Compelled by Compassion

In the last phase of Christ’s ministry, we see increasing Jewish opposition and increasing Gentile acceptance. God’s work never stops – it moves on and on and spreads wider and wider.

Feeding the 4000

Since we have already discussed a similar miracle – feeding of the 5000, we’ll look at the bigger picture as well and some comparisons.

Bible Passage

Matt 15.29-39; Mark 7:31-8:10

Jesus Feeds the Four Thousand

Matthew 15:29 Jesus left there and went along the Sea of Galilee. Then he went up on a mountainside and sat down. 30 Great crowds came to him, bringing the lame, the blind, the crippled, the mute and many others, and laid them at his feet; and he healed them. 31 The people were amazed when they saw the mute speaking, the crippled made well, the lame walking and the blind seeing. And they praised the God of Israel.

Bible Passage

Matthew 15:32 Jesus called his disciples to him and said, “I have compassion for these people; they have already been with me three days and have nothing to eat. I do not want to send them away hungry, or they may collapse on the way.”

33 His disciples answered, “Where could we get enough bread in this remote place to feed such a crowd?”

34 “How many loaves do you have?” Jesus asked.

“Seven,” they replied, “and a few small fish.”

Bible Passage

Matthew 15:35 He told the crowd to sit down on the ground. 36 Then he took the seven loaves and the fish, and when he had given thanks, he broke them and gave them to the disciples, and they in turn to the people. 37 They all ate and were satisfied. Afterward the disciples picked up seven basketfuls of broken pieces that were left over. 38 The number of those who ate was four thousand men, besides women and children. 39 After Jesus had sent the crowd away, he got into the boat and went to the vicinity of Magadan.


This is Jesus’ second Journey into Gentile regions. After coming from Tyre and Sidon, Jesus goes to the Decapolis region (Mark 7).

The heat is catching up with him in Galilee with opposition increasing. Jesus knows His time is yet to come, so is moving out from Galilee.



Most scholars believe that Jesus is now back in the area where He healed the demoniac earlier – in the Decapolis with a primarily Gentile audience. Matthew reports that the demoniac was from Gadara. The feeding of 4000 was in Decapolis near the Sea of Galilee which is Gadara or its vicinity.

Did Jesus indeed get a huge reception in the region He was rejected? Did the demoniac turned evangelist actually win over people to Jesus? Food for thought!!



Decapolis – means 10 cities. These cities while having a mix of Roman and Jewish presence had a predominantly Roman culture and stamp mark.

At the time of Jesus it had Roman occupation, so a largely Gentile audience.

Location (of the healing of the demoniac)

Matthew reports that the demoniac healed earlier was from Gadara. On this occasion he mentions Decapolis, along sea of Galilee. Looking at the map, we see him in the vicinity, if not actually at Gadara.

The verses quoting the incident of the demoniac.

Matthew 8:28 “When he came to the other side, to the country of the Gadarenes, two demoniacs coming out of the tombs met him.”1

Mark 5:1 “They came to the other side of the sea, to the country of the Gerasenes.”

Luke 8:26 “Then they arrived at the country of the Gerasenes, which is opposite Galilee.”

Location (of the healing of the demoniac)

Gerasa, referred to by Mark and Luke for the healing of the demoniac (as opposed to Gadara, referred by Matthew), is one of the cities of Decapolis and the capital of the country of the Gerasenes. It lay around 37 miles/60 kilometres away from the Sea of Galilee.

Some scholars believe that Mark and Luke refer to “Gerasa”, not as a region, but as a term.

“Gerasa” is  appropriate symbolically, since the Hebrew root grš means “to banish” and is a common term for exorcism. [1]


These mass miracles are among the last of the miracles to large audiences – He focusses mostly on the disciples after this. He is more or less into His final lap of ministry. 


Though the exact location within Decapolis is not clear, most scholars believe that the 5000 were primarily Jewish audience whereas the 4000 appear to be primarily Gentile – a. because Decapolis is a primarily Roman area and b. because of the mention of “they glorified the God of Israel”.


In the last half of His final year on earth, Christ feeds the 5000 near Bethsaida.

John 1:44 tells us “Now Philip was of Bethsaida, the city of Andrew and Peter.” We can conclude that this is Jewish territory.

The Big Picture

When one door is closed God always opens others. God always has a special role for us in His kingdom.

Some take note of the numbers 12 baskets – representing Jews and 7 baskets representing completion – the whole world.

The big picture

While we don’t read too much into the numbers and symbols, God chose Jews as His chosen people but has later opened the privilege to the whole world.

God’s choices are best. He continues to persevere with the Jews. A time will come when the Jews come to faith in “fullness” (Romans 11).

The big picture

Why would Jesus focus on the Jews while there was so much opposition?

We never know God’s ways, but His chosen people continue to have a faithful strain that will powerfully impact the world.

God will one day fulfil His purposes for the Jews and for the world as our Master and Lord.

He continues to bless those who open their hearts to Him.

The big picture

What does He do in the three days with the crowds?

  • Teaching
  • Healing
  • Providing their needs.

We as His children are called to do the same – in a spiritual sense.

Compelled by compassion

The driving force of our interaction with others is compassion.

  • We are given a focus – based on our gifts, but should never hesitate to venture beyond.
  • We teach – sometimes with words – mostly through our lives.
  • We allow the Lord to heal primarily spiritually as we facilitate spiritual life and growth in people
  • We help in little ways with their physically needs but mostly help them connect to the Great Provider, The Bread of Life.

What is our focus?

She had a perception many Jews didn’t

She knew He was the son of David (Messiah)

She called Him Lord

She sought mercy – which characterized God.

What is our focus?

What are we teaching?

“our life is the only bible many people will read”

Do people see Jesus in us?

In what ways are we different from the real nice people around?

Do we attempt to share His Word at every opportunity?

What are we teaching?

Are we healing?

Do our words bring joy, encouragement and strength to those in sorrow?

Do we have courage to correct and support people in the wrong track to bring them to the right track?

Do we smile and remain patient even when annoyed?

Is the Spirit’s healing power flowing through us to others?

Are we providing for others?

Are we sharing our resources with those around?

Are we giving to believers in need?

Are we providing spiritually by praying for and with people and enjoying fellowship with them?

Are we compelled by compassion?

Are we providing for others?


Jesus is the bread of life. In what ways has Jesus been the bread of your life?


1.Share how you have found out the focus area of your life.

2.What teachings have transformed your life? How do you teach others about Christ?

3.When have you felt compelled by compassion? Give examples.



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