When I read this passage, what catches my eyes and heart over and over again is when Jesus saw the crowds and “had compassion on them, because they were harassed and helpless, like sheep without a shepherd.” (Matthew 9:36)
As I read this, people from my life and neighborhood in Shoreditch—in the heart of East London—come to mind. I remember the faces of some of our local homeless people; or the regulars at the local pub where, as I get to know them, I hear life stories that are in need of Christ’s redemption; or some of my friends who are young, artistic Londoners, who seem to have it all together, but when you look closer you see they are searching for meaning and significance. In each diverse example, Jesus shows me his heart for them—his desire to protect, free, and fill them with his love and to show them the deep purpose for which they were created.
Immediately, I am aware of two dynamics at play here: first, most of these people, living in a post-Christian and post-modern context, are unlikely to ever search for answers by going to a church. And second, I, a follower and disciple of Jesus am in their lives already—either through a relationship or simply through the familiarity of seeing them on a regular basis.
My strong and firm conviction is that each of these people should be experiencing and getting to know Jesus through me and how I live. They should be experiencing the present and active Kingdom of God here and now through my life and Jesus Christ working in me. I want each person to know Jesus for themselves, to experience his deep, healing love and life-giving hope.
So, how does that happen?
The example Jesus portrays throughout the rest of this passage gives me the roadmap I need. Jesus went out to the people and built relationships by simply taking the time to talk to them. And then Jesus did three things simultaneously: he taught them from Scripture, he told them the good news about God’s Kingdom, and then he lived it out by bringing holistic healing and care to those in need.
It seems basic and yet, when I stop to think about what it actually means, it is revolutionary—a life-changing, world-impacting kind of revolutionary.
As I walk through this Lent season and reflect on this passage, my challenge to both myself and to you is… to see God’s Kingdom move tangibly in our midst.