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Matthew 9:36 meaning...

In this verse, we glimpse into the compassionate heart of Jesus as he encounters a multitude of people. The imagery of sheep without a shepherd vividly portrays the spiritual condition of the people he sees. 

  • Compassion in Action

Jesus' Gaze: The verse begins with the simple yet powerful phrase, "But when he saw the multitudes." Jesus didn't pass by the crowd indifferent to their struggles. His gaze was not just physical; it was deeply empathetic, acknowledging the spiritual and emotional state of the people.

Moved with Compassion: The response of Jesus to what he sees is significant. He was "moved with compassion for them." Compassion here is not a distant sympathy but a visceral, heartfelt response to the suffering and spiritual need of the people. It's an emotion that propels Him to action.

  • The Image of Sheep without a Shepherd

Harassed and Scattered: The descriptive terms used—harassed and scattered—paint a poignant picture of the people's condition. Harassed implies a state of distress, burdened by the challenges of life. Scattered signifies a lack of direction, purpose, and unity. It echoes the imagery found in Ezekiel 34:5-6: "They were scattered, because there was no shepherd. They became food to all the animals of the field, and were scattered."

Sheep without a Shepherd: This metaphor draws from the Old Testament concept of God as the shepherd of His people. The mention of sheep without a shepherd highlights the void and spiritual disarray in the lives of the people. It reflects a longing for guidance, protection, and care that only a shepherd can provide.

In Application

Matthew 9:36 invites us to reflect on our own lives and the lives of those around us. In the hustle and bustle of daily existence, it's easy to become like the harassed and scattered multitude—burdened and without a clear sense of direction. Yet, in the midst of our struggles, Jesus sees us with the same compassionate gaze.

As followers of Christ, we are called to embody this compassion. The verse challenges us to look beyond the surface, beyond the external appearances, and truly see the needs of those around us. It beckons us to respond not with judgment or indifference but with a compassionate heart that moves us to action.

Cross References:

Mark 6:34: "Jesus came out, saw a great multitude, and he had compassion on them, because they were like sheep without a shepherd." This parallel verse reinforces the theme of compassion and the sheep without a shepherd metaphor, emphasizing the consistency of Jesus' response.

Psalm 23:1: "Yahweh is my shepherd: I shall lack nothing." The connection to Psalm 23 adds depth to the concept of a shepherd providing for the needs of the flock. In Matthew 9:36, Jesus is moved with compassion because the people lack the guidance and care of their divine Shepherd.

In conclusion, Matthew 9:36 provides a snapshot of Jesus' compassionate response to the spiritual condition of the people. It's a reminder that in our moments of distress and disarray, Jesus sees us. His heart is moved with compassion, offering hope and restoration. As we reflect on this verse, let's be inspired to cultivate a compassionate heart in our own lives, seeing others not as a faceless crowd but as individuals in need of the love and guidance only the Good Shepherd can provide.

Matthew 9:36. When he saw the multitudes, he was moved with compassion for them, because they were harassed and scattered, like sheep without a shepherd.


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