Matthew 9:36 – “When he saw the crowds, he had compassion for them, because they were harassed and helpless, like sheep without a shepherd.”
As Jesus traveled through towns and villages during his three-year ministry, people followed him around for numerous reasons. Other times they followed Jesus for the spectacle of it. This time, they were following him because they were lost. Matthew said they were “harassed and helpless, like sheep without a shepherd.” Some of the time, Jesus felt the need to rebuke the people following him. This time, Jesus was moved to compassion for them. The ESV minimizes Jesus’ feeling here by simply saying that he “had compassion for them.” The KJV Bible and a few others seem to do a better job of describing the deeper feeling that Jesus experienced. The KJV says that when Jesus saw the multitudes, that he “was moved with compassion.” To move is to “go in a specified direction or manner; to change position.”
Here in Wisconsin, we have been separated from a great deal of the tragedy that our nation has been enduring over the last few weeks. Hurricanes Harvey and Irma devastated families in the south. Now 59 people have been killed and more than 500 people were injured by one shooter; one evil madman that shot his automatic weapon at a massive crowd of people, picking people off one shot after the other. We live in Wisconsin, which is far away from these locations. Does distance prevent us from caring?
I wonder what your response has been to these tragedies? Jimmy Kimmel last night took a 9-minute break from his typical late-night comedy show to address the tragedy in Las Vegas. Of course, our politically divided United States debates the content of his 9-minute monologue. Did he say things he shouldn’t have said in the timing he did? Maybe, but you can’t deny the fact that he was moved to tears throughout this speech. Jimmy Kimmel, who lives in Los Angeles, was moved to compassion for the families who are in the darkest period of their life today. Have you been moved to compassion as you have read the news articles and watched the news footage of the carnage?
We live in a world that is covered in darkness. Trying to find our way in a pitch black home leaves us full of questions. Where are the stairs? Am I about to hit my head against a wall? Is there something on the floor that I might trip over? There are people around this nation, and around this world walking in darkness asking questions? Why is this world so evil? Why does God allow this suffering to take place? Where are the Christians who claim to love their neighbor in all of this? Maybe you are asking the question of yourself now that you think about this? Why have I not been moved to compassion like Jesus was moved to compassion?
The more you love God, the more you will abide in Him and find your life and joy and satisfaction in Him. As you abide in Him, you will find your love for Him only intensify. As you abide in Him, finding your love for Him intensify, you will also find your love for your neighbor intensify as well. In fact, I would say that the only way you can truly love your neighbor is if you love God first and foremost. If you find yourself unmoved by these tragedies, are you living in darkness? Is your heart hardened by the evil of this world? Do you know Jesus Christ, “the way, the truth, and the life” that leads us to love God the Father?
If you struggle to feel for the families who are suffering, let me challenge you to discipline yourself to intercede on their behalf. To intercede in prayer for another is to place yourself in their shoes. Sometimes the only way we are moved with compassion when a tragedy like this takes place far away from us is by seeking to place ourselves in their shoes; to try to imagine how you would feel and how you would pray if you were the one caught in the gunfire in Las Vegas.
Christians, fight the temptation to give the cliché answer or to allow yourselves to be unmoved. Of all the people that should be moved by compassion, it is us who are so-called “followers of Jesus,” the one who saw the crowds that were harassed and helpless, like sheep without a shepherd, who was then moved to compassion.