Devotion taken from last Sunday's sermon on Matthew 15:29-39.
Then Jesus called his disciples unto him, and said, I have compassion on the multitude, because they continue with me now three days, and have nothing to eat: I will not send them away fasting, lest they faint in the way (Matthew 15:32).
The feeding of the 4,000 begins with Christ’s declaration that he has compassion upon the multitude (v. 32). The term used here is from the Greek word for the entrails or gut or bowels. We sometimes speak of the bowels of compassion. It hits you internally. It is a deep feeling of compassion that constrains one to be burdened by the needs of others, so much so that one feels it physically. This is a typical description of Christ in Matthew (cf. 9:36; 14:14; in the parable of the unjust servant, 18:27).
It is, in fact, a not-so-subtle affirmation of the deity of Christ, as he demonstrates an attribute often associated with the Lord in the Old Testament. See:
Psalm 145:8 The Lord is gracious, and full of compassion; slow to anger, and of great mercy.
Christ’s compassion was extended to this multitude, in particular, because “they continued with me now three days, and have nothing to eat.” For three days this crowd had been there watching as Christ performed many miraculous healings (see 15:30-31). Have you ever been caught up in doing or watching some event, maybe some work, recreation or hobby, and the time just seemed to fly by until you realized you hadn’t eaten at all or barely eaten? This had apparently been the case with the multitude.
Christ declared he would not send them away “fasting” (v. 32). The term refers to the religious practice of abstaining from food for spiritual purposes, which Christ had commended in the Sermon on the Mount (see Matt 6:16-18). Lest, he said, “they faint in the way” (v. 32). Christ has a concern for the souls and the bodies of his disciples.
We could say that an overall theme in Matthew is the compassion of Christ. The Lord Jesus Christ is not indifferent to us. The apostle Peter thus wrote, “Humble yourselves therefore under the mighty hand of God, that he may exalt you in due time: Casting all your care upon him; for he careth for you” (1 Peter 5:6-7).
Christ not only had compassion on the multitude, but he also cares for us.
Grace and peace, Pastor Jeffrey T. Riddle
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