“When he saw the crowds, he had compassion for them, because they were harassed and helpless, like sheep without a shepherd. Then he said to his disciples, “The harvest is plentiful, but the laborers are few; therefore pray earnestly to the Lord of the harvest to send out laborers into his harvest.” Matthew 9:36-38
At the heart of Jesus is love and compassion for hurting, sick, lost people. When Jesus looks at the crowd in Matthew 9, He sees harassed and helpless people, like sheep without a shepherd. They are people who are wandering around looking for direction, leadership, purpose, but can’t find it anywhere. Sounds a little familiar, doesn’t it? We all want to have purpose. We all want our lives to have meaning.
When I read this passage from Matthew I’m immediately struck by the emotion Jesus has when He sees the crowd. It’s not anger or pity or judgment, but compassion. He isn’t mad that they have no direction and isn’t judging them for not knowing their purpose. He has compassion; meaning Jesus doesn’t merely know about their distress, but also has the desire to alleviate it. Jesus sees the crowd and wants to give them meaning. He sees people in need of love and care and He wants His people to move towards them.
As Jesus is moved with compassion, He turns to His disciples and says that people are ready to hear why they were created: to know Jesus, the Good Shepherd. In fact, there are so many people ready to hear that there aren’t enough people to tell them. So He tells them to pray earnestly to God for more people to tell others about Him.
Friends, you are an answer to that prayer Jesus told His disciples to pray. What is true of the crowd Jesus saw is the same for us now. Just as before someone told me about Jesus, I was harassed and helpless, without purpose or direction, so are the people I rub shoulders with day in and day out. Each of us represents webs of relationships that God has purposefully and loving put us in. In those relationships we are called to not only care for people but to actively give to them the greatest news of all time: that Jesus wants to restore them to right relationship with Him and give them meaning and purpose in life. The God of the universe wants us to know Him personally! It’s amazing news to share.
So today I invite you to step into a bigger story. A story God is writing that is restoring the world, as it should be, one person at a time. The people around us are looking for a Shepherd to guide them, to know them. How could we not point them to the One who loves and cares for them so deeply?