“There is nothing heavier than compassion. Not even one’s own pain weighs so heavy as the pain one feels for someone, pain intensified by the imagination and prolonged by a hundred echoes.”(Milan Kundera)
Ever read about the double-pump miracle Jesus performed? Fascinating story, about a blind man in Bethsaida. Jesus led him outside the village and spit on his eyes.
“Do you see anything”? He asked.
He looked up and said, “I see people; they look like trees walking around.”
So Jesus double-clutched. Once more, he put his hands on the man’s eyes. This time he saw everything clearly.
It doesn’t bother me that it took two rounds with the Son of God for a blind man to see clearly again. It does bother me that many believers, myself included, have gone many rounds with Jesus, and we still don’t see clearly at times.
He saw people that looked like trees. We see people that look like other things – jobs, economic status, social labels, racial stereotypes, gender. Jesus saw something else entirely. You can too, but it doesn’t come naturally.
“I see people; they look like trees.”
What do you see? Butcher, baker, candlestick maker? Hot babe, geek, hero, freak?
They may as well be Klingons, unless we learn to see from Jesus’ perspective. We talk a lot about pursuing our own passions, but you can never fulfill your deepest passion unless you first embrace his. Take a look:
Then Jesus made a circuit of all the towns and villages. He taught in their meeting places, reported kingdom news, and healed their diseased bodies, healed their bruised and hurt lives. When he looked out over the crowds, his heart broke. So confused and aimless they were, like sheep with no shepherd. “What a huge harvest!” he said to his disciples. “How few workers! On your knees and pray for harvest hands!” (Matthew 9:35-38, MSG).
It doesn’t take a Ph.D. to figure out that Jesus saw something that moved him, while the disciples must have missed it. What was it that Jesus saw that seemed at once to tear his heart and excite his passion?
Jesus looked at people that various translations render as “harassed and helpless,” “weary and scattered,” “distressed and dispirited.” In short, he saw the complete and utter spiritual poverty of the human race. Jesus saw that the best efforts we could make to improve our situation are futile. Whatever it is you call freedom, happiness or success, if it cuts you off from an intimate relationship with God, it’s poverty!
Spiritual poverty comes in two forms: those who are desperately needy and know it, and those who are desperately needy and don’t. Those who acknowledge their need discover the Kingdom of Heaven. But many people are blind to it – either willfully or involuntarily. They may carry an air of respectability and goodness. But when God says you’re busted, you’re busted. It would be tragic enough if someone knew their desperate situation and saw no way out. It’s beyond tragic if the solution is a prayer away, and they don’t (or won’t) see it.
Who are these people? Your neighbor. Your brother-in-law. Your bank teller. Your customer, employee, landlord or tenant. Your boss. Your baby. Many of them are likeable, even loveable. Many of them are also in a degree of spiritual poverty that calls you to action.
“Sheep without a shepherd.” That’s a pretty desperate situation, considering sheep are the most helpless animals in the world.
We were created to need a relationship with God. When we’re living without one, it’s not a pretty sight. Sheep without shepherds can do some really strange things. They think they can find their own way. They become driven by their bellies – always looking for a greener pasture. They become blind to danger, separated from other sheep.
Ever run into people who act like shepherdless sheep? You’ll hear them say things like, “I can worship God anywhere – I don’t need a church.”
Or, “I have my own ideas about God.”
How about this classic: “It can’t be wrong if it feels so right.”
I want to remind you what this looks like to the Son of God. Sheep without shepherds tear his heart out! I live in a Bible Belt American city of more than 200,000 people, the vast majority of whom don’t have a personal relationship with Jesus. Add to that the number of believers who are wandering around, independent, self-confident, bitter, and I’m telling you, it’s breaking His heart!
What about your town? Your nation? Your neighborhood? You don’t have the luxury of assuming that somehow they’ll find their own way. Left to their own direction, they face incredible danger. Not later – now. Not sometime – today.
Isn’t it interesting that when Jesus saw those desperately needy people, he referred to them as a “harvest”? They may look like weeds to somebody else, but to Jesus they were the reason he came in the first place.
Throughout his ministry, Jesus saw ordinary people as harvest material.
- Peter and Andrew were fishermen. Jesus saw them as fishers of men.
- Matthew was a tax collector. Jesus saw him as distributor of a new kind of wealth.
- John was a “Son of Thunder.” Jesus saw him as the apostle of love.
Now Jesus was looking at this crowd and saying, “There’s a harvest.” My guess is, they didn’t see it.
“Harvest? What harvest? That’s Fred, the carpenter. That’s Joe, the milkman.”
“Harvest! Don’t you mean, heathen? That’s the local tax collector.”
“The harvest is plentiful,” Jesus said. Two thousand years have come and gone, and it’s still harvest time.
The harvest is ready, whether you’re ready or not.
The harvest is ready, whether you’re under stress or not.
The harvest is ready, whether you feel adequate or not.
There is always a way you can be involved! Don’t you think that if it moved the heart of the Son of God that much, then maybe it’s that important?
To Jesus, the priority was and is always about people. Human nature is different. We value systems and forms and things. Jesus values people. We see problems. Jesus sees people. We see labels. Jesus sees people. We see confusion and a need to control it. Jesus sees people, and a need to love.
So how do we prioritize people? By doing the same thing Jesus did. Start with involvement. Jesus saw what he saw by doing something as simple as hanging out.
To your involvement, add understanding. Jesus took the time to understand the hearts of people, not just their externals and appearances.
To your understanding, add intercession. Jesus prayed, and calls us to pray. And what we’re praying for is people! Maybe the reason you are praying for some things without an answer is that you’re actually praying for things! You’ve made revival, or salvation, or guidance, or God’s provision a thing! To God it’s all about people.
So why did Jesus double-dip on that healing experience?
To show us something about us.
We get a touch from God and think we have the whole load. But we see people as objects, labels, or categories. What we need is another touch. Maybe a touch of supernatural discernment. Or a touch of love and compassion. Or a touch of revelation. Or a touch of healing.
So how do you know if you need that second touch? Simple. If you really saw what he saw, you’d do what he did. You’d get involved in their lives. Care. Pray. Extend his healing.
One more thing. Regardless of your outward appearance, Jesus sees your heart. And that’s a good thing! What he sees, he genuinely cares about.
He sees your hurt.
He sees your fear.
He sees your stupid attempts to be your own shepherd…
And it matters to Him. Would you let him love you? Heal you? Save you? Forgive you?
You’re a harvest, too, and the time is now.