“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.” – Matthew 9:35-36
Jesus lived under the greatest empire the world had yet seen, and in a deeply religious Jewish culture developed over centuries. The people had powerful leaders, both political and religious. Why then were the people seemingly without a shepherd to lead them?
The Roman Empire touted widespread peace and prosperity due to the Caesars and their government. But the people still had many unsolved problems and no hope. “Throughout all the cities and villages” were diseased, afflicted and helpless people, and Jesus could help them all in ways the Romans could not or would not.
The Jewish Pharisees, jealous of Jesus’ ability to solve problems they could not, claimed “He casts out demons by the prince of demons.” They rightly described His power as supernatural, but they called it evil. Even as He was performing life-saving miracles, they could not tolerate Him as a rival, and so rejected the people’s only hope.
So, the people remained “harassed and helpless,” not knowing who to trust.
Is your culture also faithless? Your workplace? Your community or household? Jesus encouraged His disciples to see rampant lack of faith as an opportunity to show the crowds the compassion of Jesus: “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 9:37-38
Today, pray for workers to bring in the harvest. Also, know that God might make you and I those workers. As in Jesus’ day, it is up to individual disciples to proclaim the gospel of the kingdom – through compassionate action and often in spite of what those in charge of other kingdoms might prefer. Harassed and helpless sheep can be frustrated and difficult, but only humble disciples know the problems on the streets of their cities and villages best.
Pray for the compassion of our Great Shepherd who can work miracles. Is there a need He can meet through you today?
[This Rewind Wednesday was originally posted in April 2022]