BE THE CHURCH
SEE OTHERS THROUGH GOD’S EYES

by Pastor Martha-Jean Fitch
September 9, 2018
TEXT:   Matthew 9:35-38

 

            Some of you might remember hearing the story about a burglar who stalked the neighborhood watching for homes left unguarded by people leaving for vacation. He watched as a family loaded their suitcases into their car and drove away. He then waited until dark and went to the front door and rang the bell. There was no answer. So, the burglar carefully picked the lock and let himself in. He called into the darkness, “Is anybody home?” He was stunned when he heard a voice in reply, “I see you, and Jesus sees you.” Terrified, the burglar called out, “Who’s there?” Again, the voice came back, “I see you, and Jesus sees you.” The burglar switched on his flashlight and aimed it in the direction of the voice. He was instantly relieved when his light revealed a caged parrot reciting the refrain, “I see you, and Jesus sees you.” The burglar laughed out loud and switched on the lights. Then he saw it. Beneath the parrot’s cage was a huge Doberman Pinscher. Then the parrot said, “Attack, Jesus, attack!”1

 

            Now, how’s that for a security system?

 

            All joking aside, the truth we know from Scripture is that Jesus is watching over us!   He hears our cries – He knows our troubles – He sees and cares.  God has lavished His love on us and has called us His children.  And because of that great love, we are called to love one another.  If we are to “be the church” – we are going to have to start seeing like Him – loving others as we have been loved.     Indeed, our prayer must be: “God, help us to see as Jesus saw and feel as Jesus felt so that we can do what Jesus did.”  I believe that has to be the prayer of all our hearts as we strive to “Be the Church”! 

 

 So, who did Jesus see – who did he take notice of?  We know from Scripture that Jesus took notice of all sorts of people.   And it was so different from how the disciples saw them.

 

The disciples saw children that would disturb and bother Jesus and wanted to send them away, but Jesus saw the children and said – “Let the children come to me for such is the kingdom of God.”  The disciples saw an immoral woman, disrupting a dinner party and wasting an expensive jar of perfume, but Jesus saw a woman with great love preparing Him for His burial.  The disciples saw thousands of hungry people who needed to be sent away, so they could take care of themselves – but Jesus saw them as people He could feed with just 2 fish and 5 loaves of bread.

 

          The disciples weren’t the only one with poor vision.   The Pharisees and religious leaders either ignored or judged people they considered sinful and unworthy of any compassion.

 

            The Pharisees saw Jesus eating with sinners – people they called scum – prostitutes and tax collectors.  But Jesus sees them as people in need of forgiveness and called them to be his followers.

            The religious leaders see a woman who is hemorrhaging – unclean and untouchable, trying to touch the hem of Jesus’ garment.  Jesus sees as a dear daughter of God and in need of healing. 

 

            Then there were the blind and the lame – the demon possessed people and lepers.  Most people would just see as them as hopeless and helpless.  Or perhaps they wouldn’t see them at all.   But not Jesus.   He saw them and reached out to them and healed them.

 

            You know, it is sad to say, but all too often we kind of respond like the disciples or the Pharisees, don’t we?   We see people as helpless or hopeless…and so we kind of just write them off.  Or maybe we judge them as “scum” who don’t deserve the time of day.  People who just will never amount to anything.   Or in our busy, hectic lives – we just don’t notice people.   It is all too easy just to walk on by.   We just don’t have the time.  We are often so focused on our own trials and struggles – that we fail to take notice of someone around us that is hurting.    I think I can safely say that there are all sorts of people – maybe right in your office or your classroom – in your neighborhood or even in your family – and yes, even in the pew next to you – who are struggling under a heavy load.   And there are all sorts of people around us who are lost and alone who are totally invisible to us.   We look right past them and don’t even notice them.   Our hearts are not turned towards compassion – instead we are self-focused and oftentimes just down-right apathetic.

 

             But that isn’t the way Jesus reacted to people, is it?  In our main passage today from the Gospel of Matthew, in the 9th chapter, we are told who Jesus saw and how He felt about them.   Look in your Bible at Matthew 9:35-36.  It says: “Jesus traveled through all the towns and villages of that area, teaching in the synagogues and announcing the Good News about the Kingdom.   And He healed every kind of disease and illness. When Jesus saw the crowds, He had compassion on them because they were confused and helpless, like sheep without a shepherd.” 

 

            Jesus really saw everyone – and took notice of them.   And how did He feel about them?  He was filled with compassion.

 

            What does the word “compassion mean?  The word for compassion used here in Greek means being moved to the very deepest depths of one’s being.   Or another way to define it is “to feel your pain in my heart.”  Jesus was moved to the very core of who He was by the world’s pain.    He was so moved that He wanted to ease the pain and carry the burden – to heal their illnesses and brokenness.  

 

And this compassion would even continue to when He Himself was facing great agony on the cross.    He continued to respond with compassion as he comforted His mother, responded to the cry of the thief next to Him and even forgave those who nailed Him there.   Even when His burden was the greatest He was still caring about the burdens of the people.

 

            And we as a church are called to see like Jesus did – feel like Jesus felt – and do what Jesus did.  As David Jeremiah said, “All that we do in this world should be an echo of what Christ has done on the cross.   We love.   We are compassionate.   We identify with others and their problems and we take up their crosses for them.”    We are to imitate Christ in every way possible…which means we are to take notice of everyone who comes in our path and respond with kindness and compassion…. even when we are going through tough times ourselves.2 

 

            But you know, sometimes it is just hard to love others.   There are people that you just try to avoid – or people you just don’t like.  When we look at some people, we end up looking with irritation or even disgust.   It is really hard to see them as your neighbor and show them love.   What do you do then?  

 

            Pastor Levi Skipper had that problem.   In his prayer time with God he struggled over some people who were very difficult in his life.   He was lead to Romans 5:5 that says:  For we know how dearly God loves us, because He has given us the Holy Spirit to fill our hearts with His love.”  And he then felt God say to him, “Levi, you can’t manufacture the kind of love that you need to express.   You have to let Me love them through you.”   It is only through the Holy Spirit that we can have the power to see people through the eyes of Christ and show love to our neighbor – especially with those we find hard to love.

 

            Levi says, “I remember specifically praying, and still do pray, “Lord, you know I am about to be in the room with __________. I choose to die to myself and I ask you to control me. Holy Spirit, love ___________ through me.” I was amazed and remain amazed at how God answers that prayer in my life.3

 

I truly think it makes a difference to pray for the people we are struggling to love.   Liz Ditty, in her book, “Learning to Listen” wrote “A powerful shift happens when I pray for someone.   I start to see that person in relationship to God instead of in relationship to me.   Instead of seeing how he annoys me or how she makes me jealous, I see how God loves them.”4 And I’ve heard it said, that it is hard to hate a person that we bring before the throne of God.   God loves that person just as He loves you.  God will give you the ability to see that person in a different light and fill you will love and compassion.

 

            I remember when I was a teen-ager working as a sales clerk at Cloth World (a store similar to Joan’s Fabrics) – I would frequently have crabby customers.   There was one lady who came into the store who seemed particularly frazzled and was short and grumpy with all the employees. Everywhere just wanted to stay clear of her.  I was determined to find a way to show love to her and maybe help her in some way.   As I spent some time talking to her, I came to find out that her son was getting ready to have a serious surgery to remove his voice box.   It was the last day she was going to hear her son’s voice.   Hearing her story really had an impact on me.   Instead of irritation at her, I felt compassion and I told her that I would pray for she and her son – and every so often, I still pray for them today.

 

            As we interact with people, we need to continually be praying that the Holy Spirit will fill us with His power – and enable us to respond with love and compassion.   Our prayer should be: “God give me your eyes.” Help me to see others as you see them. Help me to be quick to show love and care rather than judgment and criticism.”

 

Many of you will remember that great TV personality Fred Rogers – of Mr. Roger’s Neighborhood.   Fred Rogers was an ordained Presbyterian minister.   During his children’s television shows, he would emphasize to children that “you are special because no one in the world is exactly like you.”    And that was how he looked at people.   He would always try to look for the best in others.

 

            He said that he was really influenced in his thinking by a seminary professor he had, named Dr. William Orr.   Dr. Orr taught him that on one side of the spectrum stood the evil one, the accuser.    Fred said, “Evil would like nothing better than to have us feel awful about who we are.   And that would be back in here – in our minds, and then we’d look through those eyes at our neighbor, and see only what’s awful – in fact, we’d look for what’s awful in our neighbor.

 

            On the other side of the accuser stood Jesus, our advocate.   But Jesus would want us to feel as good as possible about God’s creation within us and in here, in our minds, we would look through those eyes and see what’s wonderful about our neighbor.”5

 

            Which side are you listening to?   Are you listening to Satan – who is tearing you down – and thus you are looking at yourself and at others negatively?   Are you responding more often with judgment and criticism than you are compassion and grace?

 

            When Jesus looked at people, He saw them for who they were – all their past histories, their present pain and the fear and worries.   And He saw them for who they could become.   For example, when Jesus reached out to Matthew and Zacchaeus who were tax collectors, the woman at the well with a checkered past and even a demon-possessed man bound by chains – he looked beyond what they were to what they could become after being bathed in God’s grace.   Each of them were outcasts – despised and rejected.   And yet Jesus reached out to them with grace and compassion.  And the way He looked at them – and the way He reached out to them – made all the difference in the world.   Jesus looked beyond who they were and knew that they had the potential within them to become people of great influence.   His compassion for them changed them and made them into great disciples and messengers of the gospel.

 

            Just think what a difference it would be if we could see people that way – to encourage and lift them up – and help them be all they could become!  O that we could have the eyes of Jesus – that would look and see with compassion that person next to us!  To have our hearts broken and filled with love for those whom Christ loves.   And then to actually act on that love – to be a blessing to those people we see.

 

            In our text from Matthew, we hear that Jesus was moved with compassion when He saw the crowds.   And we also hear that Jesus was moved because there aren’t enough people to reach out with compassion to these crowds.   Look at Matthew 9, verse 37 & 38.   It says:

 

            “Jesus said to His disciples, ‘The harvest is great, but the workers are few.

 So, pray to the Lord who is in charge of the harvest; ask Him to send more

workers into the fields.’”

 

            Jesus saw all the people following Him and described them as a field ripe for harvest.     But the harvest will never be reaped unless there are workers to reap it.   As William Barclay says, “It is one of the great blazing basic truths of the Christian faith and life that Jesus Christ needs people.   When He was upon this earth, His voice could reach so few.   He was never outside Palestine, and there was a world which was waiting.   He still wants people to hear of the good news of the gospel, but people will never hear unless other people will tell them.”6 We are to be the eyes, the hands and the feet and the mouth of Jesus.   He needs workers – people who will put their love and compassion into action, reaching out to make a difference in people’s lives.  He needs us to notice people with our eyes of love and to hear their cries.  He needs us to open our mouth and tell the gospel story – and to use our hands and feet to give that cup of cold water in His name – to visit the sick and feed the hungry…to truly represent Him in the world.

 

One day, as a monk began his daily prayers, he looked out the window and saw people passing by – one who was a was crippled, another a beggar, and then a beaten man.   Seeing them, the monk went deep into prayer and cried, “Great God!   How is it that a loving Creator can see such suffering and yet do nothing about it?”   And out of the depth of prayer, God said, “I have done something about it.   I made you.”7

 

            Friends – there is a hurting world outside!  Can you see them?   Can you show them the compassion of Christ?  Can you be the church?   What will be your answer?

 

PRAYER

 

INVITATION

 

 

 

RESOURCES:

1Alan Carr, “The Compassionate Christ”, ww.sermonnotebook.org/new%20testament/Matthew%209_36-38(2).htm

 

2David Jeremiah, Living with Confidence in a Chaotic World, p. 30.

 

3Levi Skipper, “Bible Study for June 4:   Love Like Christ”, May 31, 2017 –

            https://christianindex.org/bible-study-for-june-4-love-like-christ/

 

4Liz Ditty, God’s May Voices – Learning to Listen, Expectant to Hear.   Quote found in the September 2018 issue of Guideposts magazine.

 

5Amy Hollingsworth, The Simple Faith of Mister Rogers, p. 80.

 

6William Barclay, Matthew, page 365.

 

7Source unknown.