The Good Shepherd | Mark 6:33–34
33 Now many saw them going and recognized them, and they ran there on foot from all the towns and got there ahead of them. 34 When he went ashore he saw a great crowd, and he had compassion on them, because they were like sheep without a shepherd. And he began to teach them many things.
Jesus and His disciples seek out a deserted place near the Sea of Galilee for a needed reprieve. As they set sail, people in nearby towns recognized them and followed along the shoreline. Perhaps Jesus and the disciples faced a headwind, and the younger of the Galileans ran ahead, but a crowd begins to form ahead of where they come ashore. While some might be irritated or discouraged by a gathering in what was supposed to be an area of desolation, Jesus is moved to compassion.
Jesus is moved to compassion because they are like sheep without a shepherd. The Lord chooses to show compassion on whomever He chooses (Ex 33:19), and we’ve seen Him move because of it (Mark 1:41). Yet, Jesus’s heart is moved here because they lack someone to lead them (cf. Nm 27:16–17). This is somewhat an indictment of the failed spiritual leadership in Israel. It also looked forward to the reality of Christ’s character:
Jesus is moved to compassion because He is the Good Shepherd to His sheep. In this desolate place, Jesus is about to feed the five thousand rather than send them away hungry (vv. 36–37. Their true need is spiritual, however, and He grants it through His teaching (v. 34). He will later say, “I am the good shepherd… [who] lays down his life for the sheep” (Jn 10:11), and, “I give them eternal life, and they will never perish, and no one will snatch them out of my hand” (v. 28).
The Good Shepherd has compassion on His flock. Ezekiel 34 condemns the lack of spiritual shepherding, but it also promises that Lord Himself will search out His sheep (v. 11). Whenever they are in desolate places, His sheep will instead find green, grazing pastures (v. 14). Know the only, true Shepherd, and praise Him for His provision.