Sunday 18th July 2021
Mark 6: 30-34, 53-56
"A two-year-old boy was tired and fretful, all out of sorts, and so was his mother. It was an unusually trying day. Nothing was going right for them. As the day wore on things became even worse. To him everything seemed to go wrong. It seemed his mum was yelling at him at every turn he made. It seemed that life had become one big mountain of frustrations.
Finally, towards the end of the day, when it seemed he couldn’t take any more, he toddled over to the telephone, took the receiver off the cradle and without dialling anything, said to nobody in particular, in a voice of despair, of wanting of desiring some tender loving care, "Give me my Daddy, please."
The two year old boy wanted his Daddy to rescue him from the frustrations, all the hurts, all the trouble, all the brokenness he was feeling in his life. He needed someone else besides his mother to turn to; he needed someone to bring some needed change into his life.
He needed someone to care for his feelings, his hurts, and his inability to handle the challenges of life, so he asked, "Give me my Daddy, please!"
In our gospel lesson this morning, the people came to Jesus with that same kind of attitude. They needed someone to care for them.
They saw Jesus and ran to him with all the frustrations, the hurts, the troubles in their lives. They ran to Jesus and in a sense said as that boy in our story, "Give me my Daddy, please!"
And notice what the text said, “As he went ashore, he saw a great throng, and he had compassion on them, because they were like sheep without a shepherd; and he began to teach them many things.”
Jesus saw the throngs of people and though he was tired, he had compassion on them. Jesus saw that they needed a shepherd, and they needed a guide. They needed Jesus and he had compassion on them.
The most important word in our gospel text today is compassion. He had compassion for the people. He showed it in the beginning verses of the gospel text and in the later ones.
What does compassion mean? The dictionary says: sympathetic pity and concern for the sufferings or misfortunes of others.
Jesus had compassion for the people. He had concern for their suffering. He had mercy, forgiveness for the people.
Jesus is like the man on the horse in the following story:
There’s a story told about a bitter, cold evening in America, northern Virginia many years ago. An old man sat by a river, waiting for a ride across.
His beard was glazed by winter’s frost and the wait seemed endless.
His body became numb and stiff from the frigid north wind.
He heard the faint, steady rhythm of approaching hooves galloping along the frozen path. Anxiously, he watched as several horsemen rounded the bend. He let the first one pass by without an effort to get his attention. Then another passed by, and another. Finally, the last rider neared the spot where the old man sat like a snow statue. As this one drew near, the old man caught the rider’s eye and said, "Sir, would you mind giving an old man a ride to the other side? There doesn’t appear to be a passageway by foot."
Reining his horse, the rider replied, "Sure thing. Hop aboard." Seeing the old man was unable to lift his half-frozen body from the ground, the horseman dismounted and helped the old man onto the horse. The horseman took the old man not just across the river, but to his destination, which was just a few miles away.
As they neared the tiny but cosy cottage, the horseman’s curiosity caused him to inquire, "Sir, I notice that you let several other riders pass by without making an effort to secure a ride. Then I came up and you immediately asked me for a ride.
I’m curious why, on such a bitter winter night; you would wait and ask the last rider. What if I had refused and left you there?"
The old man lowered himself slowly down from the horse, looked the rider straight in the eyes, and replied, "I’ve been around these here parts for some time. I reckon I know people pretty good." The old-timer continued, "I looked into the eyes of the other riders and immediately saw there was no concern for my situation. It would have been useless even to ask them for a ride. But when I looked into your eyes, kindness and compassion were evident.
I knew, then and there, that your gentle spirit would welcome the opportunity to give me assistance in my time of need."
Those heart-warming comments touched the horseman deeply. "I’m most grateful for what you have said," he told the old man. "May I never get too busy in my own affairs that I fail to respond to the needs of others with kindness and compassion."
With that, Thomas Jefferson turned his horse around and made his way back to the White House. Some of you may know that name. At that time, Thomas Jefferson was president of the United States of America.
When the people looked into Jesus’ eyes, they saw the same thing. When the old man looked into the eyes of Thomas Jefferson, he saw kindness and compassion. When we look to Jesus, we see the same kind of thing, compassion and kindness.
As he was growing up, Jesus saw the human condition all around him. He saw sickness, he saw death, he saw poverty, he saw broken relationship, etc. He saw it all.
So, when his time for ministry began, he had already developed the compassionate heart that was needed.
Now he could do something about the human condition. He healed the sick, he gave support to the grieving, and he told the people that God loved them as they experienced the human condition.
So when the crowds followed him, he did not send them away, but he had compassion on them. He saw their brokenness and he extended the compassion of God’s Son to them.
And that brings us to the question, if Christ had compassion on the crowds, what are we to do?
Luther says in his commentary to Galatians “To love means to bear another’s burdens.
Christians must have strong shoulders to bear the burdens of their fellow Christians. "
We must have strong shoulders to bear another burden. We need to have compassion like Christ. Luther says we are to be like "little Christ’s" in the world.
In the closing story we see that kind of compassion in our world.
The NY Times had a story about a little boy who was riding the bus. He sat so close to a woman dressed in a gray suit that everybody assumed he was her son and she his mother, until finally another lady sat down on the same seat with them.
When the little boy put his feet up on the seat & got the other lady’s dress dirty, she turned to the women in the gray suit and said, "Would you please tell your son to put his feet down because he is getting my dress dirty?"
The lady in the gray suit pushed the boy away and said, "He’s not my son. I’ve never seen him before in my life."
The second lady looked at the little boy sadly for a moment and then started talking with him. She asked him if he was travelling alone.
"Yes," he said, "I always travel alone. My mommy and daddy are both dead and I live with Aunt Clara.
But Aunt Clara thinks that Aunt
Mildred ought to take her turn in taking care of me too. So, whenever she gets tired of me, she sends me to Aunt Mildred. I’m going to Aunt Mildred’s now."
The woman said, "It must be tough travelling alone." "Yeah," said the little boy, "it is. But I never get lost. But," he said, "Sometimes I do get very lonesome. So, whenever I see someone with a kind face I sit close to them and pretend that I belong to them and that they belong to me."
He continued, "I sure hope that Aunt Mildred is home when I get there,
because it looks like it is going to rain, and I don’t like to be outside when it rains."
The woman reached over and grabbed the boy, hugged him so tight that it almost hurt and wished for a moment that this little boy who wanted so much to belong could belong to her.
Jesus “saw a great throng, and he had compassion on them.”
May we leave here today with compassion in our hearts for the folk we come across in our daily lives.
Compassionate to ourselves.