Compassion for the Faithful
Bearing a Cross, but Not Forgotten
Mark 8:1–9 (CSB)
8 In those days there was again a large crowd, and they had nothing to eat. He called the disciples and said to them, 2 “I have compassion on the crowd, because they’ve already stayed with me three days and have nothing to eat. 3 If I send them home hungry, they will collapse on the way, and some of them have come a long distance.”
4 His disciples answered him, “Where can anyone get enough bread here in this desolate place to feed these people?”
5 “How many loaves do you have?” he asked them.
“Seven,” they said. 6 He commanded the crowd to sit down on the ground. Taking the seven loaves, he gave thanks, broke them, and gave them to his disciples to set before the people. So they served them to the crowd. 7 They also had a few small fish, and after he had blessed them, he said these were to be served as well. 8 They ate and were satisfied. Then they collected seven large baskets of leftover pieces. 9 About four thousand were there. He dismissed them.
Dear fellow redeemed, I expect that you have heard of Jesus feeding the 5000, and now here we have the feeding of the 4000. Both Mark and Matthew were led by the Holy Spirit to include both events in their books of the good news about Jesus our Savior, so, it must be that there is something different between them.
Several things were different – the location, the amount to time, the response of the disciples, and even the size of basket used. The one thing that I am going to focus on, however, is in verse two of our text, 2 “I have compassion on the crowd, because they’ve already stayed with me three days and have nothing to eat. While both miracles show the divinity of Christ and his power to provide for us, this feeding of the four thousand shows the devotion of these people to Christ and His word while Christ compassionately provided for their needs. This is just what Jesus taught in “But seek first the kingdom of God and his righteousness, and all these things will be provided for you.” (Matthew 6:33, CSB)
PUTTING CHRIST FIRST, EVERYTHING FOLLOWS
- The Example of the Crowds
- Our Situation
- The Compassion of Christ in All Things
- The Example of the Crowds
And that is what the crowds of people were doing, putting Christ first and everything else after. For three days they had been following Jesus away from the towns and villages. Presumably many had set out carrying supplies; probably they shared, but they were so dedicated that they stayed with Jesus for three days until they ran out of food and had nothing to eat. They were in danger of collapsing on the long way home.
Jesus had come into this area that was mixed Jews and gentiles with Jews in the minority. He had been teaching the people and had been healing the sick; Mark mentions the healing of a deaf-mute. These people followed Jesus because He had something they needed and wanted to hear.
What did Jesus have to offer that would cause such an effort? Nothing less than everlasting life. What do we have in our day to compare and to give us perspective? Nothing less than everlasting life.
This is what Jesus is revealing.
When Jesus came to announce the defeat of death and sin He showed that victory not only by His perfect life, but by His destruction of the effects of death and sin. He healed the sick, made the blind see, the lame walk, the deaf hear, as Isaiah said, “Then the eyes of the blind will be opened, and the ears of the deaf unstopped. Then the lame will leap like a deer, and the tongue of the mute will sing for joy, for water will gush in the wilderness, and streams in the desert;” (Isaiah 35:5–6, CSB)
These things were right there, immediate, in the healing hands of the Savior. And they are there for you too, if not this instant. Remember the words of Peter when the disciples were asked if they would leave Jesus, “Simon Peter answered, “Lord, to whom will we go? You have the words of eternal life.” (John 6:68, CSB)
Are you willing to follow Jesus into privation, hunger, and poverty, in faith trusting Him to rescue you at last?
2. Our Situation
Our situation is like these people in that we have life through Christ’s word. It remains to be seen how much we must depend upon him.
So, to start, a simple quiz:
How can we hope for heaven? Jesus lived a righteous life for us, and bore our sins for us to reconcile us to God.
How does Jesus give us forgiveness, life, and salvation? Through the gospel in His word and sacraments.
How do we receive these gifts? By faith. Mark 16:16, Whosoever believes and is baptized shall be saved.
How are we kept in the faith so that we do not fall away? If you abide in my word, then you are my disciples indeed (John 8:31)
Over and over again Jesus connects our perseverance in the faith with faithfulness in hearing and studying His word. Over and over again Jesus connects falling away from the faith with neglect of His word. This leads to the simple question, “Is saving faith, is God’s word, important enough that you will go out of your way to live in it?” Would you go hungry for it? Would you give up time for it?
Many people make teeny individual decisions that gradually divorce them from the word. If you go hiking next week instead of hearing the word that doesn’t mean you neglect the word. If you read the Bible three times a week instead of seven, that doesn’t extinguish faith. But little by little by little a thousand choices can lead to neglect until finally, as Jesus says, Luke 8:14 , [there are those who hear the word for a while,] but as they go on their way they are choked by life’s worries, riches and pleasures, and they do not mature.
“As for the seed that fell among thorns, these are the ones who, when they have heard, go on their way and are choked with worries, riches, and pleasures of life, and produce no mature fruit.” (Luke 8:14, CSB)
They are lost.
So look at those people who followed Jesus into the wilderness to hear him. They put Him first. I think you can figure out what that means in our lives. We make the choice all the time to get the things done that need to be done, and so we put aside the less important things.
And we don’t have to give up much! A couple of ours for the word and sacrament each week. You can get devotions in your daily email. There are reading plans to read through the Bible in a year, putting in fifteen minutes to a half hour a day. You can get CD’s or tapes so someone can read it to you.
I can’t tell you how much time to spend with God’s word. If it is important to you, it will be part of your life. If it isn’t important to you it won’t be. If it is important to you, you will not neglect it. If it isn’t important to you, then you will neglect it. The fact that you hare hear means it is important to you. The important thing is that as your life situations change, you don’t let the worries, riches and pleasures affect you so that they come first instead. Then we won’t see you anymore.
The crowds gave up days at a time and went hungry. Heroes of the faith have sacrificed more: In China, Christians are being forced to renounce the faith and replace Christian symbols with images of Xi Jinping or lose all their income, over which the state has control. They are forced to replace the prince of life with one of the greatest mass murderers in human history.
In Portland, one of our church members was called into HR because he didn’t have a badge affirming transgenderism. Will our livelihoods soon depend upon mouthing the right party line?
3. The Compassion of Christ in All Things
The important thing from this text is to realize that our Lord will not desert us in such circumstances.
See His compassion: “… [Jesus] called the disciples and said to them, “I have compassion on the crowd, because they’ve already stayed with me three days and have nothing to eat. If I send them home hungry, they will collapse on the way, and some of them have come a long distance.”
Taking the seven loaves, he gave thanks, broke them, and gave them to his disciples to set before the people. So they served them to the crowd. They also had a few small fish, and after he had blessed them, he said these were to be served as well. They ate and were satisfied. Then they collected seven large baskets of leftover pieces. About four thousand were there. He dismissed them.” (Mark 8:1–9, CSB)
Just looking at this example, I couldn’t promise you that you will do OK when you give up things for the sake of the word. After all, this is just one occasion. The fact is, though, that Jesus tells us this is just one occasion in which He shows His limitless compassion. Just a couple of chapters earlier He says, (again) “But seek first the kingdom of God and his righteousness, and all these things will be provided for you.” (Matthew 6:33, CSB)
We don’t have it bad compared to so many others, yet many Christians, dealing with their worries and charmed by the riches and pleasures of life have neglected the word. They have fallen away from the faith. They no longer teach their children nor witness the saving truth to others. They have fallen away into unbelief.
Will you go with them? Or will you answer with Peter, “Simon Peter answered, “Lord, to whom will we go? You have the words of eternal life.” (John 6:68, CSB)
Seek Christs words, and His kingdom, and Jesus will take care of you. Forever.