March 24th Lenten Devotion

Sheep Without A Shepherd

Robert Stutes

Matthew 9:35-38

Have you ever had the experience of seeing a vacant church building?  For me it can be a surprisingly emotional moment, especially when it is a building which holds memories of worship, activities, and relationships.  Even if another congregation overhauls that building into their own worship space, it still leaves me feeling an odd sense of loss.

Once as I reflected on that sense of loss, something dawned on me.  I realized that the empty building drew more emotion from me than did the lives of the women, men, girls and boys who lived around that building.  Did I really hurt more for the bricks and mortar than I did for flesh and blood?

Chapter 9 of Matthew is full of healing activity.  Jesus heals a paralyzed man, a woman who has suffered long from hemorrhages, two blind men, and a mute demoniac.  In verse 36 of the chapter we see a glimpse into what Jesus saw when he looked out on the crowds of people.  They are described as “harassed and helpless, like sheep without a shepherd.”

So how did Jesus react?  It’s very simple.  Jesus had compassion for them.  Instead of seeing a spiritually barren landscape, Jesus could already see the potential harvest.  I’m thinking he cared more about empty lives than empty buildings!

I’m so glad that when I feel helpless, I do know that Jesus looks at my bewilderment with a heart of compassion.  During this season of Lent, I will seek to look at others in the same way.


Good Shepherd, I praise you for your compassionate heart.  And I ask you to give me a measure of that compassion.  Amen.


Robert Stutes is pastor of Mount Pleasant United Methodist Church in Roanoke, Virginia.


©2019 by individual authors and Facebook Narrative Lectionary Group.  This work is published under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-ShareAlike 4.0 International License.

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