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Matthew 14:14

“When he went ashore he saw a great crowd, and he had compassion on them and healed their sick.”

As Jesus ministered in Galilee, His name and His works began to gain publicity in the region. As He shared teachings and performed miracles, He started to have a huge following - even to the point of having crowds of people tailing behind Him. People acknowledged His wisdom, power, and authority - and this did not play well with the opposition. As Jesus’s popularity increased, the opposition’s hostility towards Him increased as well. The opposition was coming from two fronts: political and religious. On one hand, there were those who saw Jesus as a threat to Herod’s leadership. And on the other hand, there were those who saw Jesus as a threat to the Pharisees’ position. Facing threats from the opposition, we begin to see Jesus shift from a public ministry to a more “private” ministry - focusing primarily on the twelve disciples who he would task to build the church.

Having this context about Jesus’s ministry, we now look at Matthew 14. After Jesus had heard from his disciples that John the Baptist had been beheaded by Herod and that Herod believed that Jesus was John risen from the dead, Jesus withdrew by boat from Capernaum in Galilee and went to a desolate place by Himself. Seeing the imminent danger that would fall upon Him and His disciples if they went to Galilee, Jesus decides to go to a private place with His disciples where He sought a time of quiet. But when the people heard of this, they followed Him on foot from the towns. In John 6:2, referring to this very same story, John tells us that the people followed Jesus because they saw His signs and miracles. The people were after Him, not exactly because of their devotion to Him, but because they were drawn to the impressive miracles. Sadly, these people were missing out on the very reason why they had to follow Christ. In their very midst was the very Son of God whom they are commanded to love and worship with all their hearts, and yet their hearts were far from Him. And yet, despite their condition, we see an amazing thing: Jesus had compassion on them.

Jesus was so moved with compassion in His heart that He drew near to these lost people. He went forth from that desolate place to go before them. He set aside His time of quiet and time of fellowship with His disciples to tend to the needs of the people who traveled by foot to ask for His healing to come upon them. And standing before them, He healed their sick and taught them about the things of God.

As we zoom into this part of the narrative, it is amazing to think that Christ, who was so invested in the grand plan of redemption which He came to accomplish is also equally invested in the needs of those who come to Him. Christ, in His compassion, is drawn in His very heart, to the needy who come to Him. And in His compassion, He cannot and will not turn away from those who seek Him. Christ, in His transcendent glory, is also abundantly compassionate. Christ, in His exalted position, is willing to welcome and embrace the lost and the needy.

After Christ had healed and taught the people and evening was fast approaching, the disciples came to Him and asked Him to send the people away that they may go to into the villages and buy food for themselves. But Jesus tells them that they need not send the people away and instructs them to feed the people. Now, the only food that the disciples could find was two pieces of fish and five loaves of bread, and before them were about five thousand people. The disciples did not know how they were going to feed the five thousand given their limited resources. But Christ tells them to give Him the two fish and five loaves of bread. And after instructing the people to sit down on the grass, He took the food and looked up to heaven to say a blessing, and then broke the loaves and gave it to the disciples. The disciples then distributed the food to the crowd, and all five thousand ate and were satisfied. What kind of compassion did Christ display to these needy people? It was a compassion that would satisfy and fill their very need.

Dear believer, what does the compassion of Christ tell you about the heart of Christ? The compassion of Christ displays that Christ in His very heart, is drawn to those in need. He cannot turn away those who come to Him in need of Him. To turn away from those who seek Him would be a contradiction to His gentle and lowly heart. And His compassion is not one that cannot address or fully meet our needs. As Christ displays His compassion towards us, we will also see that He is able to satisfy and fill our every need. We will also realize that despite our numerous needs, Christ is still our greatest need and Christ alone can fill us with Himself.

May the truth about the compassion of Christ encourage us to draw near to Him.

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