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Compassion Compels Change (Matthew 15:32-39)

Posted by Pastor Chris Manivannan on

Our Best Thought is a weekly devotional thoughtfully penned by leaders in DUMC arising from their daily devotions. The devotional’s title, “Our Best Thought” is taken from the hymn, “Be Thou My Vision” as a reference to God: “Thou my best thought, by day or by night.” Publishes on Sundays.


Scripture:

Then Jesus called his disciples to him and said, “I have compassion on the crowd because they have been with me now three days and have nothing to eat. And I am unwilling to send them away hungry, lest they faint on the way.”

And the disciples said to him, “Where are we to get enough bread in such a desolate place to feed so great a crowd?” And Jesus said to them, “How many loaves do you have?” They said, “Seven, and a few small fish.”

And directing the crowd to sit down on the ground, he took the seven loaves and the fish, and having given thanks he broke them and gave them to the disciples, and the disciples gave them to the crowds. And they all ate and were satisfied. And they took up seven baskets full of the broken pieces left over. Those who ate were four thousand men, besides women and children. And after sending away the crowds, he got into the boat and went to the region of Magadan.

Matthew 15:32-39 (ESV)

Observation:

The context of the above passage is found in the three verses before (vv. 29-31). Here was Jesus, the miracle worker, performing his miracles bringing healing and deliverance to all who came to him. All were healed, and the people praised God for experiencing miracles in their lives. We now move our emphasis to the end of the 'miracle rally':

“Then Jesus called his disciples to him and said, I have compassion on the crowd (emphasis mine) because they have been with me now three days and have nothing to eat. And I am unwilling to send them away hungry, lest they faint on the way.”

Compassion compelled Jesus to do something about the situation. In the previous chapter, we have the account of Jesus feeding the five thousand at Bethsaida by the Sea of Galilee, where the crowd were mostly Jews.

Here, however, the crowd comprised Jews and Gentiles (Mark 7: 31), and gives the location of the event as having occurred in “the region of Tyre and went through Sidon to the Sea of Galilee, in the region of the Decapolis.” Jesus was now in Gentile territory and yet He, a Jew, brought healing and deliverance to them all without regard of creed and colour.

Jesus understood the culture of His days, that you never sent home on an empty stomach those who spent their time with you. In those days, people took a long time to reach their homes as they had to walk. I recall during my short missionary trip to Nepal, that every time after the church service, the church offers a free meal to all their parishioners before they head home.

Feeling compassion is not good enough—it must be accompanied with action. Action to bring relief and comfort to the situation and in this instance to fill the hunger of all and without exception. Jesus did not say to the disciples that we only feed the old and those who are staying more than three miles away and He did not say that we will feed only our people, the Jews. Here Jesus gave thanks and the disciples distributed the bread and fish to the crowd — everyone.

“And they [crowd] all ate and were satisfied. And they took up seven baskets full of the broken pieces left over. Those who ate were four thousand men, besides women and children.”

vv. 37-38

There is no segregation nor quota in Jesus’s compassion. He was moved to provide for all without creed, colour and religion just to bring relief and comfort.

Application:

This is powerful demonstration of Jesus’s compassion worthy of reflection. He brought relieve through a simple meal to satisfy the hunger of the people so that they can go home without fainting along the way.

There was another miracle—Jesus knew the Father’s heart, for the Father felt the same compassion to the lost and all who have sinned against him. Feeling compassion for the world moved the Father to send His “one and only Son, Jesus Christ to the ultimate sacrifice for the sins of all peoples in the past, present and future, so that by putting our trust in Jesus Christ we will have eternal life. As for the crowds, all were satisfied and there were “seven baskets full of the broken pieces left over.” This is the reflection of God’s abundant grace. However there is one condition, while the bread and fish is there, only those who choose to eat will be filled.

In the similar way, those would accept the compassion of the Father by receiving His Son, Jesus Christ as their Saviour will experience the amazing overflow of God’s grace in their lives and inherit eternal life. When we eat the fill of Jesus, we will not be the same anymore. For the crowd, they can go home with their stomach filled and talk about the wondrous work of Jesus in their life. As for us, when we choose to accept the “Miracle Worker”, Jesus Christ into our hearts because of God the Father having compassion on us [sinners], we now not only experience forgiveness, we also inherit the Kingdom of God in all its glory and perfection.

Response:

Oh Heavenly Father, thank you for Your great compassion that it compels You to intervene in all of our lives for our good. And most of all, we thank You for giving us Your Son, Jesus Christ as our Lord and Saviour. Amen.


Pastor Chris Manivannan leads Forerunners, DUMC's weekly prayer altar. 

Our Best Thought is a weekly devotional that follows DUMC's Bible Reading Plan. Posts on Sundays.