Now Jesus summoned His disciples and said, “I have compassion on the crowd, because they’ve already stayed with Me three days and have nothing to eat. I don’t want to send them away hungry; otherwise they might collapse on the way.” … They all ate and were filled. Then they collected the leftover pieces—seven large baskets full.
—Matthew 15:32, 37
He was all about meeting needs. During each long day, He met the needs of hurting, broken people who needed physical or spiritual healing—most often both. They came without sight, without hearing, dumb and crippled.
With a look, a touch, a word, He made them whole and though they didn’t comprehend what had just happened, they totally understood Who had healed them.
And try as He did, those made whole simply could not be silent! “The more He ordered them, the more widely they continued to proclaim it!” And who could blame them? To be living in an agrarian society, so dependent on wholeness, it was unbelievably good news to be healed—and not just to the person involved, but to his entire family.
Like people of the first century, we, too, long to be whole, physically and spiritually. Do you ever consider the cost to Jesus of healing crowds and crowds of people, day after day? Known as the Suffering Servant, how He must have ached for their condition, for their poverty and ignorance of His ways.
His compassion led Him to ignore His own need for rest, refreshment and sleep. Scripture tells us He gained strength from God the Father by getting up while it was still dark to fellowship with God in prayer. His compassion led Him to devote hours and hours of teaching for the little band of followers that traveled with Him from place to place, even as they ministered to the needs of masses of hurting people.
And for the hungry, He knew their need before anyone expressed it, before the question “What shall we eat?” was ever asked. Jesus knew full well how the multitudes lived from day to day with just enough to meet the demands of their immediate hunger. By this time, they’d been with Him for three days, drinking in His words and deeds, continually amazed at His power and authority.
In His great compassionate heart, He always knows what’s most needed. And because He’s God incarnate, He’s willing and able to provide even when the felt need is unexpressed. He is, we remember, the Bread of Life.
Perhaps for the first time ever they were completely satisfied—entirely full, with baskets left over! And isn’t this the picture we hold in our hearts: a Savior who’s more than enough? How had He done it, this gentile crowd must have asked one another? Such miracles of healing and provision were so far outside their life experience, no wonder they had stayed.
Your world and mine is no less in need of Jesus, the compassionate provider. At first reading of these verses, the words of the spiritual song, Satisfied With Jesus immediately came to mind. Centuries after the events of Matthew and Mark were written, the songwriter expressed the gratitude felt by those of us who have been healed and fed:
I am satisfied with Jesus; He has done so much for me.
He has suffered to redeem me, He has died to set me free.
He is with me in my trials, Best of friends of all is He.
I can always count on Jesus, can He always count on me?
What does it mean to be satisfied? The dictionary says to satisfy is to “gratify or fulfill a need, desire; to relieve a doubt or question, to assure.” He does all this, and more. Whether you are hungry in heart, hungry for fellowship, or hungry for physical normalcy, He’s your compassionate provider.
I’ve experienced His healing and likely you have too. I’ve experienced His provision on many occasions and I’m certain that’s your testimony as well. But in His great compassionate heart, He led me to understand my unexpressed need—that of a Savior.
He helped me identify the restlessness and longing that unsettled my heart. He helped me understand how completely lost I was, without any hope of finding my way on my own. Just as miraculously as He fed the 4,000 men recorded in Matthew’s gospel, He brought me to the point of accepting Jesus as my Savior. He claimed me as His own.
He’s still in the business of healing physical illness and bringing wholeness. He generously provides resources, human and financial to do the work of healing. He still provides food for the hungry and employs a great many of His children among us in that holy work.
There’s no pain, suffering, or physical need that He doesn’t see. And He gives His followers the eyes to see and compassion to respond to those needs. He moves and acts in ways we don’t always understand but we can be fully confident that as He understood the hurt and loss behind each physical need expressed in Matthew and Mark, He understands everything that affects us—and He cares!
 McKinney, B. B. (1886—1952), The Baptist Hymnal, p. 472, Convention Press, Nashville, TN 1991
- Did you observe that one of the principle differences between the feeding of the 5,000 (men) and the feeding of the 4,000 was location? The first was in Israel, the second event among gentiles. What important truth is there for us in the two locations?
- In dealing with serious illness among family and friends, are you able to draw on the evidences of God’s great compassion to encourage them (and perhaps yourself)?
- In your own experience, what examples of His provision can you share with others who may not understand His sufficiency to meet their needs?