Jesus was Deeply Moved for the Needs of the Crowd

Jesus was Deeply Moved for the Needs of the Crowd

Jesus was Deeply Moved for the Needs of the Crowd.

“When Jesus heard of John’s death, He departed from there by boat to a deserted place by Himself. But when the multitudes heard it, they followed Him on foot from the towns. And when Jesus landed, He saw a huge crowd waiting for Him. Seeing so many people, He was moved with compassion (splagchnizomai) toward them, so He healed all the sick who were in the crowd.” (Matthew 14:13-14).

splagchnizomai  (splawnk – NITZ – oh – mi). Don’t let that strange Greek word put you off. It turns out to be one of the most meaningful ideas in the gospels, and it describes Jesus to a T. Most Bible versions translate this word to mean “moved with compassion.” But somehow that translation doesn’t quite do it justice. One might even say it doesn’t go deep enough. The literal meaning of this word is “to have one’s bowels yearn,” which makes sense since the root word for it is “intestines.” Since the innermost organs were considered at that time to be the seat of human emotions, and since love is the emotion being implied, splagchnzomai could be understood as an experience in which true compassion has its beginnings from down deep in the gut. This word points to an intense emotional experience that is felt in the pit of one’s stomach. This profound compassion is not superficial by any means, not casual, not distant. This compassion is immediate and so deeply felt that it demands action. This compassion is so visceral that it must find an outlet, a target, in doing something physical and helpful.

As we deepen our union with Christ, as we live into His reality and character, we also live into His compassion, into being deeply moved to our very innards. As theologian Jeff McSwain once said, “If we truly are ‘in Christ,’ then just as we’ve been given the mind of Christ, we’ve also been given the ‘gut’ of Christ.” Every Christian, being a little Christ, will live into the possession of the sensitive gut of Jesus.

Jesus was seeking a private place to mourn for his cousin John the Baptist. John was executed in prison by Herod, and Jesus wanted to grieve by Himself in peace. So Jesus took a boat to a deserted place cross the Lake of Galilee to be alone. But a huge throng of people discovered where He was and found Him. Jesus was deeply struck by their neediness. His heart went out to them, despite the fact that He was suffering His own private grief. Looking at the people was like a punch in the gut, and it took His breath away. So Jesus decided to sacrifice His private time to minister to the crowd. He asked all those who were sick to come to Him so they could be healed. He continued this healing ministry all day until evening started to fall. By this time there were perhaps as many as ten thousand people around Him, including five thousand men and probably at least as many women and children. This was indeed a huge multitude of people surrounding Jesus and His disciples. Jesus was deeply moved, struck to His core.

All these needy people had been with Jesus in the middle of nowhere all day, and Jesus knew that they had to be fed sometime soon. The disciples advised Jesus to send them away so they could fend for themselves and find some food in the neighboring villages. But Jesus had a better idea. He wanted to do something that would send a message that the people would never forget… that He was the Manna in the wilderness, the Bread of Life. He would tell them later about this (John 6), but for now He intended to feed this huge mass of people right there in the wilderness. The disciples didn’t understand how this could happen, of course, but they cooperated with Him as He asked them to scrounge for some food in the crowd. Jesus’ heart broke for the people, His love for them overflowed, and He intended to put that compassion into action.

All the disciples could find was five little loaves of bread and two fish. The disciples were no doubt still wondering what was going on when they brought this meager little lunch to Jesus. Jesus received the bread and fish, gave thanks to the Father and asked Him to bless the food. The disciples then began to distribute the food to the crowd, while Jesus continued to multiply what He had. The food lasted till the entire multitude was fed and satisfied, and there was still some leftovers filling twelve big baskets! One would think that this was a day the disciples would never forget, but it was not much later (Matthew 15:32, the feeding of the four thousand) that they revealed this miracle didn’t seem to sink into their memories. They witnessed Jesus healing all day and feeding all night. But this wasn’t the last time Jesus miraculously fed the masses.

Finally, Jesus sent the people away happy, healed and fed, and He was able to spend some private time on a nearby mountain. No doubt he was exhausted after ministering to people all day and grieving in His spirit the whole time.