Seeing as Jesus Sees
Seeing as Jesus Sees
“Seeing the people, He felt compassion for them, because they were distressed and dispirited like sheep without a shepherd.”
“Seeing” is a significant thread woven throughout the chapter, focusing on what Jesus sees in contrast to what others see. Throughout the chapter, we find Jesus seeing people, not from a physical but spiritual perspective. In verse 2, He saw the faith of the men who brought the Paralytic. In verse 9, while people saw a despised tax collector, Jesus saw someone who would be a disciple and writer. In verse 22, Jesus did not see an unclean woman but a woman who was desperate and in need of healing and had faith in his ability to provide for her needs. In verse 23, Jesus enters a room of mourners, and he sees a hopeless crowd in the face of death. In verse 30, Jesus give physical and spiritual sight to men who were both physically and spiritually blind.
What Jesus saw stands in contrast to what others saw in the world around them. In verse 8, the people saw a man who could heal but not a God who was present. In verse 11, the Pharisees saw the tax collectors who were beyond redemption and to be avoided.
This sets the stage for Jesus’ statement to the disciples in verses 36-38. The disciples saw people they knew as Jesus was ministering to the people around the Sea of Galilee. They saw their friends and family. They saw people who were religious and morally upright. Perhaps they saw people they disliked and with whom they had a dispute. They saw what we often see as we look around us in our town and city. But Jesus saw something different.
The language of verse 36 is graphic and traumatic in its visual representation of the people. The word translated “distressed” pictures an animal skinned and flayed by an attacking predator. The second word is equally as graphic. “Dispirited” refers to one who has been cast down from a mortal wound, discarded, and left for dead. When Jesus saw the people, he saw those in desperate need of hope and salvation. As a result, the passage states that Jesus felt compassion for them. The word “compassion” is a word of deep emotion. It speaks of one who is affected deeply by one's inner being. It is to feel compassion at a gut level. Jesus did not just feel sorry for them; Jesus was physically moved by a stomach-wrenching empathy. He was so moved he was literally “sick to the stomach” because of the spiritual condition of the people.
Having seen the people, he calls upon the disciples to see differently. He points to the people and states that the harvest is plentiful. The problem is not with the harvest but with the workers. Jesus challenges us to look about us and see our world differently. To see a world that is in desperate need of salvation. Instead of seeing people in categories we often put upon them, we are to see all people in one category: people in desperate need of the redemptive truth of God. At the core level, people's ultimate need is to experience the deliverance of Christ as he brings salvation and spiritual life to them.
This then confronts us to begin to pray for the harvest. As we look about us, we see our neighbors, friends, co-workers, and enemies. Instead of seeing them as the world sees them in categories our society creates, we are to see them as people who need to hear the hope of the gospel. What do you see when you look about you? As Christ to enable you to see people as he sees them.