Sheep without a shepherd often find themselves in trouble. Steph Nickel takes us through Matthew 9:35-38 where Jesus demonstrates his compassion for the crowds.
Sheep Without A Shepherd
Matthew 9:35-38 (ESV) says,
“And Jesus went throughout all the cities and villages, teaching in their synagogues and proclaiming the gospel of the kingdom and healing every disease and every affliction. 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.’”
Compassion and love. These traits mark Jesus’ character. I’ve mentioned before that He was drawn to the outcasts of society. The hurting. The wounded. The broken. The despised. The rejected. The shunned.
While on Earth, the Lord Jesus went about “proclaiming the gospel . . . and healing every disease and every affliction.”
He looked upon the crowds with compassion. He saw them as “harassed and helpless, like sheep without a shepherd.”
On top of that, He knew His earthly ministry would soon be ending. He would be returning to heaven to take His seat “at the right hand of God,” as it says in Acts 2:33.
More Than Physical Healing
Jesus knew these people would need so much more than the physical healing He provided. He also knew His disciples would need to understand His heart. Like everyone else, they didn’t yet know how to use God’s standards to judge others.
Remember their question to one another when they found Him speaking with the Samaritan woman? Though they couldn’t bring themselves to ask Him about it, they did question one another. What was He thinking, a single Jewish man speaking alone with a Samaritan woman of questionable reputation to say the least?
And remember the favour Jesus did for the hated Roman centurion? He not only healed the man’s servant but also held this “enemy of the people” up as an example.
Jesus didn’t reject those with high standings if they came to Him. Take Nicodemus and Joseph of Arimathea for example. However, we know that many who are mentioned favourably in the Gospels and elsewhere are those who fit the outcast category.
And Jesus’ concern for them wasn’t passing. He shared this concern with His disciples. “The harvest is plentiful,” He said of the crowds, those “sheep without a shepherd.” He instructed them to first of all, pray that the Lord of the harvest would send laborers to gather the harvest. Not only that—these men were to be numbered among those labourers.
A Harvest All Around Us
I believe 21st century Christians have the same call on our lives. Many agree with me as this is a passage often quoted when sending missionaries to the foreign field. And yes, there are millions of people around the globe who need to hear the message of salvation through Jesus Christ.
But the truth is, most of us will not go to the foreign field, but there is an abundant harvest all around us: family members, friends, and co-workers who don’t know Jesus as their Saviour. And what about society’s outcasts, those who desperately need to know they are loved, that they have value?
As unbelievable as it is, we may just be part of the answer to this compassionate declaration the Lord made approximately 2,000 years ago.
How do we feel when we think of those in need (and don’t forget everyone has needs of one kind or another)? Are we filled with compassion and love? Do we ask God to either use us to minister to their needs or send someone who can? Or do we say to ourselves, “My schedule is already too full. I’m sure God doesn’t want me to take on anything more.” There is one more possibility: Perhaps we don’t give the abundant harvest a second thought. Our lives are on fast forward, as it were; our minds are racing a million miles an hour.
Things To Consider
Let’s consider prayerfully discussing the following questions with our family:
Who do we know that seems sad and lonely?
Is there something we can do to reach out to them? Perhaps we could invite them over for a meal.
Is there some way we can meet one of their physical or emotional needs? Though some people have many physical needs (food, clothes, shelter, etc.), sometimes reaching out is much simpler. Sometimes something as simple as a smile can brighten another person’s day.
Is there some way we can teach them about the Good Shepherd, Jesus? Why not invite them to church or begin an in-home Bible study to share our faith with them?
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Images courtesy of:
Sheep – Luke Miller
Lamb – Anthony Robson
Harvest – Iwan Beijes