As Jesus would go from town to town, He was moved with compassion to bless others every place he went. In Verse 36, it says, “seeing the crowds, Jesus felt compassion.” This word compassion is a word picture in the original language. It means to be moved in one’s bowels. It means to feel so deeply in your inner being, that it motivates you to act. Here’s a question, when was the last time you were so deeply moved with compassion for someone that you were moved to do something about it?
But what moved Jesus to compassion? When Jesus looked upon the crowds, he noticed their physical challenges. As a matter of fact, the scripture tells us that he was healing disease and sickness. But it wasn’t necessarily just the physical needs that moved Jesus to action, but rather their deep spiritual need to know the God who loves them. Jesus looked beyond the physical and was broken by the deeper spiritual need. He called these people, “sheep without a shepherd.” These people were created for a deep relationship with a Good Shepherd they never knew. They were not created to be orphan sheep. They were created to know the comforts, security, and identity of belonging to the fold of God. You see, sheep without a shepherd are vulnerable. They are lost, confused, easily deceived, and discontented. When Jesus looked at these people, he was deeply bothered by their spiritual condition. In fact, this is what compelled Him to sacrifice his own life on the cross, on our behalf, so that through faith in Him, our relationship with God, our Good Shepherd, could be restored.
As a church planter and pastor in Portland, Oregon, we would host mission teams from across the country to come help us. Often, our mission teams would come highly motivated to share the love of Jesus and the Gospel with others. The week would come and go, and we would face many challenges and wins along the way. But it was what happened on the last night of the trip that was so life-shaping for the team. On that night, we would host a final meeting. We would hear story after story about how God moved throughout the week. But just before we closed the meeting, I often asked this one question. “What is the one thing that you wish you could change about the trip?” It was a strategic question. In fact, it was rare that we didn’t hear at least one person on the team say, “I just wish I could have had more conversations with people.” I loved this response! It seemed the Lord always had this answer given so that we could share a life shaping challenge. When I heard this, I would always respond by saying, “I love that feedback and here is why…think about all we did and all the places we went this week. We went to coffee shops, we rode on public transportation, we ate at restaurants, we worked at a school. In fact, if you really think about it, we were around people all day, every single day.” You see, the reality is, we’re around people all the time, we just don’t “see” them. In fact, God is working all the time around us, but do we see Him?
I love that Jesus challenges his disciples the same way He is challenging us today. He says, “the fields are plentiful, but the workers are few.” I don’t believe Jesus is saying that there aren’t enough Christians in the valley to change our city or that the harvest field is not ready in Las Vegas. Remember, Jesus started the early church planting movement and changed the world with just eleven disciples. I think Jesus is saying, God is working in our city but there are not enough Christians who are “looking” for it. There are not enough Christians “seeing” people.