SHEEP WITHOUT SHEPHERDS

Matt.9:36 – When he saw the vast crowds of people, Jesus’ heart was deeply moved with compassion, because they seemed weary and helpless, like wandering sheep without a shepherd.

Lam.3:22,23 –

Through the LORD’S mercies we are not consumed,

Because His compassions fail not.

They are new every morning;

Great is Your faithfulness.

The mercies and compassions of the Lord are endless and, according to Jeremiah, they never fail. Jesus is the personification of these mercies and compassions. That is why this verse always astounded me. All of these wounded, suffering sheep that were in the meetings of the Lord were apparently still weary and helpless. The compassion of the Lord was crying out for shepherd laborers to minister to His distraught sheep. Nothing has changed today. The Lord is still calling laborers to care for His sheep. You may be thinking that this is talking about calling out more professional ministers. Of course that is part of the equation but the main thrust of His appeal is for all Christians to take on the role of being a shepherd in the sense of being a disciple maker. The Lord does minister to the weary and helpless, He just wants to do it through you.

“A great crowd is a demand upon compassion, for it suggests so much sin and need. In this case, the great want was instruction: “they fainted” for want of comfort; they “were scattered abroad” for lack of guidance. They were eager to learn, but they had no fit teachers. “Sheep having no shepherd” are in an ill plight. Unfed, unfolded, unguarded, what will become of them? Our Lord was stirred with a feeling which agitated his inmost soul. “He was moved with compassion.” What he saw affected not his eye only, but his heart. He was overcome by sympathy. His whole frame was stirred with an emotion which put every faculty into forceful movement. He is even now affected towards our people in the same manner. He is moved with compassion if we are not.”

Maybe you are in a place of distress or maybe just worn out; that’s okay, the Lord is here now to teach and encourage each one of us. Like Jeremiah said, it is because of the Lord’s daily mercies and compassions that we are not consumed. They are new and plentiful every day. Today, His compassions are headed straight toward you.

THE GREAT THOUGHT READER

Matt. 9:4 – But Jesus, knowing their thoughts, said, “Why do you think evil in your hearts?

Can you imagine how embarrassing it would be if someone, anyone, could read your thoughts? The thought of it could be quite terrifying depending on what sort of thoughts are swirling around inside your head. Thoughts about people’s looks or weight or sins of choice. Or maybe their hygiene or bad breath. Or possibly even more sinister or unclean thoughts that could be exposed rather than staying hidden away in your own little world. That’s where today’s verse can shock us back into reality. There is Someone who reads all of our thoughts about everything. We see a glimpse of it in today’s story, these Pharisees were thinking evil thoughts about the Lord; they might as well have just blurted them out for everyone to hear. He knew what was in their head anyway, He knows what is in our heads right now as well. He read their mail and then took action, “Is it easier to forgive sins or tell a man to get up and walk? So that you know that I have the authority to do this,” He turned to the paralyzed man and said, “Get up, pick up your mat and go home”.

Wow! What a shock for these angry men. The shocking result, they just got angrier. Here is how Spurgeon describes this verse.

“He is the great thought-reader. Just now we met with the expression, “seeing their faith”, and now we read, “knowing their thoughts. ” He puts the questioners to the question. His whys and wherefores go to the root of the matter. We are responsible for secret thoughts, and the Lord will one day call us to account concerning them. Accusations against Jesus are always unreasonable, and when fairly faced are put to silence. It would be well if many of our Lord’s enemies today could be brought to ponder the question, “Wherefore think ye evil in your hearts ” What is the cause of it? What is the good of it? Why not cease from it?”

So we might as well come clean before the Lord, He knows what is going on in our hearts anyway. Its far better to get it all out in the open now than to deceive yourself by thinking you can hide it. The great day will pull the covers off of every hidden thought.

THIS,THIS BLASPHEMER

Matt. 9:3 – And behold, some of the scribes said to themselves, “This man is blaspheming.”

This is a very enlightening phrase, short but absolutely poisonous. The Lord reveals the darkness of the souls of the religious leaders at the time of Christ. Why were they even in the meeting that day? They were hoping to find an opening, anything that they could use to trip Jesus up. They thought they found it when Jesus told the paralyzed man that his sins were forgiven. The attitude of the Pharisees exposed the darkness of their hearts. In this verse the translation hardly brings out the intent. The word “man” is not in the original. All they said was “this” or houtos. This was a derogatory term that meant, this thing or whoever. They couldn’t even call Jesus a man; to them He was disgusting. Here is how Spurgeon explains this phrase.

“See those scribes, those students of the letter of the Word, who know how many letters there are in every Book of the Old Testament, and have counted them so accurately that they can tell which is the middle letter. Wonderfully wise men, those! Do you see them? They are very vexed and angry, and they think hard thoughts of Christ. They did not dare to speak out what they thought—the people would not have listened to them just then if they had spoken, so they held their tongues, but they did not hold their hearts, and there was a thought-reader there—not one who professed the art, but One who possessed it— and He heard where the quickest ear would have failed to detect the faintest sound. Jesus heard the scribes mentally say, “This.” If you look at your Bibles, you will find that the word, “man,” is printed in italics and that the scribes said within themselves, “This,” they meant, “fellow”— they meant any black name that you like to put in, “This blasphemer.” They would not say what they thought of Him—they did not like to call Him anything but just, “This…This offscouring.”

Amazing how even the miracles could not soften the hearts of the men who already had their minds made up. Could it be the same today? Could some be so prejudiced by what they think church should be like that they miss the uniqueness of Christ and His work? The Pharisees didn’t like roofs being ripped off or sins being forgiven; all the lame man knew is that he got his life back.

EYES OF LOVE

Matt. 9:22 But Jesus turned around, and when He saw her He said, “Be of good cheer, daughter; your faith has made you well.”

And the woman was made well from that hour.

This poor lady was afraid, she had been afraid for a long time. That is what rejection will do to you. She could still remember the hurt she felt when she had been banished from the house of worship. The man who banished her probably had a robe like the one Jesus was wearing. This time as she touched the edge of His robe, she felt love and acceptance rather than the rejection and scorn she had felt for twelve years. Jesus was different from that other rabbi. He was different from anyone she had ever known. When Jesus turned and looked at her she felt the love in His gaze. Rather than eyes of condemnation and rejection she was caught by His look of love. When He called her daughter, she knew she was home. She had found that place of rest she had longed for for a very long time. Charles Spurgeon was known as the prince of preachers for a reason, here are his thoughts on this verse.

“Jesus knew all that was going on behind Him. If His back be toward us now, it need not always be; for He ‘turned Him about’. Even when fear would hide from Jesus, He spies out the trembler. His eye found her speedily, for He knew where to look. “He saw her”. His voice cheered her with joyful tones of acceptance. He did not chide the blundering of her ignorance, but He commended the bravery of her faith, and consoled her trembling heart. A piece of fringe and a finger sufficed to form a contact between a believing sufferer and an Almighty Savior. Along that line faith sent its message, and love returned the answer. She ‘was made whole’, and she knew it; but she feared when she was found out lest she should lose the blessing and earn a curse. This fear soon vanished: Jesus called her ‘daughter’. He fathered her because He had created faith in her. He gave her ‘good comfort’ because she had good faith. It was His garment which she touched, but it was her faith that had touched it; therefore our Lord said, ‘Thy faith hath made thee whole’; and thus He put the crown upon the head of her faith, because her faith had already set the crown on His head. The moment we touch Jesus we are made whole; yea, ‘from that hour’. May we touch Him now, and may this hour be as memorable to us as that hour was to her!”

So maybe you have had a taste of rejection yourself. Maybe you know that look, you know the look that says you don’t belong here. You will never get that look from Jesus. Maybe it seems like He doesn’t know you exist, believe me, He does. Go ahead, try to steal a touch for yourself. Before you know it you too will be looking into those eyes of love.

VENOM OF DEATH

duncan-sanchez-327894.jpg

Matt. 9:2 And behold, some people brought to him a paralytic, lying on a bed. And when Jesus saw their faith, he said to the paralytic, “Take heart, my son; your sins are forgiven”.

I recently preached on the miracle Jesus performed on the paralytic that was let down through the roof. There is a lot about this story that is mind blowing but the most amazing to me is what Jesus said first, “Take heart, my son; your sins are forgiven”. Jesus didn’t approach the problem like anyone else did because he saw what no one else could see. He saw not only the condition of this man’s body, He also saw the condition of his heart. He needed forgiveness even more than he needed healing. The beauty of the miracle; healing and forgiveness are connected. This man’s healing flowed out of the forgiveness of his sin. Here is how Charles Spurgeon describes it.

“Now, at this time, you may have many troubles; and perhaps you are eager to spread them before the Lord. The sick child, your dear husband, who is at home ill, that business which is flagging and likely to fail, that disease of yours which is weakening you, and makes you scarcely fit to be in the Lord’s house tonight. Now, waive all those things, for heavy as they are, they are inconsiderable when compared with sin. There is no venom as poisonous as that of sin; this is the wormwood and the gall; this is the deadly fang of the serpent whose sting infects and inflames our whole being. If this evil be removed, then every ill has gone, therefore Christ begins with this, “Thy sins be forgiven thee”. Breathe a prayer to Him now for the forgiveness of your sin: “Jesus, Master, forgive me! With a word Thou canst pardon all my sin; thou hast but to pronounce absolution, and all my iniquities will be put away at once and forever. As my Lord, wilt Thou not put them away tonight?”
Sin is always our biggest problem. Sin is why Jesus came, sin is what nailed Jesus to the cross. I love the beauty and power of the gospel, not only did Jesus carry my sins in His body to the cross, He also bore my sicknesses. This is how Isaiah described it, Is. 53:4,5 “Yet he himself bore our sicknesses, and he carried our pains; but we in turn regarded him stricken struck down by God, and afflicted. But he was pierced because of our rebellion, crushed because of our iniquities; punishment for our peace was on him and we are healed by his wounds”.

Bring your sins to Jesus, not only will He forgive, He will make you whole.

THE GREATEST BEAST

florian-van-duyn-384796.jpg

Matt. 9:2 And behold, some people brought to him a paralytic, lying on a bed. And when Jesus saw their faith, he said to the paralytic, “Take heart, my son; your sins are forgiven.”

This miracle stands out in the ministry of Jesus, it is classic. Peter’s house was packed that day, everyone from his mother in law, his fishing buddies, to the leading Pharisees were crammed into his house. What an awkward crowd, miracles seem to attract those awkward crowds. That’s when awkward turned bizarre; first there was the shuffling of feet up on the roof, then scratching and pounding, and then pieces of tile and straw were plopping into the room. Then the unbelievable happened, a paralyzed man came floating into the room suspended on ropes from the four brave friends on the roof.

What was going to happen? Everyone’s eyes moved from the crippled man to the smiling face of Jesus. His sermon had been interrupted by the commotion. What would He do? What would He say?

“Take courage My son, your sins are forgiven”. Wow! No one expected that. What did his sins have to do with anything. Actually they have everything to do with everything. Sin is often at the root of our problems, this man needed forgiveness more than he needed healing. Here is how Charles Spurgeon describes it.

“He did not begin by curing him of the palsy. That was bad enough; but sin is worse than the palsy, sin in the heart is worse than paralysis of every single muscle. Sin is death, but something worse than death; therefore, Christ, at the very beginning of the miracle, to show His Lordship, His royal, His divine power, said to the man, “Son, be of good cheer: thy sins be forgiven thee”. This was laying the axe at the root of this man’s evil nature. This was hunting the lion, the biggest beast of all the foul creatures that lurked in the densest forest of the man’s being. Christ’s words drove this unclean animal from his lair, and by his almighty power rent him as though he had been a kid.”
Maybe you feel paralyzed, unable to move forward, stuck in your present circumstances hoping for a break. Maybe its not a break or even a breakthrough that you need, maybe what you need is forgiveness. Allow the Holy Spirit to search your heart, bath yourself in the word of God. Jesus brings forgiveness to all of us. The only catch is this, we have to recognize our need to come to Him for forgiveness. That’s when our life will start up again.

NO LONGER ALONE

Matt. 9:22 But Jesus turned around, and when He saw her He said, “Be of good cheer, daughter; your faith has made you well.” And the woman was made well from that hour.

Have you ever felt all alone. When you go through unusually difficult times loneliness only amplifies the situation. Your problems are mounting, solutions just out of your grasp, and there is no one there to help or even offer words of comfort. It is a terrible place to be. There is a nameless woman in the Bible (tradition calls her Veronica) that is facing extreme loneliness and despair. She had a female problem that left her ceremonially unclean. She couldn’t be with anyone, not even a touch, at the risk of leaving them unclean. She had been all alone for twelve years. She hardly remembered what it was like to laugh and spend time with her friends; no, she was all alone.
One day she heard about Jesus, she heard how others had been healed of incurable ailments. She dared to hope there was a chance her misery would come to an end. She still had a huge problem to overcome; the crowds. She couldn’t touch anyone and Jesus was surrounded by crowds. She decided to sneak through the crowd undetected, maybe she could steal her miracle. Once she made her way to Jesus, she reached out and touched the edge of His robe. Healing power went through her body, her miracle had begun. In the next moment an even greater miracle took place. Jesus turned to look for her in the crowd. He had perceived the touch of faith, she found herself looking into the eyes of The Lord. Her loneliness was gone. Not only had she received her healing, she was brought into life. She could never be lonely again. Here is something Barclay said about this beautiful story.

“It was the tassel on the robe of Jesus that this woman touched. When she touched it, it was as if time stood still. It was as if we were looking at a motion picture and suddenly the picture stopped, and left us looking at one scene. The extraordinary, and movingly beautiful thing, about this scene is that all at once amidst that crowd Jesus halted; and for the moment it seemed that for him no one but that woman and nothing but her need existed. She was not simply a poor woman lost in the crowd; she was someone to whom Jesus gave the whole of Himself.
For Jesus no one is lost in the crowd, because Jesus is like God. W. B. Yeats once wrote in one of his moments of mystical beauty: “The love of God is infinite for every human soul, because every human soul is unique….”

So you are not lost in the crowd, smothered by your “issues”, Jesus has is eye on you and is coming your way. Not only is He a worker of miracles, He is the Restorer of Life.

EYES OF LOVE

EYES OF LOVE

Matt. 9:22 But Jesus turned around, and when He saw her He said, “Be of good cheer, daughter; your faith has made you well.” And the woman was made well from that hour.

This poor lady was afraid, she had been afraid for a long time. That is what rejection will do to you. She could still remember the hurt she felt when she had been banished from the house of worship. The man who banished her probably had a robe like the one Jesus was wearing. This time as she touched the edge of His robe, she felt love and acceptance rather than the rejection and scorn she had felt for twelve years. Jesus was different from that other rabbi. He was different from anyone she had ever known. When Jesus turned and looked at her she felt the love in His gaze. Rather than eyes of condemnation and rejection she was caught by His look of love. When He called her daughter, she knew she was home. She had found that place of rest she had longed for for a very long time. Charles Spurgeon was known as the prince of preachers for a reason, here are his thoughts on this verse.

“Jesus knew all that was going on behind Him. If His back be toward us now, it need not always be; for He ‘turned Him about’. Even when fear would hide from Jesus, He spies out the trembler. His eye found her speedily, for He knew where to look. “He saw her”. His voice cheered her with joyful tones of acceptance. He did not chide the blundering of her ignorance, but He commended the bravery of her faith, and consoled her trembling heart. A piece of fringe and a finger sufficed to form a contact between a believing sufferer and an Almighty Savior. Along that line faith sent its message, and love returned the answer. She ‘was made whole’, and she knew it; but she feared when she was found out lest she should lose the blessing and earn a curse. This fear soon vanished: Jesus called her ‘daughter’. He fathered her because He had created faith in her. He gave her ‘good comfort’ because she had good faith. It was His garment which she touched, but it was her faith that had touched it; therefore our Lord said, ‘Thy faith hath made thee whole’; and thus He put the crown upon the head of her faith, because her faith had already set the crown on His head. The moment we touch Jesus we are made whole; yea, ‘from that hour’. May we touch Him now, and may this hour be as memorable to us as that hour was to her!”

So maybe you have had a taste of rejection yourself. Maybe you know that look, you know the look that says you don’t belong here. You will never get that look from Jesus. Maybe it seems like He doesn’t know you exist, believe me, He does. Go ahead, try to steal a touch for yourself. Before you know it you too will be looking into those eyes of love.

BLIND MAN’S FAITH

ACCORDING TO YOUR FAITH

And as Jesus passed on from there, two blind men followed him, crying aloud, “Have mercy on us, Son of David.” When he entered the house, the blind men came to him, and Jesus said to them, “Do you believe that I am able to do this?” They said to him, “Yes, Lord.” Then he touched their eyes, saying, “According to your faith be it done to you.” And their eyes were opened.
Matt.9:27-30

“Son of David,have mercy on us.” It was only by faith these blind men could call Jesus “Son of David”. This was the same as calling Him Messiah. That was a radical declaration made possible by grace, their spiritual eyes had begun to open, but there was more. There is always more! As they drew close to the Lord, their faith began to soar, they were receiving an increased dose of grace or spiritual light. In that atomsphere they received their physical sight. Adam Clarke describes this increasing nature of grace and faith, listen to his explanation.

“Let the mercy thou requestest be equal to the faith thou hast brought to receive it by. According to thy faith be it done unto thee, is a general measure of God’ s dealings with mankind. To get an increase of faith is to get an increase of every grace which constitutes the mind that was in Jesus, and prepares fully for the enjoyment of the kingdom of God. God is the same in the present time which he was in ancient days; and miracles of healing may be wrought on our own bodies and souls, and on those of others, by the instrumentality of our faith. But, alas! where is faith to be found!”

Where is faith to be found, why it is found in the Presence of the Lord. Just as in the Old Testament, Moses would draw near to the Presence of the Lord in the cloud and God would speak from the cloud, today we draw near to His Presence revealed in His Son. In that nearness God begins to speak, our faith begins to come alive, and miracles are the result. Like the blind men, we should never be satisfied with the current “light” that we have but should draw near to the Lord. As we draw near, we break into the brightness of the Sun of Righteousness who has risen with healing in His wings. Then the moment comes, we hear His incredible voice, “Be it done to you as you have believed.”