Matthew 9:35-38 (NIV) Jesus went through all the towns and villages, teaching in their synagogues, preaching the good news of the kingdom and healing every disease and sickness. When he saw the crowds, he had compassion on them, because they were harassed and helpless, like sheep without a shepherd. Then he said to his disciples, “The harvest is plentiful but the workers are few. Ask the Lord of the harvest, therefore, to send out workers into his harvest field.”
Jesus’ message was consistent everywhere He went: the kingdom of God has broken into the world, and the door is open for the people to come into it. The miracles, the healings, the casting out of demons, were all positive signs of the kingdom’s reality.
Jesus was teaching and preaching to a people who should have been adequately prepared for the coming of both the Messiah and the kingdom which He would inaugurate. But instead, He found a people who were leaderless, casting about for anyone who would show them a way to go, and easy prey for deceivers who would come along. Instead of the leaders of the people helping them to understand about the Messiah and God’s kingdom, they had been more interested in the forms of their religion, in feathering their own nests, and in debating fine points of theology.
Jesus had compassion on these people, harassed and helpless, and being led astray by charismatic charlatans. They really were like sheep without the protection and guidance of a shepherd. The work of bringing them all into the fold, of helping them to see beyond Jesus’ miracles to the kingdom that those miracles demonstrated, of seeing beyond the popular mythology of the Messiah to the reality of Jesus, was going to be a lot bigger job that it should have been – than it could have been if the religious leaders had been doing their job the whole time.
There was nothing to be gained by criticizing the leadership. The harvest was out there, plentiful and ready to be reaped. But Jesus could only be at one place at a time, and could only speak to so many people at once. What was needed right then was more workers, who would be able to take the message ahead of Him, to show the reality of God’s kingdom, to be His ambassadors who would prepare the way before Him so that the harvest could be brought in more quickly and effectively.
Jesus was surrounded by followers, many of whom were completely devoted to Him, and who they believed Him to be. But they had no idea of what Jesus was actually trying to accomplish, what He had really come to do. So Jesus began the process by helping them to see the people as He saw them: as pitiful lost sheep, as a harvest of lost souls that needed to be found and harvested for the kingdom. Once they could see the magnitude of the task, Jesus directed their attention to His inability to bring them all in by Himself, and directed them to pray for more workers.
Father, all of us are still surrounded by a great harvest of souls that are ripe, and ready, and longing to be brought into the reality of Your kingdom. But too few of us really have eyes that see them for what they are. We have become convinced that everyone we see will automatically be resistant to the gospel, and so we shy away. Lord, we need new eyes that can clearly see the people around us. More of them than we can imagine are longing for a real relationship with You, but have no overt models of kingdom living through whom they can see that it is real. Help me to live so deeply in Your kingdom that my whole life becomes a living testimony of its reality. And fill my heart with prayers for additional workers, and to be ready to step up myself, so that an abundant harvest can be brought in today. Amen.