About the Author

Rev Aaron Eime is the deacon of Christ Church in the Old City of Jerusalem, the first Protestant Church in the Middle East. Aaron studied at the Hebrew University in the Masters Program with the focus towards Early Jewish and Christian Interpretation of Bible. Aaron also studied Psychology and Sociology at Queensland University in Australia in the Social Work Program. He is a dedicated Bible teacher exploring the Hebraic Roots of the Christian Faith. He has taught Internationally in many countries including Europe, North America, Hong Kong and China. Aaron is the Director of Research and Education at Christ Church. He lives in Jerusalem with his wife and 3 children.

Thursday, January 14, 2016

Compassion of the Messiah

The Feeding of the Five Thousand is a very familiar miracle of Jesus. Quite possibly because apart from the Resurrection it is the only miracle occurring in all four of the Gospels. After hearing of the death of His cousin, John the Baptist, Jesus seeks some solitude near Bethsaida. In doing so Jesus reveals to us some of His humanity. His cousin and colleague in ministry has been brutally murdered and He needs some time for prayer, reflection and to work through emotions. However, crowds gather and follow after Him. Instead of demanding some quiet time to Himself, when Jesus landed on the shore ‘He saw a large crowd, and He had compassion on them, because they were like sheep without a shepherd. So He began teaching them many things.’ Mark 6vs34. 

This passage reveals one the greatest characteristics of the Messiah, His compassion. Hemla in Hebrew, compassion, is one of my favourite words. The Gospels are finely crafted texts. The words chosen are very important and certainly are not superfluous. Compassion is linked to the Sheep and the Shepherd in this miracle. 

Early Jewish Believers looked on Yeshua (Jesus) as the new Moses, the one that had been prophesied to come. Deuteronomy 18vs18, ‘I will raise up for them a prophet like you’. Thus some of the characteristics of Moses would be found to be similar in the coming prophet ‘like Moses’. The Gospels pair Compassion, Sheep and Shepherds together, drawing from a long oral tradition concerning the first Moses and link them with Jesus the Messiah. 

Question ~ why was Moses allowed to lead the Children of Israel out of Egypt? That’s a pretty big assignment for anybody to undertake and it would take someone of special character to participate. Out of all the available heroes God could choose, He chose Moses. So what are the characteristics of a Hero of God? When we look at the characteristics of Moses, we see that he is a murderer - Moses slew an Egyptian. We also see that he is a liar - Moses covered up the body and tried to hide what he had done. Next we discover that Moses is a coward. Once the truth is out that he has committed murder, he flees to Midian instead of facing the consequences. Moses then spends the next 40 years in Midian, he marries the daughter of a pagan priest, raises a family and becomes wealthy tending stock animals. In those 40 years he neither returns to Egypt to discover the plight of the Hebrew slaves nor appears to dwell on the Israelite captives. So that’s the Hero type? A selfish murderer, liar and coward? Not exactly the qualities we would look for in a hero!

So when was Moses ready to lead the people? When did God find His hero equipped for the task? For help in answering this question there is a midrash on Moses that we could draw on. And it links into the Gospel’s depiction of Jesus as He supplies the miracle to the multitudes. A midrash is a method of Jewish exegesis to help answer difficult questions raised by the text, or to fill in gaps not described in the Biblical narrative that are perhaps only hinted at. The word Midrash comes from the verb ‘to seek, study, inquire’ and the actual word Midrash occurs twice in the Hebrew Bible. Example: in 2 Chronicles 13vs22 we read ‘in the midrash of the prophet Ido.’ 
The midrash recounts the story of an important incident that occurs while Moses is watching the flocks one day in Midian. One sheep wanders away from the rest of the flock. You actually see this midrash played out in the Dreamwork's animated movie The Prince of Egypt. Instead of abandoning the foolish sheep to its self-inflicted state to be torn apart by wild animals, Moses (with the voice of Val Kilmer) goes off in search of the lost one. He climbs over rocks and through briars, scuffing his arms and legs in the process. In the end he finds the lost sheep lying exhausted under a rock. As he bends down to carry the sheep back on his shoulders, then suddenly the bush nearby catches fire, and God speaks to His hero. God could see the compassion in the heart of Moses for the one lost, foolish sheep and He knows that His hero is ready to lead the People of Israel. Moses is finally ready. Moses has added the quality of Compassion in his heart, and that is the quality God is looking for in His heroes. 

When you look at other heroes of God in the Bible, we see their flaws, their sins and failings, but we also see the characteristic in them that made them heroes. If you want to be a hero of God, then you need compassion too.