35 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. 36 When he saw the crowds, he had compassion for them, because they were harassed and helpless, like sheep without a shepherd. 37 Then he said to his disciples, “The harvest is plentiful, but the laborers are few; 38therefore pray earnestly to the Lord of the harvest to send out laborers into his harvest.”
What does it mean to be like Jesus? There are many ways that question can be answered. Usually we think of compassion, holiness, sacrifice. And we should, for that is part of what it means to be conformed to the image of Christ.
There is a subset of compassion that we see in Christ that is important to consider as we think about what it means to be like Jesus. Pain. Pain for others. In Matthew 9:36-38 we read about Jesus looking at a group of people who He sees as “harassed and helpless, like sheep without a shepherd”.
What do we see when we look at the people who share our city, our neighbourhoods, apartment buildings..? What do we see when we see multitudes of people who believe that they can earn favour with God? What do we see when we see girls barely out of middle school pushing their babies in strollers? What do we see when we encounter people who lie to us in order to get a handout of food? What do we see when we see people with a grade four education pontificating about what needs to be done to improve the economy? What do we see when we see people with their nails chewed down to the quick, their hair matted and unkempt, their voices hoarse from tobacco and drink and their faces too wrinkled and potted for their age?
We need to see people who have believed a lie, who have developed amazing survival skills that will ultimately fail them, who know not half of what they think, and who have learned to survive in the midst of great horrors. We need to see people who have been harassed and helpless who really are sheep without a shepherd and do not know it. We need to see us. It should lead us to pray.