October 5, 2016 • Life for Leaders
When Jesus landed and saw a large crowd, he had compassion on them, because they were like sheep without a shepherd. So he began teaching them many things.
After the disciples of Jesus returned from their mission trip, in which they proclaimed and demonstrated the kingdom of God, Jesus perceived that they needed time for rest and reflection. “So they went away by themselves in a boat to a solitary place” (6:32). But when people recognized Jesus, they ran ahead to meet him when he got off the boat. We might expect that Jesus was a bit miffed, given his hopes for a retreat with his disciples, but, in fact, when he saw the crowd waiting for him, “he had compassion on them, because they were like sheep without a shepherd” (6:34).
The Greek verb translated here as “had compassion” means, literally, “his guts were moved” (splagchnizomai). Whereas we tend to locate emotions in the heart, first-century Greek speakers put them in the bowels. Mark’s choice of this verb emphasizes the deep emotion of Jesus. We would say that his heart was profoundly moved when he saw the crowd “because they were like sheep without a shepherd.” This phrase echoes a passage in Ezekiel, where the Lord lamented the failure of the leaders of Israel to care for his “sheep”: “So they were scattered because there was no shepherd” (Ezek 34:5). God’s solution to Israel’s leaderless situation was to become their good shepherd: “As a shepherd looks after his scattered flock when he is with them, so will I look after my sheep. I will rescue them from all the places where they were scattered on a day of clouds and darkness. I will bring them out from the nations and gather them from the countries, and I will bring them into their own land. I will pasture them on the mountains of Israel, in the ravines and in all the settlements in the land” (Ezek 34:12-13).
Thus, when Jesus feeds this crowd, this not only reflects his compassion for them, but it also reveals that he is fulfilling the prophecy of Ezekiel. Jesus has come as the good shepherd. Jesus will play the role of the Lord himself. He will do this because he is more than simply a man. He is, indeed, God in the flesh. He is the Lord, the good shepherd.
Even as Jesus once had compassion for the crowds, so he has compassion for you and me today. He sees our need for a faithful, wise leader, and offers himself as our good shepherd. He will feed us, not with literal bread, but with the bread of life, with his written Word. And we who follow Jesus have the opportunity to become co-shepherds as we extend arms of love to others, as we feed the hungry and proclaim God’s truth to the world.
QUESTIONS TO CONSIDER:
Do you ever think that Jesus has compassion on you? Why or why not?
How does the fact that Jesus is your good shepherd impact your life?
Dear Lord, my Good Shepherd, first of all I thank you today for your compassion. Thank you for looking upon me with a tender and passionate heart. What an amazing thought that you care for me so deeply.
Moreover, I thank you, Lord, for feeding me with your truth. I need the guidance that comes from your Word. How grateful I am for the Scripture you have given!
Finally, today I praise you for being, not just a human Messiah, but also the Word of God made flesh. You are the Lord, the promised good shepherd. All praise be to you, Lord Jesus! Amen.
Explore more at the Theology of Work Project online Bible commentary: Ezekiel 34
Dr. Mark D. Roberts is a Senior Strategist for Fuller’s Max De Pree Center for Leadership, where he focuses on the spiritual development and thriving of leaders. He is the principal writer of the daily devotional, Life for Leaders, and the founder of the De Pree Center’s Flourishing in the Third Third of Life Initiative. Previously, Mark was the Executive Director of the De Pree Center, the lead pastor of a church in Southern California, and the Senior Director of Laity Lodge in Texas. He has written eight books, dozens of articles, and over 2,500 devotions that help people discover the difference God makes in their daily life and leadership. With a Ph.D. in New Testament from Harvard, Mark teaches at Fuller Seminary, most recently in his D.Min. cohort on “Faith, Work, Economics, and Vocation.” Mark is married to Linda, a marriage and family counselor, spiritual director, and executive coach. Their two grown children are educators on the high school and college level.