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. When he saw the crowds, he had compassion for them, because they were harassed and helpless, like sheep without a shepherd. Then he said to his disciples, “The harvest is plentiful, but the laborers are few; therefore pray earnestly to the Lord of the harvest to send out laborers into his harvest.” –Matthew 9:35–38
When Jesus spent time in the towns and villages around Galilee, he met many people who were angry and anxious. They lived in uncertain times and felt helpless to change their circumstances. This led to the quite human response of either fight or flight; people confronting or avoiding each other like nervous sheep. As Jesus looked at these hurting people, he teared up. That’s what it means to “have compassion:” to share the pain of those who are suffering by standing with them.
This is the way of Jesus. When he sees a human being wandering around hopelessly looking for answers in all the wrong places, it breaks his heart. We will never understand how much suffering our Shepherd endures for us.
All around us people are harassed and helpless, powerless to change the forces that bind them. We were made with green pastures in mind, and our only hope of finding them is in following Jesus. No other shepherd will do, however well-intentioned. Nor can we find our own way. Try as we might, we cannot find our own pasture. Alone we always wander into the deserts of disappointment, anger, anxiety, or self-deluded bravado.
Thank God Jesus came to lead us home. No one else will do for you. Jesus searches for us tirelessly and calls to us to follow him through our loved ones and our Church family. Unfortunately, there are many false shepherds who try to charm us with promises. Don’t be fooled by them. No one but Jesus can deliver still water, no matter what they promise you. Drink deeply of Jesus’ living water, and then get out there and help the other lost ones find the Source.
Galilee was full of self-proclaimed holy people offering salvation they could not deliver, fleecing the sheep while offering them no real pasture. Jesus sees this great disaster of so many people who need him as an overflowing crop that is ripe and ready for harvest. He laments that a shortage of laborers willing to help him bring in the harvest. Too many are simply getting all they can for themselves. That’s where we come in! Jesus prays for laborers who will help him care for the harassed and helpless. This means you and me. Follow your Shepherd until He leads you to still water and green pasture every morning. And then get out and help Him gather in the rest of the sheep. They need you; they are lost, and that makes them harassed and helpless.
I’ll see you in Church,