Crowds – I love being in them, except when I don’t. I mean, I love being where the action is, unless the action isn’t what I’m into at the moment, then I long for solitude. The crowded streets of New York City energize me, but when my feet get sore and my body gets tired, nothing feels better than walking into a quiet hotel room.
This morning in my Bible reading, Psalm 107:7 said, “He led them by a straight way to a city where they could settle.” In the Old Testament time, a city was a refuge from the wilderness. A city was where you found safety and security. Finding yourself isolated in the desert was usually a death sentence. But today, for many of us in 21st century affluent suburbia, the city represents the opposite: crowds, crime and poverty. A crowded city is the last place we would want to settle.
Then I read from Matthew 9:35-36, “Jesus went through all the towns and villages, teaching in their synagogues, proclaiming the good news of the kingdom and healing every disease and sickness. When he saw the crowds, he had compassion on them, because they were harassed and helpless, like a sheep without a shepherd.”
Jesus had compassion on the crowd.
Rarely do I experience compassion in a crowd. When I’m trying to get somewhere, a crowded highway brings out rage in me, not compassion. It’s only when I stop and realize that little old lady driving 55 in the left lane of I-64 could be somebody’s sweet grandma, then my compassion can finally start to rise in me. I have to put a face on someone in the crowd for me to find compassion. But Jesus had compassion on the crowd.
I believe Jesus had compassion on them because he saw the individual faces within the crowd. He knew their stories and backgrounds, that they were harassed and lost. He knew his purpose was to redeem them and to give them hope and a future.
So I’m going to try and stop painting crowds with a broad brush. I’m going to try and remember the crowd is made up of individuals whom God loves. Whether it’s a crowd of democrats, republicans, atheists, Christians, Muslims, gays, Mormons, unions, Catholics, you-name-it, they’re all individuals for whom Christ had compassion. So much compassion that he was willing to die on a cross. The least I can do is to get to know them as individuals instead of judging them as a faceless crowd.