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For the sake of compassion

Because so many people were coming and going that they did not even have a chance to eat, [Jesus] said to them, “Come with me by yourselves to a quiet place and get some rest.”
So they went away by themselves in a boat to a solitary place. But many who saw them leaving recognized them and ran on foot from all the towns and got there ahead of them. When Jesus landed and saw a large crowd, he had compassion on them, because they were like sheep without a shepherd. So he began teaching them many things.
- Mark 6:31-34
Did Jesus need a lesson in drawing healthy boundaries? In one breath, he points to his disciples need for rest and quiet. In the next, he’s teaching the crowd. What gives?
Jesus didn’t have an addiction to crowds. At one point he leaves a crowd hanging (Mark 1), at another point he slips through a crowd unseen (Luke 4), and at still another point he drives a crowd away with difficult teaching (John 6). Jesus didn’t let the crowd push him around. But something happened in his heart when he saw the crowd follow him and his disciples out into the wilderness.
Today’s passage tells us of Jesus’ compassion on the crowd. They were like sheep without a shepherd. A good shepherd would protect and direct and care for the sheep. The people were exposed to misleading teaching that was driving them away from the ways God wanted them to walk. They meandered through life never reaching their potential and purpose. They needed someone to look out for their spiritual needs. And all of this produced in Jesus great compassion.
Watch out for God’s great compassion! His compassion will change the course of history. His compassion can transform your life.
Part of walking in step with the Spirit of Jesus involves receiving a compassionate heart like him. Compassion as a motivation for sacrificial service does more for us than duty, guilt, or obligation ever will. If you try to push through exhaustion for the sake of power, fame, glory or shame, you won’t make it. But dipping into God’s infinite wells of compassion can give you a boost of energy to serve a little longer in love for the people God brings across your path.
Where in your heart is God stirring compassion today? How does this compassion intersect with your exhaustion? How might God invite you to serve a little longer or a little more intensely for the sake of compassion in this season of life? What hopes and fears does that prospect raise for you?

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