Good morning and welcome to Tuesday’s foundation podcast. Today’s passage is Matthew 9: 18-38. We are going to focus on verses 35-36:
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.
I have an on/off relationship with the news. Perhaps you do too. I often hear things like – just don’t watch the news. It’ll just depress you. It’s all bad. And I’ve had periods during this last 6 months where I’ve actively sought to try and distance myself from it. The problem is….you can’t. The great theologian Karl Barth famously said that as disciples: ‘We must hold the Bible in one hand and the newspaper in the other.’ Our faith doesn’t exist in a vacuum. We navigate, we make sense of and we speak into the times we live in by keeping ourselves informed, but also by keeping ourselves grounded in the Word.
I’m in a cycle where I’m watching the 10’o clock news again…if I’m honest it feels a bit like Groundhog Day except there isn’t Bill Murray, there’s Hugh Pym telling us again how much the infection rate has gone up, or Fergus Walsh and his graphs.
And it’s weird…because I view all of this with a certain degree of detachment. Sat in my comfy living room, listening to the students next door laugh… And occasionally I catch myself and I think…’ Is this all real?’
In today’s reading, which I’d encourage us all to read again later, we see Jesus ushering in the Kingdom of God with beautiful miracles – a woman who has suffered 12 years of marginalization due to bleeding, two blind men, a demon-possessed man and even a dead child – all healed, restored, raised. It’s utterly incredible. Sometimes we forget just how powerful our God is. The Gospels remind us again that he is Lord. Nothing is impossible for Him. And that sickness has no place in the new kingdom he is building.
But, as I prayed, I was drawn to the end of the passage which in effect summarises much of what is happening at this point in Jesus’ ministry. Wherever he goes the Gospel is proclaimed and broken and hurting people are restored and healed. And then we read verse 36….
When Jesus saw the crowds, he had compassion on them….
The word compassion is actually a Latin word. It literally means ‘to suffer with’. To literally feel another’s pain and anguish. The Greek actually takes this word even further still – to be moved in one’s bowels. Like when we see another human being’s situation, experience, or feelings and we literally have a bodily reaction…we are moved by them. We feel their suffering. We suffer with them.
This is the response of Jesus to the pain and the brokenness that he saw around Him. I’m reminded here of Jesus’ response to his friend Lazarus dead in the tomb – he wept. Jesus takes upon himself the pain and suffering of those around him. It burdens Him. It wounds Him. And of course our minds then move to the cross where we see our saviour – bearing upon himself the weight of our sin and shame. The prophesised suffering servant in Isaiah…and by His wounds we are healed.
There’s one other verse that really leapt out at me as I read this passage and it’s verse 22. Jesus is on the way, pushing through the crowd, to see the synagogue leader’s daughter who is very close to, maybe already dead. And a woman grabs the edge of his cloak. And we read that…Jesus turned and saw her.
He saw her. And in that moment Jesus sees the shame, the isolation, the burden this poor woman has carried for so many years. Something within Him is moved to the very core. He feels the weight of her suffering. He connects with her pain. And in that moment we see both the humanity of our saviour and the divinity as he touches this ‘unclean’ woman and her condition is completely healed.
The numbers on the news tell us only part of the story, and we can find ourselves somewhat detached from it. But do you know when they take you inside a hospital – and you see again the devastating effects that this virus can have as you watch someone lie helplessly on life support…. something snaps in us that moment. There’s a connection with our hearts and their pain. And we begin to pray…
The prophet Ezekiel speaks of God who will give his people a heart of flesh and not a heart of stone. As I read this passage again, I ask myself, ‘Where are the places or who are the people that my heart of flesh beats for?’. Where am I moved to step outside of myself, to step into that place of vulnerability and moved to embrace another in the midst of their pain?
In a period seemingly defined by enforced isolation, this passage causes us to ask the question – who or where is the compassionate beating heart of Christ leading us to connect with? Because it’s in those places…that’s where we see the kingdom break out…as we are moved to action, as our God breaks in.
Oh Lord, God of compassion. Thank you that you have borne upon yourself the weight of our sin and our pain. That you have given us the beating heart of your Holy Spirit. Lord, move us to have compassion for those around us – those in our communities, our workplaces, those are struggling. May we notice them, may we see them and may we be moved to love and to serve them. In Jesus’ name. Amen.
BIBLE 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.’