“I have compassion on the multitude…” –Jesus
In my devotional time this week, I read the story of Jesus feeding the 4000 (found in Matthew 15 and Mark 8). These accounts say that there were 4000 men; with women and children added in, it was likely at least double that number! This enormous crowd of people was with Jesus for THREE days, continually bringing the sick to be healed and delivered, continually listening to His teaching, watching His every move.
I tried putting myself in Jesus’ shoes. After three days of constantly tending to this large flock, being physically exhausted and likely spiritually drained, I would have been impatient for the crowd to just go home and give me a break! But not Jesus. In both passages Jesus says, “I have compassion on the multitude” (Matthew 15:32). He didn’t just feel it in His heart; He SAID it out loud to His disciples, as if to help motivate a compassionate response in them as well. It didn’t work. The disciples skipped right over the “compassion” part and responded with disbelief to Jesus’ stated desire to feed the people. Even after seeing Him feed the 5000 (Matthew 14:21)…calm the storm (Matthew 8:26)…heal every disease and cast out every demon for the past three days…even after all that, their immediate response was, “Where would we ever get enough food for all these people?” Their eyes still weren’t opened to the spiritual economy, and the compassionate heart, of their Master.
It’s easy to sit here and judge the disciples. After all, I’ve just read about all the miracles listed above in the space of two days, and I don’t have a hungry mob of 8000 people staring at me in the middle of the wilderness; so my initial thought is, “Why aren’t you just trusting Jesus in this?”
But then the Holy Spirit reminds me that sometimes I respond in (essentially) the same way they did. When the needs of church/community/family seem overwhelming—especially during these days when fear and scarcity seem to loom around every corner—sometimes my heart is with those disciples. “Lord, send them home! Where will we get the resources in this wilderness to care for all these people?” And in those moments I am silenced by the picture of Jesus, with His heart full of compassion for the needy multitude, and with His hands wide open to bless and multiply God’s provision in stunning abundance.
“In the pursuit of God’s prosperity in your life, it is imperative that you remember these three points: God is your resource, His abundance is for a purpose larger than yourself, and you must depend on Him as the Blesser rather than seek the blessings. Trust Him to supply all you need and beyond at the perfect time.” —Jack Hayford