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The Compassionate Christ

The Compassionate Christ poster

We have our text this morning in St. Matthew’s Gospel, chapter 15, verse 32: “Then Jesus called His disciples unto Him, and said, I have compassion on the multitude, because they continue with Me now three days, and have nothing to eat: and I will not send them away fasting, lest they faint in the way.”


That is Matthew 15:32. “I have compassion on the multitude.” You will note the distinction between this miracle in the 15th chapter of Matthew’s Gospel and the miracles in chapter 14. In chapter 14, you have the feeding of the five thousand with the five barley loaves and the two small fishes. In this chapter you have the four thousand men fed besides women and children, and there were seven loaves in this particular case. They are very similar in many respects and are dissimilar in other very essential respects. Let me say this in passing, that you will note in the 14th chapter, the miracles give us the account of the ending of His ministry in Galilee, where He had been brought up, and its finish with the banquet for the five thousand. Here you have the ending of a ministry among those whom you might term raw heathen. It began with the cry of the Syrophoenician woman for her daughter, who was grievously afflicted with the devil.

At the end of His ministries in Decapolis, He made another banquet, which we are considering this morning, the feeding of the four thousand men, besides women and children in that crowd.

Then you will remember that another great epoch of His ministry concluded with a banquet of another character, just before He passed out in death, and in this instance, He fed the inner circle of His disciples. He gave them the symbols of His flesh and of His blood. I see by the table before me that we are going to commemorate that supper this morning again. I just mention this in passing, that these great epochs in His ministry concluded with banquets.

Secret Of Christian Service

Now, in the narrative from whence I have taken the texts, we see the secret of all true Christian service and endeavor. In His attitude toward God and the multitude, I say we see the secret of all true Christian service and endeavor. First, in the communion; secondly, in compassion; thirdly, in cooperation.


I want to emphasize, first of all, the communion with God. You will notice that at the end of this ministry in Decapolis, that He came to the Sea of Galilee, and then went up into the high mountain and sat down there ALONE. Of course, He was there in communion with the heavenly Father. They had been strenuous days before that, and the three succeeding days were also strenuous days before that, and the three succeeding days were also strenuous, for He was constantly pouring out virtue, power, and love, to the multitude, and you cannot do this my beloved friends, unless you have learned the secret of drawing your virtue, your power, and your love, from the presence of the great Divine Power. There is no work on Earth so irksome, that takes the energy out of a man as real Christian service. I mean by that, the preaching of the Gospel to the poor. I mean by that, binding up broken hearts; I mean by that, opening prison doors, letting captives go free, and preaching the acceptable year of the Lord, or in other words, preaching the Gospel of the grace of God. That kind of ministry calls for supernatural power, and supernatural love, and you cannot get it in any other way except by direct communion with God, when you and I as Jesus’ disciples, in His ministry, not only before your service, but after your service, retire somewhere in the secret place ALONE with God.

We sometimes say that more things have been wrought by prayer than men dream of. I want to suggest to you that in this Book there are some of the greatest things recorded that have ever been accomplished by the human family, and they are all the result of a peculiar kind of prayer, not the prayer in prayer meetings. As much as I appreciate a great congregation of people at my prayer meeting, I want to tell you that the prayer that brings things to pass is the prayer that is done in secret by someone.

“He went up into the mountain, and sat there,”—alone. Have you ever noticed that of this Man, more than of any other, it is said, that He arose a great while before it was day, and when out into the wilderness, that He tarried all night in prayer, that He went a little farther?

He had taken with Him His beloved friends, whom He trusted most of all, Peter, James, and John. But He had to leave them in a certain place, and if you are going to enter into this fellowship and ministry, you must leave the best friends you have at a certain place. He went a little farther, and fell upon His face, and made intercession with tears, and loud cryings, and sweat as it were drops of blood. What does it mean? It means that there is an agonizing prayer, and that is the prayer that brings things to pass, and it means that you can only pray that way when you are alone from everyone else—along with God.

I said that kind of ministry takes it out of you; yes, physically as well as spiritually, and it is wonderful the day you find out that “they who wait upon the Lord shall renew their strength,” not only a touch-up in their own body, but in the mind. They shall change their strength, as it is given in the margin of the 41st chapter of Isaiah. “They shall mount up with wings as eagles; they shall run, and not be weary; they shall walk, and not faint.”

What is the reason for your not doing this. No matter how strong you are intellectually, or physically, you will faint. Even the young men will dividedly fall, but they that wait upon the Lord, whether black or white, educated, or uneducated, they that wait upon the Lord shall change their strength. They shall get something or other that will meet their need. They will get something in His presence that will enable them to pour out virtue unto the multitude. Do you see it?

I remember that years ago in my Tabernacle we had Dr.——— present with us. He told us of a boy, who had captured in some way a little eaglet, and they put it into the hen yard with some hens. It was covered over so it could not get out. It was only a few days, until it began to wither, its feathers began to droop, and it seemed to be dying. The father said to the boy, “Sonny, I fear that the eaglet will die. We will have to put it out on the hill.”

The little boy looked at the eaglet, and after a moment of struggle, said, “I am afraid it is too late.”

But he decided that it was better to let it go than to have it die in the hen coop. They took it away, far up a distant hill. They put it down on the ground; it never looked up. The father and the little boy went a short distance away, and sat down to watch it, to see what it would do. Finally it turned the head; they turned theirs. Away up in clouddom they saw an eagle. They saw it come in that direction; it was coming nearer and nearer, and the little boy said, “Is that not a splendid eagle?” It came down to the sick eaglet, and it swung over it, and around it, and over it again. It arose and flew toward the distant hills, and finally the sick eaglet began to pursue it; it began to move its wings, and began to go too. You see, the eagle brought something that would lift up the sick eaglet. I guess you have some in the Tabernacle here in Chicago who are sick, and ready to die spiritually. They are the hardest people to help; the people who have the Truth, and who believe in the Bible, those who are ready to give up in despair. It may be that you are the one to help them.


He went up into the high mountain and sat down. Then, we have the vision strengthened. He saw the multitude, and you never really see the multitude until you see it in God’s eyes. You never hear the cry for help from the heart of the human race until you hear it in God’s ears. You never hear the cry for compassion until you have the Divine compassion surging through your heart. That is the secret of all Christian service. You cannot go up into the presence of God for a little while without coming back with a heart full of compassion. Just as the Son is Light, God is Love. You say, “I cannot love.” God can. He is love. When He came from that Presence, He saw the multitude and He was moved with compassion. That was the secret of His great ministry.

Time and again you read that He was moved with compassion. Listen, that compassion not only moved Him but it moved them. It is the secret of all success. I don’t care how nice you preach. You can have a sermon as brilliant as an icicle and just as cold. I am not speaking of the eloquence of others. It is the compassion that moves us. Love never has failed us. Is that not true?

The multitude came to Him. Of course, they did. Compassion draws. They somehow or another felt that they could come to Him. Oh, the tenderness of Jesus; oh, the gentleness of God! Some of us might learn a lesson from Him. I was saying the other day, that in observing Him in the New Testament, it seemed that the more degraded, the more damned a man or woman seemed to be, the kinder Jesus seemed to be to them. He excelled Himself in gentleness when a harlot came to Him. He knew how some folks became harlots. If He were going to be severe He might be severe with someone else other than the woman who was a harlot.

You remember that in the temple courts, they brought in a woman who was a harlot, and flung her down, and said, “Here she is. Moses said she should be stoned. What do you say?”

He is going to say something different to them. The law came to Moses; grace came by Jesus Christ. What is He going to say? At first, He does not say anything. He writes upon the sand, in shame for these men.

“All right, said Jesus, “if she is to be stoned, let the man without sin, cast the first stone.”

They were stunned; they all went out. When He straightened Himself up, He said, “Hath no man condemned thee?”

“Nay, Lord.”

“Neither do I.”

Does Jesus excuse that thing? He is not come to condemn but to save. When He sees a sad and broken heart, He is moved with compassion. Your ministry and mine fail because we are not moved that way.

A little while ago I was reading a story of a great preacher, a friend of mine, the great Robert Murray McCheyne. One of your Americans came to Dundee and he asked an old gentleman if he had ever heard McCheyne preach.

“Yes, many times,” he said.

“Do you remember any of the texts he used?”

“No, I don’t remember any of his texts.”

“Can you tell anything you remember him saying?”

“No, I can’t remember.”

“Can you tell me anything about his gestures?”

“No, I don’t know anything about that.”

“What do you remember?”

“Oh, I shall never forget when I was a boy, when that old Scotch preacher came to visit my little sister, who was dying. I saw him go into the house, and I waited for him to come out again. When he did come, I looked at his face, and I saw the tears that were flowing down his face, and he came over to me, and put his hand upon my head. He said, ‘I must have you for Christ. You must have Christ in this hour.’ And said the old man, ‘I shall never forget the tremble in his fingers.’”

You see he touched him. God grant that we may be moved with compassion. That is what gathered the crowds to Him.

Another thing that attracted Him to humanity was that He always individualized the people. You read the whole narrative. Here is one of the statements, that they came to Him through their sickness; some were blind, some were lame, some were possessed with devils; some had one kind of troubles, and some another.

But listen, He healed every one of them. I like that “every one.” There is never a fear, and there is never a moan, or a tear drop, or a groan, or a pain, but what His heart has borne them moment by moment. He thinks of His own. He knows your need, men; He knows your need, sisters. He understands it.

You know, the other day I was impressed with the statement in John’s Gospel where He said He did not need anyone to tell Him what was in the hearts of men, for He knew all things. You remember when Andrew found Jesus, he found his own brother, Simon, and said to him, “Come, I have found the Messiah.” And then he brought him unto Jesus, and Jesus looked upon him, and said, “Thou art Simon, the son of Jonas.”

Then Peter finds Philip, and Philip finds Nathanael. And when Jesus saw Nathanael coming, he said, “Behold an Israelite indeed, in whom is no guile!” Nathanael said, “How do you know me?”

“Oh, I have known you for a long time.”

In the next chapter, a man comes to Him by night, and said, “Rabbi, we know that thou art a teacher come from God; for no one can do these signs that thou doest, except God be with him.”

Jesus said, “I know all about you, but you must be born again, or you cannot see the kingdom of God.”

In the next chapter, a woman at the well meets Him. She did not know Him; He knew her. He said to her, “Call your husband.”

She said, “I have no husband.”

“Oh, yes, you have.” Jesus knew.

In the next chapter. He saw a man, who had been sick for 38 years. He knew that for a long time that man had been in that condition. He knew everything.

Oh, friends, He knows your heart, and your failure this week, and He is able to meet that need this morning. Blessed be His name.


Here is another word I want to emphasize. The HUMAN cooperation in the miracles. This miracle teaches as all others do, that there must be a fourth partner in the work of God. The Father, Son, and Holy Ghost—that is the Divine Trinity. But for the carrying out of His purpose, and the realization of His plan, and the fulfillment of His work, there must be a fourth partner, and He teaches here and elsewhere that His disciples stand between Him and this multitude, and with all His compassion, and all His love, and all His power, will be futile unless these disciples come into fellowship, and cooperation with Him and His plan first. Is that not right?

How is it done? First of all, He says, “How much bread have you?” It begins by discovering our inadequacy, our inefficiency, and that we are helpless, and hopeless, so far as the multitude is concerned, and until you and I find that out, we cannot perform our work effectively. If you think you can reach the people by picture shows and such things other than the Gospel, He is going to let you try.

He called upon the disciples before He did anything with the multitude. They must be endued with His power, and vision; they must get His vision, and they must bring all, no matter how little it is, and lay it down at His feet, and when they do, there is nothing between Him and the multitude. As I came in the door this morning, I was not sure I had the right message for you until I saw that banner over there, “There is nothing between Christ and the perishing crowds, BUT YOU.” There are thousands out of touch with Jesus Christ and they are trying to do His work in a hundred ways, but not in His way, and they will fail. The only way to reach the multitude is by cooperation with Himin His plan. I make a little plan, and then I say, “Lord, here is my plan. Bless it.” It is better to get His plan, and then there will be no trouble about His blessing it.

“They bring ALL to Him. Only five barley loaves, the word says in one place, and two little fishes, worth about 15 cents. Over here is a man that can buy $100 worth; over here is one who can buy 100 loaves. Why does He not ask them? He does not want much. He wants ALL. He says ALL, no matter how small. Five little loaves! “Bring them to Me.” That is where your little miracle begins.

They brought the loaves, and they gave them to Jesus. That is consecration.

He brake them and blessed them. That is sanctification. He blessed them, and He brake them, and what else did He do?

He gave them right back to them again. You and I must learn this, that He not only wants us to give all TO Him, but we must always get all FROM Him. There are some folks that I have met, that have a lot they might give to God. When I hear some fellows preaching and singing, and especially singing, when I hear their sweet lovely voice, I say that if they would only bring their voice, their ALL to Jesus, and let Him break them a little, and crush them, there would be streams of blessing from that voice.

He took ALL, and brake it, and blessed it, and gave it back to them. Notice, that when He fed the multitude, He did not do it alone. Do you know what is the matter of some folks in Moody Tabernacle and mine in Hamilton? They are nothing but stagnant pools. God wants us to be running rivers. The little stream coming through the meadows and flowing down to the sea, grows broader and deeper all the way, and the bird sings its praise, and the trees spread their branches over its bosom,—but a stagnant pool that never lets any of its resources get away, that keeps everything for itself, by and by, becomes foul and loathsome, and breeds disease, and God or man smites it until it dries up. But that little stream goes on and on forever. God keeps the little fountain running over, which gave birth to the stream.

You must feed the multitude. The joy of feeding the multitude! A man said to me a few weeks ago, “I have been preaching in a theatre for many months, and five or six weeks ago a man came to me and said, ‘I want to see you.’ I made an appointment.

“He told me his story. He said, ‘I have been living a double life. My wife does not know it; my children do not know it; and my business friends do not know it. But ten days ago, the crash came, and now no one knows where I am. I have not been in the church for 20 years. As I was coming down the street, I saw the crowd coming in here, and I thought maybe it was a show. I came in. You seemed to have a message for me. I felt that God was speaking to me.’”

He met God there, and went back to his wife and children and there was a happy reconciliation. A few days ago, he said, “You don’t know what that has meant, and it seems to me that I have been made over—all over, and now I feel just like a little boy, and as if I were starting all over again.”

Said another man, when his son accepted Christ, “My dear son, you have made me 25 years younger.”

I don’t know whether there will be thrones and crowns in heaven. I don’t know much about this, but I know that the feeding of the multitude on Earth is the most glorious work God has given me, and if I just finish up some day I shall have more than my share.

Did they lose anything by giving away what He gave them? No, they had more when they got done than when they started. So does everybody else. Is not God there? They gathered up twelve baskets and they started with seven baskets full. So it is in Him—that He gives good measure, pressed down, and shaken together, and still it is running over.

Years ago, I had the pleasure of hearing the preacher, of whom it is said, taught Moody to preach on love. All the week here in Chicago this man had been preaching on John 3:16. This little story he tells on himself.

“One Christmas morning, he had only a few pieces of money in his pockets. He had the blues—for even preachers have sometimes. When they still had the open bar, they used to talk about people having blue devils. I say some Christians have them yet. I was looking forward to a dismal Christmas, and then I thought of a little girl, who was crippled, and shut in and without any hope of having anything to brighten the day. I thought perhaps I might go over and pray with her. I had just about enough money to ride one way. If I rode over there, I would have to walk back. I thought of that long distance I would have to go. But I started, and on the way I saw a little doll. How happy she would be to have that, and I wondered what the price was. I looked again and it was pinned on it. It was just the price I had. I got it, and went on my way. I knocked on the window and a little boy opened the door. There was the little girl, and when she saw me, her face lightened up, and she said, ‘I am so glad you came. I have been so lonely, for mother has gone out to see if she can get some coal.’

“‘I have brought you a little present,’ I said, giving her the box containing the doll. She untied it, and then tightly hugged it. She hugged it up tight, as only a little child can with her first doll, and then she said, ‘Oh, it is a real doll. I wanted one so bad, that I tied up these old rags, and now is it not lovely to think I have a real one?’ He said, ‘I had the best Christmas I ever had.’ Is your cruse of comfort full? Arise and share it with another.”