TEXT: “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 on them,…….. “ (Matthew 9:35-36a, Read Matthew 9:35-10:5a)
INTRODUCTION: The mission of Jesus continues today. The Book of Acts records the start of the mission to the nations as it spread outward from Jerusalem to Rome, but in this text, the mission is restricted to Israel. So, we are seeing Jesus in action and on mission in Israel. But, this text gives us a pattern to follow and principles to apply as we are on mission with Jesus today by the power of the Holy Spirit. To be fully involved in Jesus’ Mission today:
1. We Must Grasp the Nature of Jesus’ Ministry (verse 35)
a) Jesus’ ministry was incarnational - “And Jesus went throughout the cities and villages…”
Verse 35 is a summary statement concerning Jesus’ mission and ministry. Jesus went to the people, he didn’t wait for the people to come to him, he went throughout the cities, the villages and the countryside. Jesus came into this world to reach and redeem people and here we see him travelling throughout Galilee teaching, preaching and healing. Jesus became a human being in order to save human beings, and you see this mission in the way he reached out to people consistently.
Our ministry must be personal. Our presence is important, our participation is important. This means we must “go” even as Jesus went into the cities and villages. He did not stay in a place of luxury and ask people to come to Him. He “went,” He saw, He ministered to needs, He ministered intentionally.
b) Jesus’ ministry was transformational – “teaching….. proclaiming ….. healing………”
Through his teaching and preaching, Jesus declared the kingdom of God, and through his miracles, healings and the casting out of demons, he demonstrated the kingdom of God. Jesus didn’t come just to present ethical instructions or to do good deeds. Jesus came declaring that God the Father, in fulfillment of His promises was now intervening and was acting to redeem His people and establish a new covenant with them. This was and is the “good news.” Yes, Jesus would need to go to the cross and be raised from the dead, be exalted on high, send the Holy Spirit, and plan to return to accomplish Kingdom purposes, but the kingdom of God was breaking into history in a new and profound way because the King had come. God’s rule and reign were being manifested (not consummated).
With the coming “at hand” of the Kingdom, there comes transformation. Jesus taught transforming truth, and Jesus did transforming miracles because he was seeking to transform people’s lives through repentance and belief in the gospel, and through the power of the kingdom.
Our mission today needs to be incarnational and transformational. We need to reach people and we need to bring transformation through the truth and the power of the gospel of King Jesus. We see this incarnational and transformational ministry continue in the Book of Acts. The nature of Jesus's ministry was not only to teach and preach but to change. He not only brought truth, he brought transforming truth, Kingdom truth. These truths would bring a new relationship with God, and a new hope for being a part of Kingdom consummation. He also demonstrated Kingdom power, which brought transformation at the level of human need. Jesus had to go to the cross to accomplish His redemptive mission, but he declared Kingdom truth and demonstrated Kingdom power and transformation on the way to the cross.
I sense a lot of young people today are looking for a cause. They want to make a difference in our world. The exciting thing about knowing the Lord and being about His mission is that is it not only for this lifetime. Yes, the mission of Jesus changes lives now, but the end goal is a change for eternity.
2. We Must Share the depth of Jesus’ Compassion (Verse 36a)
“When he saw the crowds, he had compassion on them.” We are used to thinking this about Jesus, but we need to reflect on His compassion. Jesus saw people. At times, we don’t even see the people around us or their needs. We can even be fooled by the outward prosperity of people, and not see the reality of the needs that people still have, eternal needs as well as practical needs. Human need is all around us and sometimes we need “new eyes,” the eyes of Jesus.
We need to make sure that we are not too tied to our phones and our technology to see real people, with real needs, that are right around us. The present crisis we are facing certainly brings human need and suffering right before our eyes constantly. Having the “eyes” of Jesus will move us emotionally as we sense the desperate need of so many people.
Jesus didn’t see the crowd as taking up his time, draining his energy, getting in the way of his plans. The crowd was his plan. And he saw them as “harassed and helpless,” scattered with no one to care for them. We need to travel into the heart of Jesus and feel His passion, His compassion for needy people, indeed His compassion for a needy world.
Jesus’ mission today requires compassion if it is to be done Jesus’ way, indeed God’s way (see Exodus 3). The Apostle Paul speaks of sharing the afflictions of Christ (Col. 1:24) as being a part of his ministry. When sending Timothy to find out the spiritual condition of the Philippians he commends Timothy not only for being concerned about the things of Christ but for his concern for the Philippians themselves (Phil. 2:20). That is why he could send Timothy because Paul knew that Timothy “cared.” Timothy had compassion for the people in Philippi.
The Great Commission requires all of us to be about “making disciples of all nations.” We need, though, to reach people with compassion in our hearts. And sometimes God leads us by giving us a special burden, a genuine compassion for a specific group of people. At the same time, there is no excuse for lacking compassion for all people, and especially those who come across our paths.
We need to visit the cross and stay there until we sense the compassion of Jesus for us. Jesus’ mission took Him all the way to a cruel wooden cross. He died as part of his mission. He did not come to be served, but to serve and to give His life as a ransom for many (Matt. 20:28). He died a sacrificial death for our sins and our eternal salvation. As Paul says, “While we were yet sinners, Christ died for us” (Romans 5:8). He had compassion all the way to the cross.
At the same time, this very text says it well. We need to walk with Jesus and see Jesus meeting people, responding to people’s needs, and seeking to proclaim the good news of the kingdom. More than that, we need to pray specifically that we will have His eyes and His heart as we engage people every day.
We have a wonderful Savior and Lord, who is also our example as we seek to continue His mission in this world. By the power of His Holy Spirit, we need to continue His ministry with His compassion today.
But, let’s go deeper. Let’s move on in this text and subject.
TEXT: “Then [Jesus] said to His disciples, ‘The harvest truly is plentiful, but the laborers are few. Therefore pray to the Lord of the harvest to send out laborers into His harvest.’” (Matthew 9:37-38, Read Matthew 9:35-10:5a)
“These twelve Jesus sent out…….” (Matthew 10:5a)
3. We Must Respond to the Urgency of Jesus’ Vision (verse 37)
“Then [Jesus] said to His disciples, ‘The harvest truly is plentiful, but the laborers are few.’” As Jesus assesses the crowd, he makes this simple and clear statement. This statement is not just a sociological description of what He sees, his statement is a missional vision that He is passing on to His disciples. Jesus is referring to the great and urgent opportunity for harvesting. He is speaking of harvesting, not judgment. The task of harvesting “souls,” the task of ministry and mission is what Jesus is actually doing in these verses and throughout the Gospels. Jesus is describing harvesting as a big task due to the great need and the small number of people involved. Jesus is also describing the harvest positively since anyone involved in harvesting would want a “plentiful” harvest. What a great expectation!
At the same time, Jesus is contrasting the great opportunity with a small number of workers. This clearly points to the need for more to be involved in this divine mission. In summary, the opportunity and urgency for a plentiful harvest is now, but more workers are needed because “the laborers are few.” This is the Vision that Jesus sees and presents a call for response.
4. We Must Enlist in the Completion of Jesus’ Mission (verses 9:38, 10:5a)
“Therefore pray the Lord of the harvest to send out laborers into His Harvest…. These twelve Jesus sent out and commanded them,….”
Having presented the vision of a plentiful harvest and the need for workers, Jesus gives instructions to his disciples. But, instead of calling for all his disciples to get to the harvest immediately, Jesus calls for prayer.
Notice that prayer is not an optional response, but the duty of the disciple. The prayer is to be offered to the Lord of the harvest. It is the Lord’s harvest and He is sovereign over the sending out of the laborers. So, prayer must be offered to the Lord to direct in the harvesting of His own harvest. The laborers are to be sent out by the Lord Himself. How this directive from the Lord should challenge us to pray fervently and continually for the mission of Jesus to be fulfilled today! And this will involve the Lord sending out more workers in our day. The important lesson for us to remember is that those who go out to labor must first be sent, and the laborers need to be sent by the Lord in the light of our prayers.
If we are wondering – could the Lord use me in His mission in a more direct or specific way (?), the place to begin is to pray. Pray for laborers to be sent into the harvest field. Pray for the Lord to give you a heart for some type of service in His field.
It must be our expectation that the Lord will indeed answer the earnest prayer for laborers to be sent into the harvest. In our text, the Lord calls His twelve disciples together. He gives them power, and He sends them out on a mission to the “house of Israel” with very specific instructions. Jesus is choosing the laborers for this specific mission, and Jesus continues to choose laborers in our own day. We must confidently expect that the “Jesus Mission” continues in our day, which means that Jesus still sends out workers today.
We see this taking place in the “Acts of the Apostles.” Before He ascended, Jesus announces the priority mission for His disciples, and the need for the power of the Holy Spirit (Acts 1:1-8). Before going on mission, in obedience to Jesus, the disciples tarried in prayer. Then, when the Holy Spirit came in power, they were thrust into the mission announced and predicted in Matt. 28:18-20.
There is no substitute for prayer and readiness to go as the Lord directs. But now, in a new sense, we have the presence of the Holy Spirit as He empowers us to fulfill the mission of our exalted Lord Jesus Christ.
So, we must be prayerful, and we must also be open to the Lord’s call.
When we consider the words of the “Great Mission” (Matt. 28:18-20) and other words of commission and mission by Jesus, we are all called into His mission work today. Not all will be called to go overseas or to cross-cultural mission, but all are called to “make disciples.”
So, confidently expect His enlistment.
Also, confidently expect His empowerment. (Acts 1:8)
We must personally respond with compassionate involvement in the lives of people. We also must seek the Lord in prayer that He will complete His mission being confident that He will do so, and being available to answer the call at any time. And by the power of His Holy Spirit, we need to continue the Jesus Mission today.