“And when Jesus went out He saw a great multitude; and He was moved with compassion for them, and healed their sick.” (Matthew 14:14 NKJV)
No one taught the way Jesus taught. Jesus had a holistic ministry that met the physical, psychic, emotional, and spiritual needs of people. He didn’t just preach. He identified, in a very intimate way, with the trials and troubles of living in a sin-cursed world. He helped us while preserving our dignity. He healed us and challenged us to lighten the burden of others. He restrained us, without leaving us bound. He rebuked us, without leaving us hopeless. He rendered our own vain attempts at redemption useless, without stripping us of our ultimate value and worth to Him. He infused our existence with purpose and exemplified a balanced ministry, reinforced by both word and deed.
There are three things that stand out in this verse which form the basis model for anyone engaged in the ministry of reconciliation. And every believer who has accepted Jesus Christ as Lord and Savior of their lives is a minister of reconciliation. Ministry is not limited to pastoral service, or preaching, or teaching, or involvement in a church leadership capacity. Ministry is what each believer is called to do. God has gifted His body to exercise their talents for the up-building of His kingdom. And the Master has not left us without a method to reach the multitude.
This verse provides the foundation on which to build an effective, life-changing, ministry in whatever capacity we are called to serve. Notice carefully the three actions Jesus executed as He “went out” in our text under consideration. The first thing the text says is that “He saw a great multitude…” This is in contrast to what the disciples saw. Jesus was engaged in holistic ministry. Jesus ministered to the spirit, soul, and body of his targeted audience. And as the sun began to set the disciples were planning an exit strategy (see verse 15). In verse 14, when Jesus looked out over the landscape, He saw people. When the disciples looked out, all they saw was a desert place. Jesus saw opportunities. The disciples saw obstacles. Jesus made a decision to stay based upon the needs of the multitude, the disciples made a decision to leave based upon the conditions, circumstances, and comfort-level of ministry. When we engage in ministry, what do we see? Healthy, effective, life-changing ministry begins with a vision of ministry that is willing to sacrifice our own personal comforts for the temporal and spiritual needs of others.
The second point worthy of note in the text is that not only did He see the multitude but that He was “moved with compassion” by what He saw. As believers, are we moved by the needs of the multitude? Does our heart go out to the hurting, the helpless, and the hopeless? Are we moved with compassion for those thirsting for the Living Water? Experiencing a heart for humanity and a genuine love for people is essential to effective ministry for the Master. And, generally speaking, the multitude has a way of sensing authentic, genuine ministry when it sees it. They may not always be able to define it or even articulate it, but they know it when they see it. They saw it in the life and ministry of Jesus. The question today is, “Do they see it in us?” To what extent are we willing to sacrifice and inconvenience ourselves for the healing and salvation of others? Jesus didn’t just minister on a cerebral, intellectual, or rational level, He engaged His whole being in ministry. He “felt” our pain. He was “touched with the feeling of our infirmities” and was “moved with compassion.” True ministry for the Master involves wholehearted service, with nothing held back. This is the method Jesus has laid out by His own example. Effective ministry for the Master involves seeing the multitude and being moved with compassion towards them.
But not only does effective, life-changing ministry involve the ability to see and feel the needs of the multitude, it also involves the sense of touch. It involves the willingness to roll up our sleeves and the ability to reach out, to touch, to heal in His name. Real ministry rallies all of the senses to action. We must see them, feel them, and touch them. The text says that “He healed their sick.” The Greek term “healed” is therapeuō from which we get the transliterated English equivalent, “therapy.” Jesus is the Great Physician and a Balm in Gilead and He knows how to minister to our every need. He has a therapeutic touch, a healing hand. What do people experience after we come in contact with them? How do they feel? Do they go away feeling better or bitter? Battered or believing? Assaulted or accepted? Victorious or vandalized? Consecrated or manipulated? Effective ministry manifests itself in transformed lives. It produces an eager multitude yearning for more of the life-giving power which flows from the Master’s Hands.
Are we committed to seeing people the way Jesus sees them? Are we willing to open up with a heart of compassion towards them? Are we willing to reach out and touch, in His name? Are we willing to persevere and through sacrificial service and the power of His Spirit facilitate healing and restoration in the lives of others? May our heart-felt prayer drive us to the altar to prepare ourselves to be used by Him to exercise faithful stewardship for holistic ministry today.