“I have compassion for these people; they have already been with me three days and have nothing to eat. If I send them home hungry, they will collapse on the way, because some of them have come a long distance.”
A couple of weeks ago, my girlfriend and I went to visit one of my old friends from university, Caz, and her husband Pawel. They live in a little town called Skawina, just outside Krakow, in Poland. It was great to see them both. I don’t get to see them as much as I would like since Poland is a long way from my home in Sussex! Despite the distance, and despite the fact I hadn’t seen them for quite a long time, it felt as if we had never been apart. Sometimes you build friendships like that, that can almost continue where they left off, because you know each other so well. Certainly, I think that is probably true for most of my university friends. Spending three years together, especially in the close proximity of a university campus, means that strong friendships often develop. For my university friends like Caz, I would do anything I could to help them if they were ever in need.
In today’s verse, we see Jesus adopt a similar attitude towards the crowd. They have been with him for three days, listening to him preach, and had run out of food. Jesus says that he has compassion for them, and shows that he is concerned for their well-being; he doesn’t want them to go home hungry, since they may collapse due to lack of food. He recognizes that the people are in need, and despite the fact that he has not had the opportunity to form a close friendship with many of them, he shows that he wants to help them. This is particularly interesting, since these people are probably gentiles. For Jesus, though, that is not significant; just as he provided bread for the Jewish people at the feeding of the five thousand, so too he is happy to feed the gentiles.
Just as Jesus understood the needs of this crowd, so too he understands our needs, and wants to help us. Just as he had compassion for the crowd, he has compassion for us, too, and will ensure that we are looked after. Sometimes it seems that we have a God who us far off, but that could not be further from the truth. He cares for us all, and will provide for us – if we only have faith.