In John 7:49 there’s this from the church-leaders, the orthodox scholars “This rabble that does not know the law—they’re accursed.”
Then there’s this in Luke 13:52: “Woe to you experts in the law for you have taken away the key to knowledge…”
Here’s a text: Matthew 14:14, “When He went ashore He saw a great crowd; and He had compassion for them and cured their sick.”
There lies the difference between Jesus and brass-necked leadership. It isn’t the only difference, don’t you know, and if you isolate it it’s not even the main difference but it is a profound difference.
Jesus saw “the mob” and when He saw them He felt something and He did something.
In a multitude of 5,000 plus (Matthew 14:21) there must have been a lot of mixed motives, promises unkept, grudges harbored, self-serving and such. They would have been like any other crowd, ancient or modern. Christ could see it for He knew people. And yet, when He looked, “He had compassion on them and healed their sick.” (Matthew 14:14 and 9:36)
Yes, but if He knew they were sinners, why did He think them like sheep without a shepherd? Why did He see them as uncared for? Why did He feel compassion toward them—or did He scan them with the speed of light and feel compassionate toward the upright in heart and indifferent toward the others?
This is “the Holy One” (Acts 3:14; John 6:69, following NIV and others). Tell me how we can be holy as He is holy? I don’t mean how can we be sinless or how can we feel as deeply as He?
Forget that for now! It’s not going to happen! Whimpering on and on about our sinfulness helps no one.
Help us to lift up our eyes and at least see better, purer, cleaner things. But help us to be holy like Him and still look on people with all the marks of unholiness written on their faces and see them at least as needy people. He wasn’t the first kind man or the only one in the world but He alone flawlessly and truly imaged GOD looking on the sinful feeling what they feel and longing to do them good. For all our wishing, for all our longing there is a chasm between us and Christ that we cannot bridge; His holiness simply outdistances our most fervent imaginings. It has nothing to do with miraculous power; it has nothing to do with His being able to feed thousands with little or nothing. It has all to do with His unutterable holiness looking on sinners and wanting to do them good, wanting to heal their sick, wanting to lift them out of their gloom and hurt and give them reason to believe that the worst they know doesn’t have the last word. Later, maybe later, if we now and then, at least, hunger and thirst for righteousness, we’ll, in happy astonishment, find ourselves engaged in wise feeding, clothing, housing and enabling in needed ways and thank God that we are more like Him than we thought possible. And teaching them about HIM!
In the meantime they’re out there! Born in the squalor, raised in deprivation, hunted and abused by the people with the power—people whose behavior (sophisticated or openly unrepentant)—that we can’t call anything other than satanic and demonic. So what are we to do? Even those with the best and purest of hearts among us don’t know what to do. We con ourselves into thinking we can heal the world with bombs and threats and sanctions. (I’m not at this moment interested in critiquing anything!) But you’d think we’d learn.
Do Christians have any gospel to offer the multiplied millions in every generation who don’t even know they are sheep and sheep without a shepherd? Is our only “gospel” (one they have not heard, are not hearing and will not get to hear) that if they turn to Christ they won’t go to hell?
I’m not talking about a world that cares nothing about the truth about God and the Lord Jesus Christ, a world that doesn’t care that it doesn’t care.
I’m talking about the damned in this life who hear only that they’ll be damned in the next! (And millions will not even get to hear that! It will come on them like a thunderclap that not only have demonic power-brokers raped and pillaged them the God of John 3:16 will do worse to them than their human torturers did! And with the look of fear, utter confusion, looking at each other, mouthing words like, “What’s happening? Why?” they’ll be packed into trains and carted to the everlasting Death Camps.)
Bless me, these poor people don’t have time to stop and listen to talk about anything. Their first thought has to be about how to stay alive and get food for their children or a safe hiding place so they won’t be raped again or butchered. And those would be the kind of issues they’d face every day.
So there He stands looking at them with those big eyes of His. Missing nothing! Seeing all! And while knowing and seeing all He feels His huge heart swelling with pity at these sheep without a shepherd. So He healed their sick. I don’t doubt that some there looked at Him, fevered and crippled children in their arms, chins stuck out in some desperate look of rebellion: “How can you see us like this and not do something about it?” I’m sure others showed their desperation with “please” written all over them. There they were, here we are with our awful needs stark and obvious to His holy eyes, masses of us clamoring for attention. People with little interest in Him until our crying needs drive us out of ourselves and away from our useless schemes and shallow prayers. And still He looks, and still He feels compassion and still He offers rich, wise and desperately needed healing.
Holy Lord Jesus Christ! Astonishing Christ who makes it forever clear that true holiness isn’t a firewall against fellowship; who makes it forever clear that true holiness is love’s raging fire that burns down all that would come between us and His Holy Father who sees and feels and does.
And is Matthew 9:36 and 14:14 written there to taunt humanity’s tormented? Did that occasion and that crowd exhaust God’s good will toward them in Jesus Christ? After that did God say goodbye to the human family? Was it only that crowd He saw as shepherd-less sheep, harassed and in awful need?
For these countless people without a shepherd is Acts 17:31 a THREAT or is it a GOSPEL?
“A day is coming when God will judge the world in righteousness, all wrongs will be right! This God has assured us by raising Jesus from the dead!”
And if it’s a THREAT—is it’s threatening those I’m talking about? Those sheep without a shepherd?
And if it’s a threat to them WHO IS IT that’s threatening these bewildered, raped and pillaged hosts who know absolutely nothing of the Lord Jesus they so desperately need?
Is it the God of John 3:16-17?