Splagchnzomai (Feeding the Five Thousand)


When Jesus landed and saw a large crowd, he had compassion on them, because they were like sheep without a shepherd. So he began teaching them many things.
Mark 6:34

This huge group of people met Jesus and the disciples as their boat landed on the shore of Galilee. They had come a long way in order to get some rest (Mark 6:31) following the twelve’s first mission (Mark 6:7-13).

Jesus didn’t send them away, he didn’t moan and groan. We’re told simply that he had compassion on them, immediately.
As soon as the Lord laid eyes on this crowd he had compassion on them because the were like sheep without a shepherd.
This is the only one of Jesus miracles to be recorded in all four Gospels. Something about this event so moved each of the four writers that each was led to include it.

Of all the miracles recorded in the Gospels, no other is so public. Some only the disciples witnessed, other times there were crowds but the subject of the work was an individual. 5000 is the number quoted, but then this only counts the men. There were probably in excess of 12,000 people; men, women and children not only present but present as recipients of Jesus compassion and soon to be recipients of God’s grace.

The original Greek work translated ‘Compassion’ is frankly unpronounceable (splagchnzomai), but the meaning it conveys is strong; a yearning in the bowels, to pity or have sympathy for. It’s a deep feeling that causes real physical discomfort.
When we see people around us with the same needs as these whom the Lord had compassion on what do we feel? How do we see these people who are in need of a shepherd? Are we ambivalent? Are our hearts cold? Do we feel anger and frustration at them? Do we feel pity, sympathy even love? A desire that the Lord might lead them to Himself? But do we feel it to the point that it affects us physically? Are we moved to our very bowels with love and compassion for the people to whom we are called to witness?

Jesus did, and even as His thoughts turned towards his own rest he considered first the needs of these people who came to Him. Never once considering sending them away with nothing.

This group of people had left in a hurry, just dropping whatever they were doing in order just to be where the Lord was, in the hope of seeing, hearing or experiencing something wonderful from him and they were not to be disappointed.

When we come to the Lord in prayer or in worship, when we leave everything else behind and truly open our hearts with only Him in our mind then we too will experience the compassion of God.

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