The Shepherd's Compassion 

      "Then Jesus went about all the cities and villages, teaching in their synagogues, preaching the gospel of the kingdom, and healing every sickness and every disease among the people.  But when He saw the multitudes, He was moved with compassion for them, because they were weary and scattered, like sheep having no shepherd. Then He said to His disciples, ĎThe harvest truly is plentiful, but the laborers are few. Therefore pray the Lord of the harvest to send out laborers into His harvest.í"   Matthew 9:35-38

     At the time Jesus spoke these words He was on His last circuit through Israel preaching the Kingdom of God. He is making a bona fide presentation of Himself as their long prophesied King. In time, the leaders of Israel would lead the nation to reject Him. The result was His sacrificial death for all sinners and the launching of the church age in which Gentiles as well as Jews gain citizenship in Godís kingdom by receiving Jesus Christ by faith as their Savior.

I.  Jesus Was Compassionate In His Ministry

He Went To All The Cities And Villages
     We can understand Him going to the cities where the population was greater and He could preach to more people at any given time. We see His compassion in also going to the small villages because every soul was precious in His sight. To Him the value of one soul was worth more than the whole world. (Mark 8:36).

-He Taught In Their Synagogues
     The most devout Israelites assembled in the synagogues every Sabbath day (Saturday) for worship and instruction. Jesus was first sent to the lost sheep of the house of Israel (Matthew 10:16; 15:24) He was faithful in fulfilling His commission.

He Proclaimed The Gospel of The Kingdom
     For hundreds of years the prophets of Israel had spoken of a golden age in which Godís Messiah (anointed One) would sit on the throne of David and rule, not only over Israel, but the Gentile nations of the world as well.
     We can say that IF Israel had received Jesus as their Messiah, King Jesus would have begun His reign. But the truth is, God knew from the beginning that Israel would reject Him.
     When Israel officially rejected Christ, Godís plan for His kingdom passed into the mystery phase kept secret from the foundation of the world. (Romans 16:25). In Ephesians 3 Paul describes this age as the time when Gentiles and Jews who receive Jesus as their Savior become members of the body of Christ. Bible preachers still faithfully proclaim "Öunless one is born again he cannot see the kingdom of God" John 3:3.
     We may rest assured that Godís Kingdom will be established in power when Jesus returns to earth with His bride, the church. (Read Revelation 19 - 20).

He Healed Every Kind of Disease and Sickness
     Jesus healed the afflicted because He had compassion on their hurting bodies and troubled minds. At the same time, we must realize that the great purpose of His miraculous healings was to identify Him as Israelís promised Messiah.
     John the Baptist languished in prison and desired reassurance that Jesus truly was the Messiah. He sent his disciples to ask, "Are you the Coming One or do we look for another?" Jesus answered and said to them, "Go and tell John the things you hear and see:
          The the blind receive see and
          The lame walk,
          The lepers are cleansed and
          The deaf hear, and
          The dead are raised up, and
          The poor have the gospel preached unto them.
     And blessed is he who is not offended because of  ME." 
Matthew 11:2-6.

     When religious leaders in Jerusalem began to harden in their rejection of Jesus He said, "But  I have a greater witness than John's, for the works which the Father has given Me to finish, the very works that I do---bear witness of Me, that the Father has sent Me." John 5:36. The miracles of Jesus bore witness that He was Godís promised Messiah as well as showing His compassion.

II.  Jesus Was Compassionate In His Vision

He Saw The Multitudes
     We drive with the multitudes in rush hour traffic. We work in the midst of multitudes in the cities. We gather with multitudes at social and sports events. Yet most of us never SEE the multitudes. When we do we rarely have the COMPASSION for them as Jesus did.

     After reading the Gospels scores of times I have been impressed that Jesus sees each individual as if they are the only person in the world. For instance, He said that He knows the number of hairs on their head (Matthew 10:30). At the same time He doesnít miss anyone in the great multitude called "world population". His vision encompasses each individual in the great multitudes of the world.

He Felt Compassion For The Multitudes Because They Were Distressed
     This is true of each individual of the multitudes of the world. Loneliness among singles; irritations between husbands and wives; parentís anxiety over the behavior of their children; the struggle to survive physically and materially; anguish over sickness, afflictions and death; guilt over the past; uncertainty about the present and fear of the future. Chances are that every one of us identified with one or more of those phrases.

What a comfort it would be if each individual grasped the fact that Jesus is compassionate for us in our distresses.

Because They Were Downcast Like Sheep Without A Shepherd
     Greek scholars tell us the Greek word Jesus used carries the idea of "being thrown down", "lying about", "abandoned" or "neglected".
     Sheep herders tell us there is probably no animal more likely to go astray than a sheep and when gone astray, the sheep is the most vulnerable and helpless. The sheep is also the least likely to find its way home again without help. This is how Jesus saw lost sinners. They need a shepherd to seek them; find them; restore them, and care for them.

III. Jesus Desires His Disciples To Share His Compassion -

     Jesus proceeded to share a spiritual truth and an exhortation with His disciples that is just as valid today as it was then.

The Harvest Is Plenteous
     The work of sharing the gospel with lost men and women is like working in a great harvest. At any given time there is a great number who have reached the point of being ripe and ready. They have a deep spiritual hunger as a result of being disillusioned with everything this world has to offer. Multitudes of wealthy people still have a spiritual hunger. Multitudes of the popular and powerful still have a spiritual hunger. Multitudes given over to satisfying every lust of their flesh are still spiritually hungry. And the numbers increase everyday.

The Workers Are Few
     Take a snapshot of any area of the world at any time or any place in history. Count first the multitudes who are distressed and cast down. Then count the number of those who are truly dedicated to work at sharing the good news of Jesus Christ with the lost and hurting. The result is always the same. The harvest is plenteous but the laborers are few.
     Our God has supernaturally set us down in the midst of a great harvest field. The statement of Jesus here and many similar statements in our New Testament has caused us to list Evangelism as one of our five great purposes. The masses of the lost and hurting continue to grow all around us, but the number of workers really working at reaping a harvest of souls for Christ is few. How can this change?

Beseech The Lord of the Harvest To Send Out Workers Into The Harvest
    In our private times of prayer, in our family times of prayer, in our assembly as a community of believers, in our small groups we must take to heart this exhortation of our Great Shepherd and beseech the Lord of the Harvest to send out laborers.
     Our great Trinitarian God is the Lord of the harvest. The Father sent the Son to be a sacrifice for sin. When the Son returned to the Father He sent the Holy Spirit to empower believers in sharing the gospel story with those who are still lost in sin.

We Will Be First To Be Called And Should Be First To Respond
     Please note that Jesus exhorted His disciples to pray for laborers in the last verse of chapter nine. The first seven verses of chapter ten are the record of Jesus sending out these very same disciples two by two.
     In the ages past Isaiah saw a vision of the Lord. He heard the expression of the great heart of God crying out, "Whom shall I send, and who will go for us?"  Isaiah responded immediately, "Here am I. Send me!" - Isaiah 6:8

     As we hear anew the compassionate heart of Jesus Christ crying out, "Pray the Lord of the harvest to send out laborers into His harvest" my we respond, "First of all, Lord, send me!"

Copyright © 2002 Thomas E Berry
All Scriptures quoted from NKJV unless otherwise noted


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