Grades 3-6 for Sunday School:
Imitators of Christ – Showing Compassion
Teacher’s Notes: We are currently in a series of lessons on being imitators of Christ. When we call ourselves by His name (Christians), we are expected to act like Him. Last week we began looking at what Jesus Christ was like when He lived on this earth. We looked at how Jesus handled temptation by using the Word of God. This week we are going to learn about the compassion Jesus showed, and be challenged to show that same compassion to the people in our own lives.
Opening prayer: Lord, thank You for each student who’s here, today. And thank You for helping us overcome temptation this week with the help of Your Holy Spirit! Please help us now, Lord, to see what great compassion You had for those around You. And help us to see how we can have compassion for others, as You did. Open our ears and hearts to Your lesson for us today. Amen.
(Begin by asking the students who were with you last week if any of them tried to imitate Christ this week by using their “swords of the Spirit” to overcome temptation. Ask them if they would like to share what temptations they faced, and which Bible verses came to mind to help them have the victory over temptation. If any students share an example, rejoice with them that The Holy Spirit gave them the victory.)
Does anyone know what the word “compassion” means? (after the students offer some ideas, share with them this definition) The word “compassion” literally means “to suffer with.” There are actually two parts to the meaning of “compassion.” The first is a feeling – it’s feeling badly for another person who is suffering. The other part is a desire to do what you can to help them through their time of suffering.
Have you ever been traveling along a road, and seen someone asking for money or food? Perhaps they were holding a sign saying that they would be willing to work for food. Perhaps they simply held out their hands and asked for help. If so, how did you feel, and what did you do? Looking back, is there anything you wish you had done that you didn’t do at the time? Remember, compassion is not just a feeling. It’s also doing something to help.
Imagine that we are having lunch here at church today. Only the person sitting next to you didn’t bring anything to eat; and does not have any money to go out and buy himself any food. How do you feel about that person who has no lunch? Do you feel compassion for him? What would that feel like? And what do you think you might do to help?
Sometimes it’s seems hard to show compassion. What are some reasons or situations that make it hard to be compassionate? (Perhaps we feel like we don’t have enough time or money to really make a difference. Perhaps the sacrifice we would need to make seems too big.) There are many people in this world with great needs. Sometimes there are things we can do to help. Sometimes there are not. But there is one need that everyone has, that we should always be ready to meet. Can anyone guess what that need might be? (it is the need for salvation, and we should always be ready to help someone in need of The Lord!)
Today, in our lesson, we’re going to look at an occasion where Jesus encountered a large group of people who had a great need…they were hungry, and had no food with them. We will really see what the word “compassion” means, as we look at what Jesus did for this hungry crowd.
Memory verse: (Have the children repeat this verse with you several times, until they are able to say it themselves. And encourage them to repeat it to others several times during the week, so that it’ll have a place in their hearts.)
“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 Week’s Lesson:
(Jesus meets the peoples’ spiritual needs, and Jesus meets their physical needs)
(Suggested Bible Reading): Mark 6:30-44 (you may read the entire passage now, or just refer back to it when suggested in the lesson)
30And the apostles gathered themselves together unto Jesus, and told him all things, both what they had done, and what they had taught.
31And he said unto them, Come ye yourselves apart into a desert place, and rest a while: for there were many coming and going, and they had no leisure so much as to eat.
32And they departed into a desert place by ship privately.
33And the people saw them departing, and many knew him, and ran afoot thither out of all cities, and outwent them, and came together unto him.
34And 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.
35And when the day was now far spent, his disciples came unto him, and said, This is a desert place, and now the time is far passed:
36Send them away, that they may go into the country round about, and into the villages, and buy themselves bread: for they have nothing to eat.
37He answered and said unto them, Give ye them to eat. And they say unto him, Shall we go and buy two hundred pennyworth of bread, and give them to eat?
38He saith unto them, How many loaves have ye? go and see. And when they knew, they say, Five, and two fishes.
39And he commanded them to make all sit down by companies upon the green grass.
40And they sat down in ranks, by hundreds, and by fifties.
41And when he had taken the five loaves and the two fishes, he looked up to heaven, and blessed, and brake the loaves, and gave them to his disciples to set before them; and the two fishes divided he among them all.
42And they did all eat, and were filled.
43And they took up twelve baskets full of the fragments, and of the fishes.
44And they that did eat of the loaves were about five thousand men.
There are actually two groups of people that Jesus showed compassion to, in this passage. The first is His disciples. Verses 30-32 tell us that the disciples had been very busy. In the verses just before the ones we’re looking at today, Jesus had sent His disciples out to the surrounding towns and villages to preach to the people about their need to repent of their sins and believe in Jesus. They were able to share the gospel and perform many great miracles. Some of the people they spoke to were happy to hear the message, and accepted Jesus as their Savior. Others were happy to see their miracles, but did not repent and turn to Jesus. Have you ever had an opportunity to go on a missions trip like these disciples? If you have, how did you feel when you got back? Jesus noticed that when His disciples returned, they were very excited to share their experiences with Him. But they were also very tired! So Jesus had compassion on His disciples. He saw that they needed some rest, and did what He could to help. He got them in a boat, and headed them in the direction of a little vacation.
But on their way to their getaway… Jesus and the disciples were overtaken by the second group in need of compassion. In verse 33, we find that a crowd of people saw them leaving in the boat, and actually outran them to the shore they were headed to. Have you ever been headed somewhere very exciting, but had a delay getting there? Were you very disappointed? How do you think the disciples felt when they thought they were going to have a chance to relax a little, but suddenly found themselves surrounded by yet another crowd of people? What do you think they expected would happen? Do you think they expected Jesus to send the crowd away? After all, it was Jesus who brought them there to have a time of rest away from all the crowds! He knew they needed some rest. But Jesus also knew something else.
He knew that this crowd of people needed Him! They had a deeper need than even they were aware of. Verse 34 is our memory verse. It tells us that as Jesus looked at this crowd of people, He was not angry that they had ruined His vacation plans. He was not frustrated that they had chased Him down to see Him do more miracles. Our verse says, “…when he came out, saw much people, and was moved with compassion toward them, because they were as sheep not having a shepherd…” (Mark 6:34). Jesus could see into their hearts, and knew their needs. He also knew that He had the ability to meet those needs. So instead of sending the crowd away, Jesus set out to minister to these “sheep” who were in need of a Shepherd.
This crowd had seen Jesus and His disciples perform many incredible miracles. Perhaps they followed Him, hoping to see more. But if we look, again, at our memory verse, we’ll see that the first thing Jesus did was not meet any of their physical needs. He did not start out by performing any spectacular miracles for them. Jesus saw a greater need that He wanted to meet first, and that was their spiritual need. Jesus looked out at this crowd, and saw them as a flock of sheep, wandering around without a Shepherd. Does anyone know anything about sheep? Sheep always travel in a flock, and are easily frightened by unfamiliar noises or landscapes. But most importantly, sheep are always looking for a leader. They follow, by nature, and if they don’t have a shepherd, they will often follow the first sheep that moves, regardless of whether or not he’s heading in the right direction. When Jesus looked out at this group as a flock of sheep, He was probably concerned that if they did not choose to follow Him, then they might be easily led by another…perhaps Satan. So Jesus took the opportunity before Him, having them gathered together as a flock, and “He began to teach them many things.” (verse 34) Jesus’ first concern for them was their spiritual condition. And in His compassion, He taught the things they most needed to hear, about Himself. Jesus wanted more than anything to be the Shepherd that this crowd would follow.
Many times, God will put people in our lives who have an obvious physical need: perhaps they’re hungry, or need a place to sleep, or perhaps they have been hurt. But be sure to listen closely as you try to meet those needs. Many times you will find that God has put them in your path because they have a more important need. They might not even realize that they need The Lord. But perhaps in meeting their physical needs, you may have an opportunity to speak to them about their spiritual ones…their need for salvation or dedication to The Lord.
Now, while it’s true that Jesus’ main concern for the people was their salvation, He was also very aware of their physical needs. And as the Creator of the Universe, there was no one better able to take care of their hunger than Jesus, Himself. Someone once said that people won’t care how much you know, until they know how much you care. Jesus knew that by the end of the day, this crowd of people was hungry. And He cared! Jesus had the disciples check with the people, and found that in the entire group there was only one child’s lunch of five loaves of two fish. Verse 44 records that there were about five thousand men. It’s very likely that most of the men came with their families. So it’s also very likely that the crowd was around fifteen thousand people! Five little loaves of bread and two fish were not going to go very far with such a large group of people. But Jesus had compassion on them. We know from our lesson last week that Jesus knew very well what it felt like to be hungry. Do you remember how long He went without eating? He went forty days and nights without food! So you can be sure that He knew how they felt. And the good news was that God Almighty was right there in front of them, ready and able to provide! So here’s what Jesus did. He asked that little boy for his lunch; those five little loaves of bread, and two little fish… “He looked up to heaven, and blessed, and brake the loaves, and gave them to his disciples to set before them; and the two fishes divided he among them all.” (verse 41) And do you know what happened? Jesus had all the people sit down, and started dividing the food into baskets for the disciples to bring around to them. He kept dividing, and dividing, and dividing the food. And the disciples kept giving, and giving, and giving out the food. “And they did all eat, and were filled.” (verse 42) Jesus didn’t give each person just a little bite to make them happy. He provided food for them until they were all filled up. Now that’s showing compassion! Jesus saw their need, and met their need.
How do you think the people felt about Jesus after He gave them the food? Do you think it helped them to understand just how much Jesus truly cared about them? Do you think it made them think more about the things He had taught them earlier in the day? If we want to be more like Jesus, one way we can do that is by showing compassion to others, like He did. When we see a need that we can meet, we should, by all means, do what we can to take care of the need. And perhaps when we do that, we may have the chance to really talk to them about Jesus, and how much He loves and cares for them, too.
And do you know where we get that compassion from? It comes from the Holy Spirit, Himself, living in our hearts. If we have repented of our sins and trusted in Jesus as our Savior, as the disciples had preached to the people in the towns and villages during Bible times, we have the very Spirit of God living in us. And He can help us have the same compassion that Jesus did, to help those around us. . (invite the students to talk to you later, if they have any questions about salvation.)
Closing Prayer: Lord, thank You for showing us Your great compassion by dying on the cross for us. And thank You for putting that same compassion in our hearts, so we can help those around us who are lost and hurting. Help us this week, Lord, to be aware of the needs of those around us. And help us to show true compassion by doing whatever we can to help. And most of all, thank You for trusting us to be the ones to reach out and touch others in Your name. Amen.
Class Discussion/ Activity: Ask the students if they know of anyone in their family, or in the church, or in their neighborhoods who might have a special need. Then talk about what the students might be able to do to show compassion to that person. And, if possible, consider whether there is something you might be able to do as a class to meet the needs that are mentioned. What a wonderful testimony for the Lord that would be…to have an entire Sunday School class reach out in the love of Jesus!
People won’t care what you know,
Until they know how much you care.
So if you see needs, then meet them
Anytime, and anywhere.
You’ll be showing true compassion,
When you feel their deepest need.
Then a helping hand extended
Will be Christ in you, indeed!
Lisa DeVinney, November 2015