Saturday of Advent 3 – Matthew 9:35-10:15

| December 21, 2012 | 0 Comments More

Fields are WhiteMatthew 9:35-10:15

“But when He saw the multitudes, He was moved with compassion for them, because they were weary and scattered, like sheep having no shepherd.”

The compassion of Jesus never fails to move me to compassion.  I want to see what He and feel what He felt, and what He saw was a multitude of people who were weary and scattered and were like sheep without a shepherd.  What He felt was compassion.

My favorite word in the Greek language is splagthnizomai, which comes from the word for inward parts or entrails and so means to be moved with “bowels of mercy” or to have a visceral reaction of compassion.  The kind of compassion Jesus had wasn’t the manufactured tears or weepy faces that some people put on, and it wasn’t something He somehow had to work to summon up because He was “supposed to.”

Jesus’ compassion was one He was spontaneously moved to and one for which He had an accompanying visceral reaction.  This kind of compassion is not the cool-headed Hollywood millionaire deciding to plunk down a fat check on his favorite charity.  It is the kind of compassion that is visceral and bodily and can only come from a heart that has been made a compassionate one.

In His day, the people were weary, and they were scattered, everyone seemingly doing his own thing.  They had no shepherd because they had no one to lead them.

And then Jesus came.  He came teaching, preaching, and healing, and the amazing thing is that even after “Jesus went about all the cities and villages, preaching the gospel of the kingdom and healing every sickness and every disease,” Jesus still sees a multitude of sheep who need a shepherd.  Having spent the days of His public ministry on behalf of others, there were still too many who needed to know and follow Him.

What He did in response to His compassion is also amazing.  We might have expected Him to double His efforts, to begin teaching and healing in double-time so that twice as many could hear Him and be healed.  He could have just commanded that all hear and be healed.  But what He actually did in response to a world full of lost sheep was to send out laborers into the harvest.

In response to His great compassion, Jesus calls the twelve disciples to Himself and gives them authority over unclean spirits and to heal all kinds of disease.  And then He sends them out into the harvest, to go and redeem lost souls, and to act as shepherds to who go out to gather the lost sheep.

Jesus still has compassion for the lost people of the world.  He still has bowels of mercy and desires that something be done to heal the sick and preach the gospel and to have more sheep be brought into His fold.  And He still chooses to do this the same way – by sending out His disciples into the world.

“The harvest is still plentiful,” He says to you, “but the laborers are few.  Therefore pray the Lord of the harvest to send out laborers into His harvest.”

Jesus Christ has sent you, His disciple, out into the harvest.  He has called you to help go and make disciples of the nations.

You can’t fool me: I’m a former schoolteacher.  I see some of you slinking down in your chairs and turning around, as if Jesus Christ means these words for the guy who’s sitting behind you.  But He means these words for you: you are the one He is sending out to the multitude of lost sheep.

Sometimes I wonder about these words, “The laborers are few.”  What does Jesus mean?  In the U.S. there are 160 million adults (we’ll let the children off the hook for now) who claim to be Christians, which is about 77% of the adult population.  45% of adults in the U.S. claim to be “born again,” which would give us about 100 million people.  Since there are something like 220 million adults in the U.S., I’d say we had plenty of laborers.  I mean, after all, since almost half of the adults are born-again Christians, each of us only has to bring the Good News to just one person.

Unless, of course, something is wrong with my numbers.  Why is it that we have a country where half the adults can say they’re born again Christians and yet easily more than half of the U.S. is still lost?

I think it comes down to the passion and compassion of Jesus Christ.  Do we really have the same passion to serve God as Jesus Christ did?  When we say we are really disciples of Jesus Christ, do we back it up with our lives?  In the U.S. as a whole (and the world, I suppose), the answer is a clear “No!”

Do we have the compassion of Jesus Christ which looks out at the world and sees lost sheep, that is, lost souls going to Hell?  Or do we see people just like us who don’t want to be disturbed, just as we are too busy to disturb others with the Good News of Jesus Christ?

But you can’t manufacture compassion for the lost sheep.  It must come from a heart completely devoted to God and to doing His will.  This is why Jesus saw lost sheep, when we see only golfing buddies or the office acquaintance or Uncle Harold.

Do you really want to give the perfect Christmas present this year?  Give someone Jesus Christ.  We love picking out just the right gift – but are we just giving to those who love us?  Jesus has commanded us to go those who are not already a part of our circle of love or our earthly family.   He has sent you to have compassion on those who are lost and to show your compassion for the lost and your passion for God by teaching them about Jesus Christ.

Without a passion for God, however, you will have no compassion for the lost sheep that propels you into motion.  Therefore, this Christmas, come once again to Jesus Christ and adore Him.  But don’t just Ooh! and Ahh! at the Christmas pictures or the cute kids at the Christmas pageant.  Come and adore the King of kings, and hear His commandment to go out and make disciples of the nations.

For this is the most fitting Christmas present for the God who gave Himself to you and who has called you to give Him to others.

Prayer:  Lord Jesus Christ, I praise You today for Your passion in perfectly obeying the will of the Father for me.  I praise You for Your compassion on the lost sheep of the world, especially myself.  I pray that today I may be a true disciple by hearing the voice of my Master and obeying Your commandment to go into the world to give You to others.   Amen.

Point for Meditation:

What does Jesus’ commandment to His disciples to go out and find the lost sheep mean to me?  Do I believe this is a call He has placed on my life, or is it only for others?  What have I done to obey my Master in going out to bring the lost sheep to Him?  What do I hear Him calling me to do this new year to be a more faithful disciple in this regard?

Resolution:  I resolve to adore and worship Jesus my Master this Christmastide.  I resolve to worship Him by obeying His commandment to go and disciple the nations and to ponder my part in God’s plan of redeeming mankind.

© 2012 Fr. Charles Erlandson

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