Matthew 9:35-38; Mark 6:6
The Shepherd and His Compassion
Today we take up a brief passage that seems to be something of a summary of all that has gone before. Jesus had gone through all the cities and villages of Galilee, casting out demons, healing the sick, giving sight to the blind, raising the dead, and all the while preaching and teaching about the kingdom. I have a quote here to give you from A. T. Robertson’s, Harmony of the Gospels (which I have used for these devotions), where he quotes a Mr. Hall: “[He] crowds into three short years actions and labours of love that might have adorned a century” (p. 78). How true. The Apostle John himself told us, “Now there are also many other things that Jesus did. Were every one of them to be written, I suppose that the world itself could not contain the books that would be written” (21:25).
And what was the source of Jesus’ ministry – his tireless acts of kindness, his praying into the night without sleep, his preaching with such fervor? Matthew tells us: “When he saw the crowds, he had compassion on them, because they were harassed and helpless, like sheep without a shepherd.” It was our Lord’s compassion for others that kept him teaching, healing, and ministering to others’ needs. If anything kept our Savior up at night, and I’m not saying anything did, but if anything did, it would have been his thoughts over his people. “Sheep without a shepherd,” he described them. Why? Because the religious leaders – the priests, the preachers, the elders, the prophets, the teachers, you name it – had forsaken them. They were too busy with themselves, be it for worldly power, money, or twisting Scripture to benefit themselves, they had left the people behind.
The Old Testament prophets spoke of such “shepherds” in several places (Jeremiah 23:1-4 for just one example). Therefore, our Lord told his disciples, “The harvest is plentiful, but the laborers are few; therefore, pray earnestly to the Lord of the harvest to send out laborers unto his harvest.” We never know when the harvest is plentiful; there have been times in church history when the harvest was plentiful and others when it was few. Perhaps the harvest was few because the laborers were few. What this passage teaches us is to be people of compassion, people who meet human need, people who are not afraid to speak a word of hope from the Lord. Perhaps they will hear, perhaps not. We are not responsible for the results; we are responsible to be faithful. And let us not forget to pray that God would grant His Church shepherds who are pure of heart and full of compassion, and who will persevere when tribulation comes.