Matthew 9 is a chapter filled with examples of Jesus’ love for His community. He forgave the sins of a paralyzed man and then healed him after his friends had brought him to Jesus. He called Matthew, a tax collector, a sinner by all accounts and a traitor in the minds of his neighbors, to be his disciple. As if that wasn’t scandalous enough, Jesus then went to Matthew’s house and had dinner with all his tax collector and sinner friends. Jesus doesn’t just call us to leave our lives, He comes and joins us in our lives, He’s not harsh and rigid, He’s gentle and kind, He’s understanding and loving. He loves us too much to allow us to stay as we are, but He loves us enough to meet us, even to join us where we are so that He can lead us to where we need to be. Jesus healed a woman who had been bleeding for 12 years and raised a little girl from the dead even while the mourners were lamenting her death. He restored the sight of two blind men who called out to Him for “mercy”. Verse 35 then says, “Jesus went through all the towns and villages, teaching in their synagogues, preaching the good news of the kingdom and healing every disease and sickness.” He served His community, He walked among His neighbors, He saw their needs and He didn’t just do miracles, He gave love. He didn’t just change people’s lives, He entered them. The Son of Man came to serve, and He did it by being a part of His community.
Verse 36 says, “When he saw the crowds, he had compassion on them, because they were harassed and helpless, like sheep without a shepherd.” How we serve begins with how we see. As Jesus looked on these crowds of people He didn’t see their faults and their flaws, He didn’t see that they didn’t “get it”, that they didn’t understand, that they weren’t devoted. He didn’t look for fault, He looked with hope. How did God view Adam and Eve? When they were hiding from God and covering their shame, what did God see? Did He look on them with vengeance or did He come to them with mercy? The fact that God came looking and calling to those who had rebelled against Him shows His heart and His character. It shows His love and His servanthood. When Jesus looked at the crowds, He saw them the same way the Father had seen Adam and Eve, the same way that He sees us. Isaiah tells us that we have all, like sheep gone astray, Romans adds that there is none righteous, not even one. Weren’t they only shepherdless because they had rejected and rebelled against the shepherd? Aren’t we all deserving of our plight, isn’t it all, at least in large part, owing to our own decisions and choices? Matthew says that Jesus, “had compassion on them”. Compassion looks with hope rather than for fault. Compassion is what the Father had when He looked on Adam and Eve, hoping for redemption rather than focusing on their rebellion. Compassion is what Jesus had when the woman caught in adultery was brought to Him. She was caught in the act, there was no way to look past her sin, but Jesus never lets our sin disturb His focus on the hope that He has for us. He refused to condemn her and gave her mercy and instruction, “you are not condemned, go and sin no more.” The heart of Christ is never fault-finding but always hope inspiring. Anyone can see fault, only the Holy Spirit can reveal hope. We serve the community by seeing, serving and instilling the hope that only the Spirit can see and only Christ can give.