Reading from the gospel of Matthew again today, chapter 9. Jesus heals a demoniac mute and everyone who sees it is amazed, then the Pharisees all cry foul. Jesus ignores them, because haters gon’ hate, and moves on with his ministry. This is a part that gets focused on a lot, so I’m going to look at what comes next.
At the sight of the crowds, his heart was moved with pity for them
because they were troubled and abandoned,
like sheep without a shepherd.
These people were not leaderless, it’s important to note that. If anything, they were burdened with leaders. Religious leaders like the Pharisees and the Sadducees, a defunct ‘king’ in the line of Herod, traitor tax-collectors from among their own people, and the Roman Government itself. They weren’t lacking leaders, but ‘lead’ isn’t what a shepherd does. They weren’t idiots, either, no matter how often people try and spin the sheep simile that direction in making fun of Christians. In fact, there is little reason to believe they are any different from a crowd you might see in a big city today. Slumped shoulders, thoughts elsewhere, moving from one place to the next without a purpose, but because everyone else is doing the same. That’s what Jesus saw, but he also saw the wolves moving among them.
Those same ‘leaders’ that were directing the lives of the people were herding them, not for care of the people, but for what they could gain from them. Power, prestige, prosperity, those were the motivations of the leaders of the day. When the shepherd came along, showing direction, purpose, and resolve, when the shepherd began giving their sheep a spine, when the shepherd began leading their sheep without force, that’s when they began to growl. They also already knew how to take care of the problem.