“I have compassion on the multitude”

Selected Writings of Charles Stanley: Volume 1, p. 29.

“In those days the multitude being very great, and having nothing to eat, Jesus called His disciples unto Him, and saith unto them, I have compassion on the multitude, because they have now been with Me three days, and have nothing to eat: and if I send them away fasting to their own houses, they will faint by the way: for divers of them came from far. And His disciples answered Him, From whence can a man satisfy these men with bread here in the wilderness? And He asked them, How many loaves have ye? And they said, Seven. And He commanded the people to sit down on the ground: and He took the seven loaves, and gave thanks, and brake, and gave to His disciples to set before them; and they did set them before the people. And they had a few small fishes: and He blessed, and commanded to set them also before them. So they did eat, and were filled: and they took up of the broken meat that was left seven baskets. And they that had eaten were about four thousand: and He sent them away.” Mark 8:1-9.

Mark the starting point of this narrative: “Jesus called His disciples unto Him.” What a question this would be to every preacher in this land: Have you heard the call of Jesus? Have you come unto Him? Do you know Him? You cannot he a river of water if you have not come and drunk yourself. If you do not know Him you cannot break the Bread of Life to others. If you do not know your own sins are forgiven, you will not be able in faith to preach forgiveness to others. If you know Him, then just come unto Him; He has something to say unto us.

He says, as it were. I want to tell you how I feel about those millions of lost souls on earth where you at present dwell. I have compassion on the multitude. I have been offered up a propitiation on the cross. I freely offered up Myself the sacrifice; I am the Mercy-seat — God My Father is just, is righteous, in sending a free pardon to those millions, and you have never told them. You have never made the proclamation of forgiveness of sins in My name to millions within your reach — “I have compassion on the multitude.”

And there was a large company that had been with Him three days-He says, “And have nothing to eat.” And all around are multitudes of professors, very busy in religious activities, but they have nothing to eat. They have sacraments and outward services, periodicals and religious books; and still may have nothing to eat. They are unconverted, are in their sins, guilty before God, hastening on to judgment, and literally no real gospel has been set before them, suited to lost, guilty, bell-deserving sinners.

Jesus says, “I have compassion” on them; He further says, “If I send them away fasting to their own houses, they will faint by the way; for divers of them came from far.”

Is it so, dear reader — is your house very far from Jesus? Is Jesus known in your house? Is the holy perfume of His dear presence there? If a stranger comes to your house, does he feel that Christ reigns there? Or is it a mere Sunday profession with you, and Satan and his world all the week? Ah, when you come on Sunday you come from afar; but Jesus has compassion on you; He knows how it will end with you if you are not saved-when your heart shall cease to beat, and there is a hush in your house, and they whisper, “he is gone.” But oh, where? Will you have refused the compassion of Christ until it is too late? Where will you be? Will it be to lift up your eyes in torment? What a mercy it is, as you read this paper, that it is not yet too late. Think, then, of the compassion of Jesus.

How little sympathy the disciples had then, with Jesus. How little now. They say, “From whence can a man satisfy these men with bread here in the wilderness?” Did they not forget the Lord? He who fed the millions daily for forty years in their wilderness journey, the Jehovah of the days of Moses, was in their midst. They forgot the infinite resources they had in Him. And do we remember the compassion and power of Him who says, “I am with you alway, even unto the end”? Is anything too hard for the Lord? How little we feel the claims and needs of these perishing millions — how little sympathy with those devoted servants of the Lord who are true distributors of the Bread of Life in the regions far from home and comforts. But they have the joy of fellowship with Him who said, “I have compassion on the multitude.” “And He asked them, How many loaves have ye? And they said, Seven.” They had the perfect number, and with His blessing, more than enough to meet the need.

And now, fellow-disciples of Jesus, whose heart is full of compassion and love for the multitude, how many loaves have we? We will take first the great multitude of Christendom, who have no Bread of Life ministered to them; infidelity and superstition enough, but no Bread of Life — what have you got for them? Do you say, A very few loaves for so many? Jesus says, “Give ye them to eat.”

And remember that among them there are dear redeemed children of God, very faint on the way; long have they been without food that gives real nourishment. Give ye them to eat. One means which the Lord has greatly owned — He only knows how much — is the distribution of tracts. Have you a few of these loaves? Never was there such a need to be sure that there is no poison in them — poison where little expected. Do not give any one to eat what you have not eaten of yourself, and proved to be the Bread of Life.

“And He commanded the people to sit down on the ground.” He who commanded this vast universe to be, and it was; who spake, and it was done; He commanded the people to sit down on the ground. Look at Him in the midst of that multitude — every eye turned to Him; yes, the very multitude who had requested Him to depart from their coasts in chapter 5. Yes, precious Jesus, Thou hadst compassion on the men who preferred their swine to Thee. Have you heard His voice? Have you been brought to sit down in His blessed presence? All the needed supply goes out from Himself. “And He took the seven loaves, and gave thanks, and brake, and gave to His disciples to set before them, and they did set them before the people. And they had a few small fishes: and He blessed, and commanded to set them also before them.”

The disciples gave nothing except what they had received. May it ever be so with us. It is most cheering to hear of souls in so many distant lands being brought to sit at His feet; to sit down and rest in His dear presence, to prove His tender compassion — and then themselves to be the distributors of the Bread of Life. It will be so everywhere if there is fellowship with Him in His compassion for lost souls. O my brethren, where should we have been but for His compassion on us? He has mercy on whom He will have mercy.

“And they had a few small fishes, and He blessed, and commanded to set them also before them.” Have you a few small tracts that contain the true gospel of God? Will you look to Him to bless them? Can you in faith obey Him? He commands you to set them before those who have nothing to eat. You have now the privilege of distributing tracts in many languages. Will you give them to such as have nothing for the soul to feed upon? Our compassionate Jesus is using them, in spite of the disciples' coldness, in regions far from where our feet can tread. Oh, to he a transcript of Him who has compassion on the multitude. O blessed Lord, to be more like Thyself!

Seven loaves and a few small fishes seemed very little for four thousand persons. They would have been utterly insufficient, but Jesus was there, and He delights to use our littleness, our weakness, our insignificance. It is thus His fullness and all-sufficiency are made to appear. Waggon-loads of loaves and boatloads of fishes would have been more to the disciples' ideas then and now. Oh, the grand secret of sinners being brought to Him is, He all, and the disciples nothing; but this does not suit man. The need is great around; let us measure it by His infinite fullness.

“So they did eat, and were filled: and they took up of the broken meat that was left, seven baskets.” Well, dear reader, have you eaten? Are you filled? If so, you will hunger no more. Jesus said: “I am the bread of life: he that cometh to Me shall never hunger; and he that believeth on Me shall never thirst.” John 6:35. This is the sure mark of the one that has been brought to sit at His feet to receive Himself — the Bread of Life — he hungers no more. He knows the truth of the word, “But of Him are ye in Christ Jesus, who of God is made unto us wisdom, and righteousness, and sanctification, and redemption.” 1 Cor. 1:30. He thirsts no more. He needs nothing more to fit him for the holiest. He is complete in Christ, and has perfect peace and rest for evermore.

If this is your singular and happy place, what will you do with your basket? Will you send nothing to those who have nothing to eat? Will you have no compassion on the multitude? It is a wonderful feast — always as much left as when we began. If Christ is enough for you, He is enough for every poor, guilty, hell-deserving sinner on earth. Oh, to be off with our baskets, and take good portions to them for whom nothing is prepared! “And they that had eaten were about four thousand: and He sent them away.” Will you ask Him where you shall go with your basket?

Oh, blessed revelation of God, the heart of God, the love of God to a lost and guilty world! Yes, Jesus says, “He that hath seen Me, hath seen the Father.” “But we all, with open face beholding as in a glass the glory of the Lord, are changed into the same image from glory to glory, even as by the Spirit of the Lord.” 2 Cor. 3:18. May this he true of every Christian who shall read these lines.