Picture yourself on Fifth Avenue in New York City. It is the height of rush hour and the swarm of bodies pushes past you like a solid mass of humanity wearing a thousand different faces. Some are expressionless. Most seem to project feelings of frustration, fatigue and above all, anxiety. It’s almost impossible for you to stand still amidst the motion of the masses. You feel they could easily sweep you away but you hold your ground. If you could rise above the crowd and look in any direction you’d see what appears to be an endless river of people.
What are you feeling right now? Overwhelmed? Perhaps threatened? Anxious to get away from the crowd? If you’re not accustomed to the big city, the throngs of people can be downright intimidating. Nevertheless, ask yourself the question:
How would Jesus feel?
The Scriptures tell us, But when He saw the multitudes, He was moved with compassion for them, because they were weary and scattered, like sheep having no shepherd” (Matthew 9:36).
Jesus is our example. He expresses the passion and caring concern of Almighty God. It’s difficult for us to reflect that same care and concern—compassion is not the most natural feeling when you are in the thick of a crowd! Yet our Jews for Jesus missionaries regularly stand in the midst of the throngs at Fifth Avenue in New York City, the Loop in Chicago, or in the Metro in Moscow.
As we offer our broadsides (gospel tracts) to passersby, some reach out to take them. Others ignore us with all their might. Still others are visibly annoyed at our attempt to engage them out of this sea of impersonal humanity. Sometimes in those situations a missionary can feel like a tract-passing machine—if we allowed ourselves to feel the total weight of so many people’s souls, it would indeed overwhelm us. We don’t want to be crushed by that concern but neither do we want to protect ourselves too much.
Many are familiar with the advertisement for a well known Christian relief agency. A dramatic picture of a tearful child in an impoverished situation is set with the slogan, “Let my heart break with the things that break the heart of God.” It’s not difficult to feel compassion for a starving, lonely child. We look at that face and we can see the need of an innocent human being—and of course we want to meet that need. Indeed God wants us to have compassion for children—but what about grown men and women who seem utterly self-sufficient?
Picture in your mind someone like Baron de Rothschild. He is dressed smartly in a double-breasted suit with a silk handkerchief. His beautiful wife and children are beside him and a couple of well-groomed Irish setters are sitting at his feet. Behind him is the sprawling front garden of his chateau in the south of France. Now comes the slogan, “Let my heart break with the things that break the heart of God.” Does it have the same impact? Do you look at that face and see a need that you feel moved to meet?
What is it that “breaks the heart” of God? How should we be people who care like He cares?
Yeshua (Jesus) saw people as they truly were, no matter what their station in life. He saw through people’s self-sufficient veneers, knowing it was all an illusion. He had time for Nicodemus and for the rich young ruler just as he had time for the poor and the outcasts. Jesus saw people in all of their need and desperate spiritual condition—weary and scattered.
Jesus saw the multitude as sheep without a shepherd. Sheep are not endowed with a great deal of intelligence. They follow one another blindly, head to tail, even if it means walking off a cliff. Sheep need a shepherd, someone to guide them and watch out for their well-being. So do people.
It’s not as though there weren’t people who considered themselves shepherds in Israel. There was a plethora of spiritual leaders, but they were not providing the kind of shepherd’s care that the flock needed. In fact, they were more like the leaders in Ezekiel’s day, “shepherds who fed themselves instead of feeding and caring for the flock.”
Some things have not changed. Today there are many who claim to be shepherds. Popular teachers offer a smorgasbord of spiritual solutions but these solutions provide no real sustenance.
If we are to care with the compassion of Christ, if we are to allow our hearts to break with the things that break the heart of God, we need to see past the veneers to understand people and circumstances as He sees them. We need to see people who are without Christ as lost and without hope because they are without God in this world.
It is good to reach out to those who will immediately and gratefully receive our help, but we should also reach out to those who are blind to their need. Yet to do so is to risk their displeasure. To open our hearts to care for such people makes us vulnerable to rejection and scorn. However, if we’re to be like Jesus in our care and compassion for others, we must take that risk.
If we see the crowds as Jesus saw them, we’ll be able to show the care and compassion that He showed the multitude in His earthly ministry. When He looked upon them, He did not see a sea of humanity wearing a thousand different faces. He saw individuals and cared for each one, even as the shepherd who sought out the one lost lamb.
That is our goal as we stand on the busy street corners. We look into the multitude and see the individuals—some of whom God will put in our path at the precise moment when they are ready to hear the gospel. We call these times “DA’s”—divine appointments! However, many people in the crowd won’t “see” us back. They will look at our T-shirts and our gospel tracts and feel confronted simply by what they see. Yet we know by the many conversations we have with individuals each year that thousands of people who stop to talk will feel something else. They will look at the smiles and the hope that shines through our missionaries’ faces and they will know that someone has compassion for them. Jews for Jesus is about caring for people, caring for the lost, having concern for those who are like sheep without shepherds.
Next month you’ll be receiving a prayer calendar to help you remember “the multitudes” as well as our staff and volunteers who stand in the midst of those multitudes during our Summer Witnessing Campaign. We need you to stand with us—whether it is by sending a gift, by keeping up with the prayer calendar, by sending an encouraging letter or any combination of the three. We need you to care with us for those people whose faces are not as innocent or tormented as that of a starving child. We need you to look with us past the self-satisfied veneer that hides the sin-sick soul and the spiritually starved heart of every person who is without Jesus, the Bread of Life. We have so much to offer, if we will only make ourselves vulnerable to reach out to them.