This chapter begins with a run in between Jesus and the Pharisees and Scribes (vv. 1-20). The temperature is definitely rising between the two sides. I often imagine how threatened the Pharisees, Sadducees and Scribes must have felt as Jesus was teaching and preaching. But how much more so when they had these kinds of altercations with the Lord that called into question their own integrity. Jesus didn’t suffer them gladly, but he was always hoping for their conversion- always hoping for their embracing of the Gospel. The altercation ends with Jesus declaring the old dietary laws of the Jewish people obsolete. But it’s a challenge to increased integrity on the part of the people.
We then return to two pericopes that remind us of Jesus’s generosity (vv. 21-39). This is the second time Jesus has fed the multitude. Notice the word that Matthew uses in v. 32. Jesus says that he has “compassion” on the people. I love that word: compassion. In Latin it means, “to suffer with someone.”
But even more specifically, it means to feel with a person deep in gut- to almost share the same feelings as the one who suffers. Compassion operates at the level of the heart- but also deeper, much deeper than that. If there is another quality of Jesus, besides his generosity, that is really a hallmark of his identity, it’s his compassion.
There are many synonyms for compassion: mercy is one that comes to mind. I’m reminded of the Beatitudes from chapter 5: “Blessed are the merciful, for they shall receive mercy.” Perhaps we can write another Beatitude: “Blessed are those who are compassionate, for they will be shown compassion.”
Point for Prayer
This constant call to compassion is perhaps a great way to identify our selves with our Lord, Jesus Christ. A question for our prayer today: how can we show compassion? In ways big and small, with those we know and with perfect strangers, how can we compassionate and merciful?