“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.” Immediately a couple of things stand out to me here that I want to point out. One is every disease and sickness. Jesus is curing both. Why does Matthew, the author of this biography of Jesus, use both disease and sickness? Aren't they the same? Well, in the world of the Bible, they aren't. He uses two different words to describe two different things. One is disease, which is something wrong with your body. And the other one is sickness, or malakia, which is actually describing your mind and your soul.
Why does Matthew, the author of this biography of Jesus, use both disease and sickness? Aren't they the same? Well, in the world of the Bible, they aren't.
Something's wrong with your mind and your soul. And Jesus is caring for both. I think it's important for us to know this, because Jesus cares for the whole body, and we see this constantly in the stories of Jesus. The second thing that stands out to me is the phrase, "When he saw," and again, we don't do it justice. We don't render the original language properly. The author, Matthew, could have said he looked at the crowds, but that wouldn't have been enough. That word would've been blepo. It's kind of fun to say, but it's not enough. The author Matthew uses the word horao because it's way more accurate. And even then, it doesn't quite capture everything in the English language that was going on in this word. That is, Jesus didn't just see the crowds. He also experienced, he knew, he perceived what was happening with them.
Here's how one author puts it. Leonard Sweet said, "The eye might be in amazing piece of biological equipment. The eye might be a remarkable camera. The eye might be a feat of unparalleled divine imagination. But the information behind the images the eye spies is processed by our whole being. Every picture our eye takes is colored, focused, and framed by a lifetime of experiences and expectations." And everything Jesus sees is framed and focused by his love for people. And what Matthew tells us is that when he sees and he frames and focuses through his being, he's motivated by this word – compassion – which one author calls the pain of love.
If we're moved by compassion, we're going to do our work with our eyes open.
Thoreau put it this way, "It's not what you look at that matters. It's what you see." It bears naming that because we are surrounded by communities who are often overlooked or who feel like no one has seen them. We work with people who often feel like no one sees them smiles back when they wave at one of us when we're walking by. We live in homes with people, maybe we’re in relationships with people who we look at, but we don't really see, or maybe look at you but you know it's been a long time since they've actually seen you. Kids are really good at this. Kids know when you're just looking at them, not seeing them.
I was speaking one day, and I said this very same thing, and afterwards, a woman came up to me and said, "I gave birth and raised a child who doesn't see me." Imagine that pain. Maybe that's something you're going through today. Well, Jesus teaches us something completely different. He says we're going to see people because he's seeing people. He's our example. We want to live this way in the world. He sees people who are harassed. "Without a shepherd" is how Matthew puts it. He sees people, and he has this intrinsic pain of love, and this is what motivates him to do the work that he does. And we also must do our work with our eyes open.
We have to keep our eyes open because the people that God has asked us to serve, sometimes they won't be easy. And there are flaws with the systems that we have in place to serve them, but we have a responsibility to serve them. And if we're moved by compassion, we're going to do our work with our eyes open. If we don't keep our eyes open, we'll forget that we're serving human beings, image bearers of the Creator, who need us to keep their faces in mind when we're doing our work.