Goodness and Compassion


The painting above by New York artist Laura James, depicts Jesus and the feeding of the 5000. (Matthew 14:13-21) It is the story of a miracle. Miracles break through the ordinary, everyday events of life. Like breaking bread. Like giving thanks.

The abundance of life with God opens us to goodness. The word “good” is derived from the word God. There is as a result of this interrelationship between good and God, plenty of goodness. It is where miracles abound.

For example, in the early English language when saying “good-bye” it a way of saying “God bless.” Watch what happens when we say “good morning.” Traditionally, it was a way of saying this is “God’s morning.” In other words, Wake-up! Yes, smell the roses and be on the look-out for God. God “who is all in all.” (Ephesians 4:6)

Come back again to the painting by Laura James. She incorporates iconography into her work so that we can’t help but gaze at the picture, the faces, the colors and wonder—literally—what in the world is going on. Of course, we know. The disciples stand on one side of Jesus. The crowd of five thousand weaves around on the other side. Kneeling before Jesus is the boy offering his bread and fish. Jesus performs the miracle and the crowd is fed. Compassion flows like the river whose source is found in the kingdom of God.

Before us is a picture of goodness and compassion. And these images, ideas, and thoughts we carry around inside of us help cast a vision for our lives. So, a vision of compassion reflects not only the goodness of God but it is a powerful reminder for us to now live out the words of Jesus calls us to “be compassionate just as your Father is compassionate.” (Luke 6:36)

It may be easy to think of compassion as nothing more than an exercise in doing good. But you know and I know, doing good is not always easy. Look at the disciples. At first, when they saw the crowd they said to Jesus “send them away.” Perhaps, this is simply the knee-jerk reaction of our human nature. Compassion however, taps into our higher, spiritual nature. Compassion begins the conversion of heart, mind and soul. Indifference, hostility and violence are transformed with goodness, out of which compassion flows like a river with the love of God. The hungry are fed.

Notice when we give of ourselves, we are less self-centered. In fact, compassion takes us out of ourselves. Our focus and attention no longer become limited by our cravings and consuming appetite for more and more. Rather, our vision is now expanded by a life that is centered in the kingdom of God where we are secure, responsible and above all compassionate.

What a miracle. The feeding of the 5,000 is a story of re-creation or new life that is held out to us and made available especially during this Eastertime. Remember, in the story of creation God said again and again “It is good.” In the new creation of Easter we have a vision of the compassion of Jesus. It is good. And, “out of the believer’s heart shall flow rivers of living water.” (John 7:38)

Which means you are now that miracle.

Image credit: Jesus Feeds the 5000, c. 1999 by Laura James. Permission granted by the artist.


Picture of Robin Jennings

Robin Jennings

Robin T. Jennings is an ordained priest in the Episcopal Church, and an accomplished author, speaker and teacher who inspires his audiences with Biblical guidance and spiritual insights into everyday life. Whether he has the opportunity to speak to churches, businesses or organizations, Robin’s lifetime of work in spiritual transformation and renewal connects individuals with timely topics such as the importance of community, hope, identity and the search for meaning which are inevitably woven into his message.

1 thought on “Goodness and Compassion”

  1. “Kneeling before Jesus is the boy offering his bread and fish. Jesus performs the miracle and the crowd is fed.”
    Years ago (many years) Mark Hollingsworth suggested that the miracle didn’t necessarily have to be totally supernatural. The boy giving his food encouraged others to do the same, as goodness often does. As you say, “Out of compassion the hungry are fed.”


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