Learning to Shepherd From the Good Shepherd

Christ is the Good Shepherd. As the Good Shepherd, He is first and foremost our sacrificial Savior (John 10:11). But Christ is also an example to follow in learning how to care for God’s people. It is not surprising that pastors are commanded to “shepherd” God’s people, who are also liken to a “flock” of sheep (1 Peter 5:3). Jesus’ interaction with the crowds is very instructive for learning how to care for God’s people.

Mark 8:1-13

[1] About this time another large crowd had gathered, and the people ran out of food again. Jesus called his disciples and told them, [2] “I feel sorry for these people. They have been here with me for three days, and they have nothing left to eat. [3] If I send them home hungry, they will faint along the way. For some of them have come a long distance.”

[4] His disciples replied, “How are we supposed to find enough food to feed them out here in the wilderness?”

[5[ Jesus asked, “How much bread do you have?”

“Seven loaves,” they replied.

[6] So Jesus told all the people to sit down on the ground. Then he took the seven loaves, thanked God for them, and broke them into pieces. He gave them to his disciples, who distributed the bread to the crowd. [7] A few small fish were found, too, so Jesus also blessed these and told the disciples to distribute them.

[8[ They ate as much as they wanted. Afterward, the disciples picked up seven large baskets of leftover food. [9] There were about 4,000 people in the crowd that day, and Jesus sent them home after they had eaten. [10] Immediately after this, he got into a boat with his disciples and crossed over to the region of Dalmanutha.

Three things stand out to me in Jesus’ dealings with the people in the crowd in this story.

Jesus had compassion upon them (8:2)

Jesus says straight up: “I feel sorry for these people.” He has compassion upon them. He sees them in their hunger and cares for them. How much more, does Jesus have compassion upon us when He sees us in our broken and sinful mess? Jesus came to seek and save the lost. That’s us. I hope that I can have the same heart of compassion toward other people. May God work that into me more and more as I walk with Him. At its core, pastoral ministry is all about love. Love for God and love for other people. That is the motivation for doing the work of ministry.

Jesus knew their weaknesses/needs (8:2-3)

I love Jesus’ logic here because it is so practical: “They have been here with me for three days, and they have nothing left to eat. [3] If I send them home hungry, they will faint along the way. For some of them have come a long distance.” He recognizes that the crowd has been with Him for such a long time that when the people in the crowd leave, they may faint because they’re so hungry! He knows that they face a very practical problem: they don’t have any food. Again, knowing their needs flows from His love. You can spend all the time in the world with people, but if you don’t truly love them, you can become blind to their needs—even if they are right before your eyes. You can see them, but not truly “see” them. So being a faithful pastor means spending time with people so you know them. And also, actually paying attention to them so I know their needs!

Jesus gave them bread (8:4-10)

The rest of the story is Jesus feeding them with bread. This story doesn’t just show Jesus’ sheer compassion but also has overtones of Jesus as the God of the Exodus, providing bread for the people in the wilderness (Exodus 16). He is the Great Provider for His people. But also, reading the Gospels “thickly,” I also can’t help but see Jesus here as the true “bread of life.” So, as a pastor, I am to give “bread” to the people I minister to. But not literal, or physical, bread, but most importantly, I am to give them the gospel—the good news of Jesus as the bread of life. All who believe in Him will receive eternal life.

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