Monday, September 8, 2008

Jesus Provides pt. 2

The retreat would have to wait. Evidently, Jesus and His Apostles did not depart as privately as they thought. The enthusiastic crowds spied the cohort loading onto the boat, and they ran along the shoreline to where the boat was headed. The wind must have been against the boat, and the sea may have been a little contrary. Whatever the case may be, a god number of people advanced onto the retreat place, and more were arriving so that that thousands were in the scene. Instead of slipping away to a solitary place, the Lord and His men simply changed venues. It is here that we clearly see, as if we hadn’t already in Mark’s Gospel, that Jesus is filled with compasstionate care for people.

Mark says:
And Jesus, when he came out, saw much people, and was moved with compassion toward them, because they were as sheep not having a shepherd: and he began to teach them many things.
The wonderful nature and disposition of the Lord is here displayed. Some people (read: me) would be more than a little put out that their planned retreat had been crashed by several thousand people. After all, Christ and His men had already poured a tremendous amount of time and emotional equity into these people. They had ministered to so many for so long that they had not even eaten (v. 31; also 3:20).

It would have been perfectly reasonable and understandable for Jesus to say, “We’re not available at the moment.” In His humanity Jesus was just as physically and emotionally fatigued as the others. He was just as hungry as were they. His disciples were also in serious need of a little respite, but the crowds simply would not relent. So when Jesus stepped out of the boat and into yet another massive multitude, instead of a quiet deserted place, He was not moved with indignation. He was not perturbed at the people. He was “moved with compassion.” In the Greek that phrase is “splagchnizomai”, an intense verb meaning “to be moved as to one's bowels.” “The bowels?” you ask. Yes, the bowels, because they were thought to be the seat of love and pity. Just like we use the heart as the focal point of deep yearning, passion, and compassion. We’re talking about something that affects you not only physiologically and psychologically. Jesus looked out onto the colossal crowd and was stirred to the very core of His being.

Jesus looked at these people and didn’t see party crashers. He didn’t see intruders. He saw sheep with no shepherd. The funny thing is the people may have in fact looked like sheep to Jesus. Mark tells us that the area was covered with green grass (v. 39), and considering that much of Middle Eastern garb is lightly colored, they may have conjured up an image of thousands of sheep aimlessly wandering about a meadow. Whether or not it did we can't say with certainty, but we may be certain about this: He viewed them as sheep in desperate need of the Shepherd’s care.

They were shepherdless sheep, but they were supposed to have shepherds. There were priests and teachers of the law, but they had failed to nourish them. There was King Herod. He should have shepherded the people; instead he fleeced the sheep, indulging his own lusts and pride at the expense of his subjects.

Not so with Jesus. He is the Good Shepherd who gives His life for the sheep (John 10:10). Jesus is the Shepherd who leaves the 99 sheep to seek out the one who is lost, and when He finds it He lays it on His shoulders rejoicing (Luke 15:4-5). Therefore, it is no surprise that Jesus looked out on this vast throng of people and saw sheep in need of a Shepherd, because He had, (and has!) a shepherd’s heart. Christ cares for the souls of men. He is willing to save them, and invites them to believe and be saved. It is because of this that we read the fantastic phrase at the end of v. 34b: “and he began to teach them many things.”

What are shepherdless sheep? They are bewildered, beleaguered, stressed, harassed, famished, and lost. The Good Shepherd looked out onto that crowd and He knew the hearts of each individual. He knew the families that were experiencing tragedy. He knew the married couples that were at odds with one another. He knew the individuals who were struggling in some other aspect of life. Just as He knows the hearts, minds, struggles, and sins of each individual who is reading this post (as well as those who aren't).

How did the Good Shepherd meet the many and the differing needs of the sheep? It wasn’t by prescribing medicine…psychoanalysis…monetary subsidies…a myriad of church programs or a massage. He sought to meet their divergent and desperate needs by teaching them many things.

What?! Teaching the Bible?! What good is that? Why was Jesus teaching them?
Many people ask the same thing when they encounter churches where the Bible is expositionally taught. “My marriage is dissolving and you’re waxing eloquent about Jesus feeding the 5,000. Thanks for nothing!” What relevance is there in teaching God’s Word? I’ll let King David answer. He said:
The law of the LORD [is] perfect, converting the soul: the testimony of the LORD [is] sure, making wise the simple. The statutes of the LORD [are] right, rejoicing the heart: the commandment of the LORD [is] pure, enlightening the eyes. The fear of the LORD is clean, enduring for ever: the judgments of the LORD [are] true [and] righteous altogether. More to be desired [are they] than gold, yea, than much fine gold: sweeter also than honey and the honeycomb. Moreover by them is thy servant warned: [and] in keeping of them [there] is great reward. (Psalm 19:7-11)
The only thing of any temporal and eternal value that we have to give to people is the Word of God. The only way to truly serve people is to proclaim and perform God’s Word; apart from it we have nothing of any value to say or do.

Jesus taught them many things. He taught them that He restores sight to the blind, hearing to the deaf, and speech to the mute. He restores dead daughters and sons to their parents. He commands disease and demons to depart. He called (and calls) people to repent and believe the Gospel, because the time is fulfilled and the Kingdom of God is at hand.

Why? Because Jesus cares.

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