Scripture: And Jesus went throughout all the cities and villages, teaching in their synagogues and proclaiming the gospel of the kingdom and healing every disease and every affliction. When he saw the crowds, he had compassion for them, because they were harassed and helpless, like sheep without a shepherd. Then he said to his disciples, “The harvest is plentiful, but the laborers are few; therefore pray earnestly to the Lord of the harvest to send out laborers into his harvest.” Matthew 9:35-38 ESV
Observation: Having guided the reader through a series of Christ’s miraculous healings, Matthew segues to Christ’s expansion of his mission to the next generation of kingdom builders. Here, Christ states the purpose (above passage), appoints his Twelve (10:1-4), and prepares them for the challenges that await them (10:5-42).
Modeling the mission, Jesus continues his itinerate ministry through Galilee, teaching and proclaiming the good news of the kingdom of God in the synagogues while maintaining his healing ministry to the masses (v.35). But Christ did not simply go through the motion of executing his calling. On the contrary, he sincerely felt compassion for these oppressed and defenseless people who lacked godly oversight (v.36).
Thus, having exemplified servant leadership, Jesus pulls his disciples aside and, likely pointing to surrounding fields of grain, challenges them to consider the many lost souls who pursued him in the hope of finding a better way of life. Analogous to ripened heads of grain, these seekers are ready for harvest into the Kingdom of God (v.37), so he challenges his disciples to pray to the Father to send out missionaries to multiply the yield and expand the boundaries of his kingdom (v.38).
Takeaway: As we have reviewed in an earlier Daily Focus regarding Abraham’s dialogue with God over Sodom, our prayers, first and foremost, align our thoughts with that of God’s will. Secondly, they inspire us to do our part. This maxim will prove true with Jesus’ disciples, who will, in part, become the answer to their prayers—as is often the case when we intercede for others.
A couple more takeaways include modeling desired behavior and maintaining a proper attitude. Before sending out the disciples, Jesus invested months of modeled ministry with them, where they observed and learned lessons in real-time, following the 24/7 principle of the Shema (Deuteronomy 6:4-9). Unfortunately, more often today, training consists of coursework followed by internships that seldom involve working alongside those we will replace, where we can ask questions as they come to mind. And church and para-church organizations can be some of the worst at adequately training staff because they are so busy doing “the Lord’s work.”
Regarding maintaining a proper attitude, we can quickly reach burnout if motivated by any cause other than our gratitude and affection for the Father and Son. Indeed, our thankful hearts, founded in the reality that we are helpless against the devil’s machinations outside Christ’s atoning love for us, will spur genuine compassion for the oppressed. And from this immovable foundation of love, he calls us to a ministry of reconciliation just as he has reconciled us to the Father (2 Corinthians 5:11-21). So even if the church fails to prepare us properly, his Holy Spirit will because the harvest is plentiful.
Prayer: Father God, we thank you for your Son, who poured out his compassion and grace on us through his life, death, and resurrection. So would you please help us follow your Holy Spirit’s lead to labor in the plentiful harvest (whether sowing, watering, or gathering) by the strength of your Son’s love and compassion for us? Amen.
Rev. Gordon Green, M.Div., M.A. Counseling
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