35 Then Jesus went about all the cities and villages, teaching in their synagogues, and proclaiming the good news of the kingdom, and curing every disease and every sickness.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 labourers are few; 38 therefore ask the Lord of the harvest to send out labourers into his harvest.’Matthew 9:35-38
Do you feel ‘harassed and helpless’? The gospel writer could have had us in mind as he wrote these words! COVID, inflation, rising fuel costs, reduced availability in the supermarkets. This is the reality of Britain at the end of 2021. It would be no surprise to me if you said you felt harassed and helpless.
I’m sure these feelings are timeless. There must always be something happening in the world that leaves people feeling stressed and as if they have no control over their own lives.
It’s no surprise then to read that when Jesus saw the crowds around Galilee, he found them to be harassed and helpless. His response was to have compassion on them. He felt pity towards them. He had sympathy for them. He loved them. Most of all, he saw them as sheep without a shepherd. They lacked a figure in their lives who would protect them, guide them, provide for them. They lacked someone who loved them and cared for them so much that, if necessary, they would lay down their life for them.
Jesus is the shepherd these sheep need. He says of himself, “I am the good shepherd” (John 10:11,14). He is the one who can end those feelings of harassment and helplessness. He brings protection, guidance and provision to all those who follow him. He laid down his life so that all those who follow him know exactly where their lives are leading – to an eternity with Jesus in God’s new creation.
What’s more, he wants those who know and love him to take his message of compassion to others. There are many who do not know Jesus as their good shepherd – the harvest is plentiful. So he calls on us to take this message out into the world, to number ourselves amongst those labourers send into the harvest.
Do you feel harassed and helpless? Turn to Jesus the Good Shepherd and find the peace that only a relationship with him can bring.
Question for reflection: Do I feel like “a sheep without a shepherd?” How could faith in Jesus change this?