August 27, 2020 NCM: Day 2 Caring for Large Numbers of People
Updated: Sep 9, 2020
* From Seven Days of Compassion: A Devotion Nazarene Compassion Ministries.
"In those days when there was again a great crowd without anything to eat, he called his disciples and said to them, “I have compassion for the crowd, because they have been with me now for three days and have nothing to eat. If I send them away hungry to their homes, they will faint on the way—and some of them have come from a great distance.” His disciples replied, “How can one feed these people with bread here in the desert?” He asked them, “How many loaves do you have?” They said, “Seven.” Then he ordered the crowd to sit down on the ground; and he took the seven loaves, and after giving thanks he broke them and gave them to his disciples to distribute; and they distributed them to the crowd. They had also a few small fish; and after blessing them, he ordered that these too should be distributed. They ate and were filled; and they took up the broken pieces left over, seven baskets full. Now there were about four thousand people. And he sent them away. And immediately he got into the boat with his disciples and went to the district of Dalmanutha." Mark 8:1-10 (NRSV)
It is easy to become dismayed, or even paralyzed, by large numbers. Caring for the 700 million people who live in extreme poverty globally sounds like an impossible task. Trying to provide food for the 795 million people in our world who don’t have enough to eat seems futile. Providing safety for the 65 million people in our world who have been forcibly displaced from their homes seems like an unattainable goal.
A crowd of thousands must have looked intimidating to the disciples as well. They questioned how it would be possible to feed so many people with so few resources. But Jesus had a different response. Jesus had compassion for the crowd. Compassion means to suffer with. In Scripture, Jesus’ compassion is described as a response that comes from the gut. Jesus identified with the people He met and intimately knew their hurts. His connection with their suffering led Him to action.
In the book Compassion, Henri Nouwen, Donald McNeill, and Douglas Morrison describe it this way: “Compassion asks us to go where it hurts, to enter into places of pain, to share in brokenness, fear, confusion, and anguish. Compassion challenges us to cry out with those in misery, to mourn with those who are lonely, to weep with those in tears. Compassion requires us to be weak with the weak, vulnerable with the vulnerable, and powerless with the powerless. Compassion means full immersion in the condition of being human.”
Jesus was the incarnate God, the Word made flesh, God’s compassionate love dwelling among people. Now, as the church we are called as the Body of Christ to continue to show God’s compassionate love to broken and hurting people in a broken and hurting world.
Compassionate God, You came to live among Your people and to suffer with us in our pain. May we recognize that when one part of the Body suffers, we all suffer. Give us courage to respond with Your compassionate love to each person we meet and to be moved to action when we see needs. Amen.
• Open your home to share meals with friends. Invite neighbors you might not know well, or consider hosting a refugee family who is seeking safety and stability.
• Reach out to someone in your community who feels lonely or overwhelmed— perhaps a widow or widower, a single parent, or the parent of a child with disabilities.
• Pray for people living in areas without access to safe water and sanitation, that God would provide a way for comprehensive WASH (water, sanitation, and hygiene) programs.
• Host a prayer service where you lift up local and global needs, cultivating a culture of compassion in your church. Ask what God can do with the resources you have, even if they don’t seem like enough.