October 14, 2008
Jesus went through all the towns and villages, teaching in their synagogues, preaching the good news of the kingdom and healing every disease and sickness. When he saw the crowds, he had compassion on them, because they were harassed and helpless, like sheep without a shepherd. Then he said to his disciples, “The harvest is plentiful but the workers are few. Ask the Lord of the harvest, therefore, to send out workers into his harvest field.”
Matthew 9:35-38 NIV
For the most part the world sees us not with our potential in mind, nor with our needs on its heart, but just in the plain simplicity of our reality, with a slant to the negative perspective. Rare is that person who can get past the trumpet blast of our weak appearance and see us as people of promise. But Christ’s compassion and perspective far outstrip even the most positive-minded individuals: As he walked the earth he saw people in the light of their need and their potential and he does the same today.
He saw the people burdened with the rites of religion and the doctrines of the Pharisees; sinking down under their ignorance and traditions, and neglected by those who ought to have been enlightened teachers, scattered and driven out without care and attention. With great beauty, he compares them to sheep wandering without a shepherd. Judea was a land of flocks and herds. The faithful shepherd, by day and night, was with his flock, He defended it, led it to green pastures, and beside the still waters. Without his care they would stray away. They were in danger of wild beasts. They panted in the summer sun, and knew not where was the cooling shade and stream. So, said he, is it with this people. No wonder that the compassionate Redeemer Was moved with pity! (Albert Barnes, from Barnes’ New Testament Notes)
Christ still continues to see the world like this, and every person on the planet is upon his heart. Your needs are on his heart today, your needs for forgiveness, spiritual nourishment, wisdom and direction, hope, inner healing, and your physical needs as well.
Christ’s compassion is not mere empathy and nothing more. Just as God’s love was the motivating factor that led him to send the Son into the world for our salvation (John 3:16), that same love led Christ to willingly die on the cross for our sins, and that same love is taken by His Spirit and spread throughout our hearts, and his love constrains us to love others.
Among the Jews were many teachers, and in the church today there are many teachers, but though every teacher of God ought to have his students’ well-being on his heart, too often selfishness and ambition reign there as well. In the business world it is rare that when seeing the power and prestige of corporate executives that a regular businessman would turn his attention to the needs of the consumer – no, normally he would just look at the executive position and lust in his heart after that. But we could say that the same would be generally true for all career paths – the doctor is not generally moved by the sicknesses of the masses, but by the thought of advancement among his peers in the field of medicine – the teacher tends not to loose sleep over the plight of her students, but thinks about how to advance past her peers. All of this reflects the stubborn selfishness of the human heart and unfortunately it is present among Christians, in the ministry, and in the church. We see the person in leadership in the church and dream and lust after the position, rather than, as our Lord did, weep over the needs of the congregation. All too often we are moved by our own selfish desires for the comfortable feelings, the earthly compliments, and the fleeting temporal “glory” of being in the religious spotlight, than by the needs of the people.
The example of Christ is our example to follow and we discover that as we let God turn our hearts off of religious career paths, whether we are lay or clergy, we find the joy of being truly useful to God. There is infinitely greater joy, contentment, and peace in coming to serve and not to be served, in willing to spend and be spent for needs of others and for the sake of Christ. The harvest is great and being among the Lord’s harvest, focusing on the people who are on his heart, is all the reward we need as his followers.
Think today of God’s thoughts about people, of his heart of compassion. Get your eyes off of whatever unfairness life may have seemed to hand you, put them on Christ and let his heart direct your gaze. Reach out to that person today to share a word of the hope found in Christ.
Lord, we pray that You would send forth laborers into Your harvest field, and let the burdens of your heart touch us. As Isaiah said, “Here I am. Send me!” Amen.