OK, I’m a bit of an Eagles fan, and when they released their first CD after years of being apart, I jumped at it! The CD was called “Hell Freezes over” and was named that because one of the guys said that would be the time the Eagles all got back together again to do another project. Well, guess what…
There’s a song on that album that I have loved since the first time I heard it. It’s called “Learn to be Still.” Listen: “We are like sheep without a shepherd, We don’t know how to be alone, So we wander ’round this desert. And wind up following the wrong gods home. But the flock cries out for another, And they keep answering that bell. And one more starry-eyed messiah Meets a violent farewell- Learn to be still, Learn to be still…”
Look at our lesson in Matthew 9:36, 10:1-8:
At that time, when Jesus 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 laborers are few; pray therefore the Lord of the harvest to send out laborers into his harvest.” And he called to him his twelve disciples and gave them authority over unclean spirits, to cast them out, and to heal every disease and every infirmity. The names of the twelve apostles are these: first, Simon, who is called Peter, and Andrew his brother; James the son of Zebedee, and John his brother; Philip and Bartholomew; Thomas and Matthew the tax collector; James the son of Alphaios, and Thaddaios; Simon the Cananaean. and Judas Iscariot, who betrayed him. These twelve Jesus sent out, charging them, “Go nowhere among the Gentiles, and enter no town of the Samaritans, but go rather to the lost sheep of the house of Israel. And preach as you go, saying, ‘The kingdom of heaven is at hand.’ Heal the sick, raise the dead, cleanse lepers, cast out demons. You received without paying, give without pay.”
This is one of the most powerful passages in the Gospel, and that’s because we see the Gospel writer reveal the “feelings” of the Lord Jesus toward the people. He has compassion on them.
But why? What is it about the people that draws out this feeling of compassion from Jesus? They are LOST! They are wandering around, seeking meaning from this or that “thing.” They are shepherdless. Now that last statement is a horrible indictment against the religious leaders of the Lord’s day. These leaders were “suppose” to BE the shepherds, but still the folks were wandering. To be sure, perhaps the leaders were trying to lead and the people refused to follow. Perhaps the people were stubborn and wouldn’t listen. Probably all true. But the good shepherd doesn’t make excuses, he looks deeply for the obstacles in his own life and the obstacles in the lives of others and works to remove the obstacles. That’s what a shepherd does.
But what surprises me most about this passage is how the Lord responds to His own compassion! He looks at His disciples (and US) and says “the harvest is plentiful, but the laborers are few.” What? Why didn’t Jesus tell the disciples that He was going down there to these shepherdless people and taking care of them? Why did He tell them about a harvest and then decry the lack of laborers?
He did this precisely because He knew exactly how to address the confusion of people. He determined to use people to help people! But He also then equipped those people for the work He was calling them to do. He gave them authority to combat the very things that were the source of confusion and lostness of the human race. He knew there would be a difficult ratio between laborers and the work ahead of them so He gave these laborers (AND US) the power to accomplish the task. And by doing that, He removed every excuse we could ever make that the job is too big! “We don’t have enough money” (FALSE). “We aren’t smart enough” (FALSE). “We’re afraid” (NOT JUST FALSE BUT FAITHLESS). Every excuse we could make for not being a part of the ministry that sets these shepherdless souls free is false.
Today, do you feel shepherdless or lost? Boy, have I got great news for you! There is a growing number of people who are determined to be Orthodox on Purpose that know which way to go. Find one of them! They’ll help you get home!