Welcome to Tuesday! My name is Alan and it is a great pleasure to be sharing these podcasts with you this week. If God is using the podcasts to speak into your life or situation, if they are at all helpful, don’t keep them to yourself. Spread the word, post on social media or make a poster and hang it over the photocopier at work. God’s word is the most precious thing we have to share.
Yesterday we asked the question, Do we need – do we really need – a saviour, or are we still trying to kid ourselves that we are ok? In today’s passage – Matthew 9:18-38 – we see some examples of people who are in desperate need of Jesus: a man whose daughter is dead, a woman who has been bleeding for 12 years, two blind men and a demon possessed man who cannot speak. Hear each story at the end of the podcast. Today I am going to focus on Jesus’ heart response to the desperate crowds that press in around him: ch9. v36-38.
When he saw the crowds, he – Jesus – had compassion on them, because they were harassed and helpless, like sheep without a shepherd. Then he said to his disciples, “The harvest is plentiful but the workers are few. Ask the Lord of the harvest, therefore, to send out workers into his harvest field.”
I was praying for a friend today whose young child is ill at home. He’s had hospital trips and medication and thankfully this little one is beginning to turn a corner and will get better. Hearing him talk about his baby boy, and describe the last week or so of the illness, it was so obvious the care, the compassion, the love that he had for his boy. My heart went out to him… let’s pray, sure… what can I do?
We live in an age of increasing compassion fatigue. We watch comic relief and laugh along at the sketches, the songs, the dance routines. We are entertained. But then there’s the face of the starving kid in Africa, or the report from the youth project in inner city Birmingham and it provokes a response: “anyone want another cup of tea?”
Maybe we pick up the phone and make a donation but our £10 seems so tiny and insignificant compared to the overwhelming need and brokenness displayed on our TV screens. Why bother?
Or we listen to local radio or pick up the local paper and we see stabbings or large numbers of police called to a school in our city and it’s easy to think ‘what can I do?’ or ‘what I have to offer is so tiny and insignificant compared to the enormous and complex problems of the world.’
There comes a point when our hearts can grow cold. When we turn off, tune out and just stop listening. Where – as the Bible puts it – our hearts become hard. Have you reached that point yet?
Jesus looked out on the multitudes… the desperate, the needy, the hurting, the sick… he looked out on the world that he had created and it was so obvious the care, the compassion, the love that he had for the world. He was deeply moved…
What is our response? Let’s pray about that or… what can I do?
Today as we walk to work, as we ride the bus, as we sit in lessons or lectures, as we take our little ones to the toddler group (or the children’s hospital) we get to look out at the same multitudes as Jesus, the same desperate faces, the needy, the hurting, the sick… Will our hearts be moved? Do we recognise that Jesus is the answer to each and every life, each and every situation that we encounter?
I once took a group of people to spend some time with a friend who happened to be a gifted evangelist. I wanted him to encourage and train this group… to get a bit of what he had got. What was the evangelist’s first lesson to the group?
“Spend one hour walking around. Every person you see, remind yourself that God loves them, that he died for them, that they are so incredibly precious to him.”
Off we went… off I went thinking to myself, “really, is that it!? That’s not going to change the world or see anyone come to faith.”
But it was an incredibly powerful time. It provided a tiny window in to the heart and compassion of God. As we draw close to him, we begin to see people the way he sees them …
When he saw the crowds, Jesus had compassion on them, because they were harassed and helpless, like sheep without a shepherd. Then he said to his disciples, “The harvest is plentiful but the workers are few. Ask the Lord of the harvest, therefore, to send out workers into his harvest field.”
Here I am Lord… Send me!
Father. Thank you for your incredible compassion for me. Thank you that out of your compassion you sent your son to die for me. Thank you for your love, a love impossible to comprehend. Let me be close enough to you to see your compassion for those around me and today let me not simply marvel at your love but act out of that same heart of compassion. Amen.
READING: Matthew 9:18-38
While he was saying this, a synagogue leader came and knelt before him and said, ‘My daughter has just died. But come and put your hand on her, and she will live.’ Jesus got up and went with him, and so did his disciples.
Just then a woman who had been subject to bleeding for twelve years came up behind him and touched the edge of his cloak. She said to herself, ‘If I only touch his cloak, I will be healed.’
Jesus turned and saw her. ‘Take heart, daughter,’ he said, ‘your faith has healed you.’ And the woman was healed at that moment.
When Jesus entered the synagogue leader’s house and saw the noisy crowd and the people playing pipes, he said, ‘Go away. The girl is not dead but asleep.’ But they laughed at him. After the crowd had been put outside, he went in and took the girl by the hand, and she got up. News of this spread through all that region.
As Jesus went on from there, two blind men followed him, calling out, ‘Have mercy on us, Son of David!’
When he had gone indoors, the blind men came to him, and he asked them, ‘Do you believe that I am able to do this?’
‘Yes, Lord,’ they replied.
Then he touched their eyes and said, ‘According to your faith let it be done to you’; and their sight was restored. Jesus warned them sternly, ‘See that no one knows about this.’ But they went out and spread the news about him all over that region.
While they were going out, a man who was demon-possessed and could not talk was brought to Jesus. And when the demon was driven out, the man who had been mute spoke. The crowd was amazed and said, ‘Nothing like this has ever been seen in Israel.’
But the Pharisees said, ‘It is by the prince of demons that he drives out demons.’
Jesus went through all the towns and villages, teaching in their synagogues, proclaiming the good news of the kingdom and healing every disease and illness. When he saw the crowds, he had compassion on them, because they were harassed and helpless, like sheep without a shepherd. Then he said to his disciples, ‘The harvest is plentiful but the workers are few. Ask the Lord of the harvest, therefore, to send out workers into his harvest field.’