The Price of Compassion
Dr. Stephen Johnson
Mark 6:33-46
January 12, 2020

Jesus and the disciples were living a hectic life.

After having been sent out to the villages around Nazareth, the disciples rejoin Jesus, where he tells them to “Come away by themselves to a desolate place and rest a while.”

We don’t really know where the disciples go into their boat. But Tiberias is a good guess.

It was about a six hour walk from Nazareth to Tiberias which is on the shore of the Sea of Galilee.

At the beginning of Mark 6 Jesus and the disciples are in Nazareth, and they end up somewhere on the shore of the Sea of Galilee. Tiberius was about the closest spot to catch a boat on the way to the northwest shore of the sea.

Our text tells us (v31) that many were coming and going. So Jesus has them get in a boat to get away and rest.

But...People were on to them.
They ran ahead, anticipating where they were going.
The people arriving before the disciples in their boat.

The disciples (and Jesus) just wanted to get some rest.

It seems the boat was only to give a temporary reprieve.

It is a 3 hour walk from Tiberias to the spot where the boat landed, but apparently it was even longer by boat.

Because the crowd had gathered ahead of them.

Many of us are crowd averse.
My guess is that the disciples were at that time at least somewhat crowd averse.

After all, Jesus had told them to get away by themselves to get some rest.

And there was the crowd.
A great crowd. I think in the minds of the disciples you could spell great either way and it would fit the disciples feelings at that time.

What do you see when you see a great crowd?
What do you feel when you see a great crowd?

When Jesus went ashore he saw the great crowd and had compassion on them.
Jesus saw people who were like sheep without a shepherd.

They were lost.
They were helpless.
They were in danger.

And He had compassion on them.

What happens next gives us a clue to the cost of compassion. It leads to

1. The opportunity to adjust your plans.

There is a lot written about maintaining margin in your life by having strong boundaries.

When Jesus told the disciples to go to a desolate place to rest he was encouraging them to create margin.

So they get into a boat and set out for a desolate place.
It may have been desolate but it wasn’t deserted.
Because a great crowd finds them.

Normally, taking a boat from one point in the shore to another is faster than walking - unless of course you can walk on water, but that comes later in Mark 6!

Perhaps the reason the crowds were able to beat Jesus and the disciples to the place they landed is because the boat ride was an essential part of the margin Jesus was looking for.

Oftentimes the journey is as important as the destination.

It is possible that the disciples were looking forward to some alone time once they got to the shore.

But there on the shore was a great crowd.
A crowd which Jesus looked upon with compassion.

And the price of that compassion was a change of plans.

The slow boat ride gave Jesus and the disciples the margin they needed to allow their plans to be changed.

All too often we have scheduled our lives with so little margin that we are unwilling or unable to look upon others with compassion because it would require us to change our plans.

And changing our plans in response to compassion is a blessing.
It is a little way that we can be more like Christ.

Each week we pray together a little five second prayer.
It may seem a little contrived, but we do it to remind ourselves that part of our mission on earth is to help those in our circle of influence come to know Christ.

Part of our intention when praying that prayer is that God would make us aware of opportunities to share Christ with those around us.

In order to do that we must be willing to see the great crowds with compassion - as sheep without a shepherd.

And then we will not begrudge the change of plans but welcome the change in our plans to fulfill God’s plan!

Notice what happens next in our text:

Jesus takes the time to teach them many things.

Margin in our lives is what allows us to stop what we are doing to teach, to simply talk with others.

Compassion leads to
2. The opportunity to tell people the truth.

“He began to teach them many things.” (34)
We don’t know what Jesus taught that day.

Each of the gospels record the feeding of the 5000.
None of them record what Jesus said that day.

But it doesn’t take a rocket scientist to figure that Jesus expressed the truth in a way which was understandable to his audience.

Throughout his ministry Jesus used various teaching methods.

He told stories. Think about the parables.
He made lists of truths. Think about the beatitudes.
He asked questions. He asked over 100.
He walked with people and talked with them along the way.
These are all things we can do.

And they don’t involve saying, oh good here is a teachable minute.
I’m so glad I took that Sunday School class on how to teach.

Sharing Christ doesn’t demand that we have a copy of the Four Spiritual Laws or The Roman Road.

You just have to take the opportunities compassion gives you to share the truth.

Tell stories.
Ask questions.
Walk with people along the way.

When you have compassion you also

3. You have the opportunity to help people.

When we read this text, we often focus on the actions that happen next.

The feeding of the 5000 -
Jesus takes five loaves of bread and two fish and feeds a multitude.

It is a beautiful story of Jesus showing compassion upon people in need.

Last spring when I went to Israel I had the chance to visit the area where this event took place.

It isn’t in our tradition to venerate locations, but since about the 4th century Christians have built churches across Israel at the sites of various events recorded in scripture.

Since much of the ministry of Christ took place along the shores of the Sea of Galilee, and specifically the area surrounding Capernaum, you get a feel for where Jesus ministered pretty easily.

There is a church on the northwest shore of the sea of Galilee called The Multiplication Church.

It is built over a rock where it is said the Jesus performed this miracle.

From that spot you can see the hill where Jesus is said to have preached the sermon on the mount, and it is a short walk to the beach where Jesus met the disciples after the resurrection and grilled fish for them.

It is a small area which you can walk in a day.

Takes about an hour to walk from the Mount of Beatitudes to the site of the feeding of the 5000

about 2.5 miles

It is about a 30 minute walk to Capernaum 1.5 miles

It is a compact area and even today, although filled with banana farms and loads of buses, it is somewhat desolate.
There is no Taco Bell, no McDonalds, and Ali’s Restaurant, the nearest place to pick up a serving of St. Peter’s fish is an hour and 25 minute walk in the other direction.

The people were hungry and there was not place for them to eat.

So Jesus fed them.
Out of his compassion he met their need.

Compassion will do that to you. It will give you the opportunity to help people.

Now, I know that we are unlikely to take 5 fish and 2 loaves of bread and feed a multitude.

But you know what? We are also unlikely to be preaching to 5000 people in a desolate place.

The people for whom we pray our 5 second prayer ar individuals. With individual needs.
Needs which we can often meet.

Those of you reading through the Bible using one of the plans in the foyer will have read from the book of Job this week.

After he has suffered great loss and been physically afflicted his three friends come to him.

Now, there is not a lot that the three guys do which I would recommend, but it is fascinating to me that when they first come to him, all they do is sit with him in silence. For seven days.
It seems to me that Job needed that silence more than he needed their advice!

When we look upon someone with compassion, maybe it will mean that we will feed them.
Maybe we will just sit with them in silence.

But if we really see people with the eyes of compassion we will have the opportunity to help them.
Because compassion will lead us to look for ways to care for the needs of those around us.

Another quick lesson from those five fish and two loaves of bread.

When compassion moves us, use what is at hand to help those at hand.

The final lesson from the compassion of Jesus.

Compassion gives you:

4. The opportunity to pray for people.- 45-46

Before Jesus met the crowd on that desolate shore, he was taking his disciples to away to rest.

After allowing his plans to be changed in light of compassion and feeding the 5000, Jesus tells his disciples to get back in the boat and travel to Bethsaida, where he will meet them.

And Jesus goes up on a mountain to pray.

We are going to look at this particular incident - what happens to the disciples on that boat ride - in a couple of weeks.
But for now we want to notice what Jesus does.

He prays.

Prayer is now and always has been a normal Christian response to seeing those around us with compassion.

The problem for many of us is that we have faltered in our prayer life.

Whereas it used to be standard for a church to have a weekly prayer meeting, through the years attendance has dropped so much that most churches have eliminated them.

I’m happy to say that we still have a prayer meeting, held each Sunday evening.

Now, you don’t have to attend it.
The idea of a prayer meeting isn’t mandated in scripture.

But the idea of prayer is.

If you see someone in need and you say you will pray for them, then do it.

You may not be able to address the needs of those around you but you know someone who can.

And even he felt the need to pray.

Compassion gives you the opportunity to pray knowledgeably for those in your circle of influence.


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