Compassionately Driven - For You

Text:  Matthew 14:13-21

Grace and peace to you from God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ.  Amen.

The disciples were faced with a large dilemma.  There were over 5,000 people gathered around Jesus.  To be precise, there was probably more like 15,000 people due to the scriptures only counting the men and not the women and children.  These 15,000 people though were growing hungry as implied by our text today.  You see, the crowds of people were in a desolate place where there was no food.  No vending machines.  No concession stands.  Furthermore, it was getting dark and once the darkness of night would fall upon them, it would be difficult for them to be excused to find shelter and more importantly food.  Therefore, the disciples felt a sense of responsibility to the people and their welfare, which led them to come to Jesus insisting that the people be excused so that they could make their way into the villages for food and shelter.  Yes, from a human and commonsense perspective, this indeed makes sense.  It would have made sense for Jesus and the disciples to stand up and say, “That is all there is for today folks.  We will see you tomorrow.  It is time for you to go home now and get a bite to eat.”  Problem solved.  Crisis avoided. 

This all seems like a logical conclusion to dismiss the people; however, the disciples are faced with yet another dilemma.  That dilemma is that Jesus doesn’t live and operate within the boundaries of what the sensible thing is to do.  In a word, the disciples’ dilemma of hungry people is met with Jesus’ compassion.  You see, Jesus went out to this deserted place after He received the news of the death of John the Baptist.  This place was desolate; however, in spite of His best efforts to withdraw by Himself from public activity, the people followed Jesus out to this desolate place.  Among the people were many sick that were transported to where Jesus was.  Thus, Jesus did not want to dismiss them for He had compassion on them; His heart was moved at the sight of the crowd that had followed Him.  They need not go away.  They must stay with Jesus, for the Gospel of Mark states that they were like a sheep without a shepherd. Yes, they needed to stay with Jesus for He was the good shepherd and they were needy people who could not help themselves.  Indeed, many of them were physically sick and ‘all’ of them were spiritually sick.  They were strength-less people who had been transported into this distant uninhabited place.

What of their hunger though? 

Well, as you heard, Jesus simply tells the disciples to give them something to eat. 

But what will they eat?

Keep in mind that they were in an isolated place.  Taco Bell was not open ‘til 11:00 PM and there was not a 24 hour Seven-Eleven. This said, the disciples did have a few resources at their disposal though.  They had two fish and five loaves of bread.  That is approximately two to three bags worth of groceries; only enough to feed one family and possibly two if one distributed the food frugally.  Therefore, should the disciples take the scales out, divide the food up into15,000 equal bite sized portions?  Should they just distribute the food to those that were in real need?    


Rather than the people returning back to their homes to acquire food or going hungry, Jesus has the means to take care of them Himself.  Otherwise stated, He takes what is limited—the five loaves and two fish—and then tells the crowd to sit on the grass.  After blessing the food, Jesus then distributes the food.  Miraculously the food is multiplied and these helpless, strength-less, and hungry people are fed by a tremendous bounty of food.  They are filled.  The Lord made 15,000 stomachs full and over 12 baskets of food were left over. 

Do you see what is happening in our Gospel reading?  I am sure some of those who ate the meal from Jesus got it, while others probably didn’t get it until later on.  Did you though pick up on what happened?  Take a moment and consider what happened at this miracle.  Jesus said that the people were like a sheep without a shepherd.  They are sitting on green grass next to water.  Does not today’s event of Jesus feeding the 5,000 plus people on the green grass, next to still waters, remind you of Psalm 23?  “As the 5,000 and more went home, pondering what had happened, the light was to go on. 

‘Hey, that Jesus, He is something else.  Green pastures, still waters, food when there was none, and us all sitting down in families around Him just like our forefathers around the tabernacle.  He is the one, the Messiah, the Shepherd of Israel.”[1] He is the one Messiah who is compassionate to sheep like us, we who don’t have a shepherd.

Yes, Jesus was the Good Shepherd that was spoken of in the Old Testament, He was and is the compassionate Shepherd-Messiah who indeed serves His sheep and suffers with them.  This miracle not only served the physical needs of the people, but served as an event to reveal, verify, and testify that He is the Son of God.  These miracles are intended to grant faith to the people of the story and grant faith to you and me right here and right now in the twenty-first-century. 

This Gospel reading from today clearly shows and reveals to you and me the character of the Christ by not only showing us that He is the Messiah and that the miracle points to His divinity, but that He really is compassionate.  Yes, we can clearly see that He healed the sick and filled the stomachs of the hungry because He is compassionate and “through him the Father shows his compassion.”[2]  Truly, the Gospel reading testifies and reveals to us that Jesus is compassionate towards sinful mankind.  However, this compassion is not merely limited to this story in the New Testament and these specific people in the New Testament.  Rather, this disposition of compassion is a pattern that emerges in the Gospels and is a disposition that has lasting and present ramifications for you and me right here and right now.  You see, for one to be compassionate or to have compassion they are moved in the seat of their affections.  They are moved in their emotions and actions because they suffer with another.  To be compassionate is to feel another person’s pain and emotion, and to be filled with tenderness towards another suffering individual.  Otherwise stated, the way that the Messiah, Jesus Christ, looks at mankind is so much different than the way we look at creation.  Where we see a burden and suffering people and attempt to dismiss these troubled ones like the disciples saying, “Please just go home;” Jesus though swells with compassion and reaches out. There are other times where we do feel compassion for a neighbor who is strength-less and needy, but then we find that our compassion is limited to mere sympathetic feelings due to our inability to physically fix or remedy their predicament.  Jesus’ compassion though for sinful, sick, helpless, and strength-less mankind is so much more than just a sentimental feeling; rather, His compassion drives Him to do things.  Jesus’ compassion drives Him to heal, provide, and sustain.  This compassion drives Christ to restore everything that is broken, warped, wrong, and dying due to sin. This compassion drives Christ to not only feed the hungry, heal the sick, give sight to the blind, but also go to Calvary for people like you and me who hunger and thirst for righteousness; people like you and me who are damned and dying in the desolation of sin.  Yes, the same compassion for the people that drove Jesus to heal and multiply fish and bread is the same compassion that drove Christ to the cross to redeem mankind from sin, death, and the devil.

This compassion not only results in the historic events of the life, death, burial and resurrection of Christ for the whole world, but this compassion extends to you here in this church, Zion Lutheran Church.  In other words, it is true that at Calvary’s cross Jesus died for the sins of the world; mankind and creation did not receive what is due, but rather the words, “It is finished.”  Like a river from Calvary’s Cross, the Lord’s compassion come to you in this church.  Like the endless and multiplying bread and fish, there is no shortage of forgiveness and grace for you.  As Jesus fed the 5,000 plus individuals through His clueless disciples by having them pass out the bread and fish to the crowd, Jesus still gives His gifts to sinners so that they may share them with other sinners.  Let me explain.  “At the beginning of the service, you confess your sins before God and each other.  Then, even though I am just as much a sinner as any of you, I still forgive your sins with the forgiveness that Jesus Christ has given to me.  As I stand here in this pulpit, I am simply one sinner telling other sinners about Christ’s salvation.  [I am one beggar pointing other beggars where the warm bread it.  I am one beggar distributing the warm bread in the stead and by the command of my Lord Jesus Christ.]  Furthermore, as I consecrate the bread and the wine of the sacrament, I am a sinner who relies on Christ’s promise to take up residence in the bread and wine with His body and blood for the forgiveness of your sins.  Just as the multiplying of the fish and loaves had nothing to do with the disciples who delivered the meal to the crowds, so also the source of forgiveness, life, and salvation has nothing to do with the pastor.  Instead, it all depends on Jesus”[3]—for you. 

Yes, this compassion of Christ extended to the people of our Gospel reading and drove Jesus to the cross.  But it still keeps coming; His compassion extends to you not with bread and fish but with Water, Words, Bread, and Wine.  Like that unending, limitless, multiplying bread and fish, this grace of God is anew for you each and every Sunday from this church, your church that you are a baptized member of. 

Baptized saints, you are washed in the name of the Triune God, absolved by the Word, and fed by the body and blood of the Lord—for the forgiveness of your sins.  Like the multiplying bread and fish, this grace continually comes to you for the Lord is full of compassion and abounding in steadfast love to you. 

Yes you are people who are in a desolate place, but take comfort dear sheep, for the Good Shepherd has compassion on you and for you. 

The peace of God, which passes all understanding, keep your hearts and minds in Christ Jesus.  Amen.

[1] Norman Nagel, Selected Sermons of Norman Nagel: From Valparaiso to St. Louis (St. Louis, MO: Concordia Publishing House, 2004),  192.

[2] Jeffrey Gibbs, Matthew 11:2-20:34: Concordia Commentary Series (St. Louis, MO: Concordia Publishing House, 2010), 749.

[3] James T. Batchelor, “Eighth Sunday after Pentecost Sermon at Good Shepherd Lutheran Church, Hoopeston, IL” (2 August 2014).

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