Compelled by Compassion

Mark 6: 25- 34

And she came in straightway with haste unto the king, and asked, saying, I will that thou give me by and by in a charger the head of John the Baptist. And the king was exceeding sorry; yet for his oath’s sake, and for their sakes which sat with him, he would not reject her. And immediately the king sent an executioner, and commanded his head to be brought: and he went and beheaded him in the prison, And brought his head in a charger, and gave it to the damsel: and the damsel gave it to her mother. And when his disciples heard of it, they came and took up his corpse, and laid it in a tomb. And the apostles gathered themselves together unto Jesus, and told him all things, both what they had done, and what they had taught. And he said unto them, Come ye yourselves apart into a desert place, and rest a while: for there were many coming and going, and they had no leisure so much as to eat. And they departed into a desert place by ship privately.

And the people saw them departing, and many knew him, and ran afoot thither out of all cities, and outwent them, and came together unto him. And Jesus, when he came out, saw much people, and was moved with compassion toward them, because they were as sheep not having a shepherd: and he began to teach them many things.

Down through history, avenging the death of a family member was considered a noble and honorable thing to do. In the Mosaic law of the Old Testament blood revenge was described as an “eye for an eye and a tooth for a tooth.” However the lex talionis was far more complicated than the scripture implies. The law of blood revenge was grounded in the tribe structure. In other words, the killing was not an act against the public but a private matter between the tribes of the victim and the assailant. The killing created in the tribe of the deceased both a legal right and a societal duty to enforce lethal revenge on the tribe of the manslayer. At the same time the killer’s kin had a sacred obligation to produce a life in exchange for the original victim and a duty to be indifferent or unresponsive when the victim’s tribe came for revenge. If this principle was respected by the society, then the second killing generally ended the retaliation process.

However, we have an aberration here. First, we are not dealing with tribes in this setting and second, we are not addressing the Mosaic Law. What we have seen in the preceding Scriptures is the Great Controversy and Christ’s examples of grace and compassion to the world.

Herod had just had Jesus cousin’s head chopped off and served to him on a platter. John the Baptist, the man Jesus had said, “Verily I say unto you, Among them that are born of women there hath not risen a greater than John the Baptist” was now dead and those around Jesus were undoubtedly waiting, watching and wondering what the most powerful Man they had ever encounter was going to do about it. He could call down fire from heaven and destroy all that were in Herod’s kingdom. He could send a plague of leprosy that would slowly eat their flesh away causing them a slow agonizing death.

John’s disciples had told Jesus what had happened; they were aware of the great controversy going on here between light and darkness, but He seemed indifferent to it all. Jesus even told them to come on and get some rest and get something to eat—take it easy for a while; you’ve been through a lot. Now, as unbelievable as it seems, He was more interested in teaching a large crowd of people than He was in avenging John’s death.

Is it possible that John’s disciples may have asked Him specifically, “Jesus, how are you going to avenge you blood kin’s death?” This may have been where He showed them by demonstration rather than explanation.

Mark 6: 35-44 And when the day was now far spent, his disciples came unto him, and said, This is a desert place, and now the time is far passed: Send them away, that they may go into the country round about, and into the villages, and buy themselves bread: for they have nothing to eat. He answered and said unto them, Give ye them to eat. And they say unto him, Shall we go and buy two hundred pennyworth of bread, and give them to eat? He saith unto them, How many loaves have ye? go and see. And when they knew, they say, Five, and two fishes.

And he commanded them to make all sit down by companies upon the green grass. And they sat down in ranks, by hundreds, and by fifties. And when he had taken the five loaves and the two fishes, he looked up to heaven, and blessed, and brake the loaves, and gave them to his disciples to set before them; and the two fishes divided he among them all. And they did all eat, and were filled. And they took up twelve baskets full of the fragments, and of the fishes. And they that did eat of the loaves were about five thousand men.

In truth, Jesus could have taken the five thousand men present and stormed the castle, drug king Herod into the street and hung him publicly from the gallows. He could have gathered the women there around Herodias and her daughter and stoned them to death, but if He had done that; Satan would have won. Jesus was not compelled by anger; He wasn’t compelled by emotions—He was not compelled by any human instinct alone. He was compelled by compassion and it was a compassion that was birthed by the Father. It was a compassion that fed fifteen thousand people in the face of hunger. It was a compassion that taught the message of hope in an age of hopelessness. It was Christ Compelled by Compassion–willing to shed His own blood rather than shed the blood of others in revenge.

Surely Satan trembled as Jesus sat the five thousand in ranks of one hundred by fifty thinking this to be some new battle strategy. Satan was poised for battle, waiting for Jesus to charge but Jesus won the conflict on His own ground by teaching the Word and feeding the hungry. Satan must have looked on in horror as Jesus got in the boat and left, Jesus knew there would be other battles, however, He also knew compassion would always win over conflict.

Pastor Hal Steenson