“When He saw the crowds, He felt compassion for them, because they were weary and worn out, like sheep without a shepherd. Then He said to His disciples, ‘The harvest is abundant, but the workers are few. Therefore, pray to the Lord of the harvest to send out workers into His harvest.’” (Matthew 9:36-38)
Know anyone who feel "weary and worn out?" Many feel this way because they are beset by problems and illness and bad news. Jesus compared people in this situation to “sheep without a shepherd.” They have no one to protect them, no one to help them find food and water, no one to help them when they are sick and injured, no one to care for them. They are easy prey.
Jesus saw people in this condition, and He was moved to compassion. This was not just an inward feeling of sorrow for their plight, though; it was a feeling within that moved Him to overt action, which is what compassion is.
Jesus acted to take care of the needs of these people, and then He made that striking statement, “The harvest is abundant, but the workers are few. Therefore, pray to the Lord of the harvest to send out workers into His harvest.” This is a statement which we apply to evangelism. It’s interesting that in compassionate action Jesus’ thinking went straight to evangelism.
What we thus learn here is that compassion and evangelism go together. Whereas we today tend to compartmentalize our lives, Jesus did not. We tend to put compassion in one category and evangelism in another. Maybe what we really need to do is to restore the wholeness approach and create stronger ties between compassion and evangelism, and not neglect one over the other.
Lord, Help us today to practice compassion that is evangelistic and evangelism that is compassionate. Amen.