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“When He saw the crowds, He had compassion for them, because they were harassed and helpless, like sheep without a shepherd” (Matt. 9:36, ESV).

I’m not sure how you see big crowds, but I don’t always see them with the eyes that Jesus does.

He is the Good Shepherd of Psalm 23 who wants people to be cared for, nourished and sheltered. He is the Shepherd and Overseer of our souls in 1 Peter 2:25 and, of course, the Good Shepherd of John 10 who wants an abundant life for us.

Isn’t this world such a harassing place for “sheep” these days? We certainly endeavor for this compassionate spiritual care to be experienced by Christ’s followers within the context of the local church. What’s afire in me, however, is the Good Shepherd’s care toward the “helpless and harassed” in two other realms.

The Great Commission

While the Great Commission, the demonstration of the kingdom of God, is clear in Matthew, Mark and Luke, it’s not the same in John. As I was searching this out, I saw two things:

  1. Jesus breathed the Holy Spirit on the disciples and gave them authority to extend forgiveness.
  2. Jesus commissioned Peter three times.

Peter, do you love Me?
Yes, Lord, you know I do.
Then feed My lambs. Tend My sheep. Feed My sheep.

The commission given in John 21:15-19 involves spiritual feeding and care. From Jesus’ life example, this care was given to the harassed and helpless. In other words, not everyone will come to church first and then be cared for; some will receive care first and then come.

Let’s look back at the passage in Matthew, with that compassion for the harassed and helpless. He continued: “The harvest is plentiful, but the laborers are few; therefore pray earnestly to the Lord of the harvest to send out laborers into His harvest” (Matt. 9:37-38).

The laborer shortage today is at a crisis level. As valuable as proclamation ministries are (and they are), harassed and shepherdless sheep need demonstration ministries of power, personal touch and spiritual care.

Doesn’t every person in this world deserve an encounter with the kingdom of God through the Good Shepherd?

Self-Care

Somehow the wires got crossed. A value was imputed that we as leaders can run ourselves into the ground ministering and caring for others, and that this is holy. It’s ironic, perhaps, but not holy. The Good Shepherd cares for us, too, and even calls us to care for one another. Historically, this has not been a part of Protestant culture.

John got it, though, as he wrote in 3 John 2: “Beloved, I pray that you may prosper in all things and be in health, just as your soul prospers” (NKJV).

Would you say that your soul is prospering?

You are a sheep, too, qualifying for care from the Good Shepherd. You deserve care both personally from Him and from His under-shepherds (one another). This also involves permission for you to care for yourself. You cannot add a cubit to your stature (see Matt. 6:25-27), but you certainly can, inversely, take years off your life by worrying, stressing and overworking. The Shepherd wants your soul to be cared for.

If we as shepherds and leaders endeavor to introduce humanity to the Good Shepherd, we need to experience Him as well.

Harassment of helpless sheep is not okay. May we embrace the compassion and commission from the Shepherd of our souls to everyone: Christ’s followers, and the world.

Lord, help me see how You see and feel how You feel regarding others as well as myself.

Prayer Points

  • Pray for this new generation of laborers to flood the nations, demonstrating the Good Shepherd’s compassion and care to the helpless and harassed.
  • Pray that we as shepherds and leaders allow and tangibly embrace the care of the Good Shepherd in our own lives.
  • Pray that the church can be a people and place where the helpless and harassed experience the Good Shepherd and all that He has.

Share your thoughts. See comments below, and add your own.

is vice president of global operations.
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