Jews of Jesus' time were searching for the Messiah, the Anointed One sent by God. They were oppressed by Roman rule. They were burdened by religious leaders who imposed hundreds of rules and regulations. Distressed, discouraged and helpless they were in desparate need of the promised savior.
At that time there were many who claimed to be the one to free God's people. These would-be saviors preached to anyone who would listen. Crowds followed them until they heard of someone else and then turned away to follow him.
As news of Jesus spread crowds began to follow Him. Being very familiar with the Old Testament prophesies the "multitudes" gathered around Him watching and listening as He taught.
He used familiar language and illustrations. He reached out to people wherever He found them. He spoke in a way that enticed them to believe and continue to follow Him.
He once said, "If a shepherd has one hundred sheep, and one wanders away and is lost, what will he do? Won't he leave the ninety-nine others and go out into the hills to search for the lost one?" (Matthew 18:12-NLT)
These were common, ordinary people; not the rich or powerful. Like lost sheep they were confused and searching for someone to lead them back to safety and rest.
They would have understood when He spoke of sheep. They knew sheep would not be able to find food or water or a place to rest without a shepherd to lead them. They knew that it was very easy for sheep to lose their way and become confused if they had no shepherd to show the way.
Psalm 79:13, Psalm 95:7, Psalm 100:3 all speak of God's people as sheep in His pasture. These psalms were known and recited often by the people.
Jesus "had compassion" on them and longed to help them. He said His purpose was to "seek and save that which was lost".
As they watched Him heal the sick, give sight to the blind and hearing to the deaf some recognized the fulfillment of Old Testament prophesies. In the miracles He performed, they saw His power and authority. Some recognized who He is and believed He truly is the Savior, the Messiah, the Anointed One sent by God to bring reconciliation, hope, freedom and forgiveness to all who will accept Him.
Jesus still has compassion for all who are distressed, discouraged and helpless. He still reaches out to all who need Someone to lead them to a place of safety and rest. This miracle of understanding and acceptance is still happening today!