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A demoniac who was mute was brought to Jesus. And when the demon had been cast out, the one who had been mute spoke; and the crowds were amazed and said, ‘Never has anything like this been seen in Israel.’ But the Pharisees said, ‘By the ruler of the demons he casts out the demons.’
Then Jesus went about all the cities and villages, teaching in their synagogues, and proclaiming the good news of the kingdom, and curing every disease and every sickness. When he saw the crowds, he had compassion for them, because they were harassed and helpless, like sheep without a shepherd. Then he said to his disciples, ‘The harvest is plentiful, but the labourers are few; therefore ask the Lord of the harvest to send out labourers into his harvest.’
He had compassion for them because they were like sheep without a shepherd.
Yesterday we read of two people who, driven by despair, turned to Jesus in faith. Because of their faith they experienced the miracle of his life-changing healing touch. Through faith they saw life renewed and a whole new future open up before them. Those two people, a leader of the synagogue and an unclean woman, could not have been much more different, and yet they shared a faith, a faith which was recognized by Jesus. It was in that shared faith that they laid their vulnerability and their need before the only one who could truly help them.
In today’s reading we find that message taken to new lengths. Jesus is still travelling, and teaching, and healing, and Jesus is still being derided by the religious authorities. Despite the familiarity of this narrative we do encounter a subtle difference. Today we read that Jesus had compassion for them. Today the gospel writer spells out Jesus’ motivation for curing every disease and every sickness … compassion for the human race, in all its diversity. Jesus came to earth in a spirit of divine love. Jesus did not come to earth in order that he might be applauded for his amazing demonstrations of inexplicable power. Jesus entered the human condition in order that he might love and serve, in order that he might give the reassurance of God’s love.
Yesterday we read of two people who knew the cause of their own despair: the death of a child and a long-standing and life-inhibiting medical condition. Today Jesus has compassion for those who do not know that their lives are damaged, those who are like sheep without a shepherd.
We live in a world that celebrates self-reliance. We struggle to admit it when we need help. This feeling that we can define and control our own destinies puts us firmly in the midst of the wandering sheep, amongst those who blunder from moment to moment with ever-growing feelings of despair, emptiness and loneliness.
Let us pray for the humility to admit our need. Let us pray that our eyes might be opened and that we might see and know the Shepherd who has compassion for us. Let us pray that we might have the faith to seek and revel in the Shepherd’s healing touch.