35 Then Jesus went about all the cities and villages, teaching in their synagogues, preaching the gospel of the kingdom, and healing every sickness and every disease among the people. 36 But when He saw the multitudes, He was moved with compassion for them, because they were weary and scattered, like sheep having no shepherd. 37 Then He said to His disciples, “The harvest truly is plentiful, but the laborers are few. 38 Therefore pray the Lord of the harvest to send out laborers into His harvest.” (Matthew 9:35-38, NKJV)
Can you imagine being in Jesus' shoes that day, watching crowds of "weary and scattered" people "like sheep having no shepherd"? What would you be thinking and feeling? How would you have responded to those needs?
Our Savior was unafraid of getting up close and personal with the brokenness of humanity. When He saw crowds, he saw more than just numbers. He saw people -- precious souls with personal stories, stories that didn't stir up disgust or disdain...but compassion. He saw needs -- life struggles and daily challenges that didn't evoke a sense of impossibility or disinterested shoulder-shrugging...but faith.
In short, Jesus had a radical perspective.
The way He looked at situations and souls is, admittedly, not my default way of looking at those very same things. Several years ago, I stayed for a weekend in downtown Chicago. I remember looking out my hotel room one morning and seeing masses of people streaming the sidewalks and forests of skyscrapers lining the horizon. Though I felt concerned for the populace's well-being, I more keenly felt a sense of overwhelming impossibility, that I was too small to do anything of impact. Truth be told, that usually describes my loudest thoughts whenever I people-watch, whether in downtown Chicago or rural Castle Rock. Oh, to have Jesus' radical perspective instead!
Look again at the way Jesus sees broken people around him:
36 But when He saw the multitudes, He was moved with compassion for them, because they were weary and scattered, like sheep having no shepherd. 37 Then He said to His disciples, “The harvest truly is plentiful..." (Matthew 9:36-37, NKJV)
The harvest truly is plentiful...
What we know from this excerpt of Jesus' response to the needy masses is that whatever perspective Jesus states here is a true perspective, one that can be trusted above and beyond our own.
And what exactly is so true and trustworthy about Jesus view of the situation? For starters, this "distressed and dispirited" multitude (Mt. 9:36, NASB) is not a class to be turned aside but a "harvest" ready to be reaped and labored for. He views the broken as full of hope and potential, a harvest that ought not to be passed by or given up on. That is a radical perspective that counters my natural perspective.
I often read this passage and get to the punchline at the end, praying that God would send laborers into the harvest. But maybe before I can honestly and effectively pray for more laborers, I need to pray for more compassion, more hope, more of Jesus' radical perspective to see people as God sees them, to see my community as God sees it. "The harvest truly is plentiful..."