i preached this week on matthew 9:36. it says this: when (Jesus) saw the crowds, he had compassion for them...
i watch crowds all the time. i love to people watch. i see so many interesting people that way, and there's a little voyeur in me that loves the brief window into peoples' lives. and when i really look, when i really people watch, i see more than just mohawks and muffintops, i also see pain and desperation and lonliness and grief. if i take the time to really look, i find that there is compassion in me. i just need to look.
matthew tells us that jesus looked at the crowd. maybe he was in between speaking engagements or something, but he just kind of had a chance to stretch his legs for a moment and watch the busy people, moving here and there, at the marketplace or towards the synagogue or chasing kids around, or doing whatever it is that people do, and he had compassion on them. actually, the literal translation is something a bit more powerful than that. literally, the text says "he was moved in his bowels with compassion."
um, that's an interesting word picture. bowel movements have come to mean something a bit different in our vernacular, but if we can just get past that for a moment, we can understand that Jesus didn't just feel sorry for the people. he didn't just have some detached pity or mild amusement. he was deeply moved, in the core of his being: his gut. he felt it right down in the middle of himself. compassion. seeing the brokenness around him, jesus, too, was broken in his gut.
i watched a film this morning called elephant, directed by gus van sant (good will hunting). [note: when you have children and you want to watch movies, you have to squeeze them in wherever you can. in this case that means watching a movie at 6:30 am!]. the movie is about a 'normal' day in a 'normal' high school. there are alot of crowds in the movie. mostly the movie just follows different kids around as they go about their day, dealing with all the crowds of a high school. but then the day turns out to be not so normal (SEMI SPOILER ALERT), in that two of the students enact a plot to kill as many of their peers as they can via bombs and guns. looking very much like what happened in columbine, the film just sort of ends without any - any - resolution [shannon, who was getting dressed during the end of the film when the shooting was taking place, looked at me and said, "nothing like starting off your day with a school shooting!].
it was a difficult film to watch, as i presume the director intended. but as i watched it, i thought about the two killers, and all the victims. i thought about each person in this situation, and the brokenness they experienced. i thought about their parents. i thought about their fears and their hopes and their need for acceptance. i thought about the look in their eyes. i thought about what they thought about when they went to bed at night. i thought about all of this and more. and i felt something in my gut. something like compassion. something like brokenness.
immediately after verse 36 in matthew 9, jesus pulls his disciples together and tells them, "the harvest is plentiful, but the workers are few...." in other words, let's get busy. its not enough to have mild interest or vague pity. we need to meet people in their brokenness and love them. don't just people-watch, people-love.
if we don't, who will? i feel that in my gut.