36When he saw the crowds, he had compassion on them, because they were harassed
and helpless, like sheep without a shepherd. 37Then he said to his disciples, “The harvest
is plentiful but the workers are few. 38Ask the Lord of the harvest, therefore, to send out
workers into his harvest field.”
Matthew 9:36 – 38
Compassion is the hallmark of love. Without compassion we cannot fully love another person. Jesus had compassion because He loved the people. He saw their despair. Even in the first century worry was a daily part of life. We tend to think it was a simpler time and less harried, but in truth, it wasn’t much different. People worried about food, housing, jobs and whether or not they would make it another day. Just like us they faced momentous decisions that affected the wellbeing of their entire family. They faced illness, loss of income, loss of control over their own lives. Jesus saw them, “harassed and helpless”.
In our world of the 21st century, things move much faster, but the basic concerns remain. It is what ties us in with every generation that has come before. And just like those living in the first century, we are “harassed and helpless”. The good news is we have a shepherd to guide us if we accept His leading. The gospels are full of the images of Jesus showing us the way. It is a popular thing right now for the shaming term “sheeple” to be used as a derogatory description for people following one ideology or another. But here in the text, being called sheep is not derogatory, rather it is a term of endearment. For Jesus is the great shepherd and He fully intends to lead us to the peaceful valley. When we set our sights on Jesus, we will find peace and hope that will help us face the world we live in today.
Just before these verses, Matthew tells us:
35Jesus went through all the towns and villages, teaching in their synagogues,
proclaiming the good news of the kingdom and healing every disease and sickness.
In other words, Jesus was about His work on Earth and when He looked upon the people He was teaching, healing and leading to God, He saw their distress. Isn’t it exciting to see Jesus fully comprehending the plight of the common man? Isn’t it refreshing to know that He has mercy on us in our every circumstance? Through the Holy Spirit we have the power of Jesus in our lives today. He is teaching us, spreading the Good News and healing our sickness. More to the point He has called us to be His hands and feet in the world today.
It is discouraging when we look around. Just as then, today the “workers are few”. But God’s mercy through Jesus is mighty and the few become strong enough to spread the Word to all people. Yes, it seems today as if we are fighting a losing battle as church membership dwindles, but maybe church membership isn’t the measure we need to be using. Jesus says:
“38Ask the Lord of the harvest, therefore, to send out workers into his harvest field.
What does it mean out into His harvest field? Certainly not the church. We must stop looking inside the walls of our building and begin to see what God is doing outside the house of worship. The harvest field is ready to be gathered in, but that does not mean it is going to always look like what it has in the past. Today worship can happen anywhere. Today we can bring people to Jesus without a building or a study series or an improved program. Right now, today, we can meet people where they are and give them the good news. We can do it in the workplace, at the school, at the laundry mat or any other place where two or more are gathered. We must break away from the building and reach out to people where we meet them. And we cannot be afraid of rejection.
When Jesus said to ask for more workers, He did not mean just in the Sanctuary, He didn’t even say, build up the church membership, His order to build the church was not a command for grand cathedrals, but a call to build the body. The body of the church comes in small towns, offices, playgrounds and even on the corner. It is the place where we share the wonderful news that God has begun His kingdom building work in the world today.
Yes, the workers are few, but with Jesus at as our guide, we are mighty.
We're Park Hill Christian Church in KC MO. We seek to follow Jesus by praising God, loving those we meet and serving the vulnerable.
6601 Northwest 72nd Street, Kansas City, MO 64151 | 816-741-1851