“When He saw the crowds, He had compassion on them, because they were harassed and helpless, like sheep without a shepherd.” (vs 36 NIV)
Everywhere Jesus went, people followed: desperate people, lonely people, hurting people, sick people, people hungry for a touch from someone who loved them. And Jesus had compassion on them. He ate with sinners; He healed the lame; He did the unexpected; He made the dumb speak; He made the blind see; He raised the dead to life. He had compassion on them. But why?
The first reason in this verse is they were harassed. The word harassed is defined as – feeling or looking strained through having too many demands made on one. (Google dictionary) It probably comes from an old French word that means to set a dog on. Other translations use confused, weary or fainted. It is the idea of being constantly hounded by something for a long period of time, being overwhelmed and exhausted by it. These people were under Roman rule and were longing for redemption from that. The religious leader of the day had buried them under rules and regulations. They felt no love, no compassion, only the weight of worry and weariness. They were harassed.
The second word is helpless. We’ve all felt that. A loved one is sick or dies and there is nothing we can do. We feel helpless. We’ve lost a job and have no money to meet our bills. We’re being bullied at school. We’re once again looked over for a recognition or promotion at work, that is deserved. We are in the midst of a hopeless situation and can see no end in sight. We feel helpless. This is the way the Israelites felt in Exodus 3:7. God is having a conversation with Moses and tells him, “I have indeed seen the misery of My people in Egypt. I have heard them crying out because of their slave drivers, and I am concerned about their suffering.” (NIV) They felt helpless and did all they could, cried out to God. Are you feeling helpless? Are you in the midst of a situation where you feel lost and alone? Are you crying out for help?
Jesus, the Good Shepherd, saw them; He saw their needs, and He had compassion on them. He reached out and touched them. He still does! He sees you need; He knows that you are overwhelmed and feeling helpless. Reach out to Him. He wants to meet you where you are and touch your heart with His love.