firm handle to hold onto.
In every moment, in every circumstance of our lives Jesus is there and he is compassionate.
There is another lesson about Jesus in the contrast of these accounts.
The first event took place in a Jewish area, demonstrating that Jesus cares for the Jewish people. Through Jesus there is bread enough and more for all 12 tribes of Israel. (remember the 12 extra baskets?)
The second event took palace in the Greek region of the Decapolis. Here Jesus demonstrated the incredible fact that his compassion is not limited to the tribes of Israel. He cares for the gentiles as well. Through Jesus there is bread enough and more for the whole world. (7 left over baskets, symbolizes fullness and completion)
The compassion of Jesus knows no borders.
The heart of Jesus knows no border lines, there is no Jew or Gentile, male or female, republican or democrat, Russian or Ukrainian.
The compassion of Jesus knows no limits.
He see, he cares and he is capable. He can turn a meal for twelve into a meal for thousands. Jesus can change everything in a moment.
There is no circumstance that exists apart from the wonder working power of Jesus. There is nothing in your life that Jesus couldn’t change in the blink of an eye with the supernatural power of heaven.
The compassion of Jesus knows no end.
Here in the Decapolis Jesus broke the bread of barley to feed the bodies of thousands.
Later, outside of the walls of Jerusalem, Jesus would demonstrate the extent of his compassion by breaking the bread of his body to feed the souls of countless millions.
It should have been us on the cross. It should have been my body breaking and my blood spilling for my endless sin.
But the divine one couldn’t stand by and watch, his inmost parts twisted and burned inside him and he made the greatest provision of all – the perfect sacrifice, the perfect substitute.
Come to Jesus, my friends.
You have all seen a small child, troubled by some sorrow or another, seeking refuge and comfort in the arms of a compassionate parent.
Come and lean into the comforting arms of Jesus.
Tom Brown is the planting pastor of Vintage Faith Church in Wichita. Tom and his wife, Mandy, have worked together in ministry for 18 years and have four children. More about Pastor Tom Brown