By Shawn McMullen
Jesus went through all the towns and villages, teaching in their synagogues, proclaiming 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 (Matthew 9:35, 36).
I wonder if the people Jesus looked out on that day appeared harassed and helpless. Could he see the sadness, the loneliness on their faces? Did stooped shoulders betray the weariness and care they bore?
Or did they appear perfectly normal—healthy, vibrant, and eager to listen? Were children running and playing in the crowd? Were people smiling and nodding as they made eye contact with the Messiah?
What did Jesus see in the crowd that day? Perhaps he looked past their outward appearances into their hearts. And perhaps there he saw their care, their weariness, and their desperation.
Imagine looking out the window of a tall office building in New York City, home to more than 20
million people, where crowds hustle along the sidewalks to work and shop.
You can see similar crowds in other cities around the world: Mumbai and Delhi, India; South Korea’s Seoul National Capital Area; Jakarta, Indonesia; and Metro Manila, Philippines are all larger in population than New York City. Or you could look over the teeming masses of the Tokyo-Yokohama metropolitan area, home to more than 36 million people.
Some of the crowds in these cities might make us aware of the great physical and spiritual needs that exist there—millions of poor and destitute just scraping by.
The need may not seem so apparent in other cities. Watching Tokyo workers commuting home in the evening dressed in suits and carrying briefcases, or observing Wall Street traders enjoying lunch in upscale restaurants may not lead you to think about the true needs of the crowds. These people dress fashionably. They look healthy. They appear self-assured and independent.
You might make similar observations in an upper middle class neighborhood, a gated community, or a thriving business district in a small or midsize town. You may think the parents and kids who station themselves at the sidelines of Saturday soccer matches are doing quite well. They drive nice cars. They wear nice clothes. They laugh and smile.
You might think the folks who gather with you for worship on Sunday mornings have it all together. They seem happy enough. They sing and pray and give like good Christians should.
But when the Lord looks over such crowds, what does he see? He sees that many of them are hurting deeply inside. And many are lost.
The harassed and helpless are all around us—and not easily identified. What can we do for them?
We can pray for them—in our churches, in our communities, and around the world. We can love them. We can talk to them. And as opportunities arise, we can introduce them to the one they’ve been looking for all along—“our Lord Jesus, that great Shepherd of the sheep” (Hebrews 13:20).