by Andrew Stevens
When he saw the crowds, he had compassion on them, because they were harassed and helpless, like sheep without a shepherd.”
Matthew 9:36 NIV
I have never done a lot of research on sheep, but it feels like every time I have heard about sheep it is usually referring to them being stupid. A good example of this is when over 400 sheep in Turkey died because 1 sheep decided to jump off of a cliff and the rest followed. Sheep are prey animals. And their only protection against predators is the instinct to stick together no matter where it takes them. If a sheep is separated from the flock, it gets very agitated.
Recently, however, scientists have discovered, through facial recognition testing and maze training, that sheep are actually intelligent.
My problem is that I have a tendency to look at the world the same way I looked at sheep.
I will be the first to admit that I don’t have a big storage of compassion for people. I do have some, but not on a normal basis. I remember taking a “spiritual” test growing up and it showing me that my gift of compassion and mercy was low. So when I read news articles or watch tv or just see people in general, I find myself labeling them as stupid because I can’t wrap my mind around the logic and behaviors in this world.
But God has a different view of those around us.
In Matthew 9, Jesus is in the midst of his ministry going from town to town. He’s preaching. He’s healing. And he looks at the people and does not judge them or question them. He feels sorry for them because “they are harassed and helpless, like sheep without a shepherd”. The people were stressed and worn out. They were looking for help and they were looking for answers. Just like sheep, they gravitated to the dominant personality or the loudest voice.
We live in the same type of world now. Unfortunately, people are being lead to the temporary instead of the eternal. They are lost without a shepherd to guide them. And although we know the Shepherd’s voice, we, as believers, also have a tendency to stray and follow the pack.
But Jesus didn’t call us sheep because sheep are stupid, but rather because we are prey for the enemy. Our natural reaction to being prey is to stay with the flock.
What we need is Jesus’ eyes. He doesn’t judge people on their actions, but rather looks at each heart. He sees each life and all the hurt that has occurred and he shows compassion and mercy. That mercy carries all the way through the cross where, in the midst of all the pain, he prayed for those around him, “Father, forgive them, for they do not know what they are doing.” (Luke 23:34)
Lord, give me eyes to see that each person, whether I agree with them or not, is God’s creation, harassed and helpless. Help me to get past all the words or actions that I don’t understand (or fathom) and know that they are searching just as I am. Let me show them the kind of love that will lead them to the shepherd that gives eternal hope and safety rather than temporary solutions.