If you missed the blog from yesterday, please go back and read it. It will help set the stage for the rest of the week.
II. What Jesus Saw v36
The second thing that we see in this Scripture is what Jesus saw. We read in verse 36, “Seeing the people, He felt compassion for them, because they were distressed and dispirited like sheep without a shepherd.” Jesus came preaching this optimistic, hope filled gospel of the Kingdom. What He saw however, was anything but optimistic and hopeful. He saw the crowds. These were very large crowds. There were some 200 cities and villages in the region of Galilee. Josephus wrote, “The cities are numerous and the multitude of villages everywhere, crowded with men owing to the fertility of the soil, so that the smallest of them contains above 15,000 inhabitants.” Galilee, in Jesus’ day, likely contained more than three million people! This is not Jesus looking out at small town America. This was millions of collective people! This was not something doable! It was an overwhelming situation, much like our’s today. Stop and consider how overwhelming our world of more than than 7.5 billion people is.
What did Jesus see in this overwhelming number of people? He saw that they were distressed.
This word often conveys the idea of being battered, bruised, mangled, ripped apart, worn out, and exhausted. Not much has changed today. One out of eight people are chronically undernourished. Children, just like yours, went to bed with tears in their eyes because they were hungry; not hungry for the candy bar at the grocery store counter, but really hungry. One out of eight people are chronically undernourished. This is greater than the combined number of people in the U.S. Canada, and the European Union! There are roughly 780 million people who do not have a source of safe drinking water. Every day more than 2200 children die from water, sanitation, and hygiene issues. One man, the first Adam, brought sickness, pain, and death to mankind, but the last Adam, Jesus Christ, brought the good news of a good kingdom! That is our only hope.
They were not only distressed, but they were also dispirited. This word an mean downcast or helpless. The Greek Old Testament uses the same word in Judges 4:17-22 as we read the record of Deborah and Barak defeating Sisera and his armies. We read, “Now Sisera fled away on foot to the tent of Jael the wife of Heber the Kenite, for there was peace between Jabin the king of Hazor and the house of Heber the Kenite. 18 Jael went out to meet Sisera, and said to him, “Turn aside, my master, turn aside to me! Do not be afraid.” And he turned aside to her into the tent, and she covered him with a rug. 19 He said to her, “Please give me a little water to drink, for I am thirsty.” So she opened a bottle of milk and gave him a drink; then she covered him. 20 He said to her, “Stand in the doorway of the tent, and it shall be if anyone comes and inquires of you, and says, ‘Is there anyone here?’ that you shall say, ‘No.’” 21 But Jael, Heber’s wife, took a tent peg and seized a hammer in her hand, and went secretly to him and drove the peg into his temple, and it went through into the ground; for he was sound asleep and exhausted. So he died. 22 And behold, as Barak pursued Sisera, Jael came out to meet him and said to him, “Come, and I will show you the man whom you are seeking.” And he entered with her, and behold Sisera was lying dead with the tent peg in his temple.” The phrase “lying dead” in the Greek Old Testament (LXX or Septuagint) is the same Greek word in Matthew 9:36 translated “dispirited.” We could literally say that Jesus looked at the crowds and saw that they were distressed and dead.
The crowds of our day are helplessly dead in their trespasses and sins. A friend related a story of a young person who had fallen into a pool. When they were discovered they were floating on the bottom of the pool. The family had to dive into the pool, pull them from the bottom, administer CPR for a lengthy amount of time before, miraculously they came to. That is the condition of the world. They are lifeless on the bottom of the pool and they aren’t able to swim to shore or even grab onto a life preserver. They need to be rescued. There are over 11,000 distinct people groups out of 7.5 billion people on earth, and roughly 6000 of those distinct people groups are unreached. They are dispirited, helpless, and dead.
Jesus saw people who were distressed and dispirited. He also saw them as direction-less. They were like sheep without a shepherd. They were hopeless. They have been left to the wolves. They have no one that is helping them. They are alone. There are roughly 1200 people groups (according to Finishing the Task) today that are unreached and unengaged. Being unreached and unengaged means they have no access to the gospel. The epitome of hopelessness is to be without a gospel witness and none on the horizon. What Jesus saw is not much different than what we see today.