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 sheep without a shepherd. Then he said to his disciples, “The harvest is plentiful but the workers are few. Ask the Lord of the harvest, therefore, to send out workers into his harvest field.” –Matthew 9:35-38
As Jesus travelled around from town to town preaching and healing, the word about him started to spread. More and more people showed up at each new town to hear this man talk—because he spoke like no one else they had ever heard—and to see him work miracles—because he did things no one else had ever done before. Jesus became more and more famous. Pretty soon everyone had heard of him, and everyone wanted to see him.
Have you ever had the chance to meet a famous person? Some celebrities are nice people, I’m sure, but more often than not, famous people can tend to be kind of self-centered and full of themselves. That’s not because they’re worse than you or me, but because there’s something about fame and fortune that tends to make everybody selfish. I’m sure that if I suddenly became world famous, I would probably turn into a big jerk. The more people would think I was cool, the more I’d start to think that I was better than everyone else. That’s how all our hearts are wired. Like a balloon filled with hot air, we get puffed up with pride really easily.
Which is why it’s so surprising to see how Jesus responded to the crowds following him. He didn’t sign autographs. He didn’t come out for encore performances after each sermon. He didn’t show off his miracles. In fact, the more famous he got, the more his heart seemed to break for the people following him. The attention didn’t turn him self-centered; if anything, it seemed to make him care about people even more.
He looked out over the crowds of people, and he didn’t think about how great he was (and remember, unlike our celebrities, Jesus really was great!) Instead, he saw each person individually. He saw their hurts and their fears and their sins. His heart broke for all the hurting people crowding around him. He knew that they were like poor defenseless sheep without a shepherd to keep them safe and well. He had come to be their Good Shepherd, to be Savior to the lost and hurting, because he loved them. He felt the great weight of all their hurts and needs. That’s why he said to his disciples, “The harvest is plentiful but the laborers are few. Pray for God to send out more laborers.” He saw the hurt everywhere, and he knew it would take many, many people to take the news of his rescue to everyone who needed to hear it.
That’s the kind of celebrity Jesus was, and is today. He still loves hurting, broken people. He still loves to forgive sinners, and welcome back the lost. And he’s still sending people like you and me to go and find them and bring them home.