Series 47


by Francis Dixon
Study verses: Matthew 9:35-38

These verses are most challenging, and in this study we shall be concentrating on verse 36, where we read of our Lord seeing the multitudes and being deeply moved – “he had compassion on them” because they were bewildered, harassed, distressed and dejected – “like sheep without a shepherd”. When Jesus saw the crowds, who needed Him so much and for whose salvation He had come, something happened inside Him. The word “compassion” is a tender word – look up Lamentations 3:22 and compare Matthew 18:27; Mark 5:19 and Mark 9:22. When Jesus saw the crowds He did not blame or rebuke them, but He was deeply concerned for them. What was it that filled Him with compassion, and what is it about the many people who are without Christ that should move us deeply and make us concerned for their salvation?


1. The Sight of the Crowd

In verse 36 it says, “When he saw the crowds…” It was not simply what He saw but how He saw the people – and how different was His reaction from what ours often is! For example, see how the disciples reacted (Mark 10:13-14); how the people reacted when Bartimaeus needed Jesus (Mark 10:46-48); see how the disciples reacted when the distressed mother needed help (Matthew 15:23). Jesus saw men and women as souls needing to be saved. They were not to be blamed or criticised, and certainly they were not objects of curiosity (John 9:2-3). We too must see men and women like this. What we see and how we see will affect our hearts (Lamentations 3:51). We need to have what J. H. Jowett called ‘The Passion for Souls’.


2. The Size of the Crowd

Jesus was deeply moved (verse 36) because so many people needed Him – not just one man, a family or a few hundred, but crowds. How few of the population of our great cities and towns have really come to know the Lord as their personal Saviour, and yet do we yearn over them? Have we any deep compassion for them? Are we doing anything practical to win them to Christ? Do we care if men and women live and die without Christ (John 8:24)?


3. The Sufferings of the Crowd

Again in verse 36 we read that it was when Jesus “saw the crowds, he had compassion on them, because they were harassed and helpless…” They were miserable, dejected and distressed, and there are millions of people in this condition today. They have no Saviour (Luke 1:47); they do not know Him as their friend (John 15:14); as their Shepherd (Psalm 23:1); as the One who can be a refuge (Isaiah 32:2), and as their prospect for the future (Psalm 73:24). Those of us who know the Lord, who belong to Him and have been the objects of His tender mercy and grace, and who each day rejoice in fellowship with Him, should pause and think of the desperate plight of the crowds around us who do not know the blessings of salvation through Christ (Ephesians 1:3); of satisfaction in Christ (Psalm 16:11); and of eternal security (John 10:28-29). Have we any compassion for people, even for one soul?


4. The Sins of the Crowd

We read in verse 36 that the crowds were “like sheep without a shepherd”. Look up Isaiah 53:6. The prophet Isaiah wrote in about 700 BC, and Jesus was now viewing the crowds in AD 30 (approximately), but the sins of men and women have not changed, nor has their need. Do the sins of this generation move us? It’s very easy to say, ‘How terrible things are getting! What awful things we read about in the paper! Whatever is happening to the world?…the breakdown of morality…the violence, lawlessness and crime…!’

Do we have any compassion for the people who are engulfed in these evil things and who have not discovered the remedy for all these ills which we have discovered through faith in Christ? The Devil’s object is to destroy, but the Lord Jesus came to give life to the full (John 10:10). Deep down in the heart of every man and woman there is a longing and a desire for true satisfaction which can only be found in the Lord Jesus. He alone can introduce us to the Father and give this deep satisfaction which we all need (John 14:8-11).


5. The Separation of the Crowd

When we read in verse 36 that the people were “harassed and helpless”, this describes their condition of being lost; they had no shepherd; they were like the lost sheep in Luke 15:4, but notice that in this parable the Shepherd went after the lost sheep until He found it – look up and compare Luke 13:34.

So we come to the end of this study with the question, Do we have any real concern for the Shepherd-less crowds around us? – relatives, friends, neighbours and work colleagues? Do we have compassion for them, that they should receive Christ’s salvation? Are we in any respect like the Lord Jesus who, when He saw the multitudes, was so deeply moved…?