A Devotional for those engaged in community-based ministry…
“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 our tribulations. He ministered to the very core and heart of our being. He helped us, while preserving our dignity. He corrected us, without being destructively critical. He restrained us, without leaving us feeling bound. He rebuked us, without leaving us hopeless. He rendered our own vain attempts at salvation useless, without stripping us of our ultimate value and worth to Him. Jesus exemplified a balanced ministry of acceptance and encouragement, reinforced by both word and deed.
There are three things that stand out in this verse which form the basis and serve as a 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 pastoring a church, or preaching, or teaching, or involvement in a leadership capacity of a spiritual nature. Ministry is what each believer is called to do. It is not a corporate assignment but an internal call that constrains us to action. God has gifted His body to exercise their talents for the upbuilding 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 happen to serve. Notice carefully the three actions Jesus executed as He “went out.” The first thing the text says is that “He saw a great multitude…” As we engage in ministry for the Master, what do we see? Jesus saw people and not problems. He saw opportunities to glorify God and not an opportunity to enrich Himself. He witnessed a chance for exhortation and not exploitation. He saw a convenient opportunity to meet others’ needs rather than an inconvenient obstacle preventing Him from meeting His own needs. Again, when we engage in ministry, what do we see? Jesus saw a multitude hurting, helpless, and in need of a touch of healing and a word of hope.
The second thing the text says 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 hope and healing and a better way? Experiencing a heart for the hurting and a genuine love for people is essential to effective ministry for the Master. And the “multitude” has a way of sensing authentic, genuine ministry when it sees it. They may not be able to define it or 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 you?” To what extent are we willing to sacrifice and inconvenience ourselves for the salvation of others? Jesus didn’t just minister on a cerebral, intellectual, or rational level, He engaged His whole being in ministry. He ministered on an emotional level as well. 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 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 when 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 hands of the Master.
Are we committed to seeing the 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, in His name, and through sacrificial service facilitate healing and restoration in their lives? May our prayer today be to follow the Master’s methods as we minister to the multitude in His name.