When the apostles returned, they reported to Jesus what they had done. Then he took them with him and they withdrew by themselves to a town called Bethsaida, but the crowds learned about it and followed him. He welcomed them and spoke to them about the kingdom of God, and healed those who needed healing. Luke 9:10-11
Sometimes I need a break from people. As an introvert, the more time I spend around people, especially large groups, the more intentional I need to be to have time alone. It is in this alone time that I can refresh, recharge, and breathe a little so that the next time I’m around people I have the energy and resources to respond well.
I would imagine the disciples feel similarly at the start of this story. They have just gone out to minister to the towns around them. They’ve had some amazing experiences, seen God work, and, probably, they are tired. And just when they want more rest, here come the crowds. The crowds who follow Jesus everywhere. The crowds who are always hovering after him: asking, pleading, listening, wanting healing and miracles and the Kingdom to come now.
If I was one of the disciples, I would be seriously hoping Jesus turns and says, “not now, come back later!” But instead, he welcomes them. The Gospel of Mark says he didn’t just welcome the crowd but had compassion on them, because they were like sheep without a shepherd (Mark 6:34). Jesus doesn’t just accept their presence, he loves them, sees them as they are, and responds to their need.
What do we do when the way of Jesus asks us to have compassion when we don’t want to? Because we do have to admit, there will be times where we just don’t to be like Jesus and turn and have compassion. We would rather go on our own way to use our time and resources the way we want.
A starting point is to remember that we, too, are in need of compassion. We are broken, fallen people in need of grace. Always. Even when it looks like we have it together. 1 John 4:19 reminds us that “we love because he first loved us.” We show compassion because we, too, were shown compassion and grace. Compassion, like love, hope, peace, joy, and so many other things, ultimately isn’t sourced in our hearts because we’re good people with an unending supply. We receive compassion for others as an outpouring of the Spirit because of what Christ has done for us. Spend time with the God of compassion this week asking him to forge compassion the next time you see someone you would rather send away, or turn away from.
By Jessica Rust