Matthew 15:29-39 (ESV)
29 Jesus went on from there and walked beside the Sea of Galilee. And he went up on the mountain and sat down there. 30 And great crowds came to him, bringing with them the lame, the blind, the crippled, the mute, and many others, and they put them at his feet, and he healed them, 31 so that the crowd wondered, when they saw the mute speaking, the crippled healthy, the lame walking, and the blind seeing. And they glorified the God of Israel. 32 Then Jesus called his disciples to him and said, “I have compassion on the crowd because they have been with me now three days and have nothing to eat. And I am unwilling to send them away hungry, lest they faint on the way.” 33 And the disciples said to him, “Where are we to get enough bread in such a desolate place to feed so great a crowd?” 34 And Jesus said to them, “How many loaves do you have?” They said, “Seven, and a few small fish.” 35 And directing the crowd to sit down on the ground, 36 he took the seven loaves and the fish, and having given thanks he broke them and gave them to the disciples, and the disciples gave them to the crowds. 37 And they all ate and were satisfied. And they took up seven baskets full of the broken pieces left over. 38 Those who ate were four thousand men, besides women and children. 39 And after sending away the crowds, he got into the boat and went to the region of Magadan.
Matthew records that crowds of people came to Jesus for healing, followed by another event where Jesus multiplied food for them to eat. This incident was not the same as the Feeding of the Five Thousand detailed in Matthew 14:13-21. This time, 4,000 men in attendance, a different number of loaves and fish, and a different amount left over. In addition, these people had been with Jesus for three days, and even the word for basket was different from the word Matthew just used in the last account. To top it off, because he came to the Sea of Galilee from Phoenicia, Jesus was still in Gentile territory. The crowds here were not Jews, but Gentiles. We see this detail revealed as the foreign people “glorified the God of Israel” (v. 31). Jesus calls his disciples to himself and says, “I have compassion on the crowd.” The Greek verb used for “compassion,” splanchnizomai, means that Jesus felt deep pity or sympathy for the people. Why did he feel this compassion? The people stayed with him for three full days, and they ran out of whatever food they brought. Jesus didn’t want them to return home hungry. They came to him for help, and he wouldn’t have them fainting on the way back.
Because of his sympathy for the people, he supernaturally provided an abundance of fish and bread, and all who were there ate and were satisfied or full. Again, the meal Jesus provided was more than enough, and 7 baskets full were left over. This miracle revealed to the disciples that Jesus blessed both the Jews and the Gentiles. Though this crowd was not from the Hebrew people, Jesus had genuine compassion upon them. We can forget that Jesus has compassion for all people. He is interested in people from all ethnicities, religious backgrounds, social and educational levels, and genders. Do you feel that certain people groups are “too far gone” or too distant to receive God’s blessing and saving grace? If so, stop thinking like that and trust in Jesus’ ability to turn even the heart of the greatest sinner toward him. Remember, if you are a Gentile yourself, you were brought near to God by nothing less than the grace and mercy of Christ. Let’s make sure we are ready to bring the good news of Jesus to anyone who will listen today.