“Then Jesus went about all the cities and villages, teaching in their synagogues, and proclaiming the good news of the kingdom and curing every disease and every sickness. When he 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’…”
| Matthew 9.35-37, NRSV
In Matthew 9, Jesus’ sleeves are rolled up, healing a paralyzed man, stopping the would- be funeral procession of a young girl and the years’ long hemorrhaging of a woman, restoring sight to two blind men and giving voice to a man who was mute. Still, the people and the requests keep coming. The people are amazed but the Pharisees are suspicious (9.33-34). The people look on in astonishment and the Pharisees roll their eyes.
If either of their responses influenced him, he didn’t show it. Jesus continues to travel in order to teach and touch as many people as possible. The needs are great but his compassion is greater. One of him and lots of them, Jesus could have felt overwhelmed. Fully aware of the limitations of his flesh, he could have been afraid or intimidated by the crowd size. He could have backed away and backed out of any further commitment to them.
And they would have understood. He has done a lot and more than any one they have ever seen. More so, he didn’t have to do it. They had been following him and now he is meeting them where they are, traveling to their cities, villages and places of worship.
I thought of this story after watching the images on the evening news of my brothers and sisters, including children who I now claim as my nieces and nephews, being teargassed. Some looked at the crowd but not with compassion. They didn’t see their needs but perhaps, what they have been told to fear. Immigrants seeking asylum and a better life is now synonymous with criminals. No background check, Trump says, “They are bringing drugs. They are bringing crime.”
While some members of the crowd did rush the fence at the U.S.- Mexico border, the decision to punish everyone for the actions of a few was a poor one. Have some compassion because they still have needs and the teargas burning their eyes doesn’t change that. Instead, using force only increases the needs, which now include medical attention.
Jesus said there were not enough laborers but Trump is sending more soldiers. They need grace not riot gear. The response should be mercy not the military. There is good work to be done here and part divine, Jesus says his two hands are not enough. Still, he did more with his than we have done. And if we are the hands and feet of Christ, then why aren’t we with him in the crowd teaching and touching?
Is it because we have something in our hands and not in our heart?