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feeding the hungry October 13 Chronological Bible Study

Timeline. Map. Go to today’s Bible reading or alternate versions (use your browser arrow to return): Mark 6:14-29; Matthew 14:1-12; Luke 9:7-9; Mark 6:12-13; Luke 9:6; Mark 6:30-44; Matthew 14:13-21; Luke 9:10-17; John 6:1-15

Empathy and Compassion

All around the world there are calamities. These calamities may take the form of hurricanes, floods, fires, or even famines. Do we have strong feelings of compassion for those who are homeless, persecuted, sick, tired, or hungry? Would we be hospitable and give whatever comfort we could, or would we just send them away? Jesus empathizes with the way people are feeling and helps them.

In today's Bible reading, John the Baptist is in prison, being persecuted for boldly speaking up against immorality. Herod Antipas, ruler of Galilee and Perea, has married his brother Phillip's wife (Herodias). Apparently, this is unlawful even for the Romans. Out of anger against John's stand, Herod's wife, Herodias, tricks Herod into beheading John by working her will through her daughter. Her daughter pleases Herod by her dancing, and he foolishly promises to give her whatever she wants. Advised by Herodias, she asks for the head of John the Baptist.

Just about the same time that Jesus is told about John’s execution, the twelve apostles return from their mission and report to him what they taught and the results of their ministry. They are tired and need rest and refreshment. They probably grieve with Jesus as they are told about John the Baptist. Jesus and his disciples go to a solitary place to get away for a while. People today, as then, however, do not know we are grieving or deeply troubled by something, or perhaps just tired, and they sometimes make demands of us. The crowds following Jesus see him and his disciples get into a boat, so they walk around the Lake of Galilee and meet them on the other side. Does Jesus get mad and tell them to go away? No, he doesn't. Instead, Jesus has compassion on the multitude which are following Him. Although tired and grieving, he heals their sick and teaches the people. What a day!

Later, the disciples want to send the crowd home so the people can find something to eat. The multitutudes have traveled far and are tired and hungry. Jesus sympathizes with them. Should he send them away hungry? No. He tells the disciples to give them something to eat. The disciples are dumbfounded. There are 5,000 men plus women and children, and all that the disciples are able to scrounge around and find is a boy’s lunch of five loaves and two fish. The small meal is hardly enough to feed the twelve apostles and Jesus, let alone the huge crowd. If they give the food away, what will the disciples eat? How can they possibly feed the large crowd? Jesus tells them to take what they have and distribute it to the people. As they begin to give the portions of food to them, the small meal miraculously multiplies so all are fed, and twelve baskets of bread and fish are left over, one for each disciple!

What can we learn from this miracle? First, God wants us to exercise compassion, even when we are stressed. For instance, moms and dads come home tired and yet their spouse or children have emotional or physical needs which must be met. They may have had a tough day at work or school, and although we have had a tough day, too, we must put that aside for their sake. They may be hungry, and although we, too, are hungry, we must meet their physical needs. They may need someone to listen to them, and even when we would rather not, we must put aside our desire for quiet and give them undivided attention.

Second, although we are not promised miracles, God can do things with what we have if we are willing to give it. The last apostle, the Apostle Paul later assures us, “...my God shall supply all your need according to his riches in glory by Christ Jesus” (Philipians 4:19, KJV).

Third, Jesus gives thanks to God for the food which is found and then gives it away. Do we keep what we have or are we willing to give it away? By giving away the small portion of food, not only is Jesus’ compassion demonstrated but also the power of God so that people will believe. This is grace giving. The Apostle Paul instructs us

Each man should give what he has decided in his heart to give, not reluctantly or under compulsion, for God loves a cheerful giver.
And God is able to make all grace abound to you, so that in all things at all times, having all that you need, you will abound in every good work. As it is written: “He has scattered abroad his gifts to the poor; his righteousness endures forever.”

Now he who supplies seed to the sower and bread for food will also supply and increase your store of seed and will enlarge the harvest of your righteousness. You will be made rich in every way so that you can be generous on every occasion, and through us your generosity will result in thanksgiving to God. (2Corinthians 9:7-11, NIV)

Lessons to Live By

  • Life is sometimes very demanding, and God may allow us to be stretched to our limit. At these times and always God is our source of strength and sufficiency.
  • Our circumstances may look impossible. We may not much resources, but if we are obedient to do what the Spirit of God leads us to do, we will see his power and sufficiency for all things.
  • God wants us to exercise compassion and empathy even if we are stressed.
  • Do you know the God of compassion? Jesus, God's Son, saw our need of forgiveness, peace and spiritual life and gave his life in our place (more...)

note: in context, the Apostle Paul and his associates are gathering gifts for the poor persecuted believers in Jerusalem, so the word “us” refers to them

Focus Verse

Luke 6:38 (NIV) “Give, and it will be given to you. A good measure, pressed down, shaken together and running over, will be poured into your lap. For with the measure you use, it will be measured to you.”

Watch a video of Jesus feeding the 5,000

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A Look Ahead: If any of us are Searching for Meaning in Life, Jesus helps us. Join us for our Next Lesson.

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