Matthew Chapter 8 and 9 immediately follow what is most commonly referred to as “The Sermon on the Mount”, which is Matthew 5-7. The sermon on the mount, if you don’t already know, is essentially a snapshot of what many of Jesus’ sermons were throughout his ministry. It offers us a glimpse of what the crowds were flocking to Jesus to hear. But what is the most interesting part to me are the two chapters that follow.
In the Sermon on the Mount, Jesus is constantly redefining what the Jewish people believed to be their law, which is an awfully blasphemous thing to do. He constantly would say, “You have heard it said…” and then quote something from the Old Testament Law, then follow it up with, “But I say…” and redefine what that law meant. This anger the religious elite and brought hope to the outcast and “sinners” (not because they weren’t truly sinners, but because we’re ALL sinners). Then he’d go on to say even more outrageous things like, “Love your enemy” and “Do unto others what you would have them do unto you” and “Don’t worry about the speck in your friends eye until you’ve removed the log from your own” (meaning, don’t judge others until you take care of your own problems).
But what is even more insane than what he said is that in chapter 8 and 9 he actually DID it. Immediately in chapter 8 he heals two lepers. You know, those people that were so sick and contagious that the simple act of touching them made you an outcast as well? Yeah, he touched those guys. Then a Roman Centurion, you know, those guys that had invaded Israel and were constantly trying to impose their will on the Jewish people, the enemies of Israel, ask Him to heal his slave. And He did. AND THEN had the audacity to claim that this man had the greatest faith in all of Israel! No wonder He had a target painted on His head.
But then in chapter 9 one word seems to continually pop up before He healed anyone or preformed any miracles. Let’s take a look, shall we?
“Jesus stepped into a boat, crossed over and came to his own town. Some men brought to him a paralyzed man, lying on a mat. When Jesus saw their faith, he said to the man, ‘Take heart, son; your sins are forgiven.’” Matthew 9:1-2
“As Jesus went on from there, he saw a man named Matthew sitting at the tax collector’s booth. ‘Follow me,’ he told him, and Matthew got up and followed him.” Matthew 9:9
“Just then a woman who had been subject to bleeding for twelve years came up behind him and touched the edge of his cloak. She said to herself, ‘If I only touch his cloak, I will be healed.’
“Jesus turned and saw her. ‘Take heart, daughter,’ he said, ‘your faith has healed you.’ And the woman was healed at that moment.” Matthew 9:20-22
Did you notice it? I put the word in big bold letters to make it really easy for you. He SAW them, then He acted. And in two of the three stories He meets their spiritual need before He reaches their physical need. But, in each story, He meets their physical needs as well. Oh, and by the way, He also raises a girl from the dead in there too and heals some blind men for good measure. Jesus’ ministry revolved around doing two really important things, Noticing and Serving people. All people. Whether poor, rich, Roman, Jewish, healthy, sick, alive, dead, it didn’t matter. Jesus noticed and served everyone.
And it all culminates with the final three verses in Matthew chapter 9, which encompasses our theme verse, 9:36.
“Jesus went through all the towns and villages, teaching in their synagogues, proclaiming the good news of the kingdom and healing every disease and sickness. When he saw the crowds, he had compassion on them, because they were harassed and helpless, like sheep without a shepherd. Then he said to his disciples, ‘The harvest is plentiful, but the workers are few. Ask the Lord of the harvest, therefore, to send out workers into his harvest field.’” Matthew 9:35-38
This could easily summarize the motivation for Jesus’ entire ministry. It’s literally the reason God came to earth. He saw us, that we were lost, harassed, and helpless, and He had compassion on us.
Then, in chapter 10, He has the audacity to send His disciples out to do the exact same thing that He was doing, to actually LIVE OUT what Jesus had been teaching! And that’s what this is all about. We are not called into a personal relationship with God alone. We are called into and to create a corporate relationship with all people and the God of the Universe.
So, the simple question remains, do you truly care about people you don’t know? Do you truly care about people who are “different” from you? Do you truly care about the poor, the outcast, the downtrodden, the homeless, and the helpless? Because Jesus does. And He’s called us to also.
So, do you see the world the way Jesus did? Are you putting your Jesus glasses on or are you as blind as the men at the end of chapter 9, in desperate need of the healing touch of Jesus to allow you to see a field of souls that are ready to be harvested.
How well do you think you notice what’s really going on around you? What’s really going on in people’s hearts and lives?
What makes it so hard to care about people we don’t know, or maybe more accurately, don’t like?
What do you think would happen to your world if you truly saw people the way Jesus saw people?