At this point a hard hearted individual would have turned the men and women away but this wasn’t Jesus manner. Mark 6:34 tells us that “he had compassion on them, because they were like sheep without a shepherd.” This is who Jesus was, a man filled with compassion for the people to whom he had come. He had seen the fatigue of the twelve who needed a break after an intense season of ministry in the region. He intended to give them the break they needed. However he also saw how disorientated the crowds were, like sheep without a shepherd.
This image of the crowd being like sheep without a shepherd is graphic portrait. The shepherd gathers the sheep together, leads them to their place of pasture and water, puts them in their fold for night, protects them from predators and thieves. A sheep without a shepherd is vulnerable, defenceless against attack and easily lost or misled. This is how Jesus saw the crowd of 5000 men that had gathered around him.
The compassion of Jesus is what drove him to minister to the crowd, it wasn’t a sense of guilt or a desire for stardom. That was probably the last thing he wanted at this point as he preferred a desolate place with his closest friends. Compassion trumped all other intentions leading him to teach and minister again to the wayward crowd that had gathered around him in some obscure corner of the Galilean wilderness.
The busyness of ministry can harden our hearts to the needs and spiritual state of the people to whom God calls us. Jesus sets the example by allowing his heart to remain open to his countrymen’s spiritual state. Likewise we too need to keep our hearts soft to where men and women are at in their spiritual journey. Jesus demonstrates that he was still concerned for the needs of his men by providing them each with their own personal picnic basket filled with bread and fish (Mark 6:43). Remember the crowds had been so persistent they hadn’t even been able to get a meal in.
Compassion was and is the key to ministry.