The Multitudes: How Jesus Reacts to the Crowd

Dr. R.B. Ouellette

What a tremendous trip the Lord Jesus enjoyed! As He visited many cities and villages, taught in synagogues, and preached the Gospel, He had marvelous success. The Scripture tells us that He healed every sickness and every disease among the people.

Imagine a day when every person you visit in the hospital and pray for is healed and able to be released. Imagine a prayer meeting in which every request taken before the throne of grace on the behalf of any person present is answered immediately. We would be excited, elated.

But Jesus shows a different response after a long and what we would consider successful day of ministry. The Scripture says in Matthew 9:36, “But when he saw the multitudes, he was moved with compassion on them, because they fainted, and were scattered abroad, as sheep having no shepherd.”


Have you ever seen someone faint? What would you do if you were in a group of people and someone fainted? Would you laugh at them? Take pictures to show folks how silly they looked when they fell? No, you would immediately do what you could to help them.

You might urge the crowd of onlookers to step back so that they could have air. You might wave smelling salts under their nose. But certainly, if you were a decent person, you would be moved to help them. But not only did our Savior see the multitudes as those that fainted, He saw them as people who were scattered abroad, having no shepherd—leaderless, uncertain, confused.

About fifteen years ago, my wife and I went to a store in the small town of Pickford, Michigan, to pick up some supplies for our school camp being held in a rural area of the Upper Peninsula. There I saw a young man with a hairstyle that I had never before observed. I quietly said to my wife, “You’ve got to see this.” The young man had arranged his hair in seven or eight spikes pointed in various directions. It looked like he had “set” his hair in motor oil and then had frozen it overnight. It was absurd. While being outwardly polite, we laughed to ourselves at his ludicrous appearance.

Have you ever done such a thing? We see people with multiple tattoos in unusual places, numerous body piercings, tongue studs, nose studs, and nose rings. And usually we think of how odd and unusual they look.

But that is not how the Lord Jesus sees them. He perceives their soul. He views their spiritual need. He is concerned about the condition of their hearts.

All around us are people—souls—who will spend eternity in Heaven or Hell. Only the Lord Jesus can save them, and He has commissioned us to “have compassion” on them and give them His Gospel. No matter how different they appear to us, they need the Gospel.


The Scripture says He was moved with compassion. Those who know the Greek language better than I tell me that this is the strongest word for emotion in the language. It means to have one’s bowels—the internal organs—yearn. Have you ever seen someone hurt or heard of a terrible injury and found yourself actually feeling a twinge inside in response? Our Saviour was moved to the depths of His being by the needs of the multitude.

How different our message is when it is motivated by compassion. How much more effective the Gospel presentation becomes when accompanied by a genuine concern for the soul of the lost person we seek to win.

I read about a blacksmith who seemed impervious to people’s efforts to win him to Christ. He was honest and hard-working, but he had no interest in spiritual things. He rejected every effort made to bring him to Christ.

One day, a Baptist deacon from his town got terribly burdened for the blacksmith. He realized that God wanted him to speak to him yet again. After intense prayer, the deacon walked over to the blacksmith’s shop to share the Gospel. So great was his burden, that when he opened his mouth to speak, no words came. Instead, tears poured down his face because of his concern for the blacksmith. Ashamed of his failure, the deacon turned around and went back to his home without having uttered a single word.

“I made a fool of myself today,” he said to his wife. “I went to try to talk to the blacksmith about his soul and all I did was stand there and cry like a baby.”

But the blacksmith went home and had a different conversation with his wife. “I heard a new argument for trusting Christ,” he said to her. “An old Baptist deacon came, stood in my shop and wept for my soul.” As a result of the deacon’s compassion, the blacksmith soon trusted Christ as his Saviour.


The Lord Jesus said to His disciples, “The harvest truly is plenteous.” There are voices all around us today telling us that we cannot reach people for Christ. They say that America has lost its Christian moorings. Post-modernists do not wish to hear absolute truth. Many believe our nation is apostate and cannot have revival. While I will not take the time to answer each of these positions individually, they all disagree with Jesus Christ.

Christ says that the harvest is plenteous. People are burdened, uncertain, and afraid. The current condition of our country has made people less secure in their finances and more aware of their vulnerability. It makes them far better prospects for the Gospel of Jesus Christ than they would have been five or six years ago. The opportunity is large. The harvest is plenteous.

But in spite of a plenteous harvest, there are but few laborers. Usually, those who bemoan how difficult it is to win people to Christ are not doing much soulwinning. In the economy of God, there has always been a labor problem, not a harvest problem. If we wish to see more people saved, we must have more soulwinners carrying the Gospel. If we wish to see more people coming to church, we must knock on more doors and pass out more invitations. If we wish to see more hearts healed, more spirits mended, more lives put back together, we must minister to more people. Laborers are vitally important in the cause of the Lord Jesus Christ.

F.W. Boreham tells in one of his books the conversion story of a young man many years ago:

One day, during a terrible snowstorm, looking for some answers, he stumbled into a little chapel. The weather was so bad that the regular preacher had not been able to make it to church. Some of the leaders consulted and hastily appointed a preacher for the day. The preacher looked ordinary—a common worker. He seemed awkward as he stepped into the pulpit. He took the text, “Look unto me and be ye saved, all the ends of the earth.”

“I did, and then and there the cloud was gone, the darkness had rolled away and I saw the sun. I could have risen on the instant and sung with the most enthusiastic of them of the precious blood of Christ and of the simple faith which looks alone to Him. Oh, that somebody had told me before! In their own earnest way, they sang a ‘Hallelujah’ before they went home and I joined in it.” Under these circumstances and in this manner occurred the conversion of a young man who later became a preacher—Charles Haddon Spurgeon.

But what if there had been no laborer that day? What if any ordinary workman had not been willing—with no preparation—to step into a pulpit and stumble through some awkward words. What if he had allowed embarrassment or fear of making a fool of himself keep him from taking advantage of the opportunity God had given him? Oh, laborers are very important in the work of the Lord Jesus Christ.

The Saviour’s plea in this passage is simple—pray for laborers. Laborers with compassionate hearts. Laborers who will see the multitudes as the Saviour sees them. Laborers who will be willing to risk embarrassing themselves. Laborers who will not think of how they appear to others but will think of the heart of their God. Laborers are vital to the cause of the Lord Jesus Christ.

The harvest is ready. Are we willing to labor for the souls of the lost before the night comes? Will we pray for others to join us? And will we be moved with compassion?