Anne Graham Lotz’s grandfather was a medical missionary to China for 25 years, where he established the Love and Mercy Hospital in Tsingkianpu. She writes, “My grandfather was wise. He knew that ‘man is destined to die once, and after that to face judgment,’ and so all of his ambulatory patients were required to attend chapel every day in the hospital . . . Those who were unable to leave their beds were visited personally by someone who would share Christ with them.” Because of her grandfather’s care for their physical and spiritual needs, hundreds, and even thousands of Chinese men and women received Jesus as Savior.
During His earthly ministry, it is easy to see that Jesus understood both the spiritual and physical needs of His followers. In Mark 8:2, Jesus showed empathy to a hungry crowd that had gathered to hear Him teach on a hillside: “I have compassion on the crowd, because they have been with me now three days and have nothing to eat.” We can imagine the crowd of people clinging to Christ’s every word. But after three days and no more food, there were certainly rumbling stomachs, headaches, and plenty of irritability.
Jesus knew that if He sent them home, many of them might faint along the way (v. 3). His empathy led Him to meet their physical needs. He told them to sit on the ground (v. 6), perhaps so they could be fed in an orderly fashion. Jesus fed the people spiritually, but first He met their physical hunger. He understood that both needs were important. As Christians, we must have genuine empathy and understand people’s spiritual and physical needs. If we want to lead others to Christ, we cannot turn a blind eye to someone’s physical needs.
>> As you read Mark 8, notice Christ’s attitude toward those He is serving. Compare His attitude to the disciples’ attitude . . . and then to your own. Who is God asking you to serve, and how will you respond?
In response to today’s teaching from Mark 8, let’s pray that our actions will be driven by empathy and understanding of people’s spiritual needs. Lord, help us to be a godly example.