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Summary: To cast the vision for 2008 for our congregation to be praying for those who are unchurched, or distant from the Lord. We are praying for God to move upon their hearts and to send more workers into the field (perhaps us) to minister to them and to talk w

Let’s see it, how many of you went shopping on the day after Thanksgiving, black Friday. How many of you finished up your shopping? Was anyone crazy enough to be there at 4 am? Confession time, I have to admit, I went shopping on Friday but fortunately we didn’t do our shopping until the evening when the crowds died down. Let me ask you kind of an unusual question. How many of you paid attention to the crowd? I mean really noticed the people. I don’t just mean the person you glared at for stealing your parking spot, or the lady who jumped in the shortest checkout line in front of you, or got the last sale item. I mean did you notice the people surrounding you? I’ll admit I didn’t. I was just there to get Christmas presents at bargain prices. I didn’t see the lady the standing next to me with a child slung under one arm while losing a fight with the other one who wanted candy from the checkout lane because she was recently divorced and trying to raise two kids on her own now. I didn’t see the store employee who served me whose face was downcast because he recently lost his mother to cancer and had to spend Thanksgiving alone. I didn’t see the man who was ringing the bells for the Salvation Army because he wanted to help them for all they did for him. Of course I don’t really know any of their stories because I was just there to get my Christmas presents at bargain prices.

In the gospel story, it tells us Jesus saw the crowds that had gathered around him and he had compassion on them because they were harassed and helpless like sheep without a shepherd. The crowds who came to see Jesus weren’t your typical church crowd type. They weren’t dressed in their finest, acting on their best behavior. They were real people with real needs and real hopes that Jesus could do something to make a difference in their situation. They had real problems, they were “sinners” and religious folks alike, like the woman in the crowd who had suffered from a bleeding hemorrhage for twelve years who hoped that just by touching the hem of Jesus’ cloak she would be well. Or the synagogue leader who hoped Jesus would heal his dying daughter. Or the paralyzed man who needed both a physical and spiritual healing.

We have “crowds” of the same kind of people around us. And I’m not just talking about those crowds out on the busiest shopping day of the year. They are people who live near us, they may even be our neighbor. They are the people we see in town at the gas station, at the restaurant, or perhaps they are people we don’t see at all because we don’t hang out in the same places they do. They are people with real needs, sinners and saints alike, secretly hoping to find something or someone who will help them. They feel harassed and helpless. The word “helpless” in this passage literally means to be cast down, to be thrown down, dejected. Just like in Jesus’ day, some of the people find themselves in this situation by their own bad choices, others find life has given them sour apples, their life situation is beyond their control.

When Jesus saw the crowds it didn’t matter to him how they came to him. He didn’t get annoyed by their neediness or how they got that way, or for “using him” for their own purposes. Jesus just had compassion for them, he loved them, he cared about them, he wanted to help them.

If we are honest with ourselves we don’t typically see others with Jesus’ eyes or love with Jesus’ heart. We look right past the crowds. We are quick to judge (they probably made bad choices, they’re probably addicted to drugs, ) and slow to help.

[Pray of confession and for eyes and a heart like Jesus]

There was a time in the OT, when the shepherds God had appointed, political and religious leaders, hadn’t done a very good job in caring for His people. The word of the Lord came to the prophet Ezekiel and he voiced God’s criticism (Ezek. 34):

2b ’This is what the Sovereign LORD says: Woe to the shepherds of Israel who only take care of themselves! Should not shepherds take care of the flock?

4 You have not strengthened the weak or healed the sick or bound up the injured. You have not brought back the strays or searched for the lost. You have ruled them harshly and brutally. 5 So they were scattered because there was no shepherd.

Later in Ezekiel 34, God spoke through the prophet that he himself would send a shepherd, a servant of David, meaning he was in the lineage of David, who would feed his sheep, and be a shepherd over them. He would establish a kingdom of peace and justice. Jesus saw himself as that shepherd. Didn’t Jesus once say, “I am the Good Shepherd” (John 10:11, 14)? Jesus came to be the Shepherd who would strengthen the weak, heal the sick, bind up the injured, bring back those who had strayed from the Lord, and seek and save the lost, those who were far from God. That was Jesus’ ministry in a nutshell. He came to be the Shepherd for the helpless sheep.

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