As he went ashore, he saw a great crowd; and he had compassion for them, because they were like sheep without a shepherd; and he began to teach them many things.
Mark’s scripture tells us that Jesus had compassion for the people, because they were like a mob of sheep milling around in panic, with wolves circling them and tearing them apart one by one. Nothing seems to have changed since then as we look back on how the coronavirus pandemic killed people in every nation worldwide.
Doctors and nurses everywhere must have felt such compassion for patients with that disease, as they poured into their hospitals and clinics in huge numbers. Beyond the pandemic, there are other times when our lives are full of anxiety and overwhelming grief too. Just consider how we panic at times when we ponder on the possibilities of war, or what might happen with another pandemic, and how the media effortlessly whips up hysteria on any issue it chooses. We have it on television every day.
The reality of life is that we can only live in the presence of our enemies, or life threatening times. The kingdom of heaven is only at hand as we seek to follow our Shepherd, Jesus, and the right paths he leads us on in having compassion for those who are seeking healing in some place in their lives.
We will always be in the presence of our enemies which include death, suffering, and many false shepherds. We will go through dark valleys and sometimes we find ourselves in a darkness that happened so quickly we stumble around in confusion wondering how we got there.
Our only hope of safety is in Jesus our good Shepherd. And the only hope for others around us who are in a dark valley of suffering, grief, death, or a terrible loss of some kind, is for us to lead them to the Good Shepherd, Jesus.
We are in the midst of a crowd like this all the time. You or I might be one of those who needs to be healed, who need to be taught by Jesus. But it is also true that we can be a disciple who takes those needing to be healed to the Good Shepherd for healing. The ministry of Jesus, and the disciples, was to teach, feed and heal.
As disciples of Christ today, we do not live the good news of Jesus Christ if we do not have a compassion to teach, feed and heal. It is tempting to withdraw into a safe job and a nice suburb and feel sad occasionally that people are hungry, or shake our heads about the sad conditions of our world. However that would be a complete and utter waste of our time and life and the time God gives us to teach, feed and heal.
As Jesus’ disciples we are not here for our good only, but for the good of others. We too, have a God given power, power that the Good Shepherd gives us to teach, feed and bring healing to others. We have time, money, leisure, and ability to reflect and to act. I am not poverty stricken, where all of life is a struggle to survive, and I am guessing you are not either. As such, we are disciples of the shepherd, gifted and burdened with the compassion of God’s love and mercy. The Good Shepherd calls and equips us to bring hope, love and healing to those who are wandering around like sheep without a shepherd. The crowd around us is calling out for our help.
- Has the suffering of those around you brought you to compassionate action in Jesus name?
- Are you moved with compassion to teach, feed and heal where you are?
- Are there other disciples with whom you could work cooperatively to teach, feed and heal those who are wandering around like sheep without a shepherd?
Sue is NLS Spiritual Director, since 2019 and is a retired Lutheran Pastor (ELCA). Active in VdC since 1995, she has served two terms on the Board of the Texas VdC Secretariat, and also on the Texas Gulf Coast VdC Board as Spiritual Director since its start-up in 2017.