I’ve been reading through the Gospels again. It’s always nice to return to these stories that I’ve read before to find new revelation and insight.

Recently, I read the story of Jesus feeding 4,000 men. This is an incredible moment of God’s miraculous power on display. There is a detail about this story that is present in both Matthew 15 and Mark 8 that I had missed in the past.

“Jesus called his disciples to him and said, ‘I have compassion for these people; they have already been with me three days and have nothing to eat. I do not want to send them away hungry, or they may collapse on the way.’”

Matthew 15:32 (NIV)

In the past, I’ve been so focused on the physical miracle of the feeding of thousands of people that I’ve missed what is perhaps an even bigger miracle.

Jesus’ compassion for people precedes the miraculous.

Because Jesus had compassion for the crowds, He instructed the disciples to feed them. I believe this simple detail can have profound implications for us today.

Compassion and Imagination

Jesus didn’t use His compassion to unilaterally feed everyone, but He invited the disciples into the process. His disciples were no doubt tired and hungry, too. They probably didn’t want to do any of the food distribution.

They probably wanted the food for themselves—maybe that’s why their reaction to Jesus’ compassion was so muted. They didn’t have the capacity, due to fatigue and hunger (or hanger?) to think outside the box. Though they had seen miracles before, including the miraculous feeding of thousands of people, they could only see what was in front of them.

Today, I think that the church is in need of a reinvigoration of holy imagination. Just because things have always been done a certain way doesn’t mean things need to continue in that way. Maybe God wants to do something new in a situation, but that requires us to have a renewed imagination to see things differently.

The disciples were focused on what they could see. But Jesus was calling them to tap into His compassion and see the situation differently.

May we also respond to Jesus’ call.

What situation do you see in front of you? Where is Jesus’ compassion in it? And how might Jesus be inviting you to experience renewed imagination?

Compassion and Cooperation

I love that Jesus’ compassion led to a group project. What a beautiful illustration of what it means to be a follower of Christ. We’re not doing everything ourselves but are partnering with God and others to bring God’s kingdom to the earth.

Jesus invited the disciples into His compassion. He explained to them what was motivating this massive feeding. It was Jesus’ compassion that led Him to take notice of the people and their needs. Then, from that place of compassion, Jesus invited the disciples to action.

Compassion doesn’t have to be an isolated experience. It can motivate us into closer community. And from that place, we can cooperate to bring change to our communities together.

How do you feel God is inviting you to compassion? How can you cooperate with others and act together on that compassion?

Compassion and the Miraculous

Most of the time, when I read this story, I focus on the miracle and its mechanics. But I think  Jesus’ compassion is just as important as the incredible display of God’s power. This miracle never would’ve happened without Jesus’ compassion.

The Bible makes it clear that God is a compassionate God. He feels deeply for people, but it’s not just a feeling; that emotion leads Him to action. And it leads us to action, too.

We are invited to participate in the miraculous that God wants to do today. But I believe that compassion is an important part of it. Do we have the compassion to participate in God’s miracles?

Where might God want to move in your community? How can you join with God and others to do the miraculous?

God’s compassion is more than just a nice feeling; it moves Him to action. Jesus’ compassion helped to ignite the disciples’ imagination, welcomed them into cooperation, and set up the miraculous. What if we felt God’s compassion and allowed it to challenge and change us, too?

May we be those who allow God’s compassion to renew our imagination, lead us into cooperation with others, and do the miraculous in our communities. Let’s embrace God’s compassion and allow it to drive us today! 

Spending Time with Jesus

If you liked this devotional, we encourage you to check out Sarah’s book, Behold. It’s an invitation to just sit with God. Spend time with Him. Enjoy His presence. Filled with open-ended prompts and lots of blank space to write, every devotional shines a spotlight on His goodness so you can just sit in the palm of His hand. Available on Amazon.

Behold by Sarah Callen