In his book, Just Like Jesus, author Max Lucado invites us to consider what could happen if the heart of Jesus became our heart. Let’s think together for a moment or so about this please. Jesus’ heart…in us! Our heart gets the day off and every thought, motive, action, decision, interaction with others, words, etc. would be generated by the heart of Jesus. How different would our priorities, our decisions and our behavior be if they were determined by Jesus’ heart and not by ours? How would we feel? Would others notice a change? What sort of effect would it have on our stress level? In Ephesians 4:23-24 Paul writes: “you were taught to be made new in your hearts, to become a new person. That new person is made to be like God—made to be truly good and holy.” (NCV).
This is the basis of our series of messages for the next few weeks as we prepare for Lent and ponder just how would Jesus love and how does he empower and expect us to love like he does? Last week, Mylicia reminded us that Jesus loves us by forgiving the sinner. How well do we forgive those who “sin” against us? Today let’s consider that Jesus loves us by compassionately breaking bread with us.
Our scripture lesson today is a segway of two major stories that converge together. In five short verses, Mark reveals Jesus’ love for people. First, Jesus had sent the disciples out two by two without food, money or shelter telling them to rely upon the hospitality of the people they ministered to in the surrounding villages. Jesus gave them authority to preach, to cast out demons and to heal the sick. He also told them to leave any place where they were not welcomed. So, as they returned from their excursions, a great crowd also came and surrounded them. Jesus invited the disciples to get into a boat and go somewhere quieter and more private so that they could talk. But the crowd ran ahead of them and as Jesus stepped ashore, he looked around at all the people who had come, and Mark tells us that he had “compassion” on them because they were like sheep without a shepherd. It broke Jesus’ heart which leads to the second major story: the feeding of the 5,000.
Jesus had compassion on them. This word is more than pity. Compassion is love in action that motivates us to go out of our way to help another in need; it involves allowing ourselves to be so moved by another’s suffering that we take action to help alleviate and prevent it. Paul begins 2 Corinthians with these words: “Praise be to the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of compassion and the God of all comfort, who comforts us in all our troubles, so we can comfort those in any trouble with the comfort we received from God.”
A church newsletter contained the following headline: 10 Rules For Dealing With The Blues: Go and do something for someone else and repeat it nine times! For a disciple of Jesus Christ, compassion is best defined as one wounded human, helping another wounded human because we care about them and love them because God loves and cares about them regardless of how they look, act, dress or even worship. Compassion is THE heart of Jesus at work in us loving another in and through their pain, struggle and plight with no other motive than to bring the love of God into their situation because we experienced, and we continue to experience that same compassion from our Lord Jesus Christ every day.
Mother Theresa was once asked if she ever became angry at the causes of social injustices that she saw in India and in other places she had visited. She responded, “Why should I expend energy in anger that I can expend in love?”
I worry for our current world situation that seems to think less with compassion and more with judgment. And I am guilty of this too. That is not to say that we eliminate our judging of sin and circumstances in the world. That too is needed for holiness and justice. But there is a deep tension between compassion and justice inviting us to step out of our comfort zones and enter into the pain in the world. See your Mission Possible flyer in the bulletin.
This is what Jesus saw that day on the banks of the Sea of Galilee: people who were lost, misguided and shepherd-less. What Jesus saw that day only motivated him to love deeper, act compassionately and teach stronger what it means to be his disciple: to love with the love only God provides: agape’ love. A self-giving, self-emptying, perfect love that gives fully and expects nothing in return.
So, if we were to read the next few verses in Mark’s Gospel, we would discover that Jesus – our Great Shepherd, compassionately loved the people that day by providing a miraculous meal for thousands! That miracle is reported in all four Gospels as it points to the deep compassionate love that Jesus has for the lost, the helpless, the misguided and the spiritually hungry.
And on that day, Jesus took the five small loves and he broke the bread and forever changed the lives of his disciples then – and now. Every time we gather at the Lord’s table as the body of Christ, we remember Jesus’ compassion and love for all and we recall his daily invitation to be his disciple full of the loving and compassionate heart of Jesus in a world that needs and longs to be fed the good news that there is a shepherd for everyone. His name is Jesus. And Jesus the great Shepherd Jesus loves them too.
Since we really do have the heart of Jesus in us through faith in him, how can we reveal the love of Jesus to others through the breaking of bread every today?