12 March, 2018

Mark 6:34—“And Jesus … was moved with compassion toward them”

And Jesus, when he came out, saw much people, and was moved with compassion toward them, because they were as sheep not having a shepherd: and he began to teach them many things (Mark 6:34).

This text is often used to teach a general love, mercy and compassion of God toward all men.


Q. 1. “Mark 6:34 reads: ‘And Jesus, when he came out, saw much people, and was moved with compassion toward them, because they were as sheep not having a shepherd: and he began to teach them many things.’ Similar texts throughout Scripture to this one include Matt. 9:36, 14:14, 15:32 and 20:34, etc. 
In this text, the word ‘them’ refers to the objects of Christ’s compassion. Those whom He taught must be identified with the ‘much people’ that He ‘saw,’ and cannot be restricted only to the elect among them.”

(a) Anon. (PRCA):

One could probably add to the list the famous text: John 3:16, “For God so loved the world that He gave His only begotten Son …” God loves persons. God loved the world. Does “world” in John 3:16 mean every person head for head? Does “multitudes” in Mark 6:34 mean every individual of those multitudes head for head?

When a farmer views his harvest (which is actually the helpful analogy used by the Lord in Matthew 9:36ff) and desires the harvest to be brought in, does that love and care of the farmer towards the precious kernels of wheat also extend towards everything else in the field: the weeds, bugs, chaff, and the tares, too? Does the powerful thrust of the sickle into the wheat and all of the rigorous work of harvesting the golden grain, intend to show the famer’s love also to the weeds, bugs, chaff, and tares? Can the bugs, chaff, and tares conclude by the end of the harvest, as they burn on the side of the field, that the farmer loved them and had a keen interest to gather them into a special place? 

When Jesus had compassion on the multitudes, His work of compassion (mercy) was done with a view to the elect seed among the multitudes. His compassion was spiritual destruction for the carnal seed in the multitudes, but blessed salvation for the elect believers and their seed.
When the sun shines upon the earth, that sunshine can both destroy (cause cancer, etc.) and can nurture life. Similarly, the shining of the Son of Righteousness upon mankind in all of the glory of His goodness through the preaching of the gospel of the true church of Jesus Christ is, by the work of the Holy Spirit of truth, both the shining power to destroy the reprobate and the power to save and nurture everlasting life in His elect.

In Mark 6:34, the “them” is further described in terms of an analogy: sheep. The “them” does indeed refer to the multitudes, but not all of the people head for head. How could that possibly be, since Jesus could never have had compassion on Judas Iscariot also among everybody else there? We understand that Jesus looked upon His disciples and the multitudes with compassion towards the “them” that were His scattered sheep with no shepherd. As far as the goats, wolves, and other strange spiritual animals in the multitudes, Jesus did not labor nor was He moved with compassion towards them. Although revealed openly and publicly before all, declared publicly before all in His preaching, and though it was signified even in the mighty miracles whose earthly benefits many reprobate enjoyed with new health or full bellies, His compassion and grace remained, nevertheless, particular towards His people, His sheep, His elect. 
Therefore, we must conclude that even in the passages mentioned, which are all a lot like John 3:16 and which seem to teach that Christ loves all men, Christ still reveals in His person and work the particular and saving (not general and impotent or conditional) grace and love of Jehovah for His elect in Christ alone.

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