30The apostles gathered around Jesus, and
told him all that they had done and taught.
31He said to them, “Come away to a deserted
place all by yourselves and rest a while.”
For many were coming and going, and they had
no leisure even to eat. 32And they went away
in the boat to a deserted place by themselves.
33Now many saw them going and recognized them,
and they hurried there on foot from all the
towns and arrived ahead of them. 34As he went
ashore, he saw a great crowd; and he had compassion
for them, because they were like sheep without
a shepherd; and he began to teach them many
53When they had crossed over, they came to
land at Gennesaret and moored the boat. 54When
they got out of the boat, people at once recognized
him, 55and rushed about that whole region
and began to bring the sick on mats to wherever
they heard he was. 56And wherever he went,
into villages or cities or farms, they laid
the sick in the marketplaces, and begged him
that they might touch even the fringe of his
cloak; and all who touched it were healed.
the grace, mercy and peace of God be with
us in the name of our risen Lord and Savior,
Jesus Christ; Amen.
He had compassion on them, because they were
like sheep without a shepherd. Compassion
is a word that I have talked about in sermons
before because it is an important characteristic
of the human Jesus. We usually think of compassion
as a feeling - “Don’t you have
any compassion for them?” we may ask.
We usually think of compassion as feeling
sorry for someone - showing pity for some
poor soul who is in a hopeless situation.
But it is more than that.
If we look at the Latin roots, com is the
prefix meaning, “together with,”
and passion means, “to suffer.”
Having compassion, then, means to somehow
suffer with someone, whether it is to literally
join them in their plight or to delve so deep
into their dilemma that you can feel their
pain. If we look at the Greek word that is
actually translated, “compassion”
in Mark 6:34, that is the nuance that we get.
The Greek word here is, “splagnizomai.”
The “splagna” in that word refers
to one’s internal organs or bowels.
In Jesus’ day, the stomach and internal
organs there were believed to be the seat
of love and pity. For one to feel this kind
of compassion for someone, they quite possibly
could become physically ill - a twisting of
the innards, so to speak! Why did Jesus have
such a strong, physical reaction when he saw
the crowds who kept pressing in on him so
much so that he couldn’t get away just
for a few hours for time alone?
Well, last week (even though I did not preach
on it) we heard the passage immediately before
this one - a rather gory scene where King
Herod is coerced by a plot to have John the
Baptist’s head served on a silver platter
at his birthday banquet. In our reading this
morning, the disciples return from being sent
out to preach and heal and Jesus wants to
retreat to a quiet place to recharge their
batteries. He must have heard about his cousin’s
death and wanted time to grieve and consider
what his ministry and the ministries of his
disciples will mean when they cross paths
with the empire. But quickly he finds out
that this will not be possible. He tries to
get away by boat and the crowds follow on
land. They are a great crowd that meets him
on the other side of the lake, and that is
where he has this churning in his guts for
them. They are like sheep without a shepherd.
They do not have anyone to provide or protect
them, as the shepherds are called to do for
This has a real and direct relationship with
the story of Herod having John killed. If
you remember our first reading from Jeremiah
this morning, God accuses the kings of being
bad shepherds. The Kings of Israel and Judah
are often referred to as shepherds, and at
their best, it is an apt description of their
jobs as rulers. The kings of the Old Testament
enjoyed the title of shepherd, even though
not all of them lived up to the standards
of being, “The Good Shepherd.”
This was true of the kings of Jeremiah’s
time, like Jehoiachin; this is true of the
kings of John the Baptist’s and Jesus’
time, like Herod. They engage in bloody games
of deception and politics in order to advance
their own wealth and power at the expense
of their flocks.
So Jesus realizes that Herod has no intentions
of providing or protecting his people as he
is called to do as shepherd-king. They are
so hungry, so hurting that Jesus feels their
pain in his very body. Because of this compassion,
he is moved to embrace his own call to be
a shepherd to God’s people. He moves
among them and, like the woman with the hemorrhage
who merely touched the hem of his garment
and was healed, he provides this healing for
all who touch it wherever he goes.
Jesus continues to look upon us and upon all
for whom the shepherd figures in their lives
fall short. Jesus promises to continue to
move his presence in and among us to heal
us whenever we are hungry or hurting. As we
are able to gather more and more for worship
and fellowship, to study God’s word
and experience God’s shepherding presence,
we also celebrate that this Good Shepherd
still has compassion for the most vulnerable
and for those least able to take care of themselves.
But by celebrating this we are also called
to share the compassion of Christ and be the
hands and the feet of the Good Shepherd for
those with whom we have compassion. The movement
in our guts moves us to action. We left out
verses 35-52 from Mark 6 this morning, in
part telling us that Jesus physically fed
5,000 men plus women and children with a small
amount of food - something that the official
shepherds of that community would never lower
themselves to do. The shepherd king, Herod,
was too busy feeding himself and invited guests
at a drunken banquet where he almost promised
away half of his kingdom … and eventually
promised to kill one of God’s prophets.
As the Christian Church, we are the body of
Christ here and now - called to show compassion
and be moved to action. We do that in many
ways here at Clinton Heights, but I know that
each of us individually and as a family of
faith can do even better.
Finally, as I read our second lesson today
about tearing down dividing walls, I am reminded
of a National Youth Gathering from about 9
years ago in New Orleans. The theme song for
that gathering, “Make a Difference,”
was written and performed by a wonderful Christian
artist named Rachel Kurtz, and she subtly
inserts a phrase from Ephesians 2:19 in the
last verse - “citizens with the saints.”
Saints are not only those whose lives we admired
enough to think highly of them; saints are
those who are living and dead with whom we
share citizenship in God’s heavenly
and earthly kingdom. As such, we join Jesus
and all of the saints in being moved to action
for anyone who is without that shepherd figure
in their lives. I want to close by singing
you the song and encouraging you to celebrate
our good shepherd by giving thanks for all
of the ways that he still provides and protects
us, and by being moved to share that love
with all of our neighbors.
- You gave your life, to make a difference.
You gave your life to make a change.
You welcomed all to your table,
You’re calling us to do the same
Chorus - I want my life to make a difference;
I want my life to make a change.
I want my life to do some good here;
I want my life to make a change.
Vs1 - Working side by side, no out or inside,
together we can make that change. With a few
or many, with a lot or not any, together we
can make that change. Chorus.
Vs2 - Crossing the great divide, joy and peace
will abide, together we can make that change.
Jesus is our peace, all fighting will cease,
together we can make that change. Chorus.
Vs3 - We’re the citizen with the saints,
we’re the sunshine with the rain, we’re
the joy with the pain, we’re the change.
You healed the sick and fed the poor, loved
the prophet and the whore, through us you
will do more. You’re the change. Chorus