“Compassion In Action”

Pastor Don Mossman

Text: Mark 6:30-44           Theme: Compassion in Action


The story is told of a seminary student who was invited to give his first sermon before his home congregation.  The gospel reading for the Sunday was the miracle of the feeding of the 5000.  The young man was honored and took the opportunity to write his best sermon and to commit it to memory to do a commendable job of preaching before friends, parents, grandparents and the curious of course.  He stepped up to the pulpit in a dramatic fashion and said, “Jesus took 5000 loaves and 2000 fishes, and he fed five people!”  He also had the leftovers picked up.  He paused dramatically and continued, “Could you do that?”  At that point everyone roared with laughter, and he couldn’t imagine what was going on.  Finally, the pastor stood up and explained to the young seminarian what he had done wrong.  Of course, the congregation and pastor was very forgiving and said, “Look, everyone makes mistakes.  Forget about it.  You work on your sermon and next Sunday try it again.”  Next Sunday the young seminarian begins again: “Jesus took five loaves and two fish and fed 5000”.  Then after a dramatic pause he asks, “Could you do that”?  At which someone from the congregation stood up and said, “Sure, I’d do it with the baskets of food left over from last week.”

  1. He has compassion on them
  2. Like sheep without a shepherd
  3. The disciples had just returned from the Galilean towns and countryside after speaking of the kingdom of God and casting out demons. According to vs 30, they give Jesus a report of their many activities. After hearing the report, Jesus wants to get them away for a little R&R.  “Come away by yourself to a desolate place and rest awhile.”  So they get into a boat to sail to a quiet, restful place on the shores of Lake Galilee.  But the crowds somehow had determined where Jesus would make land and run ahead of them.  Before the boat even got to shore there was a huge crowd waiting for Jesus.  When Jesus went ashore “he had compassion on them, because they were like sheep without a shepherd.”
  4. He had compassion on them. Now there is a difference between “feeling sorry” for someone or something, and “compassion”. When I see those commercials sponsored by the SPCA and those sad-looking dogs and cats, I’m moved almost to tears.  Or, when we see some child hurting on TV, one of my possible responses might be, “poor kid.”  Compassion, however, is more than feelings; it means suffering with someone in the other person’s misfortune to the extent that deeds of mercy begin.

EG:  Shakespeare – The Merchant of Venice, Act IV, Scene 1) – see quote

  1. And that is the kind of mercy and compassion Jesus has on people. His mercy is such that sinners are forgiven, the lost are found, and the hurting in body and soul are nourished and fed.  The religious and political leaders of the day, the scribes, Pharisees, lawyers and Sadducees weren’t shepherding their people.  Rather they left the flock to predators of sin and despair and false hope.  There was no mercy there.  There was no involvement in their lives.
  2. They Smell Like Sheep 
  3. A few years’ back I read a book written by Dr. Lynn Andersen entitled They Smell like Sheep. It was written especially to challenge clergy to set aside the illusion of professional ministry in order to do the difficult and dirty, yet, ultimately beautiful work of living with and loving God’s people. I other words,  spend your time among the sheep, following them, leading them, protecting them, loving them, in order to fulfill Christ’s commandment to “love one another as I have loved you.”
  4. And feeds them spiritually and physically
  5. Mission and ministry. 
  6. The presence of Jesus among the crowds should not surprise us. He loves leads and rescues.  And as those so loved are given the ultimate taste of compassion imaginable – victory over sin, death and given the ultimate gift of eternal life with him in heaven.
  7. Our response is to love as he loves, how he loves us and the crowds. Jesus is concerned for the whole person, soul as well as body. It’s tempting to think that we as individuals or as a small congregation we are too small to make a difference.

EG: Remember the story of the starfish on the ocean shore?  – Person goes along ocean shore picking up starfish and throwing them back in the ocean.  Stranger watching.  “You can’t make a difference to starfish.  There is a mile of shoreline to address.”  Person picks another up, throws it into ocean and says, “Made a difference to that one.” 

  1. RLC has stepped-out to make a difference, as small as it is: Ferndale Food Bank, Lighthouse Mission, and Compassion, Prayer Shawls, Quilting for people in Bellingham and around the world, Prayer warriors, Love, Inc., and others who perform individually outside of the congregation or without recognition. We do have a number of people at RLC who smell like sheep.


Jesus smiles and says, “Bring what you have to me.”  He’ll take us, blesses us, breaks us for his purpose, and then give us to the world for the benefit and healing of many in body and soul.  Praise God that he called us to receive his compassion, his mercy.  With him there is always enough to go around – enough compassion, enough forgiveness, enough of Jesus for every heart and soul.



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