There are four lessons in this passage which deserve close attention. Let us mark them each in succession.
1. Strong Faith Where Least Expected
First, let us notice that strong faith in Christ may sometimes be found where it might least have been expected. Who would have thought that two blind men would have called our Lord the "Son of David" (verse 27)? They could not, of course, have seen the miracles that he did: they could only know him by common report. But the eyes of their understanding were enlightened, if their bodily eyes were dark. They saw the truth which teachers of the law and Pharisees could not see; they saw that Jesus of Nazareth was the Messiah. They believed that he was able to heal them.
An example like this shows us that we must never despair of anyone’s salvation merely because he lives in a position unfavorable to his soul. Grace is stronger than circumstances: the life of religion does not depend merely upon outward advantages. The Holy Spirit can give faith, and keep faith in active exercise, without book-learning, without money, and with scanty means of grace. Without the Holy Spirit someone may know all mysteries, and live in the full blaze of the Gospel, and yet be lost. We shall see many strange sights at the last day. Poor cottagers will be found to have believed in the Son of David, while rich men, full of university learning, will prove to have lived and died, like the Pharisees, in hardened unbelief. Many that are "last will be first, and the first will be last" (Matthew 20:16).
2. Christ’s Experience of Sickness
Second, let us notice that our Lord Jesus Christ has had great experience of disease and sickness. He "went through all the towns and villages" doing good (verse 35). He was an eye-witness of all the ills that flesh is heir to; he saw ailments of every kind, sort and description; he was brought in contact with every form of bodily suffering. None were too loathsome for him to attend to: none were too frightful for him to cure. He was a healer of "every disease and sickness" (verse 35).
There is much comfort to be drawn from this fact. We are each dwelling in a poor frail body. We never know how much suffering we may have to watch as we sit by the bedsides of beloved relatives and friends; we never know what racking complaint we ourselves may have to submit to before we lie down and die. But let us arm ourselves in good time with the precious thought that Jesus is specially fitted to be the sick man’s friend. The great High Priest, to whom we must apply for pardon and peace with God, is eminently qualified to sympathize with an aching body, as well as to heal an ailing conscience. The eyes of the one who is King of kings often used to look with pity on the diseased. The world cares little for the sick, and often keeps aloof from them; but the Lord Jesus cares especially for the sick: he is the first to visit them and say, "I stand at the door and knock." Happy are those who hear his voice and open the door (Revelation 3:20)!
3. Christ’s Concern for Neglected Souls
Third, let us mark our Lord’s tender concern for neglected souls. "He saw the crowds" of people when he was on earth, scattered about "like sheep without a shepherd" (verse 36), and he was moved with compassion. He saw them neglected by those who, for the time, ought to have been teachers. He saw them ignorant, hopeless, helpless, dying and unfit to die. The sight moved him to deep pity. That loving heart could not see such things and not feel.
Now what are our feelings when we see such a sight? This is the question that should arise in our minds. There are many like this to be seen on every side. There are millions of idolaters and heathen on earth—millions of deluded Muslims—millions of superstitious Roman Catholics; there are thousands of ignorant and unconverted Protestants near our own doors. Do we feel tenderly concerned about their souls? Do we deeply pity their spiritual destitution? Do we long to see that destitution relieved? These are serious inquiries, and ought to be answered. It is easy to sneer at missions to the heathen, and those who work for them; but the man who does not feel for the souls of all unconverted people can surely not have "the mind of Christ" (1 Corinthians 2:16).
4. A Solemn Duty
Fourth, let us mark that there is a solemn duty incumbent on all Christians who want to do good to the unconverted part of the world. They are to pray for more men to be raised up to work for the conversion of souls. It seems as if it was to be a daily part of our prayers. "Ask the Lord of the harvest, therefore, to send out workers into his harvest field" (verse 38).
If we know anything of prayer, let us make it a point of conscience never to forget this solemn charge of our Lord’s. Let us settle it in our minds that it is one of the surest ways of doing good and stemming evil. Personal working for souls is good; giving money is good; but praying is best of all. By prayer we reach God, and without God work and money alike are in vain. By prayer we obtain the Holy Spirit’s aid. Money can pay agents; universities can give learning; bishops may ordain; congregations may elect: but only the Holy Spirit can make ministers of the Gospel, and raise up lay workers in the spiritual harvest who need not be ashamed. Never, never may we forget that if we want to do good to the world, our first duty is to pray!